Sunday, January 4, 2015

Blast from the Past: TV Shows, Gone Too Soon

Okay, back to blogging after an extended holiday break. Seemingly, the world kind of stopped there for a couple of weeks, didn't it? Or did we kind of just not pay much attention? Either way, we're still here, and mostly things are the same. Though I'm sure the new GOP-heavy Congress will give me plenty to blog about, even with my upcoming cross-country move.

In the meantime, one of the few Christmas gifts we indulged in this year (with our self-imposed hard candy Christmas) was season two of Better Off Ted, one of the funniest sitcoms to air in recent or even distant memory. It lasted a bare 26 episodes, and barely made a pop culture blip. But it was brilliantly funny, and much-loved by the small, core group of people who managed to discover it. Reading quotes from some episodes can make me laugh until I cry.

So, that show has prompted this edition of Blast from the Past. The topic is any program I can think of that was cancelled too abruptly, whether that means before it had finished a complete season, or if it made it a couple of years, but was unceremoniously yanked long before its time. In some cases, these will be theme song clips, in others (such as with Better Off Ted which had little in the way of an intro) either compilations, trailers, or other relevant pieces. Let's go!

1. Better Off Ted (2009-2010) - The fist, very off-color clip here isn't a blooper reel. It's an alternate set of scenes to a real episode, in which a memo glitch demands that employees of "Veridian Dynamics" must now insult each other. The broadcast version was tamer, but still one of the funniest episodes of episodic television I can recall.

2. Firefly (2002) - No list of this sort would be complete without this Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Marvel's The Avengers) sci-fi gem. Given only a short half-season (and eventual movie spin-off), it never had a chance to become something great, so it's fortunate it was already so good.

3. Dollhouse (2009-2010) - Another show, like Better Off Ted that squeaked out two short seasong (and somehow managed the same number of episodes during the same set of seasons), and another short-lived Whedon show, Dollhouse was a personal favorite. It was morally muddy, occasionally humorous, often disturbing, and got better and better as it went. But it was so deep in its own (eventually hyper-accelerated) mythology, it may have been inaccessible to anyone but its most ardent fans. I was one. I was also happy to see a shout-out ("Did I fall asleep?" "For a little while.") on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., also a Whedon show.

4. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008-2009) - The Terminator series was nothing short of fantastic in its first two films. The third was a major disappointment. But this series, set in an alternate timeline that picked up after Terminator 2: Judgment Day, followed the storyline that worked, and managed to do it on a weekly basis on a TV budget. It started with a bang, had a couple of lulls, and then came out blazing, with some truly great individual episodes and loads of promise. That FOX could manage to fumble a product with so much cachet when it was actually also quite good, remains a mystery.

5. Police Squad! (1982) - The Zucker-Abrahms-Zucker Airplane!-style humor evidenced in this very short-lived Leslie Nielsen-led sitcom, wasn't for everyone. It is quite incorrectly regarded as "stupid" humor, when in reality, many of the jokes would be missed by actually stupid people. It was an outlandish spoof of the very staid police procedurals of the 50s, 60s and 70s, and did so brilliantly. Fortunately, the brilliance was recognized, and the show was eventually spun off into a series of movies (with the third blatantly stealing many of the gags from the actual TV show).

6. Arrested Development (2003-2006, 2013) I almost didn't include this one, since it got a revival on Netflix in 2013. But it is an excellent case of a show "too good for TV," or at least for a broadcast network. It also joins Better Off Ted in this list with a "brilliant but cancelled" series that stars Portia De Rossi.

And that will do it for this week, kids. It's back to work for me, at least for the next few weeks. As my departure time approaches, things on the blog are going to start to get weird. Well, weirder. But I'll be here, remarking on as much of it as I can. Meanwhile, Happy Monday!


  1. I would have included Hidden Hills. It was an excellently funny sitcom in 2002. Find it if you can, I loved that show.

  2. That's not one I've heard of. I'd have included several more, but this one was more research intensive than most posts, so I stopped when I felt "done." I may do a sequel.

  3. I truly agree with you on Police Squad.
    Another would the cartoon series, "The Critic" starring Jon Lovitz. It's a hilarious.


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