Before I publish the Best of 2018 which celebrates the little gems of the year that we’ll remember with nothing but fondness, I wanted to take a look at how bad this year has been. This list isn’t an excuse for me to lay into the shows I hated, it’s more a look at the shows that promised so much but delivered so little. If it were a list of the worst I could rattle through the lineup of E4 and ITV2. ITV have had a lacklustre year. A raft of dramas like Next of Kin, Vanity Fair and Trauma that weren’t awful but felt so generic and forgettable they were ruled out. Their documentary faired no better with docs fronted by the same predictable ITV names like Piers Morgan, Sir Trevor MacDonald and Susannah Ried. So, if you enjoyed any of the shows listed below, it’s not that you’re wrong, it’s more the case that we had higher expectations given the talent involved.
McMafia (January 2018, BBC1) The last half of 2018 has seen the BBC deliver one blockbuster drama after another, but 2018 got off to a rocky start with this James Norton led stinker. The series, about Russian gangsters, was convoluted and lacked any excitement and lacked any characters to root for. James Norton looked as bored throughout as the audience were. It was all style with zero substance. It promised so much and delivered so little. That being said, the BBC confirmed they’d commissioned a second series, so what do we know? Disappointing
Hard Sun (January 2018, BBC1) This new drama from Luther creator Neil Cross looked really interesting initially. Its pre-Apocalyptic setting was certainly original, but it quickly unravelled as just another bland, overly complicated drama that lacked any characters to really grasp onto. DI Elaine Renko (Agyness Deyn) was too intense a character to really care about and her co-lead DCI Charlie Hicks (Jim Sturgess) felt too cliched to believe. Whilst it wasn’t awful, Hard Sun could’ve been so much better. Neil Cross has demonstrated his skills to shock and surprise over the course of Luther, but this felt hollow. The BBC confirmed Hard Sun won’t be returning. Disappointing
Requiem (February 2018, BBC1) Remember this one?? If you’re struggling we don’t blame you. The BBC scheduled this stinker on a Friday night – a rare slot for a drama. This horror drama centred around Lydia Wilson’s Matilda Gray, a promising cello player whose mother mysteriously commits suicide. It’s already sounding bonkers, isn’t it? Among her possessions, Matilda discovers tantalising evidence, linking her mother to the Welsh girl’s disappearance all those years ago. Matilda travels to Wales, determined to find out who she really is, even if it means unravelling her own identity. In the process, she uncovers long-buried secrets in this remote community – including one secret more bizarre than she could have imagined: Dark otherworldly forces are gathering – they have been waiting many years for Matilda to return. If we were awarding prizes for the daftest series of the year, Requiem would leave its competitors in the dust. A terrible cast was dealt an even worse script, this might be one of the worst and most forgettable BBC drama for a while. Absolutely awful.
Collateral (February 2018, BBC2) This four-parter had the most impressive cast of any drama this year. Carey Mulligan, John Simm, Billie Piper, Nicola Walker. However, a great cast does not a great drama make. Another over complicated piece, this self-indulgent drama from David Hare was riddled with terrible preachy dialogue and characters that felt inauthentic. Given the star power of the cast, we’d expected better but Collateral was a mess from the off and we had no desire to spend any more time with those characters regardless of the great talent portraying them. Disappointing
Bliss (February 2018, Sky1) This Stephen Mangan led ‘comedy’ came from the mind of Arrested Development’s David Cross. The premise saw Mangan’s instantly unlikeable character lead a double life with two wives and families in different areas of the country. The premise was a hard one to fully get on board with and the ‘comedy’ failed to raise a smile. Why would we want to spend any time with this horrible man who was purposely duping his families to save his own skin? Absolutely awful.
Action Team (March 2018, ITV2) It’s important to remember that this a list highlighting the biggest disappointments or awful shows of the year. If it were a list of the worst shows of the year any show on ITV2 would make the cut. Whilst we’re not the biggest fans of Tom Davis’s BBC Three comedy Murder in Successville we’ll admit we were intrigued to see this new series spoofing action films. Davis starred alongside Vicky McClure who we have always been massive fans of, and if this sounded like it had potential. Sadly, we could see every joke coming a mile off, the characters were dull and predictable and it left a sour taste in the mouth. Disappointing
Change Your Tune (March 2018, ITV) ITV hasn’t had a very good year at all. While most of their output would be eligible for this list, the majority of it has just been incredibly bland an uninventive.
This series is by far one of the worst of the bunch with even the schedulers bumping it down to a mid-afternoon slot early on in the run. The premise saw members of the public with terrible singing voices take to the stage. They were given training by professional singers and perform again to see if they’ve improved. We understand this falls under the ‘light entertainment’ umbrella, but it was an awful idea executed terribly. Why ITV is still fixated on singing competitions in 2018 is baffling and this by far one of the worse in the history of the dying genre. Absolutely awful.
Kiss Me First (March 2018, Channel 4) We quite intrigued by this new teen drama from Skins creator Bryan Esley. Unfortunately, the series saw its characters play a virtual reality game. Whilst admirable, the series focused too much on this world and the characters weren’t interesting enough outside of it for us to care. A wasted opportunity in our view. Disappointing
The City & The City (April 2018, BBC2) This might win the title of the worst drama of the year. This dystopian crime drama starring an irritating David Morrissey irked us from the off. The premise is one we’re not still entirely sure of. Morrissey played a detective who finds a body in one city who belongs to another he’s not allowed to access. There’s a lot more to it but that’s the basic gist. Whilst you could praise the BBC for attempting these bizarre new dramas, all the shows on the list share one thing in common: a lack of character. Whilst the visuals were interesting, there wasn’t a character on display here. The dialogue was awful and the central mystery uninteresting. Absolutely awful.
The Split (April 2018, BBC1) We appreciate this law drama starring Nicola Walker written by Abi Morgan had its fans, but we were left feeling underwhelmed. We’ve wanted a British law drama since Silk ended in 2013, sadly though The Split just didn’t deliver. It was a confused mix of law drama, family drama and relationship drama and the different facets of the plot never really felt like they belonged together. Almost as if you were watching three different shows rather than one cohesive drama. Another BBC drama that felt too proud of itself. Though Nicola Walker did her best, Abi Morgan didn’t deliver characters here we wanted to spend any time with. It’s a shame because the law side showed some promise, but ultimately it got too bogged down with the drama surrounding the family and just wasn’t engaging enough to keep us watching. Disappointing
The Button (May 2018, BBC1) Borrowing more from Gogglebox than it cared to admit, this gameshow saw families compete for cash from the comfort of their sofas. The idea was simple: When a button in their living room lights up, be the first to hit it, complete the task quicker than others and win. The problems with the series were clear from the start. The Button being ‘voiced’ by Taskmaster’s Alex Horne was the first problem. His ‘interactions’ with the competing families felt cheesy and forced. Secondly, and ultimately more crucial, the games weren’t entertaining for those of us watching. Watching families racing around to collect as much cutlery as they can just something to get excited about. Whilst the BBC should be commended for trying something different for a difficult demographic, the execution of The Button wasn’t strong enough. Disappointing
High & Dry (May 2018, Channel 4) Marc Wooton’s ‘comedy’ about a group of strangers who end up on a deserted island after plane crash felt like a relic of comedies gone by. Wootan’s character was unbearable and those around him were sadly cliched and one dimensional. Channel 4 comedy pushes boundaries and isn’t afraid to take risks or offend, this didn’t tick any of those boxes. Absolutely awful.
Age Before Beauty (July 2018, BBC1) This six-parter from Cutting It writer Debbie Horsfield set in a beauty salon had us scratching our heads. It felt as if the BBC had recommissioned Cutting It with a new cast. Feeling like a drama that would sit comfortably in the schedules of BBC1 in 2003, this lacklustre relationship/family drama offered new or exciting. Where other BBC dramas felt as if they tried too hard to offer something new, Age Beauty Before felt like something we’d long grown out of. Absolutely awful.
David Walliams Presents Alright on the Night (August 2018, ITV) This ITV outtake show never fails to make us laugh. That is until some bright spark came up with the idea of having a cartoon look-alike of David Walliams host the show. Worse still, the show repeated old clips we’d seen countless times over the year. Somehow ITV has managed to destroy one of their most dependable and recognisable brands. An absolute disgrace. Absolutely awful.
Strangers (September 2018, ITV) Remember when John Simm’s name used to be a marker of a quality drama? 2018 proved those days were well and truly behind us. He popped up in three pretty awful dramas this year. Collateral, Trauma and this absolute stinker! In this eight-parter Simm played a man whose wife is killed in a car accident in Hong Kong. When he gets to Hong Kong he discovers his wife has been living a double wife with a husband and a teenage daughter. Taking the prize of the most cliched drama of the year, Strangers delivered its ‘twists’ with no suspense or excitement, add to that, the terrible performances from everyone involved and this was a proper stinker drama that did nothing to lift ITV’s dismal autumn lineup. If HAD to say something positive: Hong Kong looked good in HD. Absolutely awful.
Press (September 2018, BBC1) A new drama about rival newspapers from the writer of Doctor Foster. The idea sounded so promising. Sadly, Press starring Ben Chaplin and Charlotte Riley was a huge letdown. Whilst writer Mike Bartlett is good at creating characters, the stories he then places his characters into are ultimately unsatisfying and dull. Blasted by journalists for not feeling authentic the series never really got going. In an age where we’re all binging our favourite drama, Press felt old-fashioned and silly.
The Bisexual (October 2018, Channel 4) This semi-autobiographical comedy written by and starring Desiree Akhavan had an interesting premise and with Maxine Peake cast in a pivotal role we were excited. Sadly, the series never really finds its groove. Another show that suffers from problematic dialogue and characters that didn’t feel like they fit within the world. Perhaps the most jarring was the performance from lead Desiree Akhavan who felt completely out of place in the show she had created. Disappointing
For Facts Sake (October 2018, BBC1) Though the appeal of Mrs Brown’s Boys is utterly lost on me, I appreciate it’s a big ratings draw. I don’t know anyone who would admit to watching it, and quite frankly, I wouldn’t want to, but what irritates me more than the puerile sitcom is the fact the BBC keep giving its star Brendan O’Carroll and wife Jennifer Gibney new shows! This year, O’Caroll left his comedy persona back in Ireland and presented this awful panel show as himself. The premise, as thin as it was, saw O’Caroll and Gibney sit on a panel with members of public and celebs to debate which ‘facts’ were the most interesting. Whether he’s in his guise as Mrs Brown or appearing as himself O’Caroll isn’t a TV presenter. He looked as uncomfortable as anyone on the panel and any member of the poor studio audience. I don’t blame O’Caroll, no one would turn down an opportunity to appear primetime on BBC1, the fault here lays with the BBC who keep trying to push O’Caroll down our throats. Whilst the popularity of Mrs Brown’s Boys illudes me, I do wish they’d stop pretending that O’Caroll is anything other than a one trick pony.Absolutely awful.