Ode to the Fallen (I’m Talking About Cancelled TV Shows)

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If Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year and April is the cruelest,  May is the most dreadful. It’s when television networks announce which shows get renewed and which fall prey to “The Bear” (but live forever in spliced clips on YouTube). It’s a time where TV fans are left to fester in their own anxiety, repeatedly refreshing Twitter or their preferred entertainment news source. For some it’s a time of relief and for others it’s a time of complete devastation. At least for sports fans, if your team doesn’t make the playoffs or fumbles the day of the Super Bowl, at least there’s always next season. In the world of television, cancellation is the kill shot. Fatality. Game over.

Some TV shows get cancelled too soon (R.I.P The Secret Circle & Firefly) while others are given new life even though it makes no economic sense (you know who you are). Then there are the shows we all knew would stumble from the very first promos. (Sorry, Dads, Mixology, Super Fun Night, but someone had to say it.) Here I pay tribute to some of the shows that met a disappointing fate in this year’s bloodbath, ones I saw potential in and flat-out enjoyed.

Trophy Wife

If asked about my favorite genre, half-hour comedies set in family environments wouldn’t be my first choice. Despite my inclinations, I liked Trophy Wife. It told the story of a reformed party girl who fell in love and married a man with three children between two ex-wives, their daily interactions and misadventures. As the season progressed, I found myself enjoying the different dynamics within the modern, dysfunctional family; however, it wasn’t a show I was eager to watch every week. I’d let it play as I did other things, a reaction that probably contributed to its demise, but Trophy Wife caught me by surprise a few times, stealing my attention, making me laugh out loud.

The gawky teenage characters were less annoying and Malin Akerman’s Kate was a lot more likeable and funnier than I expected. Everyone credits nine-year-old Albert Tsai’s Bert, the adopted Asian son, as the breakout star and I’d agree that his misinterpretation of adult conversations was a highlight, but I also loved Marcia Gay Harden’s Diane Buckley as the successful Type A personality ex-wife with a terrifyingly good deadpan. I’m not crying into my pillow about the cancellation, but The Goldbergs will be lonely during my Day Off On Demand Catch Up Marathons.

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The Crazy Ones

 

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With the pure star power behind it, The Crazy Ones was one of my most anticipated shows last fall. The show followed a father-daughter team, Simon Roberts (Robin Williams) and Sydney Roberts (Sarah Michelle Gellar) who run a power, downright kooky ad agency. As the title would suggest, craziness ensued.

Although the show was shot in single-camera setup, it had the comedic styling of a classic multiple-camera sitcom with constant setups for jokes followed by the punchline. It all happened so quickly you’d miss your cue to laugh if you weren’t listening closely. The cast was great and they worked so well together. James Wolk delivered a fantastic and surprisingly funny performance as womanizing employee, Zac Crooper, which was even more impressive considering his earlier roles, especially the very serious son of a former First Lady in Political Animals. (Speaking of premature cancellations, shame on you, USA Network.)

The decision to cancel was surprising, but at the same time, not. The Crazy Ones was a step up from Trophy Wife in that I actually cared to DVR it, but I would always let the episodes sit and watch three or four in a row when I had the time. The highlight for me was the cast and how they really enjoyed working together. Their chemistry translated through the screen, punctuated by a fun blooper reel at the end of every episode.

 

The CW

I have a rule when it comes to shows on the CW:

Thou shall not watch a show on the CW unless someone else, someone who also enjoys discussing low-budget, often infantile guilty pleasures, watches it with you.

There are some good shows on The CW, Arrow being the one high point of the network. Arrow is great. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority is, well, I think my rule just about covers that. If someone else is willing to dip into different CW TV like free sample cups at a froyo shop then I’m game.

 

The Carrie Diaries

 

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Even though I never watched Sex and the City, I watched the first season of The Carrie Diaries on Netflix and found it to be a cute high school drama with a killer 80’s soundtrack. It wasn’t engorged with scandal and sex, which has come to be expected of the CW after the Gossip Girl era. The Carrie Diaries was a coming-of-age story about a group of teenagers in fantastic 80’s fashion, forging their own sense of identity within and beyond their small-minded hometown in Connecticut. I especially liked the way they handled both the external and internal struggle of a young gay man in 1985. Very understated and underrated. The Carrie Diaries chose sweet and sincere over overt sex and superficiality. Its cancellation calls into question our viewing interests as a society, especially the young adult target demographic.

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Star-Crossed

 

Star-Crossed

The promos for Star-Crossed were terrible, mostly made up of a series of shots of the leads, an alien boy and a human girl, gazing at each other longingly amongst bright lights, explosions and dramatically delivered voiceovers. Terrible, right? Well, I gave it a shot and another and another. Ultimately, the show fell flat for me and I stopped watching mid-season, but I’m a sucker for elaborate world-building and I loved the supporting cast and their storylines, which is necessary on a show that initially tried to force feed the audience a trite love story that quickly became an uninspired love triangle.

I like sci-fi, probably not enough to impress the hardcore fans of the genre, but I enjoy how far it reaches beyond reality, beyond anything my imagination could construct. I love sci-fi’s ability to take us to unimaginable places while still reflecting on the world today and facilitating important conversations. I’m not saying all science fiction or fiction in general has a responsibility to tackle social issues. I’m just saying I like aliens and monsters and space ships and a little depth is just another reason to fall deeper into obsession.

There was one particular moment in an early episode of Star-Crossed where Roman, the alien boy, thanked Lukas, an African American teen and Julia, a girl of ambiguous ethnicity (the actress is a mix of Chinese, Caucasian and Cherokee) for helping him.

“We minorities have to stick together,” Lukas replied.

To which, Roman asked, “You guys are minorities?”

“Before you got here.”

It was a short and sweet moment, but it spoke volumes to me. Racial tension and intolerance was a running theme throughout the show, which goes to show Star-Crossed tried to do interesting things, but there wasn’t enough of the right things to keep me interested.

 

Community

 

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Oh Community. I’m not sure if it’s hit me yet.

When my friend first told me to watch this show about community college I admit I was skeptical. I was not sold on the concept alone. Then I sat and watched it and quickly fell in love with the perfect cast of misfits and the quick, witty way they spoke to each other and the schemes they failed to pull off and, oh man, the pop culture references. Community did things other half-hour comedies wouldn’t even consider in the writers room. Community pushed the bounds of innovation and creativity, twisted conventions and changed the way the world saw sitcoms.

There are so many perfect episodes filled with perfect moments that it’d be easier for you to watch the show and see for yourself than have me list them for you. My absolute favorite episode is “Remedial Chaos Theory.” In the episode, Troy and Abed host a housewarming party where seven alternate timelines pan out over the course of the evening. Seven different timelines! Most shows have difficulty handling one. I can’t even begin to explain the genius of this episode. It is also the episode that gave us this:


I’m going to miss Britta. She’s always been my favorite, partly because I relate to her in a sort of sad, pathetic way (“As a psychologist…”) and also because Gillian Jacobs is hilarious.

I watch a lot of television and movies, but I seldom say I’m a fan. Well, I am a Community fan for life. I own every season on DVD (except season 4 and we all know why). I stopped watching as consecutively around the time Donald Glover departed, but I never lost hope that they would have their six seasons and a movie. Apparently not. Even though the show has met its end, these characters will always be among some of my favorites of all time. Abed and his emotional unavailability and film nerdiness. Troy and his impeccable comedic timing. Abed and Troy’s friendship. Shirley and her sass. Annie and her neurosis. Jeff and his insincerity that’s actually pretty sincere underneath and his inability to escape the goofballs who, despite his flaws, love him.

So well-casted. So well-written. So sad to see it go.

UPDATE: Community has been acquired by Yahoo and will be having another season! Yes!

 

Although I’m pretty disappointed to see these shows go, I’m sure the actors will find homes on other shows and find success on our screens. There’s also a lot of shows that have been renewed (Parenthood! Parenthood! Parenthood!) and deservingly so. We, TV fans, have learned over the years, being in this world is all about appreciating what we’ve got when it’s right in front of us, accepting change, and mercilessly re-watching our favorite scenes elsewhere.

 

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