Monday, May 27, 2013

Blast from the Past: Brilliant, But Cancelled

Well, when I decide to take a blogging break, I can really get into it. Especially when something monumental, like the release of 15 long-awaited Arrested Development episodes come out on the same day. In one of the rarest moves in episodic TV history, seven years after the too-early cancellation of the beloved show, Netflix produced a season four, and made a lot of people very happy. Getting a cast as talented--and busy--cast together to do was a remarkable accomplishment on its own.

Anyway, because of this big event, I didn't write my Blast from the Past column this weekend. So, I'm rerunning one that featured the show, from last year. Maybe it will inspire you to check Arrested Development out, if you're still not sure what all the fuss is about!


I don't know if the term "brilliant, but cancelled" is copyrighted. . .I hope not. I mean, it's just a concept. But then, I've used Blast from the Past for six years, so I guess if I'm gonna get in trouble, I'm already screwed! Anyway, this being a Labor Day weekend, I'm a little behind in my blogging chores. But I didn't want the week to start without a new edition, since I've already skipped one recently.

So, I got to thinking that I needed to do something different this week, not music related, not current events. Then, today I re-watched a couple of episodes of Better Off Ted, the badly named but wonderful sitcom from a couple of years ago. It got me to thinking of my favorite shows that got cancelled far too soon. Keep in mind that these are my personal favorites, and that it is a partial list. Hey, it's labor day, why should I over do it? Heh. It does strike me that all of these shows managed more episodes than some classic British programs, even those considered to be very successful.

1. Better Off Ted (2009-2010, 26 episodes) - BOT had a marvelous cast, a manic, off-kilter style and originality off the charts. It took place in the corporate offices of "Veridian Dynamics," a behemoth of a company with sketchy morals. It involved mid-level executives, product testers and nerdy science researchers. The stars--including Jay Harrington as Ted, Andrea Anders as Linda, and especially Portia de Rossi as Veronica, Jonathan Slavin as Phil and Malcolm Barrett as Lem--formed a dream cast that could only be rivaled by the next show in this list. I can't say enough good things about this show, or how likely the chances that viewing it will lift your mood.

2. Arrested Development (2003-2006, 53 episodes)
- AD did get a two-and-a-half-year run, so it lasted longer than most "brilliant but cancelled" shows. But it was the kind of show that just felt far too good to be treated so badly by its network (FOX TV). Its fan base is rabid, so it has managed a sort of rebirth, with new episodes and a movie on the horizon. Which is astonishing when you consider the heft of the cast: Jason Bateman, Jessica Walter, Michael Cera, David Cross, Jeffrey Tambor, Will Arnett, Tony Hale and. . .oh, looky there, Portia de Rossi. TWO brilliant shows, both cancelled too soon. It's a crime, I tells ya. Anyway, if you never caught the Arrested bug, by all means do so now. You'll increase your pop culture knowledge, and have a helluva time doing it!

3. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008-2009, 31 Episodes)
- I wrote about this one a lot when it was on the air. I was a huge fan of the first two Terminator movies, but not so much on the follow-ups. This show took care of that by starting an alternate timeline right after T2. Lena Headey made a great Sarah, Summer Glau a terrific Terminator chick, Shirley Manson was the icy liquid Terminator, and Garret Dillahunt fantastic as Chromartie/John Henry, the captured, reprogrammed Terminator. The show is probably derided by Terminator "purists" (though there are  probably more splinter groups in this franchise's fandom than I could ever sort out), but think of it this way: the running time of this series amounts to about a dozen movies, in 31 chapters; far more than the movie series can offer. And though the series ends on a cliffhanger, it also resolves most of the story threads, and merely offers a new tangent to potentially be explored.

4. Dollhouse (2009-2010, 27 episodes) - I could easily put Firefly in this brilliant but cancelled group, but that one has been done to death. Dollhouse, also by Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Marvel's The Avengers) actually got a little longer life than Firefly did, but still only eked out two half seasons. Still, since they had a good inkling that they'd get no more rope, they fashioned a complete narrative for the series, ending it with a (literal) bang. The show dealt with moral ambiguity, offering programmable "dolls"--actual people with their real minds stored on hard drives, and new identities installed--out to paying customers. The logical extension of this sort of technology getting into the wrong hands plays out pretty much how you think it would. If you read a lot of dystopian future fiction! Anyway, I adore Eliza Dushku, so will mourn this one for a while.

And that's it for this week kiddies. This theme will probably be sequelled eventually. They're always cancelling shows I like, in fact I think it's something of a curse. So, stay tuned for that. And this time when I say "Happy Monday," you can actually have one, because it's a holiday! So, Happy Monday!

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