Occasionally a show figures out how to go out when they are on top. THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW was the master of this. SEINFELD seems to have timed it pretty closely, and next season’s finale of THE SOPRANOS feels like the same thing.
Most of the time TV shows are taken off the air kicking and screaming, having long since waned in popularity and relevance. FRIENDS easily stayed two seasons too long, I cringed at every episode in the final year of
But Perhaps just as horrible, maybe even more so, are the shows that never had a shot. Placed on a terrible time slot, not given a chance by the network, or just too forward thinking for their era, there are many shows I really wish had gotten the chance to shine and become icons. I asked my mom about this, and she mentioned BEACON HILL, a show from 35 years ago, but one she still remembered as exiting way too quickly. A good show will have that effect; leaving us to wonder what might have been.
THE TOP TEN SHOWS CANCELLED TOO SOON
Honorable Mention: FAMILY GUY – This would be near the top of the list if not for the incredible success story that now has the cartoon back on FOX. I’ll admit when I first heard of it I thought it was just a SIMPSONS knock-off, but on cable I came to see how zany and original it was. In an arena full of so many missed opportunities, it’s nice there’s one small ray of hope.
#10 ONCE AND AGAIN – Considered ground breaking not for the subject matter (two families in flux), but for the sympathetic way it told the stories, including “interviews” throughout each episode of characters; ala REAL WORLD or SURVIVOR. Lucky to get three years; it deserved many more.
#9 BOOMTOWN – Just a year later and I think NBC would have tried harder. A unique crime-drama that weekly gave us a Rashomon look at crime stories. Meaning we saw the same events, but from different point of view: the police, the lawyers, the criminals. What made the loss of this show all the more horrible was the absolute stud-muffin work of Neal McDonough; one of the best characters to come along in years.
#8 FREAKS AND GEEKS – Another show I didn’t latch onto until it was too late. A hybrid show that NBC didn’t quite know what to do with, about high-school life circa 1980. Anyone who ever went to school could relate to this show, and it’s a shame NBC couldn’t figure out how to promote it.
#7 THE TICK – Based on a comic book, THE TICK was about what Super Heroes did when they weren’t super-heroing. Last year’s THE INCREDIBLES showed there was a market for this, but sadly the show was simply too ahead of its time. Still one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.
#6 JOHN DOE – When someday the directors of FOX programming are found beaten to a pulp by a gang of wild pandas, I will be a suspect, and one of the biggest reasons will be JOHN DOE. The show started with the main character waking up in the middle of an island. He comes to discover he knows everything about everything—and I mean everything—except who he is and how he got there. As the season progressed Doe started to unravel the mystery of his origins, while helping the local police solve crimes in bad guy of the week format. Truly a ground-breaking show, and Fox killed it. Grrr.
#5 ANDY RICHTER CONTROLS THE UNIVERSE – I’ll give you the title was lame, but everything else about the show was hilarious. It especially galls in this day and age when comedies are so uniformly terrible, to think that I could be watching Andy Richter light it up once a week.
#4 ANGEL – Okay, it got five seasons, and a spin off from BUFFY at that, but ANGEL was just hitting its stride as one of the best shows on TV, and then the WB yanks it off for—wait for it—Jeff Foxworthy and the Blue-Collar Comedy Tour. The creators took it like men, and gave us probably the best series finale of all time, enough that made me gnash my teeth and say “Why couldn’t’ve we had more!!!”
#3 SPORTS NIGHT – Another one of these hybrid shows that I think would have thrived just a few years later. The show took place around a “Sportscenter” type of set-up, but gave us the behind-the-scenes look at life for these characters. You didn’t have to like sports at all to fall for the characters and their lives, written by the wonderful Aaron Sorkin (THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT, THE WEST WING), and starring some true studs (seriously: check out that cast page). Perhaps most poignant, Robert Guilliaume was on the show, had a stroke, and they wrote his real-life stroke into the show, with all the poignancy you could ever ask for. I will never get over this show being cancelled.
#2 FIREFLY – I’ve been talking about FIREFLY for two years; when it’s all said and done, I think it might come back (fueled by a movie about the show coming out this September). If you’re going to buy one DVD this summer, take my advice and make it this one. A true Western, but set in Space, FIREFLY is so far ahead of its time that it will take TV ten years to catch up. Of course FOX butchered it from the word Go by burying it on Friday nights (with JOHN DOE, actually), and then not even showing the episodes in order. Just a travesty. Buy the DVD of the 13 episodes they did make, and then send me beef jerky in thanks.
And….the number one show cancelled before its time….
#1 MY SO-CALLED LIFE – Someday when I get to Heaven, I’m not going to ask God why bad things happen to good people (figured that out), but why Brian Krakow couldn’t have had Angela instead of the loser Jordan Catalano. You wanna talk about a show that was capable of just ripping you in half with any episode, here you are. The Christmas one?....I get teary just thinking about it. Even now, watching re-runs on ABC Family, I see little tiny things I missed before. If only they’d had a chance to delve into that more.