An annoyingly hyperactive young beauty-pageant contestant. A lab coat-wearing monkey. The continuing employment of Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan. And a horror show that scales King-Kong-on-the-Empire-State-Building-caliber heights of gratuitous tastelessness.
These were among the dubious achievements of the year in television. Let's take a moment to wallow in the Worst of 2012 TV, in all its multifaceted, tacky glory. You may not agree with my choices (fans of "The Newsroom," I can already hear the sound of your gnashing teeth), but let's think of this as a holiday cleanse. We'll feel so much better once it's out of our system.
Ann Curry's unceremonious exit: After joining the "Today" show as a news anchor in 1997, Curry got her dream job as co-host in the summer of 2011. So it was especially painful that NBC executives yanked her from that position in the summer of 2012, amid reports that Curry was being blamed for the "Today" show ratings decline.
In a tearful on-air goodbye, Curry left viewers with no doubt that this move was anything but her choice. Curry, who has deep Oregon roots, is still with the network, doing a vaguely defined mixture of domestic and international reporting.
But "Today" continues to struggle to regain its longtime morning ratings dominance. ABC's "Good Morning America" has gained viewers who perhaps didn't care for how Curry was treated.
Matt Lauer, who managed to escape blame for the show's ratings dip when Curry was left to twist in the wind, is still at "Today," but his rapport with Curry's replacement, Savannah Guthrie, isn't much of an improvement over his supposedly nonexistent chemistry with Curry.
Here comes stereotypes overload: The trend in reality TV for shows about rural, generally Southern, folks doing things that play off dated stereotypes plumbed new depths with "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," the TLC series that spun off the network's awful "Toddlers & Tiaras."
Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson -- a 6-year-old kiddie beauty pageant refugee from "Toddlers & Tiaras" -- and her rural Georgia family spent each episode behaving like cartoon redneck characters. Whether it was all for the camera's benefit I don't know. But I do know that exploiting young people for ratings makes TLC more classless than Honey Boo Boo's family could ever be.
Horror show: The first season of "American Horror Story" was so over-the-top, I gave up watching. When you begin at Level 10 on the hysterical scale, where is there to go? Now I know. "American Horror Story: Asylum," the impossibly offensive follow-up, is set in 1964 at a mental institution run by a monstrous doctor (James Cromwell) and a loony nun (Jessica Lange).
Co-creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk and the rest of the creative team seem to have one goal in mind -- smash our faces in the most upsetting images and concepts imaginable. It takes world-class insensitivity to mix up Nazi medical experiments, serial killers, religion, Anne Frank, aliens and sexual torture and throw them at us like an assault, devoid of any meaning beyond "Gotcha!" If that was the goal, consider it achieved. And please, don't do it again.
Give me rewrite: Aaron Sorkin is a gifted writer, of that there's no doubt. He's done outstanding work on such past projects as "Sports Night," "The West Wing," "The Social Network" and "Moneyball." But with his HBO series, "The Newsroom," Sorkin gave in to his most self-indulgent tendencies.
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