TV Week Presents: 5 Shows Dead Before Their Time

I talk a lot about comics in here, but I've pledged to discuss subjects from the full range of geek interests. So I'm launching TV Week, which will feature a variety of posts about this newfangled invention they call the "telly-vision". It's like radio, but with a plasma screen that may or may be set up for HD correctly.

So here now is the clichéed first item, but The Unit's on and I don't have that much time to think of something else before Jonas gets in his groove.

5 Shows Dead Before Their Time

In order of crying shame, then.

5. Veronica Mars.I would have given good money to see that Veronica Mars, FBI series, instead of throwing Kristin Bell to the wolves (i.e. the Jeff Loeb-written, momentum-robbed Heroes). A fourth season of Veronica would have meant, at the very least, another full season of songs to put on my playlist. Whoever was music coordinator on that series was a genius!

4. Clone High
They crank out a lot of lame cartoons every year, so I'm surprised some of the good ones get lost in the shuffle, and indeed, I discovered Clone High well after it was cancelled. My bad, I guess. This high school comedy about cloning famous people from history taught us about biology vs. environment, manifest destiny or lack thereof, and most of all, about friendship. Specifically, the friendship between an unpopular Abraham Lincoln and an ADD Ghandi. Sorry Clerks, this is my choice for best little animated series that could and should.

3. Space Above and Beyond
Sure, the CGI was pulled right out of polygonal video games, but that only proves the show's quality. Despite those dodgy (and still not that bad) effects, SAAB was a wonderful SF take on Tour of Duty, with memorable, endearing characters. Lasting all of one season, it went out with a bang, a despressing bang - an ill-fated mission, and not everyone surviving intact. Kind of put the kibosh on a revival right then and there. I think I watched some season of 24 just because McQueen was on staff at CTU.

2. Studio 60
Another one-season wonder that didn't make it. Too intellectual? Too political? Too against the lowest common denominator for its own good? Too much like and yet unlike the surprise hit 30Rock? Whatever the reason, there's immense irony in a show that spent a lot of its air talking about how television should strive for more challenging and engaging programming and taking the piss out of that lowest common denominator, should fail exactly because of that philosophy. Screw irony, I wanted S60 to get as good a run as its spiritual uncle, The West Wing.

1. Harsh Realm
For some reason, despite the success of the X-Files, Chris Carter could never get traction on any other project. Though Millenium could no doubt be put on this list, for me the real loss is Harsh Realm. Quite simply, this show was ahead of its time. Not only did it prefigure The Matrix with its virtual environment premise, but TV today looks a hell of a lot LIKE Harsh Realm: It's a military show which co-stars Max Martini (The Unit), and has a "what the hell is going on?" conspiracy story AND Terry O'Quinn (Lost). Only 8 episodes, which was scarcely enough to tell the story, which in fact, without any kind of resolution. Booo!

Tell me what you'd put on this list and when I get that studio/channel I've been mulling over, I'll see if I can't hook you up.


Alden said...

I feel unoriginal for posting this comment, but I must say that Firefly should be on this list. It felt innovative at the time (I only wish I would have watched it more when it was on the air, I still feel responsible for it's demise).

Siskoid said...

Ah yes, Firefly. I knew someone would want it in. It's the MacIntosh of sci-fi shows (i.e. everyone who's seen keeps pushing it on the rest of us poor souls).

I haven't seen more than 10 minutes of Firefly, and the onlyr reason it's taking me so long is because everyone keeps telling me to watch it. And I'm a contrary sort of fellow.

Matthew E said...

The Legion of Super-Heroes cartoon, definitely. Not that the second season was any great shakes, but the things they did wrong could be easily reversed.

Tales from the Gold Monkey.

To me, Studio 60 was a piece of junk. I gave it a real good long chance, and during that time it appalled me several times with its predictability, its obnoxious characterizations, and its totally stupid scenes, some of which were among the absolute stupidest things I have ever seen on TV. It probably lasted longer than it should have...

...however, I definitely want a few more seasons of Sports Night.

Jayunderscorezero said...

Don't watch Firefly. It isn't worth it. Watch 15 episodes of Farscape/Lexx/Cowboy Bebop instead and you'll pretty much get the same idea.

Moriarty said...

How many seconds after you posted this did you think it would take before someone said "Firefly"? :)

I happen to whole-heartedly agree, mid you, but I would have been shocked if something else popped up first. And we don't want to push you into Firefly, but you should just kick back on a weekend and pop it in. I promise you'll enjoy it. I won't say you'll LOVE it, because that just sets it up to fail.

I also agree with Studio 60 (the Christmas episode was a particular highlight) and Sports Night (which was awesome in spite of the unwanted laugh track).

If I'm going to add one to the growing list, I'd say Freaks & Geeks definitely died before it's time. The characters were so well drawn and almost all the actors are recognizable from other things now.

Matthew Turnage said...

Firefly would make my list, but it got a movie and some resolution.

The show that still pains me with its absence is Now and Again. It starred Eric Close and Dennis Haysbert, and was basically a cool modern take on the Six Million Dollar Man idea. (Modern for 1999, anyway.) It also included DS9 alum Rene Echevarria on the writing staff, which is what drew me to the show originally.

Bill D. said...

With Clone High, you can take some comfort from the fact that you live in Canada, where you can get the complete series on DVD. You typically can't here in the States. And the complete season was never aired here, either. So there's that, too.

As for my own addition, while I can see why Bryan Fuller's Wonderfalls might have been a little too weird for a lot of people, it's a damn shame that it didn't last (or even get to air its full season, since Fix yanked it off the air after 4 episodes). Clever premise, great writing, fantastic cast.

All of the above applies to Pushing Daisies, too, though that got at least a bit longer.

Bill D. said...

And I wanted to enjoy Studio 60, really, I did, but all I got out of that is that Aaron Sorkin seems to have contempt for me since I don't find Gilbert & Sullivan or Comedia dell'arte funny.

And that he is really not over Kristen Chenowith.

(Also, though I know they weren't the point of the show, but I think in a show about people making a funny and irreverent sketch comedy series, the sketches we do see should actually be funny and irreverent.)

chiasaur11 said...

Pushing Daisies is a recent tragic loss. Shame about that.

Also, Firefly is my absolute favorite show. I understand people disagreeing and everything, just, you know, I do think it worth seeing.

snell said...

The loss of Veronica Mars still breaks my heart every time i think about it.

De said...

Freaks and Geeks definitely tops my list. I think it hit a bit too close to home for some people (i.e., Nielsen viewers), which is a shame because it was so well written. Possibly the most realistic depiction of high school ever to air.

I would be remiss if I didn't add my love for Nowhere Man. An interesting mix of The Prisoner and The Fugitive, it barely lasted a season back in the early days of UPN.

Another casualty of UPN's quick hatchet was Legend, a fun western starring John deLancie and Richard Dean Anderson.

Speaking of westerns, you can add The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. to the list.

Siskoid said...

Studio 60: It's a polarizing show, and I agree that it had its problems. If you can't stand it, you have my permission to substitute it with Firefly in your mind.

Jay: That's just it, every time I think of all that period of SF in television, it all blurs together. Firefly, Farscape, Andromeda, I just didn't get into any of them seriously. Lexx was so weird, I think I would have liked it but I saw it so late, I was lost.

Bill: It's one of the ironies, though I sorta take it the same way (whether they want me to or not) I do the sketches on 30Rock. Liz Lemon thinks of herself as an artist, but the sketches are as stupid as possible (send-ups of sketch comedy basically). Because it's not about that. S60 is about the anxieties of writing (the same way Sorkin really made West Wing about a writer with Sam Seaborne). One look at the sketch titles and you'll find the vague idea that Matt really isn't as high brow as he thinks he is, but you're either serious about your work or you're a hack. Anyway, I'll come back to that later in the week - save your comments.

Some good suggestions from the peanut gallery across the board, some of which I've never seen, but will seek out.

Teebore said...

I still miss Studio 60, warts and all. It wasn't perfect, but damn, I want more of it.

More Sports Night, too. And Firefly, of course.

And I know we got some DVD movies, but those are done now, too: was Futurama on too long to make this list? Cuz I definitely want more of that, be it TV or DVD.

Sea_of_Green said...

Wonderfalls. I loved that show, but ... *sigh.* Thank the gods for DVDs!!

Nizbel said...

Arrested Development was canceled way too early. One of the best written shows in years!

Also for Clone High, makeover makeover, makeover makeover, makeover!

Alden said...

I agree about Arrested Development being on the list too. I can't believe I remembered Firefly while forgetting that show; must be that reading about various Geekery gets me into a Sci-Fi mood (or should I say SyFy).

Now, that I am musing about Science Fiction, I just remembered the cartoon show "Buzz Lightyear: Star Command". I was probably too old (or too young) to watch it seriously, but I remember being interested slightly by the plots and story arcs. It reminded me of Star Trek mostly though, some of the episodes almost ripped entirely out of a few of the series'. It seemed like it was canceled at a bad place what with them adding another character to the roster and all.

Then again, I am not knowledgeable in the slightest about cartoons in the slightest, so I might not be a good judge of quality or quantity as compared to the standards of this list. It might have gotten a good run for a show that didn't even have the star power of Tim Allen (if he even counts as a star).

Siskoid said...

Teebore: Futurama lasted 4 seasons, and while it did die too young, that's still a good run compared with the others, and the movies do help (it's not actually dead). Could have been a top 20, frankly.

Alden: For me, Tim Allen has a career if only for his role in Redbelt.

Patrick C said...

I have to throw my support to Firefly as well.

Beyond that, Arrested Development, The 4400, and Journeyman. I know Journeyman seems like a weird choice, but I enjoyed that show and thought it had real possibilities.

And 4400 is what Heroes could have been, a really great show.

Anonymous said...

"American Gothic". It was very promising and deserved a little more time.

Doctor Mi said...

Hichhiker's guide to the Galaxy (original BBC series)

and Firefly.

And I've had people drop Firefly 10 minutes into the pilot because its a heavy scene. You may (not) remember that the pilot opens on a flashback moment during the War. Its a pivotal moment for Mal and it will shape his character. But PLEASE, the rest of the series isn't like that. You can skip that scene too if you want. However, when you see the episode with the reavers, then you (hopefully) will see why its a cult series. Serenity (the movie) closes alot of plot lines and is in itself a good show. It has such great quotable lines. I caught myself mumbling as I drived through a snowstorm "I am but a leaf on the wind..."


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