It’s that time of year folks. When networks quietly cancel the same shows they excessively advertised only a few months earlier. Here’s the rundown of some of the notable and not-so-notable cancellations with a short comment on each. If you are interested in the “ratings game” and the constant battle between shows and networks you have to check out tvbythenumbers.com. It’s a great website and it provided me with some great information for this post.
ABC (Eight shows get the axe. 2008-2009 is only a modest failure for the American Broadcasting Corporation.)
According To Jim – Ending after eight seasons, final episode on 5/19/2009. Talk about a groundbreaking show. Fat, balding, dumb guy with hot wife (and former lolita love interest for Mr. Shoop) and 2.5 kids. He does dumb stuff. His kids do dumb stuff. Lessons are never learned. Laughs are added later with computers. I don’t know about you, but I think the time is ripe for a run at Mr. Destiny 2. Hollywood loves sequels.
Boston Legal – Ending after five seasons, final episode on 12/8/2008. Never watched it. Pros: Generally well-received by fans and critics. Employed the Shat and James Spader. Cons: Past affiliation with a project featuring Dylan McDermott and Lara Flynn Boyle’s skeleton. I have absolutely no feelings about this show being canceled.
Dirty Sexy Money – Ending after two seasons, final episode on 8/8/2009. Heavily advertised but apparently unwatched. It always felt like they were trying for a Boston Legal copy except they forgot that they already had Boston Legal. Networks LOVE doing this. If people like [insert hit show] then we should make another show exactly like [insert hit show] with worse actors and worse writing. People will never be able to tell the difference. (Random note: Remember the two talented male leads of HBO’s hit show Six Feet Under? Michael C. Hall got Dexter. Peter Krause got this piece of crap. 1-0 Hall.)
Eli Stone – Ending after two seasons, final episode on 7/11/2009. Here’s some fun facts. Wikipedia lists the genre of this show as a “musical legal dramedy.” Each episode in Season One was named after a George Michael song. George Michael appeared on the show playing with himself (sorry, low blow Georgie) and later God. I wonder if all this was included in the pitch to ABC? I imagine it this way:
Show creators: “It’s like ‘Cop Rock’ except with George Michael songs.”
ABC Exec: “Hmm. The guy from Wham, right? I like it. I like it.”
Show creators: “Plus it has religious overtones. ‘Touched By An Angel’ sound familiar to anyone?”
ABC Exec: “Now you’ve sold me. That’s gold. Let’s run with it.”
Homeland Security USA – Ending after eight episodes, final episode on 3/10/2009. Never even heard of this show let alone watched it. Apparently, neither did anyone else. It was a reality show about people working for the Department of Homeland Security. Sounds like riveting stuff. Here’s a sample of what we all missed in Episode 5’s tagline:
An M.I.T. student puts the TSA to the test with his knowledge of passenger rights, and a car with a family of four sets off a canine alert.
The one where a guy tries to get a full-size shampoo bottle through airport security is in Episode 6.
Life On Mars – Ending after one season, final episode on 4/1/2009. Here’s another example of something Networks LOVE to do, rip-off a British show. The original show in the UK was critically-acclaimed and, to a certain extent, so was the U.S. version. Definitely an original idea (though not on ABC’s part) to mix science fiction, police procedure and the general mind-fuck of The Prisoner. This cancellation exemplifies why I am generally reluctant to watch the initial seasons of shows that I find interesting. If this would have been picked up for season two, I would have purchased the DVD for season one. Sad to see it go.
Opportunity Knocks – Ending after three episodes, final episode on 6/30/2009. JD! Noooooooooo. After I just sung your praises on this very blog. Cheer up, though, at least you are still not aging.
NBC (The mother lode. Thirteen cancellations with more to come. Epic failure.)
Crusoe – Ending after one season, final episode on 1/31/2009. I’ll give you a hint NBC. I can count the number of hit American shows set in the 18th Century featuring pirates and treasure on one hand — with no fingers. And, don’t tell us you were going outside the box with this one. It’s a show about people marooned on an island. It tells the back story of the characters through a series of flashbacks. Sound familiar?
ER – Ending after fifteen seasons, final episode on 4/2/2009. This show had definitely achieved “Old Yeller” status. Fifteen years is a LONG time to be running a prime-time scripted show even when you change characters frequently. (It’s even worse when you don’t change characters, e.g. The Simpsons). This show is so old that freakin’ George Clooney wasn’t even famous when it started. People can argue about how groundbreaking this show was when it debuted but no one disputes that it no longer held up when compared with shows like House. My fondest memory of this show begins and ends with Eric La Salle’s punch-while-taking-a-knee. Take that diseases!
Kath & Kim – Ending after one season, final episode on 3/12/2009. I saw the last 30 seconds of this show every week at the beginning of my Tivo-ed episodes of the Office. That was always about 29 seconds too much for my taste. By the way, Selma Blair is supposed to be playing a character in her mid-20’s who is the daughter of fortysomething Molly Shannon’s character. Selma Blair is 36. Molly Shannon is 44. Not that it would have mattered, but NBC you seriously couldn’t find a mid-20’s actress for this show?
Kings – Ending after one season, final episode on 7/25/2009. Biblical allegory. Goliath is a tank and David is…well…a guy named David who defeats the tank. Seven episodes and it was pulled. Hey, that’s six more than Emily’s Reasons Why Not, right? Another interesting note: Macauly Caulkin’s character first appeared in episode six. . .hmmm. The Caulkster doesn’t drive the numbers like he used, eh? FYI, the remaining episodes will be expelled onto your TV set this summer. My worst fear is that this show slandered the excellent drinking game of the same name.
Knight Rider – Ending after one season, final episode on 3/4/2009. I never thought I would miss the Hoff on a show but — wow — Knight Rider was terrible.
Late Night With Conan O’Brien – Ending after sixteen seasons, final episode on 2/20/2009. Sort of canceled. We will see what Conan does with the Tonight Show. I always liked Conan but I felt like he would be neutered in the early slot. NBC cares too much about pandering to the broadest (most ignorant and unfunny) possible demographic with The Tonight Show. We will see what ol’ Conan can come up with but I am not optimistic.
Life – Ending after two seasons, final episode on 4/8/2009. This is the first show on our list of which I’ve seen every episode. Life started with so much promise. As with Life on Mars, Life brought us a unique twist on the standard police procedural. The always-impressive Damien Lewis starred as a former cop-turned convicted murderer-turned exonerated cop/millionaire who’s time in prison made him a little out of the ordinary. The first season showed so much promise as it deftly wove the underlying search for who framed Lewis’ character with the weekly homicides that he must solve. The relationships between Lewis’ character and the cast were fantastic. This included interesting plot lines (with room to grow) featuring his fetching attorney, his ex-corporate fraud convict roommate, his former partner and his lieutenant (we never quite knew if they were in on the frame-up), and, of course, his current, recovering alcoholic partner (who’s father may have masterminded the frame job). The first season focused on Lewis’ character’s oddity and his obsession with Zen. It made him a unique character on TV. Unfortunately, the second season was as bad as the first was good. Characters were completely dropped (his attorney). Storylines were started and then randomly abandoned (ex. Rachel Seybolt storyline). Lewis completely toned down the oddity of his character. The conspiracy behind the frame-up became convoluted and, frankly, unfathomable — even for suspended disbelief. To make matters worse, the actress who played Lewis’ partner, Sarah Shahi, got pregnant forcing the writers to basically write her out of the show for the last 6-8 episodes. In the end, the show devolved into an uninteresting police procedural. That’s probably more than you wanted to know about Life, but oh well. Buy the first season on DVD and stop there. You won’t be disappointed.
Lipstick Jungle – Ending after two seasons, final episode on 1/9/2009. Sex and the City should consider suing NBC for defamation based on this show. Seriously.
My Own Worst Enemy (NBC) – Ending after nine episodes, final episode on 12/15/2008. If you never watched this show (and you probably didn’t need to because NBC advertised it incessantly) it’s no loss. Look, I like Christian Slater as much as any Jack Nicholson impersonator. (In fact, much more than Frank Caliendo.) But, this show’s premise seemed a little tired. It was like Alias mixed with True Lies except without all the good writing. Yes, True Lies is well written. I said it. If you can make Tom Arnold likable, you have talent.
The Tonight Show With Jay Leno (NBC) – Ending after seventeen seasons, final episode on 5/29/2009. Talk about the clusterfuck to end all clusterfucks. A few years back, NBC didn’t want to lose Conan so they promised him the Tonight Show in 2009. Conan knews how NBC utterly screwed Letterman in the past with a similar promise so he got a penalty clause put in the agreement. Still, from NBC’s perspective, no problem there. Jay will retire gracefully into the smog-enhanced sunset. Fast forward to the present, Jay is still killing it in the ratings and feels like working a little longer. He starts getting nibbles from other networks for HUGE dollars to compete directly against the Tonight Show with Conan. Thus, NBC was faced with two choices: (1) they pay the enormous penalty clause to Conan (going two-for-two on screw jobs) and keep Leno on the Tonight Show or (2) they let Leno go kill them on another network. Of course, NBC chose option (3) — pay everyone and give everyone a show. That means we will be treated to less NBC scripted shows (probably a good thing) in lieu of wall-to-wall, 5 days-a-week, all talk shows all the time. We’ll see how this plays out but, as I said before, I am not optimistic.
CBS (In what has to be a deal with Satan, CBS continues to run the most successful major TV network from a ratings standpoint)
CBS has three cancellations. The first two are throwaway shows which couldn’t last a full season — The Ex List and Swingtown. I won’t dignify the Ex-List with a response. It only lasted four episodes. Swingtown, on the other hand sounded interesting, although I didn’t watch it. According to its Wikipedia page, the show was “a period and relationship drama about the impact of sexual and social liberation in 1970s American suburban households, with story arcs involving open marriages and key parties.” Key parties on CBS? The most straight-laced network on TV? Those must have been pretty racy. Here’s the dialogue I imagine CBS’ sensors would allow:
Open Marriage Husband #1: “Excuse me, miss. I do believe you have my car keys.”
Open Marriage Wife #3: “Why, I do, don’t I? Well, it looks like you and I will be going home together tonight to engage in adult consensual sexual relations.”
Open Marriage Husband #1: “Oh boy. That sounds really fun. Can I leave the lights on?”
All kidding aside, I wish this show would have made it. Can you imagine Dick Enberg and Jim Nantz doing live reads for this show? Broadcast gold.
This brings us to CBS’ third and final cancellation. Guiding Light. This show is ending after a freaking ridiculous FIFTY-EIGHT seasons. That’s a lot of people’s babies who weren’t actually their babies and a lot of people slipping into and out of mysterious comas. Kudos to you Guiding Light. What a run.
(Stay tuned for Part 2 next week. That’s right it’s to be continued. Don’t you hate those episodes?)