Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday's Top Five - TV Shows that were Cancelled Too Soon

5) My Name Is Earl

It still boggles my mind. This show was at the top of its game, airing immediately before The Office during NBC’s Thursday night must-see-TV line up.... and then all of a sudden it was gone without warning. Cancelled. Caput.

Earl was one of those shows that had me from the start. The quirky characters, the witty banter, and the small-town antics had me riveted from the pilot episode. Plus, its premise was such that it could theoretically go on forever: A low-life petty thief buys a winning lotto ticket and is immediately hit by an oncoming vehicle. Taking it as a sign that karma was out to get him, he makes a list of all the bad things he’s ever done, and he vows to make good by all those people he’s wronged. Hilarity ensues.

The beauty of it is that his list could be never ending, because obviously he’s still adding to it as he crosses other things off. And yet, we never got to see Earl come close to completing his list, because the show was cancelled in its prime.

The only solace I have in this is that the actors from this show now regularly show up on the more recent NBC hit, Raising Hope. My husband and I have caught a handful of episodes over the last couple years, and it’s a true gem.

(How could it not be, given that it essentially follows a similar template and utilizes the same actors as My Name Is Earl? Ahem. Just sayin’.)

4) The X-Files

I know all four of my readers are out there going, “WTF” given that the vast majority of fans (or X-philes, as they often referred to themselves), thought this show jumped the shark long before it actually ended.

I, however, felt Robert Patrick (as FBI Special Agent John Doggett) brought new life to the series and, frankly, I would have preferred it if his character had gotten together with Agent Dana Scully (played by Gillian Anderson) instead.

Sure, in the early years I wanted nothing more than a Mulder/Scully romance. But then when Doggett came along I loved that he added that extra dynamic.

(Umm, hello? His character was a FORMER US MARINE! I think we can all agree that Scully was wound a little too tightly and could have used some ground interference from the tattooed Marine. Ahem.)

The writers totally could have played up the male competition for Scully’s affection between Mulder and Doggett.... but they didn’t.  Instead they just let the love triangle fizzle out and end.

Total copout and totally anti-climactic if you ask me. The least they could have done in ending The X-Files is offered a John Doggett-themed spinoff instead of The Lone Gunmen spinoff that also ended abruptly.

3) Great American Road Trip

This was a reality series that aired for just one short season during the summer of 2009. It was kind of like The Amazing Race meets MTV’s Road Rules. But with families. In America.

Driving across the lower 49 in RVs along US Route 66, seven families from across the US competed against each other in challenges that took place at famous American landmarks along the way.

It was a simple concept, and it appealed to me because A) I love a good road trip, and B) I’ve been to many of the places they stopped, and it was very cool for me to relive the experience again through these families. (Though my husband surely tired of my constant commentary of, “Hey, I’ve been there! And I’ve been there, too!”)

Sure, there was the added drama of having “The Bitchy Mom” from one family compete against “The Clueless Dad” from another family, and of course we had our favourites as well as the families we just wanted gone.

It wasn’t rocket science, and it wasn’t Oscar worthy. But it was fun and entertaining, and I looked forward to tuning in each week during that summer.  Sadly, though, it never caught on in terms of ratings, so it’s a credit to NBC for even airing all eight episodes before pulling the plug.

2) American Dreams

Oh, JJ’s dad, how Danielle and I loved you.

Ahem, where was I? Oh yes, American Dreams.

This show had it all: a nice Catholic family living in Philly with the perfect mom-in-pearls and the hunky, hard-ass, blue collar dad. Think Leave it to Beaver meets Father Knows Best meets American Bandstand.

Oh, hey, did I mention it was set to a rockin’ ‘60s soundtrack?

I loved this show for the way it brought us back to a simpler time when moms stayed at home and wore heals to vacuum. Dad’s drove the family’s single vehicle to-and-from work each day and expected a perfect dinner greeting them at day’s end. A time when no teenage girls wore skirts above their knees and playing high school football was the older brother’s rite of passing.

Toss in some racial tension and the inevitable Vietnam War, and this show was essentially a history lesson for the clueless spoiled unaware youth of today. (Dang, when did I get so old??)

There’s so much I could say about this short-lived series, but my articulation will in no way do it justice.

Just watch the video below instead. I guarantee it will leave you yearning for a simpler time... or at least the ability to relive this series on DVD.

1) The Unit

Based on my preference for Robert Patrick (over David Duchovny, AKA Mulder, as described above in point #4), it will in no way surprise you to know that I first began watching The Unit because of him.

Not only has he played a former Marine and an FBI agent (The X-Files), but The Unit brought us Col. Tom Ryan, the hard assed commander of an elite group of US Army Special Forces. (Think: SEAL Team Six in terms of unconventional warfare, except in Hollywood.)

(WARNING: Mini rant up ahead.....)

The frustrating part for me was that, outside of my own household, I personally know of only ONE OTHER PERSON in all of North America who actually watched this show with any regularity.

And for that I blame one thing: the fact that it got bounced around from one time slot to another and made appearances on varying nights of the week.

In other words, I never knew when or where it would be on, so I constantly had to do my research each week for fear of missing an episode.

Now, if I was merely a fair-weather fan of this show, I wouldn’t have bothered to consistently seek it out – and I think that’s what happened with most people, and so the show never got the viewers or ratings it deserved.

Curse you, CBS, for not committing to this quality program!

(Okay, the warning has been lifted. For now.)

So, back to the show itself: It only aired for four seasons, but it truly improved with each coming episode. It made me laugh, cry, shudder in disbelief – but mostly I was just amazed at how cleverly written it could be. I became so emotionally involved in this series that, at the end of each episode, I secretly wanted to enlist in the military and be a super-cool sniper or something.

(And, yes, my husband heavily mocked me for this and proceeded to state his opinion as to why a woman could never be a sniper unless she stopped menstruating. Or something like that. I don’t know-- I must have stopped listening after the part where he looked at me incredulously and just said, “Sniper? Really? You? Have you ever even held a rifle before?” Ahem. You can see why I stopped listening.)

Like a couple of the other shows listed above, this series ended without rapping up any of its storylines, which is completely irksome. The season four finale was a cliff hanger that aired in the spring of 2009, and I desperately waited for it to return that fall, but nada.

Unless CBS manages to reassemble this talented cast for a one-time made-for-TV movie in an effort to tie up loose ends, I’ll never know if Molly went back to Jonas. Or if Tiffy and Mack stayed loyal to each other long enough to save their marriage.  (Oh, the drama!)

The only thing for which I can take some solace in is that we own all four seasons on DVD and can relive them in all their glory again and again.... up to the point where that final cliff hanger does exactly that -- leaves us hanging.


Okay, peeps, you know the drill: Leave me some comments and then head over to Divulge With Dani and Juice with Junior to read and comment on their Top five list as well!


  1. Oh American Dreams, I remember getting together weekly to watch the new episodes. Such an awesome show cut before it was given a chance.

    I loved The Unit, and then as you mentioned I lost it with all the time changes. Mmmmm Scott Foley.

    My love for The X-files lasted until the very final episode. I do agree that there was so much they could have done once Mulder left. I loved the episodes with Nicholas Lea

  2. I thought I had calmed down after the anger of my post, only to mosey here and get mad all over again. Please remind me why American Dreams lasted 3 seasons, but Jersey Shore and the Kardashian show went on/is still going on for what seems like forever?

    I agree about Robert Patrick adding a new dimension to X-files. And you know I agree about The Great American Road Race. It was on my shortlist.

  3. I totally agree about "My Name Is Earl." I thought it was doing well, Jamie Pressly just won an Emmy, and BOOM canceled for pretty much no reason. I do have to add that while I was a fair-weather friend of both, I too watched "American Dreams" and "The Unit" (my mom was a regular viewer of The Unit so it wasn't just you (I watched it too after I stopped laughing that the show was called "The Unit")) and thought they still had steam left, especially since NCIS: LA is still somehow a show. Great list!

  4. Ren: Yes! I loved those get-togethers! Being among friends and simply watching the intro to American Dreams alone left me all warm and fuzzy.

    And regarding The Unit, you are now the SECOND person I know in North America who watched that show. (Whooda thunk??) And having Scott Foley on there was a total bonus. (I loved him on Felicity, but I also loved the character he played on The Unit, even though Noel Crane was so vastly different from Bob Brown.)

    Lastly, I too loved X-Files right to the bitter end.... and you're right, they definitely could have done more with the Krycek character as well. (Sigh... Nicholas Lea... just a nice, quiet Canadian boy.)

    Dang, we should have been writers for these shows....

  5. Dani: I know, right? Just when I think I'm okay, I get all fired up and full of rage once again. It saddens me to think that people on shows like Jersey Shore are the standard for what's considered a role model to teens today.

    So. Very. Scary.

  6. Junior: You're so right about Earl. I still don't even fully understand why it was cancelled, since I don't think it was hurting in terms of ratings.

    And about The Unit, you are your mom are now the third and fourth people I know of who tuned in to that show. (Yay for moms!)

    Oh, and you're so right about the title. I admit it sometimes makes me giggle a little, too. Regardless, I still would have watched that show even if it had been called The Baton or Beefy McManstick or something like that. (Wait -- I bet A LOT more people would have tuned in if that was the case. Doh.)

    Okay, umm, what was I talking about again....?