Strolling through the fields of the TV dead
Next to the NFL Draft, the most exciting administrative period of the television year is when the networks announce their upcoming schedules (known in the business as Upfronts). Sad, I know, but true. But before I turn my astute analytical skills on next year’s new shows, I’d like to take a moment to remember the fallen.
Some canceled shows are undeserving of their fate; they are taken off the air before their time thanks to a fickle fan base or clueless (gutless) network executives. Then again, some were around far longer than they deserved. Here’s a partial rundown (a full listing is available at The Futon Critic):
- The Class (CBS) – Some dismissed this as a poor man’s Friends, but I felt this was the most promising new comedy since Scrubs. I wasn’t totally sold on The Class at first, but it quickly grew on me. The writing was sharp and most importantly, I actually cared about most of the characters. Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Richie Velch) was easily the funniest of the group, but I was pleasantly surprised at the comedic chops of Jason Ritter (Ethan Haas), son of the late John Ritter.
- Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (NBC) – I can’t compare this series to previously acclaimed Aaron Sorkin efforts like The West Wing or Sports Night, because I didn’t watch them. But for all its flaws, I enjoyed this show. Yeah there were some glaring weaknesses – the forced romance between Matthew Perry and Sarah Paulson’s characters, as well as how almost every episode became a vehicle for Sorkin’s rants – but even with all that I still looked forward to new episodes. It seems NBC will at least air the remaining episodes, much to the chagrin of the show’s detractors I’m certain.
- Andy Barker, P.I. (NBC) – At what point will network executives realize that Andy Richter’s career peaked on Conan O’Brien’s couch?
- The War at Home (Fox) – This was a show of many mysteries, but two in particular still puzzle me. The first is how this show actually made it through two seasons, and the second is why I watched most of the episodes. Michael Rapaport, who I enjoyed on Boston Public, continually looked as if he had literally wandered onto the stage just as taping started, without having read the script at all. I have a hard time believing he is really that bad an actor, but I guess it’s possible. The fact that I watched this for as long as I did speaks more to the dearth of good comedies on TV than to the quality of this one. It won’t be missed.
- Show Me the Money (ABC) – Stupid premise and botched execution aside, this country needs more William Shatner, not less.
- The Winner (Fox) – This show wasn’t just unfunny, it was aggressively unfunny. I’d rather be kicked in the groin after taking a calculus exam than watch another minute of this abomination. The Winner took place in 1994, which I suppose was a setup to allow the writing staff to till the fertile comedy soil of AIDS and O.J. Simpson jokes. Because we never really got enough of those, you know. I really hope for Seth MacFarlane’s sake his name was only attached to this steaming turd because he lost a bet or something.
- Standoff (Fox) – I’m not going to sob in my pillow that Standoff isn’t coming back, but it was a decent series that had potential. Once they moved away from the Tuesday night schedule (and away from House), the writing was pretty much on the wall however. Ron Livingston and Rosemarie DeWitt were a good pairing, although this was another example of a not-quite-believable romance. But when the show was on (as in the episode where they found themselves in a literal Mexican standoff) it was very good. But holy crap, the Queer Eye-style opening was horrific.
- The Real Wedding Crashers (NBC) – Hmmm, someone remind me why NBC is the fourth-rated network again? How does garbage like this get greenlit in the first place?