Sunday, August 23, 2009

6 Shows That Were Cancelled Too Soon

The fall pilot season is approaching and I have to admit I always get nervous watching new shows - only because all the good ones seem to get cancelled!! Here are a few examples...

1 & 2. Dead Like Me & Pushing Daisies - Bryan Fuller has a gift for creating ingenious television. Both of these shows had the same universal theme of life and death, yet they were both light, fresh, intelligent and comedic. They were both incredibly innovative ideas (maybe that is the problem?) - Dead Like Me was a story about an 18 year old girl, George, who suddenly dies only to be told that she has surprisingly been chosen to be a grim reaper. She takes the souls of the dead right before they die. Her fellow grim reapers are colorful characters, my favorite being Mason (played with hilarity by Callum Blue) - a sarcastic pill popper who is so pathetic you just want to give him a big hug. Pushing Daisies is equally original - it's about Ned, who discovers that he has the ability to bring the dead back to life with a simple touch of his finger, although only for a few moments - otherwise someone else will die. Both shows offer a fresh, vibrant story with every episode, amazingly unique characters, a gruesome death and a lesson to be learned. They ask the hard questions about the meaning of life and death, love and loss and the idiosyncrasy's of everything in between. Unfortunately both shows were cancelled after only 2 seasons. Dead Like Me was rumored to be cancelled due to creative differences (Fuller left the show very early in the first season), while I am still in shock over the cancellation of Pushing Daisies - said to be cancelled due to a combination of production cost and the writers strike. You would think that being nominated for 12 Emmy's in its first season and 5 Emmy's in its second season would account for something but I guess not...

3. Arrested Development - When this show was cancelled I heavily considered protesting FOX by never watching another one of their shows ever again (I couldn't follow thru when I heard about Dollhouse, Glee and Fringe). The fact that they cancelled the most original, funny and intelligent show on television is disturbing and I feel that someone should be held accountable (and appropriately fired!). The critically acclaimed show was about the Bluth family - a dysfunctional, excessive and captivating family. What made the show so genius is it's ability to be self-reflexive, topical, dry and completely insensitive. It was laugh out loud funny as well as darkly satirical. The cast led by Jason Bateman was impressive, as was the hilarious slew of guest actors. The show was cancelled due to what the network called "low ratings". So I guess it is really America's fault for not watching such an arresting show.

4. Rome - Had this series continued it's originally intended 5 seasons, it would probably be considered my favorite show, however HBO cancelled the series after a mere 2 seasons (said to be due to production cost) causing the series to end in mediocrity. The series is a historical account of the rise of the Roman Empire, although often inaccurate in it's plot, it was extremely entertaining, beautifully detailed and highly stylized (at least the high production cost was appreciated and showered with awards). I am slightly more educated on Roman culture than the average viewer might be (I studied Latin for 6 years), but I can tell you that the inaccuracies don't bother me in the least because it is supposed to be a fictional account - not a documentary. The facts were blurred in order to increase the drama, intensity and tension between characters. The 2 main characters are Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenus - soldiers who just happen to be at the right place at the right time (i.e - all of the key historical events in Roman history...). They are extremely flawed characters, who make very poor decisions - yet they are the heart of the show. This is a hard task for an actor to manage, but Kevin McKidd and Ray Stevenson are flawless. The fact that neither were nominated for any major awards for their performance on this series is astounding. Sadly, when the series was cancelled, the creators scrambled to fit as much history into the last half of season 2 which ultimately diminished the quality of the show.

5. American Dreams - Set in Philadelphia during the mid-60's, American Dreams was about the Pryor family- mostly following the adventures of Meg Pryor (the absolutely adorable Brittany Snow). The show wasn't the most creative show on t.v, but it did keep my interest. I loved the way it combined fact with fiction, history with the individual and the past with the present. I loved that they had present day music acts portray past acts on "American Bandstand" (such as Third Eye Blind playing The Kinks etc). I loved watching Meg transform from an innocent teen ingenue to an intelligent feminist speaking her mind and protesting for what she believes in. I equally loved watching her brother JJ (cutie-pie Will Estes) go from high school football player to Vietnam war soldier. The show was well-acted, cute and wholesome. It's a shame that NBC gave up on it so fast - it was cancelled due to low ratings which was an obvious outcome when you move the show up against Lost and Survivor.

6. D!rt - When D!rt first premiered on F/X, I admit that I was skeptical. I didn't believe that a show about a tabloid reporter could be anything but trashy nor could Courtney Cox pull off such a distinctively different character from her perfect portrayal of Monica Gellar. The show, although completely ridiculous, was entertaining and edgy with colorful characters including Cox as the seemingly cold-hearted, workaholic Lucy Spiller. Cox was so good at being Lucy that I now find myself wondering how she can pull off playing a well-liked single mom in her new show Couger Town. Lucy's only friend is a schizophrenic paparazzo photographer, Don Konkey - played terrifically by Ian Hart. The supporting characters included the celebrity couple, Holt Mclaren and Julia Mallory, and the eager tabloid writer Willa McPhereson. I often found myself surprised at the acting talent, which I think grounded the show - keeping it respectable. The shows plot points were often based on real-life celebrity gossip, just more absurd and exaggerated (similar to the way Nip/Tuck gets its plot points). I would often roll my eyes at the absurdity, but continued to watch every episode - proving that it was absolutely addicting t.v. I feel like the second season was finally finding a dramatic balance, when it was cancelled - largely due to the writer's strike and low ratings.

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