Ahh, TV, such an ephemeral beast. Shows seem to appear and disappear based on whimsical executives who care more about ratings than creativity, and even the most critically acclaimed series always seem to get zapped before their times. Here are seven shows that really shouldn’t have been canceled; you should go buy them on DVD and watch them right now.
Photo credit: YouTube/Fox
Count me among the people that didn’t love Firefly. Joss Whedon’s hybrid sci-fi-western had a ton of good things going for it, but the show suffered from some serious problems, including rampant cliches and bouts of sub-par acting. So why shouldn’t it have been canceled? Because it had enormous potential—its characters were fascinating, its universe was expansive and interesting, and its first season left audiences craving more. Unfortunately, Fox has a tendency to kill off shows before they can really hit their peak, and Firefly fell victim to the cancel-hammer, which was a real shame. Eventually, solid DVD sales allowed Whedon to make Serenity, a continuation of Firefly that turned out to be a great movie. So the lesson here is—buy your favorite shows on DVD, especially if they’re canceled!
6 Kid Nation
If you like watching child abuse and neglect, Kid Nation is the show for you. Throwing forty children aged 8-15 into a single old western-style village and forcing them to create their own society, this show was one of the best things to ever come out of the age of reality TV. The kids had to kill chickens, design their own form of government, build water pipelines, and figure out how to live together without any adult supervision. Like Lord of the Flies, Kid Nation gave us an adorable vision of democracy in action. Too bad it was never given a second season—I wanted to see if the kids would try to eat one another.
Sometimes I wonder if TV producers are all deranged psychopaths who just love setting up mysteries and never resolving them. It happened with Lost and then it happened again with ABC’s newest show, FlashForward, ironically designed as a Lost replacement. Canceled before it could satisfyingly answer any of the myriad questions it presented, FlashForward is forever destined to remain in TV limbo, and we’ll never even find out if the main character lived or died. Thanks a lot, ABC.
4 That’s My Bush!
This sitcom, brilliantly crafted by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, portrayed President George W. Bush and his life in the White House. But unlike other hackneyed attempts at Bush humor, That’s My Bush! didn’t attack the former president; it satirized TV tropes themselves. Intertwining classic sitcom situations with topical political issues like abortion and oil drilling, the show even had its own catchphrases and goofy takes on cliché characters, like the snarky White House housekeeper who always knew exactly what to say. The show cost too much for Comedy Central to reasonably produce, so That’s My Bush! went down the drain after eight episodes, but it will forever live on in the pantheon of excellent sitcoms.
3 Party Down
When people hear the name “Rob Thomas,” most think of that hacky crooner from Matchbox 20 who sings like he’s constipated. But they should be thinking of television showrunner Rob Thomas, the genius who created Party Down as well as the #1 show on this list. Party Down, a hilarious glimpse into the lives of wannabe actors and writers who work at a catering company, enjoyed brilliant writing and one of the best collections of cast to ever appear on TV. Unfortunately, Party Down always felt like it was destined for cancellation—it aired on Friday nights, its cast members kept moving on to bigger TV projects, and it never accumulated the ratings it should have despite constant buzz. It was canceled a few months ago, but who knows; with enough DVD sales, maybe we can get the Party Down movie we all want to see.
Many shows are canceled before they should be, but how often does a show get canceled just as its hitting its best season? Angel’s fifth and final season also happened to be its strongest, drawing upon the series’ most powerful elements to tell consistently compelling stories within law firm Wolfram & Hart. Unlike previous seasons, which pitted Angel and his team against a multitude of external antagonists, season five was all about the characters’ inner demons. Then, like many of Whedon’s endeavors, Angel was suddenly canceled. At least it ended with a bang, as Angel and crew are shown in the midst of a catastrophic fight, eternally battling to save Los Angeles. Let’s go to work.
1 Veronica Mars
Yes, it aired on WB and the CW. Yes, it had a spunky teenage female protagonist who solved mysteries. Yes, its cast members looked like rejected extras from the O.C. However, under all of its preppy trappings, Veronica Mars was one of the best television series of all time. Featuring brilliant writing that meticulously balanced comedy and drama, carefully structured mystery arcs that always managed to surprise, and one of the most poignant and realistic father-daughter relationships ever portrayed on screen, V-Mars never failed to impress. It was dark, hilarious, and clever; TV classes should be forced to use Veronica Mars as a textbook example of how to properly write a mystery. It’s a shame that it never found its audience and was subjected to network executives’ unnecessary middling. Do yourself a favor and buy this show on DVD—it’ll be the best purchase you ever make. Plus, Kristen Bell is just… wow.
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