Tricky Business one of the year's worst shows

Tricky Business has been included on a list of 2012s most terrible TV shows.

Sitting at number 10 on the Sydney Morning Herald's list, the show, set in the Illawarra, is surrounded by some of the year's biggest TV turkeys.

There was a lot to like about television in 2012. That's not to say there wasn't some crap served up by the networks, and we're not just talking about The Shire, Being Lara Bingle or Paul Henry's Breakfast.

Here is our list of the worst shows of the year. 

20. Why we're torn about Shaun Micallef Is Mad As Hell (ABC1)

For: Federal politics has been certifiably bonkers this year - bleak, joyless farce. But for 10 weeks, at the apex of the carbon tax battle, Shaun Micallef's wilfully perverse news satire provided a weekly dose of pleasurably silly mockery. There were always incidental pleasures in the characters' names (especially Veronica Milsom as reporter Xanthe Kalamazoo), but highlights played on headlines: Francis Greenslade's softly menacing union official; Tony Abbott's ''national hairnet tour''; the dance choreographed to Craig Emerson's ''Whyalla Wipeout''. I loved best the jokes at the expense of Fairfax and the future of print - especially the skit where the fish-and-chip shop wraps the flake in an iPad.

Against: The people spoke and the ABC listened, which is how Shaun Micallef was given a chance to flex his muscles as a writer, performer and avowed news junkie in this eponymous current-affairs satire. But anyone who saw his earlier go-around on SBS, the inventive, cheap and cheerful Newstopia, quickly realised that a polished production and overplayed gesturing didn't value-add. There were some bright spots - enough, evidently, for a return season next year.

19. Hemingway & Gellhorn (Showcase/Foxtel)

Directed by Philip Kaufman and starring Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman (in her first TV role since Bangkok Hilton), this should have been superb. Instead it felt self-important and bloated. You could almost see Kidman acting, while Owen brought little to the role of Hemingway. Ultimately, the movie perpetuated rather than interrogated the myth of the hard-drinking male artist, which seemed a missed opportunity.

18. Bikie Wars: Brothers in Arms (Channel Ten)

The 1984 Milperra massacre offered meaty TV fodder. The event was the culmination of a bikie gang war that erupted into a Father's Day showdown resulting in seven deaths. The tale behind the shootout possessed precisely the kind of ripped-from-the-headlines sensation beloved by TV networks seeking drama projects. The problem with this one, though, was that the story couldn't stretch to fill the required six episodes and ran out long before the finale. Character development was scant as episodes were padded with repetitive scenes of proud packs of men riding the open road, misbehaving in the clubhouses, and posturing and threatening each other.

17. Please Marry My Boy (Seven)

Most men don't bring up the idea of marriage until at least the second date, let alone have the subject broached on television immediately by their mother. In this reality show, three girls moved in with their ''potential'' mother-in-law before being voted out or kept, depending on traits such as their ability to cook. This dysfunctional social experiment was made sadder by the investment of some mothers who were overly hopeful about the prospect of the doomed relationships. Needless to say, Please Marry My Boy failed to fulfil the promise of its title, although one son was discovered bonking a contestant his mother had sent packing.

16. Ten's Breakfast (Ten)

Network executives knew what they were getting when they imported Paul Henry from across the Tasman, at a cost of $1 million a year, to front its breakfast show. Early promo shots featured co-host Andrew Rochford with his hand held over the New Zealander's mouth, a panto that came to fruition when Rochford stopped appearing on the couch with Henry, before quitting the show altogether. Henry's ignorant bellicosity was more annoying than entertaining, and didn't work alongside presenters schooled in the art of inoffensive. All hope for respectability faded when advertorials started airing in between news stories. Breakfast was never likely to relate to an audience when the hosts couldn't relate to each other.

15. I Will Survive (Ten)

This messy TV spinoff of Priscilla didn't know whether it was a talent, reality, theatre or travel show and vacillated uncomfortably between serious competition and high-camp nonsense. Its objective, to uncover ''Australia's next triple-threat superstar'' by putting contestants through the rigours of a three-month drag-queen boot camp, was undermined when the prize, a ''chance'' to play a lead in Priscilla on Broadway, fell through after the production closed before the TV show went to air. Big-name guest judges such as Toni Collette were a draw but not enough to overcome the feeling that no one knew what they were doing or why.

14. Anger Management (Nine)

Uunlike 2 Broke Girls, which at least is trying (in its own perverse way), Anger Management must be one of the more lazy, cynical efforts to hit our screens in a long time. After Charlie Sheen was sacked by Warner Bros for, well, completely losing his mind, the Fox network couldn't wait to exploit the ensuing publicity. Enter so-called comedy, a slapped-together star vehicle where the lameness of the gags is absolutely matched by the attitude of the actors. Sheen and his co-stars (including Selma Blair - what on earth is she doing there?) wander in and out of the cheap set without even pretending to have an interest in timing, delivery or each other.

13. The Strange Calls (ABC1)

It's hard to be taken with a show that goes out of its way to extol its own manufactured weirdness, but that's what happened in this over-egged pastiche of surreal happenings in the 'burbs, schlock horror and bogan comedy, which mostly resembled a throwback to those capital ''Q'' quirky Australian comedies that filmgoers avoided in droves. Queensland is a weird place. OK, we get it already.

12. The Bolt Report (Ten)

Viewing figures for The Bolt Report were slightly up in 2012, which suggests either that the partisan commentator is making converts or that those who love to loathe him simply can't resist screaming at their television sets every Sunday morning. Either way, it was hard to fault his perseverance as the newspaper columnist proved himself the scourge of dead horses everywhere, returning to favoured topics week after week. But Bolt hasn't managed to find a decent sparring partner, and a fair degree of his initial ''I've got my own TV show! Me!'' enthusiasm has dissipated. The show has become a forced march.

11. Excess Baggage (Nine)

Channel Nine's short-lived weight-loss reality show had a premise as flabby as the contestants it claimed to help. Eight unknown obese contestants were teamed up with eight overweight but attention-starved celebrities who were then mentored by a trainer, nutritionist, psychologist, doctor and Kate Ceberano. The competition ranked individuals not according to weight loss - as that would be too similar to The Biggest Loser - but a complex metric of body fat percentage, waist measurement and a nebulous ''fitness score''. We doubt anyone in Australia knows or cares who won.

10. Tricky Business (Nine)

A great premise, a strong cast and a strong locale were all fluffed in this exercise in offensive mediocrity. This is the kind of show television critics cite when they bemoan the lack of quality Australian content. A missed opportunity.

9. Brynne: My Bedazzled Life (Seven)

The difficulty in criticising My Bedazzled Life arises from the feeling that Brynne Edelsten not only had no idea what she was getting herself into - it's that she still doesn't. Dr Geoffrey Edelsten's big-bosomed trophy wife actually came across as a rather sweet person, but that didn't make this disaster of a series any easier to watch. On the contrary, the combination of her complete lack of self-awareness or self-knowledge with what we all knew was actually going on in her life and her marriage (Edelsten was embroiled in a tacky civil case against a lover while the show was screening) made most of us want to hide behind the sofa. Excruciating.

8. Being Lara Bingle (Ten)

The only thing Being Lara Bingle had going for it was that The Shire was so dismally and unremittingly bad that this reality show about the sometimes swimsuit model couldn't help but appear slightly less of a failure in comparison. That said, despite shamelessly manufacturing a life and career for Bingle that lasted as long as the season did, the show was neither comically inventive nor even vaguely revelatory. The wooden performances - add strings and you would have had marionettes on screen - ensured banality triumphed, and all Being Lara Bingle achieved was to thankfully prove that there are limits to our society's aspirational affair with celebrity.

7. 2 Broke Girls (Nine)

There's irreverent. There's rule-breaking. And then there's 2 Broke Girls, a series that has singularly failed to understand the distinction between transgressive and pointlessly offensive. Good comedy often makes us laugh most when it shocks us, when it says the unsayable. But 2 Broke Girls seems to have taken that theory as justification for larding the show with aged stereotypes, equally hoary gags about Jews and blacks, and dumb lines about sexual organs, which do not become funnier through laboured repetition. (Although the laugh track indicates that simply saying the word ''vagina'' is, apparently, hilarious. So let's do it again!)

6. Randling (ABC1)

In ABC quarters, Andrew Denton is close to untouchable, so it was a surprise to many that his word-based comedy quiz show was next to unwatchable. Unlike more successful shows in the genre where results are meaningless and conversation is allowed to meander before striking gold, Randling's costumed duos were expected to be funny against a clock, limited to using obscure words to bounce off only each other, and had to answer questions correctly if they were to progress through the tournament. Randling was unfit to occupy the timeslot vacated by ABC flagship Spicks and Specks, and all 27 episodes were taped before the first went to air, which made tweaks to the lifeless format impossible.

5. Today Tonight (Seven)

There was no turning back for Today Tonight in 2012 - it had reached the bottom and it was staying there. Channel Seven's toxic current affairs show didn't have a banner scandal to define its year, but with Matt White providing a first-rate impression of an empathetic human being in the host's chair, the 6.30pm perennial continued to wind up its admittedly loyal audience with demonised figures and various outsiders who could provide an easy scapegoat. Apart from some good consumer-affairs reporting, Today Tonight continued to make a case for antagonistic irrelevance.

4. A Current Affair (Nine)

There were hints in 2012 that Nine's current affair half hour was going to distinguish itself from eternal rival Today Tonight by promoting the quality of its reporting and the resulting stories. It didn't take, which was unfortunate, because you would have to do very little right to separate this show from Today Tonight. It wasn't a particularly bad year for A Current Affair, but the refusal to take a chance on proving that not all commercial weeknight current affairs shows are the sordidly similar was disappointing, although it helped emphasise the resurgence of the ABC's 7.30.

3. WAG Nation (Arena/Foxtel)

One of the interesting things about reality television is the insight it gives you into the characteristics of a nation or a culture. The Brits as a group are different from the Yanks who are, in turn, quite distinct from the Aussies. That can make Australian reality franchises delightful: collegiate, humble, kind. When it comes to ''dramality'', though - a format where nothing happens anyway - you need extreme personalities to maintain interest and as a nation we have neither the hubris of the Americans nor the archness of the Brits. The result is television that doesn't even rate as car-crash. It's just mind-numbingly tedious. And of all the dramality series that have been produced this year, this had to be one of the worst offenders for sheer unalleviated boredom.

2. The Shire (Ten)

For many, this ''dramality'' series came to symbolise all that was wrong with Ten in 2012. It was ill-conceived, poorly executed and the stench it gave off contaminated other shows around it. Ten never seemed to know what it wanted The Shire to be - a risque controversy magnet or a family-friendly piece of fluff. Ultimately, it got neither. Its young participants were desperately out of their depth - unable to deliver the soft-scripted lines they were fed with any conviction and, with a few exceptions, entirely lacking in charisma.

1. Everybody Dance Now (Ten)

WORST show of the year? We really were spoilt for choice in 2012. But we've decided to give it to this odd and expensive turkey. We're still not even sure how it all worked. In terms of network money wasted, a host looking ill-suited and uncomfortable in her role (and her bizarrely racy and desperately adolescent wardrobe), a judging panel as inept as any in recent memory and a boring premise, Dance was easily the biggest stinker of 2012. Sure, The Shire was an easy target, but this dud's failure hurt Channel Ten's schedule much more.

www.smh.com.au

By Andrew Murfett, Greg Hassall, Daniel Burt, Debi Enker, Paul Kalina, Melinda Houston and Craig Mathieson

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