Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Gone, but not forgotten; or, why are so many awesome shows cancelled?

It seems that as soon as I blogged the praises of the mystery drama Happy Town, with Amy Acker and Abraham Benrubi, among others, they were destroyed with the kind of heartless indifference that every TV fanatic is quite familiar with. (Sure, the first episode wasn't perfect, but it was just compelling enough for me to look forward to the next episode. I had hope!)
While this isn't nearly of the same caliber of other quickly cancelled shows, it got me thinking about great television that can't seem to make it. Here's a list of six great television shows that only had two seasons or fewer:

Firefly-- 1 season, 14 episodes

Those who know me probably saw this one coming, but there's no way this could not be on the list. Joss Whedon's Firefly was a show unlike any other (I mean, it was awesome. A group of misfits on a spaceship, and sometimes they steal things, oh and there was cowboy stuff too and guns and kung fu and horses), and developed a cult following. The following was so great that on its cancellation, the fans rallied, and a movie was eventually produced to give us a(n almost) satisfactory ending. The show also helped along the careers of the fantastic cast. The amazing Nathan Fillion now stars in his own ABC drama Castle (and it's awesome), Summer Glau and Alan Tudyk both had recurring roles in Whedon's most recent series Dollhouse, and Morena Baccarin stars in ABC's V (see my previous post).

Freaks and Geeks-- 1 season, 18 episodes
Freaks and Geeks was a true-to-life portrayal of high school life in the 1980s amongst those who kept to the fringe of society. I don't really get why it was killed so quickly, personally, but it helped launch the careers of most of its main cast, most notably James Franco, movie star (and now General Hospital regular, apparently), Seth Rogen, movie star, and Jason Segel, who co-stars on one of my favorite shows currently on, How I Met Your Mother. Oh, and John Francis Daley, who plays kid brother Sam, is now a regular on awesome crime drama Bones.

Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip-- 1 season, 22 episodes

Before I sing the praises of this awesome show about the goings-on behind the scenes of an SNL-esque sketch comedy show, I must first make a confession. I have only seen three episodes of West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin's acclaimed Studio 60. I know, I know. "But it's a television show about television! It would only stand to reason that you, as a television addict, would love it!" Yes, dear readers, it would. And yet. But it is on my list. There are so many television shows and only so many hours in the day. Aside from that, what I did see was great, and I highly recommend it. And, to all of my Sorkiphile friends, I will watch it, don't worry. :)

Pushing Daisies-- 2 seasons, 22 episodes

Pushing Daisies was a show that, even before the first episode aired, I knew would be unlike anything I had ever seen.
  1. It's simply gorgeous. The colors are vibrant and in-your-face.
  2. The plot is completely original.
  3. The characters are over-the-top and so much fun.
  4. Oh, and it had Kristin Chenoweth, my musical theatre hero. :]
I absolutely loathe the term "dramedy" (for really no reason I can discern), but I can't really think of anywhere else to put it. It really deserves its own genre of super-awesome fantasy/drama/comedy/musical. It's also a show that I kind of new was doomed to fail. As soon as I saw how amazing the story of a piemaker who could bring the dead back to life was, I was incredibly afraid of getting attached. Lucky for me, since it landed in the middle of the writer's strike, it was given a second chance and a second season. Never mind that they aired the last few episodes when it was all but impossible for anyone to actually see them. (Sound familiar, Browncoats?)

Dollhouse-- 2 seasons, 27 episodes

When I first learned of Joss Whedon's new show Dollhouse, I have to admit I was a little giddy. I had just finished Buffy and Firefly, and the prospect of more Joss was just what I needed. The plot, just like all of his other projects, was completely original, an illegal group that imprinted various personalities on "actives". It starred Buffy's Eliza Dushku as Echo, one of the actives. This show somehow made it through one season and was given another, but was given the boot soon after. Bringing me to another edition of

Open Letters to Television (Creators)

Dear Joss,

I hope that now you have learned your lesson. Firefly aired on FOX and it was never treated well. The episodes were aired all out of order, and never regularly. The network simply didn't seem to care. Then comes Dollhouse, with a great premise and a great cast (thanks for bringing in Amy Acker and Summer Glau, by the way!). It might have lasted longer on a cable network (I'm sure that SyFy would love to have you), but instead you went with FOX. Again. I'm so sorry. I really hope that someday you will bring us another show that is as successful as Buffy. Have you considered teaming with JJ Abrams, another television hero of mine?
Dead Like Me-- 2 seasons, 29 episodes

Yet another show that is (am I totally boring you yet?) completely unlike anything else on television. Dead Like Me (created by Bryan Fuller, creator of Wonderfalls and Pushing Daisies, two also very short-lived series)is about a group of grim reapers who go to people when they are about to die to preserve the person's soul so they can move on in peace. The show was another example of too fantastic for TV, like Fuller's other shows. Not only did it have interesting (and eccentric) characters and situations, it dealt with death in a way unlike anything else on television. It had Rebecca Gayheart for a little while (the original choice for Inara on Firefly, minterestingly enough, but she apparently had no chemistry with the rest of the cast.), and also starred Mandy Patinkin, best known (by me) for his role as Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride and as Georges Seurat in the original cast of Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George.


  1. Do you know what I loved most about FIREFLY? That it was so "Star-Wars-ish." The Nathan Fillion character was SO Han Solo. I saw an interview with him when they announced that they had picked up CASTLE for a third season. He joked that he didn't know how to react - he'd never gone past two seasons before! I love him.

    PUSHING DAISIES was wonderful in a whole different way - you HAD to be drawn in by the exquisite visuals. It was like looking at an excellently-produced picture book, or a movie from the early days of color film. And then the over-the-top characters and plot lines were just so much fun.

    One consolation, though. For every wonderful show that is canceled, think of how many truly AWFUL shows are canceled, which is a GOOD thing. We can take solace in that.

  2. Firefly is the AWESOMEST TV show that was never given a chance. Which is why (part 1 of 2--second reason was Tahmoh Penikett) I was so excited about Dollhouse. But I didn't find the writing on Dollhouse to be as good/compelling. Actually, they started to lose me in the middle of the second season. Once they found out they'd gotten the death sentence, the writing all of a sudden got tight and interesting---right up until the series finale, in which they completely lost me again (it was disjointed, didn't make a lot of sense, and they killed Tahomh Penikett's character at the beginning of the final episode and left his body lying there in the street). So I can kinda understand why that one didn't last. Especially since I've watched all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the past three months---and the first season and a half of Angel.

    Unfortunately, Pushing Daisies lost me about halfway through also. Not sure what it was about that show that never really connected for me.

    As Regina said, there are consolations: FlashForward, Accidentally on Purpose, The Beautiful Life, Eastwick, FlyGirls, and Christian Slater's second show in as many years are all gone, too.

  3. Firefly. : ) I love Mal. Inara somehow won a spot in my heart - I think it is because in "Heart of Gold" I saw her break down and you really got to see who she is.

  4. @Mom & @Kaye- I'm just glad FlashForward is gone. Great cast, but it tried way too hard to be the answer to what to watch after Lost.

    @Kaye- I've heard that from a lot of people concerning Dollhouse. I still haven't seen more than a couple of episodes, but I want to see the others. The trouble with Dollhouse is that it didn't get really interesting early enough in the series.
    That's kind of how I watched Buffy last year, and I finally finished Angel a few months ago (which was good, but not as good as Buffy, in my opinion).
    I'm afraid Pushing Daisies was that way for a lot of people. You either loved it or not.

    @Kerry- Inara is the classiest space hooker of them all.

  5. I so enjoy your blogs. I read every one. I find them very informative and well written. It is ironic that the networks cancel the good shows and keep the boring ones.