Every year we see a slew of shows heading towards cancellation that are critically acclaimed but lack the viewership needed to keep them on the air. Some of these shows I consider some of the best programs in recent TV history, and for that reason, if I had the power, I would bring them back. Not all are superb, but some I watched faithfully and think I’m entitled to a decent ending. So what are they? Well, keep reading and find out.
The Chicago Code
First up is the show on the list that was the most recently canceled, The Chicago Code. In a television landscape filled with police procedurals, The Chicago Code broke the mold. The narration that starts each episode lets you know this isn’t going to be another Law and Order or CSI. The acting by Jason Clarke and Delroy Lindo, among others, was quite possibly the best acting on television last year. Each episode was it’s own story, but it had an arc that spanned the entire first season. It was really good storytelling with really well-developed characters. Then you have the city of Chicago. The city acts like its own character in the show. Filmed on location, The Chicago Code showed just how beautiful (and ugly) the city could be. I was hoping that another network would pick up the show from Fox, but was unfortunately it wasn’t. The first and only cop show to hold my interest in years was forever canceled.
Next up on my list is a little HBO western that used every curse word you’ve ever heard, and then some you probably didn’t know. I’m talking about 2004-2006 series Deadwood. Set in 1800s South Dakota, Deadwood revolves around the people that live in the prospecting town Deadwood. More specifically, it revolved around a man that would become sheriff of Deadwood, Timothy Olyphant’s hard-nosed Seth Bullock, and his enemy, pimp, saloon owner, and all around mean guy Al Swearengen, played brilliantly by Ian McShane. This show was definitely not your father (or grandfather’s) Gunsmoke. It was gritty, raw, and in your face. One of the things that set this show apart from other shows is the plethora of great character actors in the town of Deadwood. You had John Hawkes, Dayton Callie (who went on to be puppet sheriff on Sons of Anarchy), William Sanderson (who became sheriff on True Blood), Jeffrey Jones, and Powers Boothe. How could you go wrong with a supporting cast like that?
Better Off Ted
Now, on a lighter note, I’d like to tell you about a comedy you’ve probably never heard of, much less seen. The comedy was called Better Off Ted. It ran for two seasons on ABC and was the best comedy to hit the airwaves in years (until NBC’s Community). The show (2009-2010) revolved around Ted, who worked at a megaglobalcorp called Veridian Dynamics. He served as the main character and narrator of the show, regularly breaking the 4th wall and talking directly into the camera. Ted was head of research and development in a department at Veridian, where he manned a team of two nerdy (and bickering) best friend scientists and a potential love interest played by the wonderfully sarcastic Andrea Anders. Ted’s boss, played by the extremely talented Portia de Rossi, was a perfect fit as the face of the soulless corporation. One of the best episodes of the show revolved around Veridian trying to save money by installing motion detectors to turn off the lights when the room was empty, except there was one problem: sensors couldn’t see black people. Of course this lead to a variety of hilarious situations, such as separate (but equal) facilities and every black employee receiving a free white guy to follow them around. What other show on TV could come up with this? It’s a shame viewers never caught on, though I blame ABC for that. I found the show by accident and then could never find it again. It seems like it jumped days and timeslots quite a few times and would only air when everything else was a rerun. It’s a shame it wasn’t given a proper change. It could have been another The Office, but, you know, funny.
Next up is a drama that didn’t even last a season on NBC called Kings. Kings was loosely based on the Biblical story of King David, but set in a kingdom that culturally and technologically resembles the present-day United States. The setting was the fictional Kingdom of Gilboa, a modern absolute monarchy. Gilboa is ruled by King Silas Benjamin, who originally formed the united kingdom two decades prior from the three warring countries of Gilboa, Carmel, and Selah. He believes that he has been divinely anointed king, and often cites the day when a swarm of Monarch butterflies once landed on his head in the form of “a living crown” which called upon him to form the Monarchy and kingdom. The king was played (again) by the awesome Ian McShane. Seriously, why do we not see this actor more? It was really interesting seeing a US-like absolute monarchy and would have loved to see more. Unfortunately, the show debuted in 4th place in ratings and was quickly moved and then abandoned. Was this going to be one of the best shows in TV history? That I can’t be sure of, but I do wish it was given more of a shot. It definitely had potential.
Everyone knows Aaron Sorkin’s name these days. With the success of The West Wing and winning an Oscar for The Social Network, he has become a household name when it comes to great writing. Did you know that long before the success of either of those ventures he had a half-hour comedy that revolved around a third place sports network? No? Well, not many other people did either. Sports Night was a comedy that aired on ABC and only lasted 2 seasons, but anybody who has ever watched them will tell you, with passion, that they are two of the best seasons that any comedy has ever had on TV. The show was a series about a fictional sports news show also called Sports Night. It focuses on the friendships, pitfalls, and ethical issues the creative talent of the program face while trying to produce a good show under constant network pressure. The writing on the show is typical Sorkin, witty, smart, and funny. The dialogue that made him famous in The West Wing got its start on Sports Night (also, count how many actors you can find that will later appear on The West Wing). Unfortunately, ABC thought the show was too smart (and really didn’t know how to market it). The show never lived up to the critical acclaim and never found the audience it deserved. Perhaps a show entitled Sports Night that wasn’t really about sports confused people. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we have so much reality programming today. I’d also be willing to bring back Sorkin’s other behind the scenes drama Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip if I could. Another great show that never found its footing.
The last show on my list is Defying Gravity. This was a great sci-fi show that aired on ABC. Set in the near future, the show revolves around a group of astronauts on their way to Mars. The show follows the adventures that await the crew as they quickly discover their lives and destinies to be intertwined and carefully directed, not only by Mission Control officials on Earth, but also by an unseen force which is much closer and far more powerful. Weaved throughout the show are flashbacks of the astronauts’ past and how they came to be there. There’s also a mystery on the ship, unbeknownst to most of the crew. Unfortunately the show was canceled before we could find out what the mystery really was. The problem with the way the show was handled was that ABC started airing it the show 3-4 weeks before the fall season. This time of year is horrible for new programming because it’s the end of the summer and everyone is in back to school mode. No one is sitting in front of the TV, especially when there’s nothing new on TV. Couple that with ABC’s complete lack of promotion for the show made it dead on arrival. It’s unfortunate. Network TV needs shows like this if we are really serious about getting our kids interested in math and science again.
Honorable mention goes to the ABC serialized drama Flash Forward, though you could also substitute this with NBC’s serialized The Event. Both of these shows featured the same thing, cliffhanger endings that made you want more. Put aside the terrible acting for a minute (yes, both shows featured their fair share of bad actors) and watch the stories. They are totally gripping and kept you guessing as to what would happen next. Unfortunately, viewers were tired of the serialized drama after Lost did it. No other show could find the success that Lost had, so when viewers didn’t flock, the networks gave up. Quick. Both shows were canceled after their first seasons but I would have liked to have seen more, at least a conclusion to the stories that the loyal viewers spent all season watching.
These are, by no means, all the shows that I would bring back. There are several others, such as Arrested Development, The Dead Zone (Who caused Armageddon?), Human Target, Life on Mars, Andy Barker PI, Dead Like Me, Clone High, and more. Heck, even The Paul Reiser Show deserved more than one episode.