Top 5: Shows Cancelled Too Soon

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With all the hullabaloo going on about Charlie Sheen, one thing has gone to the wayside: the crappy and generally unfunny show Two and a Half Men is still on! I’ll be honest, I don’t understand what’s up with that. In its place could have been one of these 5 shows, which were pretty good but came around at the wrong time.

Before we begin with #5, though, as promised a brief riff on Firefly and Arrested Development: both were great shows, but I wouldn’t say either of them were cancelled too soon. Firefly has the strongest case of the two, but even then at least fans were assuaged by Serenity, which provided closure for the series. Arrested Development got three great seasons – a number few great comedies reach before falling off anyhow – and they’re probably getting a movie too. The best this bunch of shows has in order to bring closure or continuation to the series are some comic books. In any case, onward with the countdown!

The logo of the American Broadcasting Company ...

ABC, killer of good television. (Image via Wikipedia.)

5. Commander in Chief, ABC (2005-2006)

While this show certainly had its issues, I think the real problem for this show was timing. ABC picking up this show, starring Geena Davis as the first female president, MacKenzie Allen, in the shadow of The West Wing pretty much made it look like a clone, even though it had a lot going for it on its own – two great principal characters in Allen and Nathan Templeton (played by the pretty creepy Donald Sutherland, who, according to the Wikipedia was an Expos fan until they moved), and a somewhat compelling storyline. The real problem was that they never really got past the “she’s a female president” storyline with anything else meaningful. Near the end of the show, when we got to see the makings of an Allen presidential campaign, I hoped that we could see what it would be like for the first Independent as president to run for office. That was a much more interesting storyline for me, but alas, we never got to see it.

4. Kolchak: The Night Stalker, ABC (1974-1975)

Again, Kolchak was before its time, but I think more in terms of decades than years. Darren McGavin didn’t really like the show’s “Monster of the Week” style of plotting, but looking at the show today, the show was pretty compelling and pretty creepy (albeit with a smattering of camp). The fact that it influenced Chris Carter in making The X-Files shouldn’t be surprising; they had a pretty similar structure, it was just that the latter show came about 20 years later, when the public could turn around to it.

3. Freaks and Geeks, NBC (1999-2000)

I’ll say it right now: I never saw Freaks and Geeks. Honestly, not a lot of people did. But my goodness, the show produced, like, three major actors today. Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, and Random Musings‘ favorite polymath, James Franco (he likes having jobs) all came out of the Judd Apatow-produced show, that just never got the audience needed to survive.

2. Sports Night, ABC (1998-2000)

I’ll be honest, I don’t know what went wrong with this show, but something did. Was it the laugh track in Season 1 that network execs wanted but creator Aaron Sorkin was against? Was it the concurrent running of The West Wing and Sports Night? Was it the fact that no one was sure if it was a comedy or a drama (frankly, I’m still not sure what it was supposed to be, it just worked well for me as a dramedy)? Was it the fact that it was “about” sports that turned some people (read: females) off towards it? I simply don’t know. I thought that, as with most of what Sorkin has done of late, it was a well-made, very well-written show, with the usual fast-paced banter and walk-and-talks that Sorkin is wont to write and film. I think the show itself said it best in the finale, when the fictional Continental Sports Channel was going to be sold: “If you can’t make money with Sports Night, you need to get out of the money-making business.”

1. Pushing Daisies, ABC (2007-2009)

Definitely the right show with the wrong timing, Pushing Daisies‘ demise was the result of bad luck. There was a lot of hope for this show (which I already covered early on in the blog’s history in a Stuff I Like post). The show had a very good run, and then the writers’ strike hit. After that, the show couldn’t really get back the pretty good audience they had. Instead, they simply had the cult audience – one that hopefully will be placated by the comic book Brian Fuller’s apparently doing.

5 thoughts on “Top 5: Shows Cancelled Too Soon

  1. I agree with 4 of your shows (which I have in my collection). I would replace Freaks with Quantum Leap – and only because I hated the ending.
    Also, add Star Trek (original). Only 3 years of a 5 year mission.

    • Well, Leap actually had an ending, which is at least something.

      And Star Trek blossomed into a whole franchise, so that’s difficult to say it was cancelled too soon; I do see your point though.

  2. I have a few more:
    Journeyman – an interesting time travel show set in SF, only was given a half season.
    The Others – a para-normal show co-staring your friend Billingsley from Enterprise – another 1/2 season show
    Lannigan’s Rabbi – Part of the NBC Mystery Movies, used Rabbi Small from the successful Harry Kemmelman who-dunnit series of books. Art Carney played Chief Lannigan. Only had about 4 or five episodes as part of the anthology.
    The Snoop Sisters – Also part of the anthology, w/Helen Hayes and Art Carney (as their driver in pilot – the scene of the women driving the wrong way on the 59th St. Koch Bridge with Carney in the back seat is a comedy classic).
    Brooklyn Bridge – warm hearted show about a Jewish family in the 50’s – shown on Friday night (Shabbos). Can’t understand why that didn’t work for more than a couple of years.

  3. Looking at some old VHS tapes and found 2 more political shows for the list. They both tried to cash in on West Wing, but apparently the public only had enough working brain cells for one show.
    1. Mr. Sterling
    Written by Lawrence O’Donnell of West Wing & MSNBC fame. Josh Brolin was an independant named to a vacant California Senate seat. Mid-season replacement that could not catch on in spite of some decent advertising. O’Donnell is a good writter, and did a good job playing President Bartlet’s obnoxious dad on
    Season 2, Episode 22: Two Cathedrals – but there is only one Aaron Sorkin.
    2. First Monday – Joe Montagnia starred as a newly named swing vote on an evenly divided Supreme Court. Different from the movie First Monday in October (the date when the court meets annually for their 1st session) in that Jill Clayburgh played a right-winger who was changing the balance of the court.
    Reminds me of one of the best West Wing episodes – The Supremes.
    Instead of naming one middle-of-the roader, Bartlet names 2 polar opposites as justices – including Glenn Close
    as Chief Justice Evelyn Baker Lang, the 1st woman named to the post. An all time TV classic moment when Toby has the Chief Justice designee sign the 14th Amendment as Chief Justice.
    Anyway, perhaps the lesson is it is always better entertainment to go to the extremes. (The West Wing did it previously naming Justice Mendoza (Edward James Olmos) to the court).

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