Long ago, whenever vulgarities were becoming culturally acceptable, the term “dick move” was coined. Urban Dictionary defines the phrase as the violation of an understood social expectation, particularly between two males. By now, though, we’ve moved past gender association, when it comes to the word “dick” when used as an insult. Anyone can be a dick, and thus anyone — or anything — can execute a dick move. These violators did so on television this year. They violated an understood expectation between two characters within the show, the writers and audience watching at home, or both simultaneously. Below, we will explain in further detail why each of these TV programs deserves to be chastised for their 2014 actions. But for now, just know that they are all the biggest dicks of the year.
Ensemble “Big Swingin’ Dick” Award: “Archer”
Tensions can often rise when starting a new career, as the added stress of betting on something new and unfamiliar creates opportunities to lash out in the worst ways. In the fifth season of FX’s rhetorically clever animated action/comedy, creator Adam Reed took the series to a whole new world. Though a few gags joked at the idea of “Archer: Vice” — the drug-dealing alt-career of the former ISIS crew — being an extended wet dream of its star, the end result proved very, very real. This means the deeds committed by the morally-bankrupt agents actually happened, and at least one will have lasting consequences for Season 6. [Spoilers Follow.]
No one emerged from “Vice” unscathed (however appropriate or inappropriate that becomes). Pam became addicted to cocaine after being forced into a body cast made of the illegal substance by Archer and Lana, and later she’d end up ingesting a large portion of their stash. This was a major problem because Mallory needed the money from the cocaine sale to keep herself — and the rest of the team — afloat, because the government raided ISIS and stripped them of the operating clearance they never rightly attained. So, in an effort to peddle the cocaine to anyone who could buy it, Archer tried to hock the load to an undercover cop, leading Cyril to becoming an oppressive dictator in San Marcos, and Krieger to killing off a number of his own clones. To top it all off, Lana lied to Archer throughout the season about the identity of her baby daddy, only to spring it on him under the worst possible circumstances.
All of these constitute dick moves, but more importantly, by earning the ensemble award, the listed reasons don’t begin to encapsulate all of the countless dick moves perpetrated by the cast of “Archer” last year. Congratulations, gang. You’ve gone far past the danger zone.
Runner-Up: “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”
14) “Saturday Night Live” – Cut for Time
Who Got Screwed? The viewers, basically. Full credit due, of course, to NBC to even making it possible for us to have this complaint — if they didn’t put the cut sketches online, it’d be very hard for us to complain. But we can manage, and there was the charming Martin Freeman tribute to Santa Traps, the celebration of a legendary Tweeter’s 10,000th Tweet… But we’re gonna feature the “Morning News” sketch here, because it packed a lot of important social commentary into a very short timeframe, and represents the sort of chance we wish “Saturday Night Live” took more often.
13) “Community” – The Cancellation/Resurrection
What Happened: NBC finally canceled the previously unstoppable Dan Harmon comedy, “Community.” Though in peril of being axed every year, the cult-worshipped sitcom somehow survived for five seasons before the ever-patient peacock finally cut the cord. Then, after many rumors and under-the-radar discussions, Yahoo stepped in to “save” the program, renewing it for its sixth season (and a movie?).
Who Got Screwed? One could argue the audience is the real victim in all of this. After years of tension-filled hiatuses, one season without the show’s creator and mastermind on board, and constant worrying over whether their favorite misunderstood comedy would return, they finally got a “final” answer, only to have that answer reversed. People are obviously still clamoring for more of Greendale’s study group, so it’s hard to say bringing it back with Harmon and many of the core crew is a bad idea, even if its “will it or won’t it” back-and-forth has certainly enraged the masses. Who should really be upset, though, are the core cast members. Of the original seven, only four remain, and the replacements for Pierce (Chevy Chase), Troy (Donald Glover), and Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) — Keith David, Paget Brewster, and the over-utilized preexisting cast member Ken Jeong — will only tarnish the memories of those who came before. Perhaps it’s time for “Community” to finally bow out, for the better of us all.
12) “Selfie”/”A to Z” – Canceled Too Soon
What Happened: All fall long, we were actively tracking broadcast television, and one thing we noticed was the rise and fall of the rom-com sitcom. The other thing we noticed was that while all FOUR shows to use and abuse this genre are now dead or dying, “Selfie” and “A to Z” were both developing real promise, due largely to cultivating strong, unique characters and giving their love stories real heft. Both of these shows have been shut down after producing 13 episodes, thus functionally canceled — not only killing the shows, but handicapping the odds of networks green-lighting future series in this genre for at least another year or two.
Who Got Screwed? Us. If at least one of these shows got revived, we’d be pleased as punch. Unfortunately, that happy ending looks unlikely.
11) “Californication” – Seasons 2 – 7
What Happened: Before miniseries and anthology shows were the hottest things around, Showtime made a perfect season of traditional television — and then it spent six years failing to outdo itself. “Californication” Season 1 is a thing of beauty: David Duchovny’s heartbroken lothario Hank Moody moved to Los Angeles for a shot at winning back his lost love while spending time with his second life’s treasure, his daughter Becca. He waded through the morally bankrupt shallow waters of the LA scene, sleeping his way into more trouble than he thought possible, but eventually found his way to being a better friend, father, and person. All this happened in the first 13 episodes — but creator Tom Kapinos spent the next six years trying to recreate the magic he’d used up on these characters already.
Who Got Screwed? The audience, of course. While it was fun to check in on Hank from time to time, seeing him walk the same path to self-discovery over and over, with no new revelations, quickly became grating. When it wrapped up with a predictable series finale earlier this year, “Californication” proved it had spent its egregiously generous screen time rehashing itself until nothing was left.
10) “Game of Thrones” – Depends On Who You Are
If you’ve read the George R.R. Martin novels from which “Game of Thrones” is drawn, then here are two words that have you pissssssed offfffff: Lady Stoneheart, who (without spoiling anything massive) would have been an awesome addition to the series, but as far as we know has been full-on cut.
If you have not read the books: Well, who can deny that Tyrion Lannister, easily one of the most sympathetic characters of the show, dealt with some rough stuff in the season finale. We want Tyrion to be happy during Season 5, but the Season 4 finale did not open the door to that possibility.
9) “The Leftovers” – Episode 9, “The Garveys at Their Best”
What Happened: After a cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers in the episode prior, showrunner Damon Lindelof chose to flash back to the time before everyone disappeared, instead of telling us what happens next in present day Mapleton.
Who Got Screwed? The audience. Though we were all dying to know what life was like in the Garvey household before everyone went their separate ways, choosing to show us right after Patti cut her own throat — framing Kevin Jr. for a murder that would ruin his family and professional lives — was not the time to do so. Well, really it was. The combination of build-up and background brought on by the episode order helped make for a stellar season finale. But boy did it still burn our britches, the first time we watched.
8) “The Newsroom” – An Abbreviated Final Season
What Happened: Listen, we know that six more episodes of Aaron Sorkin’s fake news show was six too many for some of you, but if you look at the structure of the episodes themselves it’s evident the last year of “The Newsroom” needed more time, not less. [SPOILERS AHEAD] Many complained about Charlie’s death being too sudden and shot in a comically overdramatic way. Would those choices need to have been made if the season had an extra episode or three to set them up? After all, it came about while Will was stuck in prison for 56 days, a sentence that felt all the less difficult considering we saw him go in and get out in the same episode. There were more hard cuts and quick outs than ever before in Season 3, and while many worked, many did not.
Who Got Screwed? Television as a medium was perhaps robbed the most after being deprived an extra few Aaron Sorkin screenplays, but we’ll just stick with “the audience” in order to maintain some professional credibility.
Next: Dead women, hallucinations, cat violence and fake “I love you”s.
7) “Hannibal” – Sucks to Be A Lady
What Happened [Spoilers for “Hannibal” Season 2 follow]: We love “Hannibal” for its ballsy approach to serialized television, even if that ballsy approach does involve a pretty intense body count. That’s because we’re just a bit mad at “Hannibal,” because of the ladies it let go for various reasons. Of course, we can’t blame the character of Bedelia Du Maurier for not being able to appear in more than a few episodes of “Hannibal” Season 2, given Gillian Anderson’s commitment to multiple other shows. (And we are looking forward to her work in Season 3.) But her limited ability to appear was surely a slap in the face to any of the cast who wanted to work with one of television’s greatest icons. And meanwhile, one of “Hannibal’s” only two female season regulars was killed off in Episode 4, and the other’s fate is uncertain following the season finale.
Who Got Screwed? Those craving interesting women on television. “Hannibal” has a strong track record of creating interesting female characters, but those characters have a bad habit of ending up dead or abandoned. And given the current dearth of interesting female characters on TV, those deaths are a tragedy.
6) “Homeland” – The “Special Appearance”
What Happened: We cannot be clearer — MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD. In the seventh episode of an otherwise damn-near perfect fourth season, “Homeland” decided to bring back Brody. Yes, Brody. The very same man who we watched die in the Season 3 finale resurfaced as — guess what — a hallucination brought on by Carrie’s drugged mind.
Who Got Screwed? Damien Lewis, the writers and the audience all took it in the teeth with this one. Poor Damien Lewis used up his first (and perhaps his last) return appearance on a cheap trick that turned out to mean nothing in the long run. The person Carrie thought was Brody isn’t about to use the information gleaned from the encounter, and she herself has faced no recurring issues since this episode (her change of heart and mind was brought on by events focused on Saul, not Brody). The writers, meanwhile, have now played their trump card too early, and the audience suffered from being given the brief hope Brody had returned, even though we all know deep within he shouldn’t.
5) “New Girl” – The Whole Nick & Jess Fiasco
What Happened: Convinced they needed a central romantic relationship between two of the core cast members (thanks to years of broadcast sitcom brainwashing), Elizabeth Meriwether and her writing team set events in motion that lead to more than one coupling. Our first hook-up came between Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and Cece (Hannah Simone) way back in Season 1, but Meriwether & Co. made their second colossal mistake by misidentifying Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and Nick (Jake Johnson) as the primary pairing, forcing them into each other’s arms at the conclusion of Season 2. This, combined with the addition of new cast member Coach (Damon Wayans Jr., who was part of the pilot), lead to a year of awkward episodes where the writers tried to figure out how to make the new group dynamic work. Then, in late March 2014, perhaps finally realizing the error in their ways, Nick and Jess broke up. The show rebooted, and now we’re in the middle of a much-improved Season 4.
Who Got Screwed? So if things are better than they ever have been midway through the latest season, who actually got screwed in this Nick and Jess debacle? Well, Schmidt, for one. Sure, the audience got yanked around for three years, but many actually gave up on the show during these troubling times — “no blood no foul” if they rejoin now. Schmidt, however, had to patiently wait for all of this nonsense to sort itself out before he could again become the focused-upon star of the show. He is, after all, the best character on the series, and deserving of as big a spotlight as his aptly monstrous ego can handle. He’s also one-half of the only couple anyone cares about, yet was unreasonably second-fiddled for far too long. Balance has been restored, and Schmidt has risen all the stronger. But damn son, if wasn’t a dick move to try to put him down to begin with.
4) “Intruders” – NOT Saving the Cat
What Happened: You might not have caught BBC America’s “Intruders,” despite what was a interesting cast (Oscar winner Mira Sorvino, British favorite John Simm) and an intriguing premise, which danced on the same genre lines between straight-up drama and sci-fi that cult hi “Orphan Black” has mastered. But when we watched the pilot, we couldn’t get past one scene — the killing of a cat. Because, to prove that 9-year-old Madison (Millie Brown) was, in reality, in the grips of otherworldly possession, a late scene in the pilot had Madison, in an unexpected moment of crazy, grab her pet cat and drown her in a bathtub.
Who Got Screwed? People who like cats. For cat lovers, it was pretty horrifying, and even for non-cat-lovers, it felt like a gratuitous attempt to clarify a plot point at the expense of a living thing. Sometimes animals die. But there aren’t many plot points that warrent this sort of casual murder.
3) “Mad Men” – Splitting the Final Season in Half
What Happened: In an effort to spread earnings out over multiple quarters, as well as keep heavily-coveted talent on the payroll a year longer, AMC split the final season of “Mad Men” in half. The first set of seven episodes aired in 2014, with the latter half scheduled for 2015.
Who Got Screwed? More like who didn’t get screwed? The easy answer to that is AMC, though dwindling ratings in 2014 actually point to the contrary. Otherwise, the audience, actors, and writers all have to cope with an annoying schedule and dragged out time in the spotlight.
2) “The Killing” – The Ending
What Happened: Plenty of shows have ended badly, but has any show ended badly as many times as “The Killing”? First, there was the frustrating Season 1 debacle, when fans tuned expecting to find out who killed Rosie Larson, only to realize they’d have to wait through another rain-soaked second season to find out. Then, those that did stick around were then doubly-pissed off to discover who the actual murderer was — a pretty implausible but altogether unexciting character. So “The Killing” was canceled and life went on—but oh no, wait! AMC brought back its moody cop drama for a third season when it basically had nothing better to put on, resulting in briefly-renewed interest when new co-star Peter Sarsgaard turned in a rather remarkable performance… before the woefully twist-heavy finale ruined that, too. For sure, this marked the death of “The Killing,” right? Wrong. Netflix picked up the series for one last ridiculous ride, resulting in the ultimate outlandish ending [SPOILERS AHEAD] when the otherwise platonic Holder and Linden decide to hook up in the last few minutes of the show! Wow. Talk about not knowing how to close.
Who Got Screwed? The masochists who kept coming back for more. AMC, who hasn’t created a truly worthwhile original drama since “Breaking Bad.” Netflix, who is now 0-2 for restoring the glory of canceled network series. Finally, its two stars, Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman, who despite outstanding character work, have been given nothing but shlock to work with since (Enos was last seen in one of the worst movies of 2014, “Sabotage,” and Kinnaman starred in the failed “Robocop” reboot).
1) “Arrow” – Screwing With The Shippers
Indiewire’s Year-End TV Coverage: