25 May 2006

As I Lay Dying...

I am so over being sick right now. The last three days have found me horizontal on the couch. I have eaten all the chicken soup and toast that I can stomach and I have consumed enough orange juice and tea to almost float away. I am pretty sure that I can also name all of the peripheral characters on 'Saved by the Bell.'

I dare say that tomorrow I will either be at work, or in the hospital. I don't even really care which.

While catching up on the joys of daytime television (apparently, Luke and Laura aren't an item any more), I found that Bravo has a new project called Brilliant but Cancelled. The idea is that the shows featured where shot down by network execs before they were able to reach their full potential. I have to admit -- I got sucked into watching The Jake Effect. The show's not bad, but I don't know about brilliant. NBC never even ran the show -- EVER! Besides, one of the stars is Nikki Cox, which is kind of an unfair distraction for a sick boy. And, on a complete side note, Jay Mohr is now married to Nikki Cox, which proves that there is a Satan, and someone named Jay Mohr has sold his soul to said Satan. Look at that picture again and tell me I am wrong!

But, I digress....

The idea of 'brilliant but cancelled' made me think of which of my favorite shows over the years got the axe before their time. So, I present to you, The Travelin' Man's Top 5 Shows That Got Prematurely Axed:

  1. The Honeymooners -- Long before Cedric the Entertainer turned in a blaxploitation version of Ralph Kramden, The Honeymooners defined television. There is a reason that the show refers to 'The Classic 39.' Yes, there were some additional episodes, but this show was really about one year of episodes -- 1955. I am a huge fan, and REALLY wish that there were more episodes of this show around. I remember watching WPIX when I was a kid. The Honeymooners came on TV at 11 pm every night, and I would watch them on my black-and-white television. I realized quickly that I got to see every episode almost once per month....and I didn't mind at all. The Honeymooners was also the foundation for other shows that came along later -- The Flintstones, King of Queens, and, heck, even Married with Children.
  2. Clerks: The Animated Series -- Compared to this series, The Honeymooners was on television as long as M*A*S*H. ABC torched this show just two episodes into it's summer run. The ratings were not at all stellar, but you would have thought that ABC would have had some money invested in the show and aired all six original episodes to see if they could find an audience. Of course, thie summer was also right when the original 'Survivor' aired, so no one may have watched anyway. This show was clever and on-topic -- you know, just like a Kevin Smith movie.
  3. Brooklyn Bridge -- No, this is not a theme developing (but, I do love the Bridge). CBS bounced this show around in a couple of different time slots before finally bagging it after just 33 episodes. Perhaps airing the show, about Brooklyn Jews on Friday nights (the Jewish Sabbath) wasn't the brightest idea any network executive ever had.
  4. Murder One -- Now this list gets serious. Talk about another series that was completely jerked around by the network. Wow. ABC didn't know what to do with this series. You could make the argument that it was a little ahead of it's time -- a crime drama whose one plot develops over the course of a full season. Imagine '24' without the shackles of being filmed in real-time. One hour dramas to this point were always wrapped up with a tidy bow before the big hand crossed back over the 12. This show told the story of a crime, from commission to arrest to trial, over the course of a whole season. The lesson that Fox learned very quickly for '24' was that in order to build an audience and make this work, they needed to show the episodes in order, at the same time, every week, without interruption. Unfortunately, ABC never caught on to this, and Murder One died a premature death, never earning ratings equal to the critical acclaim. It's a shame -- a fabulous cast (Daniel Benzali, Anthony LaPaglia, Mary McCormack, Stanley Tucci, D.B. Woodside, Jason Gedrick, Barbara Bosson, and more); an intriguing story and Stephen Bochco -- all wasted.
  5. Sports Night -- In my mind, the single most egregious misuse of a television show by a network. ABC shuttled this show around it's schedule with no regard for developing an audience of any kind. I was a FAN of the show, and I never knew when it was on. The creators behind this show are the legendary duo of Aaron Sorkin and Tommy Schlamme. I suppose that if this show had not failed, there may not have been 'The West Wing.' Like 'Murder One,' the writing and acting were superb. Unfortunately, in addition to the challenges faced by the ever shifting time slot, the show also had to fight the stigma that it was a show about sports. Anyone who gave this show the time of day would have found out that this was a sharply written workplace comedy/drama -- the kind of show championed nowadays with programs like 'The Office.' Again, maybe this show was ahead of it's time. Maybe ABC just wanted to deprive me of seeing more of Sabrina Lloyd? The final episode was one of my favorite, as the fake CSC network was sold to a company called "Quo Vadimus" (Where are We Going?). In one of the final scenes, the new owner tells the producer (Desparate Housewive's Felicity Huffman) that "anyone who can't make money off of 'Sports Night' should get out of the money making business." Umm...hello, ABC? Can you hear me now?
More discussion seems to focus on those shows that stay beyond their welcome, but, for me, these five shows are the antithesis of 'jumping the shark'.

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