Television Man | Aidan Morgan | July 28, 2022
“Oh give me a home // Where the televisions roam // And the skies are in Ultra 4K UHD” —Home, Home on the Best Buy Retail Floor (Traditional)
Early in the 2000s, in the wake of The Sopranos’ success, a creeping sense of dread spread among the public*. What if, the public* wondered, all TV will be prestige dramas from now on? What if every program brings me face to face with inhumanity, violence, sexual exploitation and gruff-but-evocative dialogue? What if each episode doesn’t guide me back to the serene harbours of the status quo? What then?
Luckily for the public*, lousy television didn’t go anywhere. In fact, plenty of prestige premium cable fare turned out to be crud in disguise — a conduit for trashy thrills disguised as serious entertainment. What are we hoping to get from the upcoming GOT spinoff House of the Dragon, if not sex and violence and big lizards in backyards?
The Evil Bad
The worst television I’ve watched recently, by a long shot, is Netflix’s Resident Evil series. Admittedly, I haven’t finished the entire season, but I doubt they’re going to give me the catharsis I need to expunge the memory of the opening episodes.
Resident Evil isn’t exactly terrible, but it breaks at least two iron-clad rules of entertainment — namely, it manages to use bloodthirsty zombies and Lance Reddick in a way that still feels boring (although some of the Reddick moments in the season’s back half are pretty fun). The series splits its storytelling into two timelines — one set in 2022, just months before the predictable zombie apocalypse, and the other set 14 years later, with the same characters struggling to make the best of a monster-filled world. The pacing is slow enough that you can safely leave this on in the background as you fold clothes or play backgammon or whatever it is you do when you’re not actively watching television.
Good news if you want something truly obnoxious and unintentionally hilarious! Prime Video’s series The Terminal List, starring Chris Pratt, Constance Wu and Taylor Kitsch, is here for all your scoffing and eye-rolling needs. The plot is convoluted and forgettable but suffice it to say it requires viewers to take Chris Pratt seriously as a Navy SEAL who is either losing his mind or the key to a vast corporate conspiracy. Which is it? Can you guess?
Ha ha, of course he’s the unwitting key to a conspiracy involving crooked military contractors and corrupt bureaucrats who don’t care about the brave men and women who etcetera etcetera. The Terminal List is an astounding bit of gun-worshipping agitprop, but it’s worth it just to see Pratt attempt to fit various extreme emotions on his face.
If you like your bad television handsomely dressed and extremely portentous, I recommend season four of Westworld (HBO/Crave). After the slog of season three, Westworld has refreshed itself by jumping ahead seven years and giving Thandiwe Newton and Tessa Thompson as much screen time as possible. Sure, there are mysteries and satisfying twists, but Newton and Thompson are having so much fun with the material it’s impossible to look away. Oh, and Ed Harris is back, doing his thing and wearing his black hat. That’s always cool.
* From a sample set of me