Note: #TVFail is currently on-hiatus.
Television’s failures are supposed to be obvious. From the overhyped non-starters that flop from the very beginning (hello, FlashForward, Lone Star) to the much-discussed clumsy conclusions of series we were convinced had it all planned out (nice to see you again, Battlestar Galactica), the medium’s big busts are right there in front of us. Whether because of low Nielsen ratings, terrible critical and fan response or something else entirely, the reaction to one episode often defines a series’ long-term legacy. But while we are often left wondering what it all means for the medium and for the industry when a series like Lone Star stumbles out of the gate or a series like Battlestar Galactica presents a controversial ending, those discourses tend to focus on disastrous beginnings and ill-conceived endings. But what about those mishaps that are not so obvious, the catastrophes that happen somewhere in the middle? How much impact, both positive and negative, can one bad episode have on an entire series? How do long-running series continue onward in the aftermath of an episodic failure? Is it possible that individual, episodic failures of television’s most respected series tell us more than the failings of a much-hyped about pilot or series finale? And how do we really define “failure” anyway?
These are just a few of the questions that I hope to answer with TV Surveillance’s new bi-weekly feature, #TVFail. In each entry, I will be taking a look at an individual episode of television that is considered a disappointment in some way. Maybe it was panned by critics and audiences, maybe it was lowly rated or maybe it was initially neither but has retroactively lost its more positive reputation. No matter the reason, this is a place where I will talk about the quiet failures of some of television’s best series. Here, I will talk about how and why these individual episodes came to represent “failure” and also discuss whether or not those definitions still apply today. The hope is that this feature will weave textual analysis and contextual and intertextual discourse together to create a compelling space for the discussion of televisual failure.
Entry 1: Lost, “Stranger in a Strange Land” [April 21, 2011]
Entry 2: House, “Simple Explanation” [May 5, 2011]
Entry 3: Heroes, “How to Stop an Exploding Man” [May 19, 2011]
Entry 4: The Office, “The Banker” [June 2, 2011]
Entry 5: 24, “Day 6: 9:00 a.m. — 10:00 a.m.” [June 16, 2011]
Entry 6: Entourage, “Adios Amigos” [July 28, 2011]
Entry 7: Moonlighting, “I Am Curious…Maddie” [August 11, 2011]
Entry 8: Chuck, “Chuck Versus the Mask” [August 25, 2011]
Entry 9: The West Wing, “Isaac and Ishmael” [September 8, 2011]
Entry 10: The Wire, “Unconfirmed Reports” September 22, 2011]
Entry 11: Survivor: Samoa, “This Game Ain’t Over” [October 8, 2011]
Entry 12: Friends, “The One With Ross’s Wedding” [October 20, 2011]
Entry 13: Friday Night Lights, “The Last Days of Summer” [November 17, 2011]
Entry 14: CSI:, “19 Down”/”One to Go” [December 1, 2011]
Entry 15: Life on Mars, “Life is a Rock”[December 15, 2011]
Entry 16: Arrested Development, “For British Eyes Only” [January 12, 2012]
Entry 17: 30 Rock, “The One With the Cast of Night Court” [January 26, 2012]
Entry 18: Dexter, “The British Invasion” [February 23, 2012]
Entry 19: Smallville, “Reckoning” [March 8, 2012]