Friday, December 18, 2009

Decadeworthy - Television of the Decade - 1 Season Wonders

With the last 10 years of television emerging as the Golden Age of television, there is just so much to pick, but a few great shows slipped past the general public consciousness and got cancelled within one season. Here's the best 25 TV shows from the decade that never made it past season 1 (some officially had a season 2 but still had less than a typical 22 episode season so I'm counting it here). Comedic satires tend to fill the list, which I guess means there were a lot of great comedic satires, very few of which became popular. Dramas rarely made it here, probably because it tends to take longer to develop them into fantastic shows.

Interesting note. Some actors seem to just keep showing up on these great but cancelled shows. John Francis Daley, Bonnie Sommerville, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Russell Hornsby, Christopher Wiehl, and Irene Malloy.

Some of the shows listed weren't perfect per se, but had some strong bones to develop into great show, but sadly never got the chance. As I've said, Sex and The City, Seinfeld, Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond etc were never great in their first seasons and had room to grow, but in the last decade, shows seem to get the chop faster than ever. If only these 25 shows had more time to develop:

1. Aliens in America (The CW 2007-2008)

Amy Pietz and Scott Patterson (nicely obliterating their previous images from Caroline and the City and Gilmore Girls respectively) played parents in middle America who agree to take on an exchange student. They expect a Swedish blonde, instead, they get Adhir Kalyan's Raja, a nice Muslim teen. Hilarity ensues as the town reacts unpolitcally correctly while Raja's new household tries hard (but often failing) to stay politically correct. Nerdy son Dan Byrd (so wonderful now on Cougar Town) befriends Raja while cool sister Lindsey Shaw (so wonderful now on 10 Things I Hate About You remains annoyed, and the show grew consistently more bold and confident in its witty political satire that of course, meant the show was too smart to remain on The CW anymore.

2. Andy Richter Controls the Universe (FOX 2002-2003)
Officially 2 seasons but only 19 episodes in less than a year so I'm counting it.

Before The Office and Arrested Development, there was Andy Richter's own show Andy Richter Controls The Universe, a zany satire on the workplace that would later continue on Better Off Ted (though that isn't doing that great in the ratings either right now).

3. (Tie) Freaks and Geeks (NBC 1999-2000) / Undeclared (FOX 2001-2003)

From the same Judd Apatow crew came two great series about the fringe folks in school. One in High School, one at College, and with a casts that would spurn Jay Baruchel (Million Dollar Baby), Linda Cardellini (Brokeback Mountain), James Franco (Milk), Seth Rogen (Knocked Up), Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother), John Francis Daley (Bones), Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy) amongst others, it turned the plight of growing up into something funny and oddly touching, if painfully reminiscent of those awkward years.

5. Now & Again (CBS 1999-2000)

John Goodman dies and government agent Dennis Haysbert (before he was 24 President) revives him into a super-robot that happens to look like the hunky Eric Close (Without A Trace). The government has bigger plans for the new hunky robo but all he wants to do is return to his family (a luminescent Margaret Colin, Gossip Girl, the always droll Heather Matarazzo, Welcome to the Dollhouse). What should have come off as a hokey sci-fi story was brilliantly directed into a plausible family drama and spy thriller actioner.

6. Privileged (The CW 2008-2009)

JoAnna Garcia lighted up the show about a regular girl hired to tudor spoiled twins while living off the fringe benefits of the rich. A delightful fantasy show with a huge heart, a terrific cast (including Anne Archer, Lucy Hale, Ashley Newbrough, Allan Louis, Michael Cassidy and Brian Hallisay) and a smarter-than-you-think-a-show-like-this-deserves writing, turning this fluffy soap into an intelligent dramedy.

7. Wonderfalls (FOX 2004)

Before Lee Pace was on Pushing Daisies, he was on another Bryan Fuller show called Wonderfalls. This one about a smart girl (Caroline Dhavernas, who should be more famous than she is right now) who takes a dumb job at a souvenir shop in Niagara Falls so that she doesn't have to deal with any great expectations from her family (including Pace, William Sadler and Katie Finneran). Instead, she starts hearing objects speak to her, giving her instructions, just as a romance may be blooming with her crush Tyron Leitso (Being Erica). The show was quirky, weird and wonderful! And another 1 season wonder.

8. Jack & Bobby (The WB 2004-2005)

A show about 2 brothers (Matt Long (upcoming show The Deep End) and Logan Lerman) with a strong domineering mother (Christine Lahti) living in a college town, where 1 brother will become President of the United States in 2041. Heavy political stuff mixed with family drama, the Greg Berlanti (Everwood, Brothers & Sisters) show wasn't always perfect and sometimes heavy-handed, but when it hit its mark, it was powerful and moving. Fun fact: One brother was Bobby McCalister, or as in Robert McCalister, the character played by Rob Lowe on B&S now.

9. Worst Week (CBS 2008-2009)

Based on the British show The Worst Week of My Life, the show is based on 1 joke that should have run out of steam by the second episode, yet seeing Sam Briggs (an adorable Kyle Bornheimer) trying to impress his fiance (Erinn Hayes) and her parents (the always reliable Nancy Leneham and Kurtwood Smith (That 70's Show) and falling under Murphy's Law, the show managed to make every episode strangely plausible and oh-no-they-didn't funny, as Bornheimer sold every accident upon accident to its full delight (or horror, depending on how you look at it).

10. Gideon's Crossing (ABC 2000-2001)

Before Grey's Anatomy, Eric Dane was on a smarter and better medical drama with young hot doctors. The Andre Braugher led medical show in the anti-House. A great doctor who was great with patience and great with his students. The Paul Attanasio (Homicide: Life on the Street) show didn't need many gimmicks but maintained some great drama and intelligence while trotting out a bit of soapy melodrama between the students (who included Rhona Mitra, Hamish Linklater (New/Old Christine), Ravi Kapoor (Crossing Jordan), Russell Hornsby (In Treatment) and Dane).

11. Love Monkey (CBS/VH1 2006)

A romantic comedy drama with music, it was a fresh and fun look at dating in the new century with a spectacular ensemble of Tom Cavanagh (Ed), Judy Greer (Arrested Development), Jason Priestly (Beverly Hills 90210), Larenz Tate (Rescue Me), Ivana Milicevic (Casino Royale), Christopher Wiehl (Jericho) and Katherine LaNasa (Big Love). It had all the pieces being set to be a great dramedy but it didn't fit in with the CBS lineup and they pulled the plug (relegating the remaining filmed episodes to VH1). This would have been great on ABC. I'm still brokenhearted about this one.

12. Firefly (FOX 2002-2003)

A cowboy space adventure. Even this was going to be an extra hard sell for Joss Whedon and FOX. As a devoted Buffy and Angel fan, I was automatically in, but even I had trouble getting into the groove of things, but with a little patience, and a lot of love for the cast that included Nathan Fillion (Castle), Alan Tudyk and Morena Baccarin (both V), Gina Torres (Alias), and Adam Baldwin (Chuck), the adventures of this ragtag crew in space became a lot of fun and quite fascinating (leading into a fun, if forgettable movie Serenity).

13. Kitchen Confidential (FOX 2005-2006)

Before he had a hangover, Bradley Cooper (Alias) got drunk with all his fellow chefs on this comedy loosely based on famous chef Anthony Bourdain (who has multiple shows of his own on the Food Network). It was fast, it was furious and it was funny and just starting to sizzle at the right temperature when FOX pulled this off the stoves. Again, another show that had a terrific cast, including John Cho (Harold and Kumar), Owain Yeoman (The Mentalist), Bonnie Somerville (Friends), Nicholas Brendon (Buffy), John Francis Daley (Bones) and Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon). The right ingredients were there, it just needed more cooking time.

14. Grosse Pointe (The WB 2000-2001)

Another spitting comedic satire, this time an easy target of the backstage drama behind a TV teen soap called "Grosse Pointe". But somehow it stayed fresh and frantic with a great cast including Bonnie Somerville (again), Irene Malloy (also in Andy Richter Controls The Universe), Kyle Howard (My Boys), and Lindsay Sloane (Bring It On!). This should not have worked and it should have been lazy and lame, instead, it was right on target and zippy fun and smarter than you would think. Which of course means The WB cancelled it after one season.

15. The Loop (FOX 2006-2007)
Officially 2 seasons but only 17 episodes in just over a year so I'm counting it.

Stealthy Phillip Baker Hall and vixen Mimi Rogers decide to hire young upstart Bret Harrison as an exec for their airline and while the show started off trying to play off Harrison's new serious job with his 20's homelife (with crazy roomates and all), it worked best when it satirized big business in the workplace half of the show, including an all-too-meta poke at product placements introducing Stride Gum, which I will forever still think of as a prop from the show that became real.

16. The Job (ABC 2001-2002)
Officially 2 seasons but only 19 episodes in just over a year so I'm counting it.

Before Denis Leary got mean and nasty in the firehall on Rescue Me, he was mean and nasty and very funny in a police station with a great cast including Lenny Clarke (Rescue Me), Diane Farr (Californication), Bill Nunn (Spider-Man 1,2,3) and Adam Ferrara (Definitely Maybe) in a sarcastic twist on the cop show.

17. The Tick (FOX 2001-2002)

And the twists keep going with another show that spoofed Comic strips with a large Patrick Warburton (Seinfeld) and David Burke (Brothers & Sisters) dressed up in big bug superhero costumes to save the day. It was odd and comical and odd, but funny and different and thus too weird for FOX.

18. Watching Ellie (NBC 2002-2003)
Officially 2 seasons but only 19 episodes in just over a year so I'm counting it.

In the post Seinfeld drought, I actually enjoyed Julia Louis-Dreyfuss' first attempt (before she succeeded in breaking the curse with New/Old Christine) at her own sitcom with a part improvised show that luckily got rid of the real-time clock gimmick so that the cast (that included a pre-Office/ 40-Year Old Virgin Steve Carrell) could riff funny on Ellie's pathetic life.

19. Life As We Know It (ABC 2004-2005)

A hot cast including Jon Foster (Accidentally On Purpose), Chris Lowell (Private Practice), Sean Faris (currently on the cover of Men's Health!), Missy Peregrym (in the upcoming Copper), Jessica Lucas (Melrose Place 2.0) and Kelly Osbourne in her attempt at acting, filled this teen high school drama that somehow felt wet and real (possibly from the Vancouver location shoots) and felt like a grounded teen melodrama.

20. Miss Match (NBC 2003)

Alicia Silverstone never had much of a chance but she was perfectly adorable here playing a match maker/divorce lawyer in this romantic comedy, all while she remains single despite the hot men in her life, including James Roday (Psyche) and David Conrad (Ghost Whisperer).

21. Miss/Guided (ABC 2008)

I love me some Judy Greer (Arrested Development, 13 Going on 30) and here she plays a guidance counselor who could use some guidance herself. Simple concept, zany delivery, and throw in a cast that included always likable Kristoffer Polaha (the upcoming Life Unexpected), the weird Chris Parnell, and the pretty Brooke Burns, and it had the right stuff for an enjoyable comedy. It wasn't quite there yet, but it had potential, but alas, in the end, it just didn't make the grade. (Badaboom. I've got more. See below)

22. Notes From the Underbelly (ABC 2007-2008)
Officially 2 seasons, but with only 22 episodes with 1 year, I'm counting thing here.

It sounded like a one note show, about a couple's pregnancy and how it affected their relationships and their friends but Peter Cambor and Jennifer Westfeldt made it grounded and heartfelt while Michael Weaver and Rachael Harris as zany friends made it very very funny. In fact, the show hit all the right notes but the concept was never a big seller and even though the writers found a way to inject new humour into an old topic, ABC cut its life short.

23. Playmakers (ESPN 2003)

ESPN attempted to get into the edgy drama cable-TV game with this show looking deep into a professional football team and while a lot of it started off as cliches, they started inverting it all as the show got deeper into the characters (including the token in-the-closet-gay football player) but sadly the show ended just as it was getting really interesting. One of these days Russell Hornsby and Christopher Wiehl will get a show that lasts and that showcase their talents.

24. Clone High (MTV 2002-2003)

Legendary historical figures (like Gandhi, Cleopatra, Ab Lincoln etc) are brought back to life and go to high school together. Simple concept, hilarious results (from a cast and crew that shuffled over from Scrubs).

25. Out of Practice (CBS 2005-2006)

An old fashioned 4-camera sitcom about an over-achieving family of doctors and their youngest son who is ONLY a therapist doctor. With a cast including Henry Winkler (Arrested Development) and Stockard Channing (The West Wing) as the parents and Christopher Gorham (Ugly Betty), Paula Marshall (Gary: Unmarried) and Ty Burrell (Modern Family) as the grown doctor children, it managed to take the now-old-fashioned style family sitcom and make it fun, comforting yet still new.

Wow, so there you have it. 25 shows that were great in their short run. I didn't even need to put Manhunt: The Search for America's Most Gorgeous Male Model (Bravo). I'm kidding... Maybe.


Decadeworthy - The Best of 2000-2009 Lists: Coming soon
SYTYCDworthy (w/ Videos) - List Format
Theatre of the Decade
Best Films of the Decade
Favorite Films of the Decade
Television of the Decade
Television of the Decade - 1 Season Wonders

Best of 2009 Lists: Coming soon
Best of Music 2009
Best of Television 2009
Best of Stage 2009
Best of Movies 2009

Previous Best-of Lists:
Best of 2008 Lists:
Best of Music 2008
Best of Television 2008
Best of Stage 2008
Best of Movies 2008
Best of Television Fall '07 - Winter '08 List

Best of 2007 Lists:
Best of Music 2007
Best of Television 2007
Best of Movies 2007
Best of Stage 2007
Best of 2007 (The Final Wrap Up)
Best of Television Fall '06 - Winter '07 List

Best of 2006 Lists:
Best of Music 2006
Best of Television 2006
Best of Movies 2006
Best of 2006
Best of Television Fall '05 - Winter '06 List

Best of 2005 Lists:
Best of Television 2005
Best of Movies 2005

Vance at


Joe Reid said...

"Bands on the Run"! But good call on "Clone High," among many others.

Esther said...

Wow, fascinating list! I think I watched Jack and Bobby a couple of times. The others I've never seen.

Dame James said...

Four years later and I'm still pissed at how 'Out of Practice' was shafted. CBS had one funny show at the time (This was pre-Christine) and they canceled it while shit like 'Rules of Engagement' pollutes the airwaves. Idiotic move on their part.

I think we've discussed how awesome 'Privileged' was before so I won't say too much other than I still marvel at the way the show brought interesting (often uncomfortable) new insights into sister relationships while also remaining light and frothy. It was the only show last season I stuck with all the way through (so of course they had to cancel it because that's the way the world works).

I'd also like to give props to 'Miss Guided' which, right from the beginning, never seemed destined for success but always managed to have me howling with laughter (particularly anytime Parnell was given something totally ridiculous to do).

CS12 said...

i'm still sooooooo sad about privileged. i can't even say how annoyed i am that they didn't give it a chance. it was so delightful to was my "happy place." oh well!

DuchessKitty said...

Loved this list! Now I want to do a similar one of my own (hope you don't mind - I'll give ya full credit).

Now & Again is definitely one of my faves here; it's the only time I really liked Eric Close. Funny to see how many of these shows were on ABC and Fox; both networks are notorious show killers.
Can't believe I forgot the existence of Miss Match.

Vance said...

ABC and FOX (and The CW/WB) seem to have a great eye for great pilots yet never seem to have the nerve to stick with them (or a decent marketing team to promote them).

Scooter McGavin said...

You mentioned Pushing Daisies but didn't put it on the list, it should have fit your 22 or under episodes. Same with Rome. Other One Season Wonders that deserved mentioned: Knights of Prosperity, Kings, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Keen Eddie, The Middleman, Rich Girls, A Minute with Stan Hooper, Ego Trip's (White) Rapper Show, The Lone Gunmen, The Inside, The Philanthropist, Listen Up!, Trust Me, Journeyman, and Pasadena. And I am not sure if it would fit your criteria (it was only one season but moreb than 22 episodes) but I would also include Late World with Zach.

Vance said...

Since Pushing Daisies Season 1 was only cut short because of the writers strike and not a network decision, and it returned for a second season, I'm counting it as 2 seasons. But you'll find it on my Best of TV list.

I did forget Kings. and maybe Journeyman. Keen Eddie teeters on the possible list. But couldn't get into most other shows on Scotter's list and never saw Pasadena and Middleman is still sitting here waiting to be watched.

But I'm glad to hear of so much Now & Again and Privileged love!

daniel john said...

excellent pics and they are wonderful friends