Worst episode of "The Walking Dead" ever? Some (I among them) would say the recently aired "Stabtown" earned that honor.
It wasn't the premise, which featured Christine Woods ruling over a bunkered hospital ward in Atlanta.
No, the fault this time, dear Brutus, is the star. "Stabtown" reintroduced Beth (Emily Kinney), the wimpiest card in "The Walking" deck. I haven't missed her a bit since she vanished in last season's 13th episode, "Alone."
Kinney may be the most inexpressive prime-time actress since Mary Lynn Rajskub (Chloe O'Brian on "24"). At least Rajskub had her signature scowl, patterned apparently on a 5-year-old who has just had her paste jewelry tiara swiped by a bigger girl.
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All Kinney can summon is a subtle furrowing of her brow. That small crease is used to convey, well, everything: puzzlement, anger, attraction, disapproval, grief, joy. You're kind of dependent on the context to read her emotions.
The fact is almost every show has a weak link in the cast. But you try not to build an episode around them. It's enough that they suck the air out of every scene they're in.
Take "Madam Secretary." After the pilot, I assumed it would be Tea Leoni's TV kids who would be the primary drag on the narrative.
But it's been Geoffrey Arend as the secretary's director of communications who is consistently deflating the show. Arend's Matt Mahoney traffics exclusively in empty platitudes and gets flustered whenever he's called upon for a solution to some international crisis.
Adding agony to insult, we also have to sit through Arend's awkward and uninvolving love life.
Really? Of all the characters at your disposal, this dullard is the one you put on the front burner?
Another sore thumb is Joe Mantegna on "Criminal Minds." Not only is he completely unbelievable as a legendary behavorial profiler, but every time he opens his mouth, you'd swear he wandered onto the wrong sound stage, getting lost on his way to a "Bowery Boys" revival.
Sometimes you get an entire unit undermining a show's momentum, such as Kristin, Boyd, and Ryan (Amanda Fuller, Flynn Morrison, and Jordan Masterson), the drab family-within-a-family on "Last Man Standing."
Or take the entire genius squad on "Scorpion." You know you're in trouble when the most compelling actor on your show is an "American Idol" runner-up (Katherine McPhee).
The kids aren't all right
Kids are often a problem. Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka) always had a curdling effect on "Mad Men." We watched her grow up before our eyes - and it hasn't been pretty.
"Modern Family" has always been remarkable for its consistently funny multigenerational ensemble. But this season Luke (Nolan Gould) is starting to grate. The writers still give Luke great lines, but he's taking on a Screechian quality, straight out of "Saved by the Bell."
But I digress. This column is really intended to be a suggestion to the producers of "The Walking Dead." How about turning Beth into a zombie? It would make her character far more interesting.