Stupid Network Tricks; Gone Too Soon vs. Stayed Too Long

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Well folks, it’s that time of year again! That magical season when we learn whether or not our favorite shows will live to see another season, or leave us forever wanting more. I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed that a lot of network execs seem to be a tad out of touch with what we the people want to see piped into our living rooms each evening, versus what we could do without.There were a few surprises on the cancellation list this year…shows I thought would carry on because they were either very well done, or had won awards, or seemed to have a pretty large, loyal audience. Go figure…But, then again, it’s not the first time there has been a significant mismatch between the shows that end up on the chopping block, and those which should have been on it years ago…

Here are my picks in each category for the worst cancellation and continuance mistakes of all time….

GONE TOO SOON:

“Wonderfalls” FOX, 2004

Synopsis: “Launched in March 2004 as a mid-season replacement, this supernatural comedy drama suffered a death as quick as its premise was quirky. Thanks in part to a punishing Friday-night time slot, Wonderfalls managed only four episodes before Fox pulled the plug. Less than a year later, however, the offbeat series found new life on DVD, where all 13 completed installments were released to brisk sales and critical acclaim (see Wonderfalls — The Complete Series). The brainchild of veteran director Todd Holland (Twin Peaks, My So-Called Life) and Dead Like Me creator Bryan Fuller, Wonderfalls chronicles the misadventures of Jaye Tyler (Caroline Dhavernas), a Niagara Falls, NY gift-shop employee whose snarky world view gets shaken up when inanimate objects — a wax lion, a stuffed chameleon — begin ordering her around. Convinced she’s cracking up, Jaye nevertheless follows the animals’ instructions and unwittingly helps a broad range of unusual characters: an elementary-school Romeo, a stuttering stalker, a faithless nun, a mysterious housekeeper, etc. Her partners in crime on these assignments include sardonic pal Mahandra (Tracie Thoms), buttoned-up lesbian sister Sharon (Kate Finneran), and overeducated, underachieving brother Aaron (Lee Pace). Though unaware of their daughter’s peculiar conversations with stuffed animals, Jaye’s stuffy parents Karen (Diana Scarwid) and Darrin (William Sadler) also figure prominently in her adventures. So does Eric (Tyron Leitso), a hot, heartbroken bartender whose honeymoon was recently cut short when he caught his bride servicing the hotel bellhop. As Jaye flirts with Eric, fights with her family, and struggles to maintain her ironic detachment, she comes reluctantly closer to understanding the nature of her unorthodox destiny”. Source: http://www.fandango.com/wonderfalls%5Btvseries%5D_v305155/plotsummary

My Take: Loved this one! It was smart, funny, and different–oh boy was it different. Of course, it gave up the ghost way too soon, thanks to unimaginative network execs and viewers, with zero tolerance for quirky genius. Sorry folks, I calls ’em as I see ’em!

“Once and Again” ABC 1999-2002

Synopsis: “Lily Manning (Sela Ward) is a 40ish suburban soccer mom living in Deerfield, Illinois. Recently separated from her philandering husband Jake (Jeffrey Nordling), Lily is raising her two daughters, insecure, anxiety-ridden 14-year-old Grace (Julia Whelan), and wide-eyed, innocent 9-year-old Zoe (Meredith Deane). For support, she turns to her more free-spirited younger sister, Judy (Marin Hinkle), with whom she works at their bookstore called My Sister’s Bookstore (renamed Booklovers later in the series)”. Lily’s life changes when, during the pilot episode, she meets Rick Sammler (Billy Campbell) in the principal’s office of Grace’s school, Upton Sinclair High School. Rick is a single father and co-head of an architectural firm, Sammler/Cassili Associates, which is located in downtown Chicago. Rick has been divorced from his uptight ex-wife Karen (Susanna Thompson) for three years and has two children, Eli (Shane West), a 16-year-old basketball player at Sinclair High who suffers from a learning disability, and sensitive 12-year-old Jessie (Evan Rachel Wood), who longs for the days before her family’s disintegration. Lily and Rick share an immediate mutual attraction and begin dating. Their budding relationship causes problems in both of their respective families. Grace strongly objects to Lily and Rick’s relationship as she still hopes to see her parents get back together. Karen, a public interest attorney at the downtown law firm of Harris, Riegert, and Sammler, is worried about the toll Rick’s new relationship would take on their children, particularly Jessie, who is shy and emotionally fragile. She is also working through her own feelings of jealousy that Rick is moving on to a new relationship. In addition to Lily and Rick’s relationship, the show also focused to a lesser degree on their exes, Jake and Karen, and their own struggles to move on in a post-divorce environment”. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Once_and_Again

My Take: One of THE best shows ever aired on television. The amazing intro alone was worth keeping it for. ‘Nuff said…:-(

Swingtown ABC 2008

Synopsis: “As America celebrates its 200th birthday, two generations of friends and neighbors in a Chicago suburb explore new freedoms and seek connections with each other in the midst of the socio/sexual revolution”. Source:  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0928173/

My Take: Okay, this one is still a little difficult for me to talk about because I’m still mad about the fact that it was cancelled before it had a chance to play out. The long and short of it is that network execs clearly caved to pressure from morality groups that had probably never even watched one stellar, Emmy worthy episode of this amazing show. Everyone was shortsighted here, and had a kneejerk reaction simply because the plotline centered upon the 70’s and the practice of “swinging”. But, you have to trust me here, that was a very, very minor part of the show. It was well written, featured rich storylines, with deep, complex, interesting characters. And it was ultimately murdered by the morality police way before I was ready to see it go. The irony? The show actually would have deterred the practice of swinging, had it been allowed to breathe in and out for a couple more seasons…

STAYED TOO LONG:

E.R. NBC 1994-2009

Synopsis: “ER follows the medical personnel and patients in the emergency room of Chicago’s fictional County General Hospital. Created by best-selling author Michael Crichton (“Jurassic Park”) and produced by John Wells (“The West Wing”), Christopher Chulack (“Third Watch”), David Zabel (“JAG”), and R. Scott… More Gemmill (“Jonny Zero”), the Emmy Award-winning series has completed fourteen seasons as one of television’s highest-rated dramas.
The doctors and nurses of County’s ER confront the daily challenges of a busy urban hospital, including overcrowded waiting rooms, staffing shortages, and the impact of life-and-death decisions. While they teach the next generation of doctors, each must tackle the demands of their personal lives, at times unsuccessfully”. Source: http://www.tv.com/er/show/111/summary.html

My Take: What stinks after 15 years? Well, the usual fish and company, and nighttime dramas beating worn out plots and recycled storylines to death. By the time it was over, was there anyone left who really cared? That’s nothing against the fine actors, writers, etc., believe me. But this one is a good example of network execs and producers milking a menopausal cow that had done her duty and then some, and should have been retired long ago.

Grey’s Anatomy ABC 2005-Present

Synopsis: “Grey’s Anatomy is a medical drama about a group of surgeons working at Seattle Grace Hospital. The show centers around Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) and her life as a third year resident at the hospital. In addition to her relationship with her neurosurgeon husband, Derek Shepherd (Patrick… More Dempsey), and best friend Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh), it also explores her relationships with her peers and the other doctors around her. Each episode dives into different medical cases and personal dramas of the doctors at Seattle Grace, with Dr. Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.) at the helm of the surgical department.”  Source: http://www.tv.com/greys-anatomy/show/24440/summary.html

My Take: A musical episode??? SERIOUSLY??? Aside from the fact that we all thought Grey’s was one big music video anyway, come on guys, that’s a shark in a shark suit, jumping the shark. Please put it out of its Mc-misery before this gets really Mc-ugly…seriously…

Melrose Place FOX 1992-1999

Synopsis: “The lives and loves of a group of young adults living in “Melrose Place” in California. Each with their own dreams and drives, the inevitable conflicts, conquests, and consummations ensue”.  Source: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0103491/

My Take: Okay people, this one was the coolest of the cool–for the first oh, I’d say 3 seasons. Then it just got stupid. Once everybody had slept with everybody else in the building, and Kimberly came back from the dead the first time and took that wig off :::shudder::: it was time to cut it so that it could live forever in the Hip Hall of Fame. But what do the greedy execs do? Yep, they kept it going after it made campy look campy. Then, after it slinked off with its formerly cool tail between it’s legs, what did they do? Of course, they brought it back years later with new, baby faced actors. I actually watched that one and liked it, but I think America has had enough of the gang on Melrose, and it was cancelled toot sweet, hopefully never to return again. Let’s hope not anyway…let me keep my memories of the super engaging Allison/Billy/Amanda triangle from the first couple of seasons, will ya?!

Here’s hoping your current favorites and mine have survived the out of touch network axe during the annual chopping season! You’d think they’d get smarter at this after decades of practice, wouldn’t you…

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