Do we live in a Golden Age of Television? Sure, why not. Even if you want to argue the point, you’ve got to acknowledge that audiences are demanding smarter, more expensive, more well-crafted weekly entertainment. On the comedy front, we’ve got genre-bending risk-takers like FOX’ “The Last Man on Earth” and The CW’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” On the drama tip we get head-turning innovators like USA’s “Mr. Robot” and Cinemax’s “The Knick.” On the other hand, we’re subjected to every hidebound, grandma-bait throwback CBS has to offer. So what sort of awfulness did the Golden Age of Television try to pawn off on us this past year?
The Republican Presidential Debates (Fox News, CNN, etc.)—In the nonstop reality show that is America, circa 2015, every celebrity in creation has already been turned into a cartoonish version of themselves by the ever-present TV camera. Sadly, having run out of celebrities, bounty hunters, tow truck drivers, duck call manufacturers, Amish gangsters and anyone fertile enough to have eight or more kids, television turned to politicians this year. The Republican debates were the place to watch theoretically well-meaning wannabe public servants debase themselves by accepting their media-distributed caricatures (crazy uncle, cranky grandpa, religious kook) and running with them. It wasn’t about politics this year, it was about entertainment. And no one took to this assignment more enthusiastically than Donald “I Am The Least Racist Person” Trump. Here’s a campaign slogan for you, “Donald Trump: Worse Than a Kardashian.”
“Wicked City” (ABC)—This ’80s hair-metal serial killer thriller set amid the neon of the Sunset Strip had the distinction of being the only new TV show actually canceled this fall season. After three episodes. That’s how entertaining it was.
“Truth Be Told” (NBC)—This mouth-breathing sitcom, ostensibly about how people really talk when they aren’t trying to be “politically correct,” turned out to be your basic couch-based sitcom in which two best buds sit around and trade rude quips behind their wives’ backs. Using the Donald Trump excuse of “just telling the truth,” the makers let loose with a barrage of racist, sexist jokes—which weren’t brave and unabashed, so much as archaic and stupid.
“Knock Knock Live!” (FOX)—Ryan Seacrest hosted and produced this mercifully short-lived summer series, which seemed to believe people would watch anything this year so long as the word “live” was attached. In it cameras arrived at random folks’ houses to ... well, here’s where things get convoluted. Sometimes there would be gameshow segments, other times it would be celebrity interviews or maybe a concert or who the hell knows? Producers clearly never came up with a concept for the show and were just winging it.
“Sex Box” (WE)—This is the part of the article where I remind/inform everyone that WE briefly broadcast a ... game show? reality show? national embarrassment? in which couples had sex on stage (hidden in a box so audiences neither saw nor heard anything, so what’s the point?) and then discussed their “issues” (such as bumping uglies on national television) with a panel of therapists and sex experts. This is a thing that actually happened.