by: Lindsey Gavel
This week, I am taking a step back from writing about angry vaginas to focus on what some may consider an even more controversial topic: television. Or, more specifically, television shows that should never have been canceled. What follows is my nerd-gasm list of shows I wish were still sending new episodes out into the universe – and, fair warning, most of my list is comprised of quirky comedies and crazy sci-fi. Write what you know, right?
Disclaimer: I’m not a TV person. I grew up running around outdoors and playing sports – the television was something I occasionally parked myself in front of as a kid, but those moments were few and far between. As I grew, I just didn’t have the time to sit around and watch TV; my days were filled with school work, practice for this, rehearsal for that, etc. As a result, I didn’t see a lot of movies either, and when friends would be discussing last night’s episode of Beverly Hills 1249871298 or some shit and how OHMYGOD so-and-so cheated on what’s his face can you believe it?!?!, I was left in the dark, wondering what it was that I was missing. Well, thanks to the wonder of Hulu and Netflix and friends who have good taste, I was introduced to the world of good television during my college years, and slowly began to realize what all the fuss was about.
With that in mind, I give you the following list of shows that I wish had never been canceled, in no particular order – because that means picking favorites, and I don’t want any of the kids getting a superiority complex.
Firefly (One season: September – December 2002)
Sci-fi – Best Show to Watch When You Can’t Decide Between Star Trek or Bonanza
I’m just going to come right out and say it: Joss Whedon is a genius. Firefly is what you would get if Star Trek and Bonanza had a love-child – a really attractive, witty, and entertaining love-child. It’s a cowboy action show set in space, acted by an all-star cast, and written by the man who brought us Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Unfortunately, Firefly aired on the network where awesome shows go to die, FOX, and met its untimely demise after only one season. The loose ends were, however, wrapped up in a fairly pretty package in Whedon’s follow-up film Serenity. Official nerd-boner rating? Off the charts.
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (One season: September 2006 – June 2007)
Dramedy: Best Show to Watch When You Want to Simultaneously Laugh and Cry So Hard That Diapers Start to Sound Like a Good Idea
Walk-and-talks, rapid-fire dialogue and incredible wit are Aaron Sorkin trademarks. Fear not, dear reader: Studio 60 is chock-full of all three. This show is literally a show within a show, taking place behind the scenes of a late night sketch comedy show – a look at, essentially, what Saturday Night Live could be behind closed doors. There’s relationship drama, untamed egos, and, of course, inter-office confrontations of intense and hilarious proportions. This show had all the makings of a smash-hit and then some – but it was fighting to get picked up by NBC at the same time as 30 Rock. Despite the fact that 30 Rock had the lower ratings of the two shows, ultimately, the straight comedy won out and Studio 60 was canceled after only one season.
Twin Peaks (Two seasons: April 1990 – June 1991)
Murder Mystery? Sci-fi?: Best I-Don’t-Know-What-the-HELL-I’m-Watching-But-I-Fucking-Love-It Show
Leave it to David Lynch to, well, just leave it to David Lynch. Conversations about this show usually go as follows: “Well, it’s a drama. And it takes place in a small town. There’s this murder in the first episode, but the chick is still there in spirit, and everyone in the town is fucked up and hiding something and has a secret life or some shit. Kyle MacLachlan is this awesome FBI guy who comes to the town to solve the murder and ends up eating a lot of pie, there’s this woman who talks to a log, and then there’s a little dancing man and a creepy spirit who lives in the body of…. You know what? Just watch it. Your eyes are glazing over.”
Party Down (Two seasons: March 2009 – June 2010)
Comedy: Best Show To Watch If You Went to Art School and Received a Degree in How to Work in Food Service
Moment of truth: I quite literally almost pissed myself more than one watching this show. It’s about a dysfunctional catering company in California called Party Down, staffed by the usual misfit band of aspiring actors, comedians, writers, and of course, the manager who has big dreams of owning his own restaurant some day. As an aspiring actor who has worked food service jobs ever since graduating art school with a BFA, this show hits home on a level that is simultaneously hilarious and sad. It’s honest, witty, and incredibly enjoyable to watch, and despite cancellation after only 2 seasons, there are rumors of a film in the works. Be still my heart!
Dollhouse (Two seasons: February 2009 – January 2010)
Sci-Fi/Action: Best Show to Watch If You Can Alway Forgive Him Because His Name is Joss Whedon (Or, If You Like Watching Pretty People Do Really Violent Things)
Even Joss Whedon makes mistakes. The first half of the first season of the sci-fi action show Dollhouse was one of those mistakes. But he’s Joss Whedon, and despite the fairly uneventful and uninteresting first few episodes, homeboy got himself back on track for the remainder of the series. The show involves a cast of ridiculously good-looking people living in underground “dollhouses”; places where the wealthy can rent out aforementioned attractive people and have them implanted with temporary personalities and character traits. Fascinating? Totally. Kinda of terrifying? Absolutely. Unfortunately, Dollhouse was another sci-fi show that met its death on the FOX network due to low ratings, despite having somewhat of a cult following.
Arrested Development (Three seasons: November 2003 – February 2006)
Comedy: Best Show to Watch if Laughing at Other Dysfunctional Families Makes You Feel Normal
Most people I know have seen this show. It is A) hilarious, B) honest, and C) endlessly quotable. I’m not going to go into a big drawn-out explanation about it, seeing as how the folks at Netflix are promising a 4th season in 2013 (all released at once – let’s all call in sick to work that day, yes?), but it was canceled once, to much uproar. It’s an incredibly well-written show about a dysfunctional family that makes you feel slightly better about your own dysfunctional family. Need I say more?
The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien (June 2009 – January 2010)
Comedy/Talk Show: Best Show to Watch if You Never Actually Thought Jay Leno Was Funny
Conan O’Brien was the best thing to ever happen to The Tonight Show. And I’m not just saying that because he’s a fellow ginger — I’m saying it because it’s the truth. Everyone knows that Jay Leno isn’t funny, and bringing him back to his original late-night time slot (and thus forcing Conan out) was a bad move by NBC. O’Brien could have taken NBC’s offer to move his show back to air after midnight, but he declined the offer and was subsequently bought out by the network, ending his extensive 22 year relationship with NBC. Luckily for us, that hilarious redhead has his own show on TBS these days – simply titled, Conan.
Fringe (Four seasons: September 2008 – present)
Sci-Fi: Best Show to Watch If Parallel Universes Give You a Nerd Boner
See, parallel universes do give me a nerd boner. And while Fringe is technically still on the air, they’ve officially been picked up for their fifth and final season. I’m sure you’ll all be shocked to hear of yet another sci-fi show on the FOX network getting canceled, but quite frankly, I’m surprised that it survived for as long as it did. I’m fairly certain that having J. J. Abrams as a creator helped, but let’s be honest: there’s only a small chunk of the population who enjoy staying in on a Friday night to watch an hour-long drama about fringe science and parallel universes and crazy science mysteries. I’m sad to see it go, but I’m going to love watching it walk away.
I’ve left out some great shows, and some great suggestions by friends – but you know what? I’m a sci-fi nerd, I have a weird sense of humor, and I didn’t really start watching television until I was in college. Therefore, I write about what I know – and what I know, apparently, is limited to sci-fi and comedy. And I’m okay with that.
Lindsey Gavel is an outspoken and opinionated atheist, feminist, and cyclist living in Chicago. She graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a BFA in Acting, so naturally, she has a day job slinging lattes. She “works” around town as an actor, theatre production-er, musician, and writer, and is a huge nerd for anything sci-fi. Disclaimer: She’s a Daywalker.