The Worst TV of 2005

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The holidays are the time when critics look back on a year in entertainment, reflect on what we experienced and celebrate the best that the twelve months had to offer

Which is totally boring.

Face it, there's a reason they call us critics: we're critical. We love TV, movies, music, whatever we write about, but we also subscribe passionately to the idea that he who hates nothing, truly loves nothing. So in the noble spirit of holiday bitchiness, here's a toast to the 2005 TV that, by being so bad, made the good stuff look even better:

Fat Actress (Showtime). Kirstie Alley's semi-autobiographical comedy could have been a brave, scalding look at how Hollywood treats women. Instead it was an unfunny, predictable vanity project that managed to be self-pitying and self-aggrandizing at the same time.

PBS Gets Politicized. Former Corporation for Public Broadcasting chief Kenneth Tomlinson forced right-wing viewpoints onto the public network, in an effort to balance supposed liberal bias, in particular that of NOW with Bill Moyers. It would have been a more convincing argument if Moyers had not left the show months before. This clumsy partisan meddling—from the head of the very body meant to shield public broadcasting from political influence—put the BS in PBS.

Britney & Kevin: Chaotic (UPN). Not that I expected the story of the celebrity horror-pair's courtship to be good, but I deeply hoped it would be so-bad-it's-good. Instead, it was a tedious home movie that made Crossroads look like Citizen Kane, and Nick and Jessica look like the Curies.

Over There (UPN). OK, let's be fair. There were many worse shows this year than this Iraq War drama, and props to FX for trying it. But this was the year's greatest squandered opportunity. What should have been a thought provoking look at a war in the midst of being fought became a cliche-filled hodgepodge that managed to make the most important issue in America boring for an hour every week.

The War At Home (Fox). Michael Rapaport, a normally excellent actor, inexplicably signed up for this self-congratulatorily "anti-PC" comedy that set out to make him the new Archie Bunker and instead turned him into the new Andrew Dice Clay.

Taradise (E!). Take a skeevy, vacuous starlet (Tara Reid) and a skeevy, vacuous TV series (the Wild On travel-show franchise), put them together and what have you got? Thankfully -- one video train wreck and a quick cancellation later -- nothing, anymore.

Dancing With the Stars (ABC). There are incidents that cause a man to look about him and says, "I do not know the country I am living in anymore." For some, it takes an election, or an assassination, or a disturbing social change. For me, it was a dance contest, with chintzy production values and worse dancing, which inexplicably became the number one show of the summer and -- explicably but unfortunately -- returns next month.

Martha Makes Nice. Loosed from jail and installed on two TV shows, Martha Stewart ditched her old, competent ice-queen persona and tried to show a softer side that came across as phony as a plastic Christmas tree. Her version of The Apprentice fizzled; while on her daytime show, her frosty dominatrix side seems to be coming back, none too soon.

ABC Chickens Out. The network pulled its summer reality show Welcome to the Neighborhood, because critics complained that its premise -- a group of families compete to win a house on an insular, mainly white suburban cul-de-sac -- was offensive. Problem was, the complainers never saw the show. If they had, they'd have seen a thought-provoking, quality reality series that not only raised prejudices but actually caused its participants to confront and learn about them. Our reality -- that Americans often live in self-segregated neighborhoods -- is offensive. This smothered-in-the-cradle reality show was not.

Watch This Show or We'll Shoot This Kid. Finally, speaking of cradles and violence, TV's crime-procedural addiction continued unabated, this year upping the ante with ghastly, manipulative stories of crime against children, on shows from TNT's Wanted (child rape) to CBS's suburban crime drama Close to Home (abuse, imprisonment, etc.). Baby New Year, watch your back.