I have been watching some TV shows on DVD lately. It always makes for good background. Watching these has made me think about the medium in general. Very few people (in the U.S., at any rate) know how to properly handle them medium. This could be the place for complex, multipart storytelling. Most aren’t even given that chance. The waves are ruled by mind numbing sitcoms and reality shows that are nothing more than repackaged games shows. TV has become, as Murrows predicted, “merely wires and lights in a box.” Some shows did try to break this tradition, or at least do what they wanted to have freedom. Most were cancelled, one has maddenly lasted far too long. One note before I begin; I excluded fan favorites Arrested Development and Freaks and Geeks because I have never seen an episodes. When I do, I will certainly include them on a later list.
Freakazoid! Originally on:WB Reason for death: Demographics
This show was one of the funniest child’s cartoons in the 1990s. It was the closest equivalent of an animated Monty Python we will ever have. Such an idea was not really meant for children. So, children did not watch it. Instead, an entirely new demographic responded to the material. Ratings were never bad, but the wrong people were watching. Instead of adjusting, they canceled. This makes as much sense as canceling Sesame Street due to its popularity amongst the drug addled college crowd.
Clerks, The Animated Series Originally On: ABC Reason for Death:Misunderstanding of Material
Two episodes. Both were aired out of order. Do I need to go on? Sure, the show wasn’t as funny as the movie. But it was somewhat creative and was at least never insulting of its legacy. So, why only two episodes? Two? I cannot think of a reason, other than that no executive had ever seen the film. They were surprised when jokes of drug use came up. Could they at least have had a third?
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles Originally On: Fox Reason for (highly likely death): Poor timeslot, little promotion
I deeply admire this show. It is perhaps the only show that stayed on part with its cinematic equivalent. OK, so did Buffy, but then its cinematic equivalent was garbage. Terminator though, well, it had the potential to be terrible. But it is not. On its best episodes it perfectly expands upon the universe James Cameron created. Unfortunately, the response has been ambivalence. It has been advertised as a typical adventure show. It is not. It is (or at this point, was) a very special one indeed. Maybe it can move networks.
Firefly Originally On: Fox Reason for death: Poor Ratings, Out of Sequence Airing
Suppose you are given War and Peace to read. Where would you start? Chapter one, I assume? Well, FOX never grasped that concept. They aired the show out of order, with the pilot episode being aired last. And then they wonder why the story was impossible to follow. In addition, several episodes went unaired until syndication. What was the point? This was when Angel was still going strong. Joss Whedon should have been given the benefit of the doubt. Today, it typically tops the polls for “show we would bring back.” I am not surprised.
Twin Peaks Originally On: ABC Reason for Death: ABC
In the span of a year, this went from one of the most popular shows on television to one of the least watch. How on earth can something like this occur? Well, ABC made it occur. They have no one to blame but themselves. This was one of the most influential television shows ever created. The network brought the art house to the living room of every American. And then it took it away and were left scratching their heads as to why people stopped watching. Could the premature revelation of the major plot point had to do with it. At least ABC appears to have learned its lesson.