Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Show Killer Strikes

New episodes of the deathwatched television show Kitchen Confidential as well as the last few episodes of "Arrested Development" start Monday night, but they both will soon be gone because shows I like are inevitably cancelled. I have a twenty-five year long record of killing promising new series. My liking a show is usually enough to doom a new series. Here is just a small list of shows that never stood a chance. All links are to the IMDB summary in case you want to check cast bios or get more info.

Breaking Away (1980). This television series adaptation of the bicycling movie starred a post-Hardy Boys Shaun Cassidy with a lot of the movie cast including Jackie Earle Haley. While the show caught the spirit of the movie, it never found an audience.

Square Pegs (1982). Before Sarah Jessica Parker found sex in the city, she was a high school geek trying to get in with the cool kids. This show was set in the early 80s and had a great New Wave musical vibe. The show was notoriously uneven in quality largely because the producers, writers, crew, and possibly some of the cast where constantly coked up. Perhaps a perfect meta-metaphor for the 80s.

It’s Your Move (1984) Jason Bateman was a scheming teenager in a feud with the nebbish guy across the hall trying to date his mother. Snarky comedy too edgy for the family friendly times.

Max Headroom (1987). The US version of the British talk show spoof. Twenty minutes into the future was a little too far for this ahead of its time satire of a ratings-obsessed 24-hour news channel.

Ferris Bueller (1990) This TV adaptation of the movie classic lacked everything the film did. Ferris’s sister played by a young Jennifer Anniston survived this turkey long enough to find some Friends on a better show.

The Flash (1990). Hoping to capitalize on the popularity of the Tim Burton Batman movie, this noirish series had good production values but zipped around the schedule so much an audience had no chance of finding it. Mark Hamill guest starred as The Trickster.

The Single Guy (1995) Jonathon Silverman starred as a twenty-something ready to settle down because all his friends were married. The show was one of the better ones stuck in the 8:30 Thursday NBC deathspot but it still wasn't Must See TV.

Sports Night (1998) A behind the scenes look at an ESPN-style sports news show. I blame the bad acting. These actors have gone onto dreck like "West Wing", "Six Feet Under", and "Desperate Housewives".

Freaks and Geeks (1999) This show about a math nerd in the early 1980s that starts hanging around the school stoners was so true to life that I have considered legal action. Cruelly cancelled and burned off in summer reruns, watching the DVD box set is one of my goals this winter.

Action (1999) Jay Mohr takes the slimy guy schtick he perfected in Jerry McGuire and uses it in a Hollywood behind the scenes spoof ala The Player. Bonus points for having a Warren Zevon song for theme music.

Undeclared (2001) Judd Apatow took some of the cast of Freaks and Geeks and set them in a contemporary mid-level state college dorm. Despite the much higher sexual content, this show also failed to find an audience. The episode where Lizzie keeps denying hooking up with guest star Adam Sandler is a classic.

Arrested Development (2003-2005) Wait, you say I can’t take credit for this since it lasted for more than one season. True, but I quit watching it about six episodes into the first season when I couldn’t keep track of when it was on. It then won six Emmys and got nominated for ten more over the next two seasons. It was only when I started watching the third season that the plug got pulled. Sorry.

For fans of quality television everywhere I apologize for my curse. Let me know what new show you like so I can avoid it for you. Or let me know what short lived series you really miss. I may have killed it too and just overlooked it here.

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kenju said...

Promise me you will not start liking any of MY shows! You are the ksis of death, it seems.

Michele sent me.

rashbre said...

Other than soaps, most UK series are quite short. I liked the recent Spooks and the dramatisation of Julie Burchell's Sugar Rush and the current Shakespeare re-told, but I suspect they are all minority compared with some of the US blockbusters.

Well Dr Who is restarting in time for Christmas.


trusty getto said...

Well, goodness gracious, I need a job that allows me to watch TV. I don't even know what half of those shows are for pete's sake ! Sheesh !!!!

Thumper said...

It's not just you. I liked most of those, too, and always thought it was my fault they disappeared...

Anonymous said...

Wow. I'm gonna take the generous tack and presume that you're being sarcastic about The West Wing being dreck. I'll grant you that TWW had a rough fifth season and it still isn't what it was when Aaron Sorkin had the reins (as he did for SportsNight, hence the casting recycling). But there has been some amazing television and truly sublime acting in that series.

If you weren't being sarcastic, we'll have to agree to disagree on this one. I loved SportsNight (in fact I have the entire series on DVD) and I think that the show's biggest problem is that people were thrown by the title. I know it took me too long to come around to the idea that it was not a sports-related program strictly based on the title. (I watch sports but not the analysis shows.)

Actually, I think the titles did a lot of these programs in:

"The title is very important. Would you go see a play called Romeo and Gladys?" —Oscar Madison

I don't even remember a Ferris Bueller series. I do remember that other sad knockoff "Parker Lewis Can't Lose".

yellojkt said...

The West Wing reference is tongue in cheek. This is one of the few shows that escaped my curse, although I quit watching it after Season 2 when Sorkin left and it got seriously dumbed down.

There is a whole phenomena about how bad a series slides when the creator leaves for a new show. Sports Night/West Wing, Remington Steele/Moonlighting, and Alias/Lost are just a few examples.

Your Mother said...

Sweet I was the 5000th! I rock. Of course, I got busted surfing instead of working so I had to leave before commenting. But, I'll be back later to finish reading the posts. K

Anonymous said...

I loved The Single Guy, especially the blonde guy/asian girl married couple he was friends with. Freaks & Geeks was fabulous and Action is also missed (it was on reruns in the past year or so and we were Tivo'ing it for a while). And Sports Night was also great.

Don't you think if these shows had actually been on the same night, same time every week they would have developed a following? Sometimes I think the main reason Seinfeld was so successful was that everyone know when it was on.

Bonvallet said...

I can't imagine Sarah Jessica Parker a square peg. I haven't seen any of those shows. What was *I* watching when you were watching these shows?

Anonymous said...

Watched Kitchen Confidential last night for the first time, on your recommendation, and of course I loved it.

HRH Courtney, Queen of Everything said...

Freaks and Geeks was the best show ever cancelled by Fox. They don't know a good show if it hits them over the head, although, they did bring back Family Guy.
Thanks for coming by my site earlier; I plan on posting an entire playlist of all the songs when the month is over. But keep coming back.

Anonymous said...

I'd put together a list like that, some time ago. They are roughly identical except for the swapping of "Parker Lewis Can't Lose" for "Ferris Bueller".

Jaws of Death, Kiss of Life.

yellojkt said...

"Parker Lewis" was actually funnier than "Ferris Bueller" (the TV show) but the market was saturated. Like the year right after Animal House came out there were three frat house series on TV the next year.

Not Afraid to Use It said...

Hey! Yellojkt mentioned "Parker Lewis" so I don't have to. It was hilarious.

I felt the same way about New Amsterdam last year. The idea of an historically based show is just too much thinking for most people. From the first episode I knew I had to take it in because it would never last.