What successful artworks exemplify 'mediocre' for you?

Using the following definition of mediocre:

I can think of lots of sitcoms, but for some reason the two that I always come back to are Yes, Dear and Wings. Both were paint-by-the-numbers shows with broad paper characters (in fact both shows had a responsible uptight relative taking care of an irresponsible fun relative), both lasted for just over six years. I’ve seen episodes of both that made me chuckle at some point, most didn’t do that, usually when on they were white noise in the background. Both were a cut above the truly worst of the awful sitcoms (i.e. those aimed at kids or with Tyler Perry’s in the title). Both were successful enough to keep getting renewed and launched a successful career or two, but there’s no big nostalgia for either, they just sort of happened, made some money, went away.

For movies, most things with Ashton Kutcher in a major role would qualify. For novels, I would argue that post 1995 John Grisham own this category- his initial books were really good pageturners, then they became formulaic, just interesting enough to keep you reading but boring enough you can barely remember them and couldn’t care less about a movie version afterwards. (Note: there may be exceptions, I’ve only read a few since the late '90s.) Personally I’d also put Lemony Snicket in this category- the ones I read weren’t awful but I never got the rage over the series, never finished it, and haven’t even cared enough how it came out to read the wiki; I’m reasonably sure the orphans were machine gunned into a ditch. Both Grisham and the Snicket writer are better than Dan Brown, who imho is flat out BAD, but obviously I’m in the exception on this one since he’s one of the bestselling writers ever.

What are some works (TV, movie, literary, art, architecture, you name it) that define ‘mediocre’ to you?

Danielle Steele first comes to mind. Patricia Cornwell.

SNL, usually. The one with Jonah Hill was great, tho. (I’m six!)

The later Indiana Jones movies.

The Scream.

Mona Lisa
Robert Jordan
A Song of Fire and Ice

The UK sitcom scene gave the world Last of the Summer Wine (37 years), May to December, Bread, Love Hurts, My Family (eleven years), As Time Goes By (15 years), all of which were like distant nebulas in the night sky, in the sense that they existed in the corner of your eye. If you looked straight at them there was nothing there. They passed the time. People watched them. The writing was of a certain standard. Nothing more can be said about them.

In the world of art I nominate Harry Callahan, highbrow academic art photographer and namesake of unconventional detective “Dirty” Harry Callahan, but much less interesting. Spent decades taking boring, uninteresting pictures of his chubby, boring-looking wife which wowed them back in the 1950s - just read those plaudits, “one of the most innovative photographers working in America in the mid 20th-century” - and you can see evidence of some thinking, but nowadays it’s just a lot of trite snapshots that make Man Ray look like a brilliant visual stylist, which is what he was. His work is the Space: 1999 of photography, technically correct but bland and drained of everything interesting.

The whole landfill indie scene, and the landfill drum’n’bass scene of the 1990s, the landfill Britpop scene, the careers of Ocean Colour Scene and The Charlatans and Supergrass. Some bright moments, lots of other moments. It’s hard to write about mediocrity, because true mediocrity doesn’t stick in the mind. It wafts away like a fart in a dirigible hangar.

That’s the second time in two days I’ve used “like a fart in a dirigible hangar”. First time I was writing about John Kerry. It’s a good turn of phrase, on a par with “[Kodak is essentially] a patent repository that has a little camera business on the side, hanging from its body like a colostomy bag.”

The sum total of the career of Peter Bogdanovich. Two good films, several other films.

I don’t know any names of them, but…wall art prints that you hang simply to tie a room together. Some are beautiful, some are bad, most are mediocre. You know…sunsets and pottery for the southwest ambiance, flowers in vases to match the throw pillows, anonymous landscapes over the sofa. They aren’t bad, but they aren’t personal, the kind of things you hurry up and buy at the last minute because you need to fill a space on the wall.

Andy Warhol
Douglas Sirk
Lawrence Welk

Jackson Pollock

Sorry. Didn’t mean it at all, but couldn’t resist.

I do think- just my personal and totally uneducated-formally-about art opinion, that Pollock’s a major case of confusing pricetag with talent.

I love the story of Teri Horton, the retired truckdriver who bought a thrift store painting for $5 as a gag gift for a friend and, it turns out, the painting might be a Pollock. If it is then it’s worth, conservatively, millions (she’s actually turned down multimillion dollar offers for it hoping for tens of millions [really stupid thing to do, imo]); if it’s not a Pollock then it’s worth $5. Either way it’s exactly the same painting, but one way it’s a priceless work of art and the other way it’s a tacky ass thrift store painting.

That link gave me a new appreciation of Jackson Pollock. The painting in the example is indeed a tacky ass painting, as opposed to most Pollocks which aren’t actively offensive.

It shows that with unique inspiration and dedication, you can rise above tacky and finally achieve mediocre.

Harry Callahan -> “Dirty” Harry Callahan
Hieronymus Bosch -> Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch

: light goes on :

I never realized Michael Connelly’s Bosch character was an homage to Dirty Harry, but it makes sense to me now.

Like this? But it was so useful - and only $10 at Big Lots! :smiley:

I agree with Lemony Snicket, those books were so formulaic. But that was what gave them success…
I didn’t understand the love that Dan Brown got for The Da Vinci Code, but Angels and Demons was phenomenal.

Shepard Fairey: I can use live-trace too.
Radiohead: Yeah, they’re good. But not THAT good. I’ve never understood the love they get.

American Gothic.

I thought for years that it was probably really cool in person. You know how you see prints or pictures of a famous piece of art for years and think, “meh”, but then you see it in person and you suddenly get it, and it’s stunning how different it is to see the original in its real size and materials?

Yeah…American Gothic really is pretty “meh.”

Yeah, I’ll agree with the Mona Lisa and The Scream.

I had to look up Shepard Fairey, but I have to say, from a graphic design and commercial art perspective, his work is solid.

Cindy Sherman is one of the photographers who doesn’t do it for me. Also, I don’t quite get the adulation that Annie Liebovitz gets, either.


But not Grant Wood in general - right?

(I grew up in his hometown, so I’m a little biased.)

I agree in literature- Tom Clancy and John Gresham-they turn out the same recycled crap, year after year. Stephan King does the same in his genre.
Film: George Lucas- every movie after “Star Wars” was a lot of recycling.
Architecture: Frank Gehry: somehow, critics have convinced themselves that this hack’s works are “beautiful”! MIT is actually suing him over their disastrous Alumni Center Building-it will likely be torn down.
But the worst of all: the American political leadership (all of them, Democrat and Republican)-they have managed to bankrupt the USA and plunge us into two foolish wars.

Renoir. He mostly painted society portraits in a modern style and hung with the right crowd of painters. A lot of his stuff is Hallmark cardy or even Kincaidy.

I’ll nominate The King of Queens for the sitcom category, but I have to defend the Lemony Snicket books. I know that a number of Dopers read and did not like them, but I think there are enough things that are unusual about these books to keep them from being mediocre. Although I enjoyed the series, I can see a better case for calling them bad than calling them mediocre.

I can definitely see how someone who only read the first few books would consider them extremely formulaic – books two and three in particular have the same basic plot, “the orphans go to live with an eccentric guardian, who is then murdered by the wicked Count Olaf” – but as the series progressed things went from bad to worse for the orphans and they found themselves in increasingly perilous situations. They also began to discover puzzling clues that indicated that their parents, Count Olaf, and a number of other adults they met in the course of their adventures were all somehow connected to a mysterious secret society. It was this bigger backstory that helped keep people interested in the series.

Overrated political leaders:

John F. Kennedy is my first pick. Mostly because he wasn’t progressive enough.