Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #54: Short-lived TV Series



Thirteen of my favorite short-lived TV series

If you are like me, you have probably developed attachments to new series only to see the networks yank them off the air prematurely. It really gets frustrating when a promising show gets bounced early on while less deserving series are allowed to litter the airwaves for season after season. Below (in alphabetical order) are 13 of my favorite series that were dropped after only a short time on the air.

Please note that this is the Thursday Thirteen, so a line had to be drawn somewhere. Having said that, what are some of your favorite short-lived TV series?

1. Best of the West- This western spoof ran on ABC from 1981-1982 and starred Joel Higgins (right) as town marshall Sam Best and Leonard Frey (left) as villainous town boss Parker Tillman. A line from the show that still cracks me up is when Sam's wife Elvira is sweeping the floor with a broom and sighs, "I just can't seem to get the dirt off this floor" to which Sam replies, "It's a dirt floor".















2. City of Angels- This Steven Bochco hospital drama aired on CBS from January 2000 to December 2000 and featured an ensemble cast headed by Blair Underwood and Vivica A. Fox. CBS effectively killed this show when they ran it opposite Who Wants To Be A Millionaire (then the hottest show on TV) in the fall of 2000.











3. Eerie, Indiana- Sort of a cross between The Wonder Years and The Twilight Zone, this comedy-drama ran on NBC from 1991-1992. It focused on 13-yr old Marshall Teller (Omri Katz) and his younger pal Simon as they learned that things weren't always as they seemed. A Donna Reed-like woman who sealed her twins in vacuum-wear every night to keep them young and having Elvis Presley for a neighbor were just a couple of the strange things that Marshall and Simon encountered in their town.
















4. Ellery Queen- This lighthearted 40s set mystery series ran on NBC from 1975-1976 and starred Jim Hutton as the title character (a mystery writer/amateur sleuth) and David Wayne as his inspector dad. Very much a precursor to Murder She Wrote, one of my favorite elements of Ellery Queen was that it allowed the viewer the opportunity to figure out whodunit.
















5. Eyes- Starring Tim Daly as the slick head of a risk management firm and Garcelle Beauvais as one of his assistants, this high tech drama ran for only 5 episodes on ABC in the spring of 2005. Leading up to its premiere, ABC promoted the hell out of this series. When it debuted to less than stellar ratings, the network quickly washed their hands of it.















6. The Five Mrs. Buchanans- Airing on CBS from 1994-1995, this hilarious comedy focused on 4 disparate sisters-in-law who shared one commonality: their hatred for their malicious mother-in-law (played by the great Eileen Heckart).












7. Freaks and Geeks- Set in suburban Detroit in 1980, this comedy-drama was one of the best series about high school life. Although it only ran on NBC from 1999-2000, many members of its cast have gone on to great success in both the movies and TV. These include Linda Cardellini (ER), Seth Rogen and James Franco (Pineapple Express), and Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother).












8. It's All Relative- Airing on ABC from 2003-2004, this sitcom focused on a young man from a blue collar family who dates the adoptive daughter of a gay couple.














9. My So-Called Life- ABC really blew it when they let this series starring Claire Danes and Jared Leto slip through the cracks after only one season (1994-1995). Even though only 19 episodes were produced, the fact that MSCL still occasionally airs in reruns is a testament to its status as one of the best portraits of teen life to ever air on TV.












10. Police Squad- Running for only 6 episodes on ABC in the spring of 1982, this cop spoof introduced the world to Lt. Frank Drebin (played to perfection by Leslie Nielsen). One of the silliest things I've ever heard is ABC's reason for giving this show the ax. They felt that it was demanding on the viewers because it required them to pay attention! To me, that's one thing that made this show so much fun. Props to the creators of this show for persevering. Although the series was a failure, Lt. Drebin jumped to the big screen for the highly successful Naked Gun trilogy.














11. The Richard Pryor Show- The legendary comic brought his brand of edgy humor to TV for this comedy/variety series that ran on NBC for just over a month in the fall of 1977. Airing against the hottest shows on TV at the time (Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley), it didn't stand a chance.













12. South Central- If you ask anyone who saw this comedy-drama (which ran on FOX during the spring and summer of 1994), they will most likely tell you that it was one of TV's most realistic portrayals of inner city life. Featuring a cast that included future stars Larenz Tate and Jennifer Lopez, there is very little information online about South Central. As a matter of fact, I couldn't even find a cast photo and had to settle for a headshot of actress Tina Lifford (who starred in the series as a single black mother).















13. Wonderfalls- Focusing on a recent Brown University grad named Jaye who works as a clerk at a Niagara Falls gift shop, this comedy-drama aired on FOX in 2004. In each episode, Jaye hears the voices of inanimate objects (a wax lion, a brass monkey, a wind-up penguin toy, etc.) --which instruct her to help out total strangers. Of course, no one else can hear them. Sort of an acid-drenched version of Touched by An Angel, I read that the show was originally titled Touched by A Crazy Person. Also appearing on Wonderfalls as Jaye's brother Aaron is Lee Pace (who currently stars in the ABC fantasy Pushing Daisies).













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41 comments:

Lori said...

Umm, this is my kind of list, Malcolm. Seems like whatever the hubby and I take a fancy to on tv, gets bumped. The most recent one I enjoyed that got the ax was WOMEN'S MURDER CLUB.

The two on your list that I also enjoyed were SOUTH CENTRAL and MY SO CALLED LIFE.

SandyCarlson said...

What a list. I liked some of these. Don't know if it was short-lived, but I sure did like Nanny and the Professor!

pjazzypar said...

You definitely have some gems here. You already know I was a huge fan of Ellery Queen, South Central and City of Hope. The Five Mrs. Buchanans was just plain hilarious. Love the list.

Jessica said...

Cool choice! Most I didn't see...more to add to my list!
I loved My So-Called Life...I watched it religiously. :)
Recently, I was upset about Journey Man being canceled.

DrillerAA said...

Very good list.
I liked Ellery Queen and Freaks and Geeks.
I have NEVER liked Leslie Neilsen's spoofs of anything.

Have a great T13.

Nicholas said...

At least 3 of those made it to England. I loved Eerie, Indiana and it was very well received by the critics there. The 5 Mrs Buchanans had a tendency to get mawkish and sentimental without the saving grace of being funny so I didn't watch too many. Did they only do six Police Squads? Then I must have seen them all. Brilliant show! I remember that each episode ended with a wisecrack and a freeze frame -- except that it wasn't really a freeze frame, because one character on screen always kept moving.

Julia said...

For me I really loved "The Cashmere Mafia", but they just had 7 episodes before they were gone. And I still think that this series could have been an adequate succesor for Sex in the City!

Happy TT, greets Julia

Open Grove Claudia said...

Did you ever see "Firefly"? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firefly_(TV_series) It's really good - I thought I would hate it because I'm not quite... spacey? you know? But it's great!

Happy TT, Malcolm

Michelle said...

Great list though I only remember a few. There was a show (Can't remember the name) with Heath Ledger that I really loved and of course the network yanked it off the air. I was bummed. Thanks for stopping by my place and Happy TT to you.

Meju said...

I loved Ellery Queen, sadly I did not know the others.

aliceaudrey said...

I liked Police Squad, but not enough to watch it regularly.

The Gal Herself said...

Loved your blurb about My So Called Life. It got/gets so much press that it's hard to believe there were only 19 episodes.

nonersays said...

Earth 2, The Tick, and Wolf Creek are all series I would have loved to have seen last longer.

bernieg1 said...

Yeah this was a good list. My So Called Life was a favorite, but I guess these short lived shows just goes to prove some people just do not have good taste or do not know what they are missing.

My TT is up here.

Pop Art Diva! said...

I loved Freaks and Geeks, Earie, Indiana and Ellery Queen so much.

How about Joan of Arcadia and Dead Like Me?

My Thursday Thirteen: 13 Phrases from television that have become part of Pop Culture.

SJ Reidhead said...

I think I remember Best of the West.

Great list.

SJR
The Pink Flamingo
http://thepinkflamingo.blogharbor.com/blog/_archives/2008/8/20/3847981.html

pussreboots said...

Ellery Queen -- I watched that as a kid. But I'd completely forgotten that the show was my introduction to the books. I'm currently (when I have the time) reading through the old mysteries. I'm working through "The Dutch Shoe Mystery." Happy TT.

Alice said...

I can't say I remember any of these. However, I do know what you mean. There have been some great shows that didn't last long.

Alice at I Was Born2Cree8
Or My 24th Thursday 13

Firefly mom said...

Well, you left off Firefly (horrors!), but you did include Wonderfalls, so it's not all bad ;D Dead Like Me was another that I loved. It lasted 2 years, but it wasn't nearly long enough.

Danielle said...

Wow! I have only heard of two of these shows. I vaguely remember the one with Claire Danes.

Wishing you and yours health, balance and joy.

In Light and Love

Danielle

Modern Musings' 13 Favorite Love Songs

Malcolm said...

Lori: I heard that "Women's Murder Club" was good. I wish I had got around to sampling it at least once. Because it generally got good reviews and the ratings weren't horrible, I'm a bit surprised that ABC didn't bring it back for a 2nd season.

Sandy Carlson: Since the term "short-lived" is open to interpretation, "Nanny and the Professor" counts. I used to watch that show all the time when I was a kid. If you are interested in taking a trip down memory lane, you can watch episodes of "Nanny and the Professor" at www.hulu.com.

Pjazzy: I think we talked about our mutual love for "The Five Mrs. Buchanans". If it ever hits DVD, I'm there. Same goes for "Ellery Queen" and "South Central".

Jessica: Your comment about watching MSCL religiously reminded me of the Christmas episode where Angela encountered an angel (played by alternative rocker Juliana Hatfield). At least I think she was an angel... she may have turned out to be just a homeless person now that I think about it. Thanks for stopping by.

Drilleraa: I don't think there's much middle ground to the "Airplane" style of humor that has become Leslie Nielsen's trademark.

Nicholas: Yes, only 6 episodes of "Police Squad" were produced. I picked up the complete series on DVD a couple of holiday seasons ago. While wrapping presents one day, I watched the entire series. Because I hate wrapping, watching Police Squad made it bearable. One of my favorite "fake freeze frame" was when one of the characters was pouring coffee and it wound up all over the floor.

Julia: I used to get "Cashmere Mafie" and "Lipstick Jungle" mixed up. I finally have it straight now because I saw a promo for "Lipstick Jungle" that aired during the Olympics.

Open Grove Claudia: I've never seen "Firefly", but I've heard that it was good. I see that episodes are available to watch online so I'll try to check it out soon.

Michelle: Although I answered you directly via email, I wanted to reply here also in case someone else wants to know the short-lived series starring Heath Ledger. It was called "Roar" and aired on FOX in 1997.

Meju: I have fond memories of watching "Ellery Queen" with my mother and sister when it aired Sunday nights on NBC.

Alice: ABC cancelled "Police Squad" before any of us had a chance to really watch it regularly. :-) I caught it for the first time when A&E aired reruns in the late 80s.

The Gal Herself: Thanks! MSCL is kinda like "The Classic 39" episodes of "The Honeymooners" in that people would be surprised to find out that so few episodes were made.

Nonersays: Thanks for sharing your list of fave short-lived series. Although I've heard of them, the three you listed got yanked so fast that I didn't get the chance to see them when they orig. aired.

Bernieg1: It makes me wonder how some of these brilliant series don't make the cut. Thanks to the Internet and DVD, at least we have the opportunity to see some of them.

Pop Art Diva: Sure, the two you listed can qualify. "Dead Like Me" is a show I discovered when the Sci-Fi channel did a marathon a couple of years ago. I liked it so much that I've been meaning to get the DVDs. You may be interested to learn that there are plans to make a direct to DVD movie sequel to "Dead Like Me"... it's supposed to come out some time in 2009.

SJ: I was hoping someone would remember Best of the West. Thanks for visiting.

Pussreboots: Maybe I'll give some of the EQ books a try. After all, I do love a good mystery.

Alice: If you ever get the chance to check out some of these (online, via the library, etc.), you should give them a try.

Firefly: Since I've never seen "Firefly", it didn't make this T13. As I mentioned to a previous commenter, I will make an effort to watch some episodes (I found that it's available to view on www.hulu.com). Thanks for stopping by and contributing.

Danielle: Because these series were gone in a flash, it is hard to remember them. Thanks for visiting.

Lori Dillon said...

Oh, I remember some of these. Might be nice if then brought some of them back to replace the plethora of reality TV shows on now.

Bryan said...

oooooooo now this is a topic i could really get into ...

I actually liked best of the west and police squad and my so called life.

A few other that I wish lasted longer were the White Shadow & Welcome Back Kotter (with Gabe Kaplan, not that mess after he left)

Some recent ones I liked were The Nine & Dresden Files.

I really wanted to fit Cop Rock into my response but couldn't find a way. Damn!

marcia@joyismygoal said...

#9 was the only one I watched and I agree w/ you it was a very good one

Kristi said...

How Funny...the only one I remember is My So Called Life.

Janet said...

Recent shows that come to mind:

- Cane (beautiful, lush scenery AND Jimmy Smits, what's not to like? I hear he's going to be on Dexter this fall, woohoo!)

- Breaking Bad: interesting premise, awesomely acted

- Invasion: Again, cool premise, great acting!

WomensDaily said...

I used to love watching My So Called Life. I completely forgot about it until now.

Qtpies7 said...

Great list!
My whole family was livid when they canceled the second season of Invasion! They had it opposite Lost, which is the lamest show, in my opinion.

Bryan said...

oh and Tru Calling with the lovely and talented Elzia Dushku belongs on the list.

Qtpie7, in my opioion, you're clueless, Lost is awesome.

Candy Minx said...

Oh yes, that terrible feeling of a cnacelled show that you've already invested in

One two years ago with Aidan Quinn I forgot title about Jesus visiting a reverand/priest. Parker Lewis Can't Lose, Bosom Buddies, John From Cinccinati, Deadwood,

I know I had a couple ofthers I really enjoyed but can't think of them right now. I loved My So-Called Life and a few others you listed.

~Just Me~ said...

I only remember #7 & #9, I loved freaks and geeks.

Great list!

Happy TT!

emeraldcityguy said...

Wow, these must have been short lived because I don't remember any of them. Happy TT

citizen jane said...

You have two faves of mine on the list -- Ellery Queen and the sadly underrated The Five Mrs. Buchanans. I was in LOVE with Jim Hutton and read the books with him in mind. And anything with Eileen Heckert is divine in my book.

Lori said...

Ooooo, I need to add to the Firefly vote. That was the short lived show that turned me into a Joss Whedon fan girl. I have action figures. I have posters. I even have an ornament of the ship. Pitiful? Maybe. But in my opinion, it's that good. ;-)

My TT is 13 photos of people in costume at GenCon. We just got back from this gaming convention and it was amazing!

JohnH985 said...

I missed Wonderfalls when it first came on, but bought the dvd collection and love that show. I remember Ellery Queen, it was one of my Dad's favorite shows for it's brief life.

Journeywoman said...

I'm with those who think that Firefly should be on here. I also liked The Lone Gunman which was a spinoff of the X files.

X. Dell said...

Ha! Whenever I get to liking something on TV, they yank it off. Ellery Queen was a lot of fun. But The Richard Pryor Show is still talked about, even though it aired a fistful of episodes.

I'm thinking of such other wonderful shows that ran against juggernauts, but were never given a second chance. Our World was a really cool documentary series on ABC that had the misfortune of airing on the same time as Cosby. When Things Were Rotten (Mel Brooks' first Robin Hood Spoof) was a really funny show. But it wasn't given much of a chance either.

TV execs apparently don't have much patience or foresight to allow shows to develop audiences.

TopChamp said...

Was Eerie Indiana like 'Round the Twist'? It was full of really odd things that happened with kids and a Dad. Australian?

bernie said...

I forgot to mention that Star Trek, although it went for more than one season was cut off far too early. As proof, it should be noted that the subsequent movies with the original cast went on for more years than the original series.

And thanks for visiting me.

Malcolm said...

Lori: A few years ago on the Trio Channel, they aired short-lived series under the umbrella title "Brilliant But Cancelled". It would be cool if another channel did something similar to replace some of this reality TV like you said.

Bryan: The White Shadow was appointment TV for me when it ran on CBS from 1978-1981. I heard that The Nine was really good. The thing that sucks about shows like that is when they get the axe so quickly and the writers don't get the chance to wrap up the storyline(s). Oh yeah, Eliza Dushku (of Tru Calling) is fine as hell!!

Marcia: It would be interesting to find out what Angela Chase is up to these days.

Kristi: Thanks for commenting.

Janet: I watched the first couple of episodes of "Cane" and really liked it. I think it was one of those shows that needed time to build... unfortunately, it didn't get that chance.

You may be pleased to know that "Breaking Bad" hasn't been cancelled. It's due to come back for a 2nd season in 2009.

Womens Daily: I'm not surprised that MSCL is getting a lot of love from people commenting on this post.

Qtpies7: Thanks for stopping by with the kind words! "Invasion" actually aired on the same network as "Lost". I'm wondering if you might be referring to "Jericho", which aired on CBS for 2 seasons (the 2nd one was abbreviated).

Candy: Although I didn't watch it, I remember the show you are referring to that starred Aidan Quinn (The Book of Daniel). I really enjoyed "Parker Lewis Can't Lose". Because it's been so long since I've seen it, I can't recall any specific plots. :-(

Just Me and Emerald City Guy: Thanks for visiting.

Citizen Jane: Although I only saw Eileen Heckart in a few things (notably "The Bad Seed"), she was always worth watching.

Lori: I don't think it's pitiful at all. The love that you and others have for "Firefly" is something that most performers would kill for.

Johnh985: I received the DVD set for "Wonderfalls" a couple of birthdays ago. That "Viewmaster" style packaging really caught my eye.

Journeywoman: Since I've never seen "Firefly", it didn't make my list. However, I plan to check out episodes on Hulu.com.

X. Dell: I think you and I might have been the only people who watched "Our World". I never thought about it until now, but I think that show was pretty influential because there have been series on A&E, The History Channel, etc. that have used the same format.

I remember watching "When Things Were Rotten" when it first aired. That's a show I'd love to see again because I know that I didn't get half the jokes back then.

As time goes on, the networks get quicker and quicker with the axe. If network execs back in the day were as hasty in cancelling shows as today's execs, there would be people talking about shows like "The Dick Van Dyke Show", "Cheers", and "Seinfeld" as great ones that weren't given a chance.

Top Champ: I've never heard of Round the Twist until now (I do love the title though). After reading info about the show, it sounds like it was similar to "Eerie, Indiana".

Bernie: Good point about "Star Trek". Although I have never been much of a fan of the series, I did enjoy the "Headliners and Legends" segment about it.

dona said...

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