Sunday is the day reserved for shaking off the effects of those warm tequila shots from the night before, visiting your local house of worship, or watching Marc Trestman look at a football field like a cow looks at an oncoming train.
And in keeping Sunday the week’s Funday, it also (used to be) the night for the best shows that television had to offer.
“I am the one who knocks”?
Aired on a Sunday.
The Red Wedding?
Also on a Sunday.
The Soprano family eating onion rings while Journey played on the jukebox then a smash cut to black?
Sunday has long been the spot where networks put their best shows because it’s the night that draws the most eyeballs. Almost every significant show of the last decade has run on Sunday nights but as the juggernaut of NFL football continues to grow, networks have become more gun-shy about putting their marquee shows up against the game.
Or perhaps we have been spoiled by greatness and we truly are at the tail end of the Golden Age…
To be fair, there are still some quality shows to catch on the last day of the weekend. AMC’s The Walking Dead has remained a ratings monster as the most popular show on television. But even with all the eyes that show draws, that isn’t necessarily the point. Because at the end of the day (literally), people are always going to watch television on Sunday nights.
At its core – despite its gaudy Nielsen numbers – The Walking Dead remains a pretty hollow series that substitutes blood and guts for character and plot and there are only so many times one can watch Andrew Lincoln chew scenery and scream “CORAL!”
So the real issue has become the lackluster quality of programming that has filled the prime role.
Even the once legendary top-notch 8-10 time slot on HBO has not escaped the Sunday night doldrums, with Boardwalk Empire shuffling off last month to very little fanfare only to be replaced by The Newsroom. And that show is no saving grace for TV lovers. In its third and final season, Aaron Sorkin’s (thankfully) last foray into television has been a mess. In concept, the idea seems to be a great one – ultimately a chance to provide context to real world events through the eyes of a fictional news channel. But with every episode featuring 10-15 minutes of quality wedged between 45 minutes of self-indulgent revisionist history and inexplicably awful relationship stories, the show was flawed from the start.
HBO’s attempt at salvaging the night has been helped by its renewal of the dark comedy, Getting On starring Family Guy’s Alex Borstein and Reno 911’s Niecy Nash. It’s still finding its legs but it remains the only hope on HBO’s Sunday night.
Despite all the flaws of the programming, the biggest problem with Sunday nights – and really television in general right now – is that there is no marquee show on the air.
When Breaking Bad was on, everyone and their mother was watching and talking about.
When Joffrey’s eyes turned purple? Huge news.
But now, what exactly is the zeitgeist show? There really isn’t one, which is due in large part to the crater of the series that seemed like it was destined to be the next all-timer – Showtime’s Homeland.
The first season of Homeland is arguably the greatest single season of television ever produced, right one par with The Wire’s Corner Boys season and the Walt vs. Gus run in Breaking Bad.
Keeping that kind of pace is extremely tough and Homeland fell off pretty significantly.
But between a massive shift in the third season finale (that spoiler is easily Google-able) and the show’s lead character Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) going completely gone off the deep end to become one of the least likable leads on TV, it just isn’t the same series. The show has lost everything that made it so transcendent in its early days and that doesn’t look to be coming back.
Hope isn’t totally lost, as AMC still has the final eight Mad Men episodes to air this spring and Showtime’s period piece, Masters of Sex, has shown some promise.
But right now? The cupboard is pretty bare. In fact, the best show on Sunday nights truly might be Fox’s animated series, Bob’s Burgers which airs at 6:30 after football (if there is time). It’s a really funny show but if it is the best half hour on the Cadillac of television evenings, then there’s probably something wrong.
Come back Sunday; We miss you.
(Featured image courtesy of Breaking Bad’s Facebook)