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Cancellation Lament

Now that the networks have announced their fall schedules, we know which shows won’t be coming back. I think some obituaries are in order.

This list doesn’t contain every cancellation, but it does contain all the ones I care about.

ABC

Dirty Sexy Money – How many times will this network take a show featuring the incredibly talented Peter Krause, give it minimal support, and cancel it prematurely? Admittedly, this show suffered from a lack of focus, but I think it had a shot at being a modern day Dynasty or Dallas. I blame the writer’s strike for most of the ratings problems, since it never really had a chance to find an audience. The final handful of episodes will air Saturdays at 10/9 starting July 18th.

Pushing Daisies – I understand the stunning visuals were not cheap to create, but once again a truly unique show has been cancelled too soon. While I didn’t care for the Kristen Chenowith sing-a-longs, I loved the combination of fairy-tale and noir that filled each episode. Jim Dale’s outstanding narration worked perfectly with the subject matter, and the original plots allowed for some great guest appearances. The silver lining is that ABC has decided to air the three remaining episodes on Saturdays at 10/9 starting May 30th. Keep in mind though that these episodes aren’t expected to fully resolve the story.

Eli Stone – I realize I just finished saying I didn’t care for the singing on Pushing Daisies, but at least Eli Stone’s musical numbers were part of the plot. In fact, they acknowledged the absurdity of musical numbers in general by making them take place only in Eli’s aneurysm-addled brain. Sadly, this is the third member of ABC’s ill-fated ’07-’08 trio of shows with ratings that got decimated by the strike. Like the other two, the final episodes will be shown in the Saturday 10/9 slot, starting June 20th. As for the cast, star Jonny Lee Miller has gone back to his native England and will be in the BBC’s latest version of Jane Austen’s Emma, airing later this year. The excellent Victor Garber is headed to Fox’s new show Glee to play the father of Will, the glee club director, so I’m sure we can count on hearing his tenor again in primetime.

CBS

Worst Week – Based on the ratings, this show may have gotten tired for many people, but I thought it actually improved dramatically as the season went on. I recommend putting the complete series DVD set in your Netflix queue once it is released later this year. Also, since she was added for two episodes very near the end of the season, I’m starting to wonder if Rachael Harris is a black widow for new shows. (see In The Motherhood, Notes from the Underbelly, Pushing Daisies, Emily’s Reasons Why Not)

Eleventh Hour – Like Worst Week, this was another show based on a UK original that didn’t catch on with the American audience. The chemistry between Rufus Sewell and Marley Shelton took a little to long to develop, but I believe the real downfall of this show was the subject matter. In a grid full of procedurals, new shows have to stand out if they are going to stick around long. I enjoyed the show, in fact it reminded me a lot of the quickly-cancelled Medical Investigation from NBC a few years ago. Unfortunately, in a year where Fringe premiered, the mysteries on this show were just not ‘out there’ enough. And holding less than half of its CSI lead-in audience was just not good enough. I’m sure both actors will land on their feet, in fact they have both booked film gigs already.

NBC

Life – Granted, the second season was not as tight as the first, but Life had that unique quality that set itself apart from other shows. Crews’ zen approach to detective work was just as compelling for me as Bobby Goren on Law & Order: Criminal Intent. I can’t complain too much about this cancellation though, since I’m just now watching the final three episodes as I write this post. Ultimately, I think this is the kind of show that belongs on cable. The kind of season-long underlying plot lines Life showcased remind me more of Damages than CSI. Damian Lewis is a great talent who will have no problem booking other jobs, and I hope Adam Arkin finds a new home as well. Arkin had three movies slated for 2009 and actually directed two of the final episodes of Life, so his prospects would appear to be pretty good.

My Name Is Earl – I’ll be the first to admit that this fourth season hasn’t been even close to the quality of the first three, but I don’t think the reason is a big mystery. Starting at the end of the third season, there was a complete departure from the simple “do something from Earl’s list” premise. Creator Greg Garcia announced a return to the original formula for the fourth season, but there were still way too many episodes that focused on things like Darnell and Joy in Witness Protection, and the disappearance of Ernie, the owner of the Crab Shack who we have never previously seen or cared about. I’d like to see this get picked up by Fox, ABC, or TBS as rumored, just to see if they can right the ship by returning to what made the show great.

May 24, 2009 Posted by | Cancelled, Comedy, Drama, New Series, Television | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Cancellation Lament

RIP Life – Cancelled After 32 Episodes

Life started off as a very different kind of show than we are used to seeing on network television. The idea of a show about a zen detective whose research into a conspiracy that resulted in his false imprisonment is certainly unique. Also unique was the kind of documentary style the show was created with.

But that was season one.

It’s almost as if the creators never expected Life to go beyond those first eleven episodes. We went from an underlying story that provided a larger driving force to a run-of-the-mill procedural that was pretty much like every other show on television. The result was a show that was not only less unique, but also less compelling.

It really is a shame the writing failed the show, because the actors were great. The awesome ensemble included Damian Lewis as Charlie Crews, Sarah Shahi as his partner Dani Reese, and Adam Arkin as prison buddy turned roommate/business manager Ted Earley. The interactions between Lewis, Arkin, and Shahi were funny, insightful, and very real.

In addition to the actual writing, on some level I blame the Writer’s Strike for killing audience interest. NBC was also complicit, since they gave Life virtually no marketing support, then banished it to two terrible timeslots during season two. After the long delay between seasons, NBC could have at least put a recap episode out to re-capture the audience. Instead, the put the show in the awful Friday 10pm slot, then moved it mid-season to Wednesdays at 9pm, competing directly with LOST and Criminal Minds. At that point, even I had to demote Life to my secondary DVR. I realize that means that most normal viewers were forced to turn away completely, sealing the show’s fate.

May 9, 2009 Posted by | Cancelled, Drama, Television | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on RIP Life – Cancelled After 32 Episodes