10 TV Low-lights of 2008

They don't call it the boob tube for nothing.

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    10. "Secret Talents of the Stars," CBS. Part of a rash of celebrity talent shows that aired because of the writers' strike, this series will be remembered, if at all, for tying the record for the lowest number of episodes broadcast by a network series (one) and for the painful moment when judge Gavin Polone followed a country-music performance by the out and proud George Takei with a Brokeback Mountain joke. Guess comedy isn't one of Polone’s secret talents. Oh, and don't forget when Olympic skater Sasha Cohen, above, practiced her contortionism. Ouch.

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    9. Sylar turns good on "Heroes," NBC. Recently, this once promising drama has been going through so many plot twists, double-crosses, flashbacks, flash-forwards, and alternative futures that watching it is like going to the optometrist: Is it better like this [switch!] or this? The worst switcheroo so far was turning Sylar (Zachary Quinto) from a stone-cold psycho serial killer into an approval-starved company man who eagerly went to work alongside his former mortal enemies, falling in love along the way. Seeing Sylar subsequently revert to his villainous ways (this time with post-murder witticisms) was a relief but also suggested that sometimes TV producers just make this stuff up as they go along. (Hi, "Lost"!)

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    8. "Rosie Live," NBC. Just as Rosie O'Donnell had revived the sweetness-and-light daytime talk shows of yesteryear, she tried to revive the variety show with this one-time-only (and not by choice) special. A parade of random guests was force-marched through increasingly befuddling sketches or family-unfriendly banter with the host. If stars like Kathy Griffin, Conan O'Brien, and Alec Baldwin weren't funny, something was seriously off.

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    7. "New York Goes to Hollywood," VH1. Tiffany “New York” Pollard was one of the sad cases who pretended to try to win the heart of the washed-up former Public Enemy rapper Flavor Flav in VH1’s reality show Flavor of Love; she went on to star on her own reality-romance show, I Love New York, and in this series, which supposedly showed us her attempts to further her showbiz career in L.A. The strained, contrived, and bland results were basically beneath criticism: If a delusional/collusional fame seeker lies down in front of a cardboard locomotive, can it really be described as a train wreck?

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    6. Paula Abdul predicts the future on "American Idol," Fox. In the middle of American Idol's April 29th episode, host Ryan Seacrest asked judge Paula Abdul to sum up her impression of the night’s performances so far. Addressing contestant Jason Castro, she said, "Jason, first song, I loved hearing your lower register, which we never really hear, um. . . . The second song, I felt like your usual charm wasn't — it was missing for me. It kind of left me a little empty." Unfortunately, Castro had only sung one song. Abdul first claimed she had mixed up her notes, then said she had seen Castro's second performance in rehearsal, but the damage was done. We Idol fans need to believe the show isn't fixed or faked! What's next, pro wrestling?

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    5. Dead Denny Duquette returns to "Grey's Anatomy," ABC. Denny (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) died of a bad heart back in 2006, but he returned this fall, at least in the hallucinations (or fantasies?) of the love of his life, Dr. Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl). Not only did Izzie converse with Denny in front of her colleagues (who can't see him), but she had passionate, loud sex with him (leading her roommates to conclude she was, uh, you know . . . being with herself). Though the show reportedly plans to explain why this is happening, viewers can't be blamed for suspecting it's just a lame way to revive a popular guest star or give a disgruntled cast member an interesting plotline.

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    4. "The Moment of Truth," Fox. Reality TV hits a new low. Critics and reporters have been using that line since Survivor first made castaways eat bugs, and they revived it when this show premiered in January. After taking a lie-detector test, people sit in front of friends and family members and answer squirm-inducing personal questions. One contestant, after confessing in front of her husband that she had cheated on him, lost anyway when she answered yes to the question of whether she thought she was a good person. She and her husband separated shortly afterward. Now that's entertainment.

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    3. "David Blaine: Dive of Death," ABC. The hype: In his latest stunt, David Blaine would hang upside down from a wire for 60 hours above Wollman Rink in New York City’s Central Park, then take a death-defying leap from the wire. The reality: Throughout the 60 hours, Blaine took frequent breaks to stand upright, drink water, and have medical checkups; the dive itself, occurring live at the end of a two-hour telecast, was a anticlimactic flop at the end of what looked like the world's least-bouncy bungee cord, after which Blaine was yanked off into the darkness, presumably so he could avoid network executives demanding their money back.

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    2. "Big Brother 9," CBS. In another writers'-strike-related disaster, CBS aired the first regular-season outing of its summer-filler show "Big Brother." Perhaps to draw new viewers, the producers selected the youngest group of houseguests ever (the only middle-aged contestant was a former Penthouse model) and paired each one with a "soul mate." If the latter twist was designed to provoke some action, it was unnecessary, thanks largely to an emotionally needy, exhibitionistic housemate named Natalie, who led her fellow inmates in a night of stripping, lap dancing, and topless hot-tub making out that set a new low standard for this always smarmy show. (Sadly, the footage could only be seen on CBS's cable affiliate "Showtime" or online.) Proving that irony isn't dead, Natalie later nicknamed her in-house alliance Team Christ.

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    1. Reality-show stars open the Emmy ceremony, ABC. Since the 60th annual prime-time Emmys marked the first time an award would be given to the best reality-show host, Heidi Klum, Tom Bergeron, Ryan Seacrest, Jeff Probst, and Howie Mandel were invited to host the ceremony as well. They chose to open the evening with a prolonged bit in which they joked about having nothing prepared, which maybe was a recognition of the unscripted nature of their own shows. As Mandel frantically vamped with purportedly ad-libbed banter, the other four simply got progressively quieter, as did the audience. The result was a painfully awkward comic black hole that sucked all of the energy out of the rest of the night, and probably helped the broadcast get record low ratings. As Klum might put it, it was auf-ul.