Cancelled Television, We Hardly Knew Thee

Television is a tricky medium: it’s a hotbed for errors and missed opportunities. Either a show will find its perfect groove first season, really hitting the right tone and audience right off the bat, or it will flail a little bit at first, awkwardly playing with character identities and plot-points, before hitting its stride in second season. The worst thing that can happen to a show, in my opinion, is have it strike the perfect balance immediately, using all the writers’ A material in first season. It then leaves the show to suffer through the hopefully limited seasons to come, (cough The O.C. cough cough).

Whenever I’m watching a really fantastic season of a show, my enjoyment of the material is met first with excitement, then nausea, (usually because I tend to binge-eat pop tarts when I’m watching good television), and then with sadness; I feel sad because I know once a show has really hit its perfect balance, that moment of perfect harmony of wit, talent, and flare will unavoidably be fleeting, and the next season will feature a myriad of ridiculous “I’m pregnant, no I’m not, I’m just bloated with a drug problem” storylines. I know that once they have hit “it”, the show will immediately jump the shark.

Ricky Gervais understands this all too well. Gervais wrote and starred in two runaway hit television series’ for the BBC called “The Office” and “Extras”. That’s right, before Steve Carell spent seven straight seasons making the thursday night NBC lineup uncomfortable, “The Office” was a show in the UK that was much more subtle and, obviously, much more original. Both of Gervais’s series ended after only 2 seasons. They hit it right and well immediately, let it play out organically for an appropriate number of episodes, and then killed it before it had a chance to become unfunny or out of touch. Yeah, Ricky Gervais is pretty bitching, no matter how many people he made angry at last year’s Golden Globes.

Sometimes, a television show doesn’t have the luxury or the misfortune of getting absolutely terrible. Every so often, a show comes along that is cut down in its prime, in the early stages of its potential. For my huge readership’s pleasure, I have a comprised a list of my top three “why couldn’t they have just lasted a bit longer before being cancelled” television shows. Enjoy, Dad.

1) My So-Called Life

I discovered this little gem while faking sick from Kindergarten. It played on YTV during the day, and I was able to flick it on behind my unsuspecting nanny’s back. In hind-sight, this was pretty inappropriate, as the first episode I ever saw featured the protagonist’s best friend getting it on with her boyfriend in a back alley. Looking back, maybe my love for this show sprung not from genuine admiration for its sophistication, but more from the shock and awe of seeing simulated nudity of Jared Leto’s sweet, sweet backside. Oh well.

“My So-Called Life” centers around Angela Chase, (Claire Danes, then 15 years old), as she negotiates her fluctuating identity in high school. I know it sounds like pretty standard Blume material, but this show is witty, human, and poignant. It makes the trials and tribulations of a 15 year old girl feel authentic, interesting, and genuine. It’s a true television crime of the highest level that it never got a second season. I mean, you never got to see if Angela went for Jordan Catallano or Brian Krakow. Brutal. You also won’t see better displays of 90’s grunge fashion. If the Emmy’s had a category for “Best Usage of a Scrunchy”, this show would have won it, hands down.

2) Arrested Development

My friend Ryan will be annoyed at me for saying this for the umpteenth time, but “Modern Family” knocked their shit off from “Arrested Development”. Seriously, that show, which of course is still very good, is also a less funny, less sophisticated version of “Arrested Development”.

“Arrested Development” was fortunate enough to hang on through three seasons before getting the axe. It’s shocking at all that this show made it onto Fox, but it can credit lasting past the first season to its tireless, yet small fan-base. After every season, it faced cancellation. Through the miracle of online petitions, it made it two years longer than it normally would have. But still at the end, it was ridiculously funny, and I imagine it could have stayed highly original and interesting for at least two more seasons.

“Arrested Development” tells the story of the wealthy Bluth family, as they face bankrupcy and cohabitation in a model home in the dessert. This modern family, (you see what I did there? I know, I’m too much), is played by the hilarious Jason Bateman, (before B comedies got to him), Portia de Rossi, (the former anorexic who kicks it with Ellen), Will Arnett, Michael Cera, (shockingly, not clad in a hoodie), David Cross, and Jeffrey Tambor, to name a few. It’s even narrated and created by Ron Howard. Why? Who knows. Liz Minelli even has a reoccurring role. Why? I’m not sure.

Luckily, this is the show that just won’t say die. Thanks again to its tireless fans, “Arrested Development” will do ten new episodes leading into a feature film. Now that’s the power of the internets and bitter fans like myself.

3) Daria

Yeah, okay, this may not technically count because it was really well received and lasted four seasons, but oh well. I’m doing it anyway. It still should have lasted longer.

“Daria” was a smart, cynical, hilarious animated series on MTV in the late 90’s, back in the “Beavis and Butthead” era of MTV, before the bottle blonds pretending to work in California era. It was programming for teenagers that actually assumed teenagers had complex minds and lives. As soon as it was gone, I immediately missed Daria’s glasses, her army coat, and her monotone sarcasm. She was all the woman I wanted and still want to be. God bless her and her combat boots.

What are some of your favourite cancelled television shows? I want to hear from you! Comment, please, and I’ll be your best friend.

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7 comments on “Cancelled Television, We Hardly Knew Thee

  1. Alison Buckberrough says:

    Daria!! I completely forgot about that show. I’m gonna be watching it on YouTube for days now.

  2. Murray says:

    Honestly one of my favourite cancelled television shows is “Pushing Daisies.” It only lasted for two shortened seasons but it had a lasting impact on what I want from a TV show. It’s not just because Kristin Chenoweth, who was the true scene stealer of the show, had random song breaks, but also whole cast seemed to work and as if they were completely committed to the character of the show itself. Also, it was nothing but bright colours and interesting locales, starting with the “Pie Hole,” the main location of much of the show. Plus, you really can’t go wrong with Swoosie Kurtz, who is also amazing in this show. There are so many things that I loved about the show, and I feel like it at the very least deserved a full final season to more effectively wrap up all of the storylines. I feel like this show was hit particularly hard by the Writers’ Strike, and was never able to properly recover, which saddens me to this day.

  3. mremis says:

    Freaks & Geeks
    Undeclared
    Party Down (Season 2 sucked tho)

  4. kipress says:

    I’m sensitive to Joss Whedon cancellations — Firefly, Dollhouse.

    I totally remember My So-Called Life! My little sister was devoted to that show when it was on.

  5. Lauren Best says:

    I loved watching Daria as a kid… and i also miss the O.C. so much!

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