Some TV shows never seem to get off the air — what season of American Idol are we on? But some others get lost in obscurity, dumped before everyone can realize they were watching a classic. It may be because they never had the right marketing, or they aired at the worst time to gain a following. And in the end, praiseful critics mean nothing if a show doesn’t bring in viewers.
There is good news, though: the Arrested Development movie is moving ahead. The series is the holy grail of canceled TV shows, lasting only three seasons before Fox pulled the plug for lack of viewers (though the entire series is available now on Hulu). But now that Arrested Development is getting a second chance, it’s time to reflect on other shows that were given the axe a few years too early.
Doomed from the start, NBC moved Kings to Sunday night after bad testing. But this show, loosely based on the biblical story of David and Goliath, updated the setting to an alternate version of New York City: as the captial of a nation ruled by a King Silas, played by Ian McShane. The plot follows the soldier David Shepard as he is miraculously spared against a tank to the inner workings of the high court. This drama had the superb acting, intriguing storylines and moving character development that was never noticed by any critics. Kings: the Complete Serieswas released on DVD in 2009.
Da Ali G Show
HBO aired the second season of this British transplant series in 2004. In it, Sacha Baron Cohen introduced the country to his three cartoonized journalists — Ali G from the British ghettos, Borat from Kazakhstan and Bruno from Austria — as they interviewed unsuspecting officials not in on the joke. While the show was canceled (likely due to a blown cover from it’s popularity in Britain), all three characters broke into Hollywood through feature-length films. While some of the movies were great, they lacked the rough quality that each episode had. Da Ali G Show — Da Compleet First Seazon and Da Ali G Show — Da Compleet Second Seazon were released on DVD in 2004 and 2005, respectively.
This MTV cartoon from 2002 never even aired its entire first season in the United States. Clone High is named after the high school where, as explained by the opening credits, clones of famous historical figures live as teenagers. The show centers on Abe Lincoln, Ghandi and Joan of Arc as they go through the motions of high school: voting for class president between Lincoln and JFK, smoking raisins and finding a prom date. The cast may sound familiar as creator Bill Lawrence used many of the same people as actors in his next TV show, Scrubs. Unfortunately, some Indians got wind of Ghandi’s ultimate party attitude and fasted in protest. Although that wasn’t the official reason for cancelation, MTV offered an apology and the show was removed soon thereafter. The 2005 Canadian DVD release of the first and only season contains the episodes unaired in the U.S.
Joss Whedon’s space western, set 500 or so years in the future, followed a crew of nine people on a spaceship together, living on the edge of a galactic society as outcasts. The outcasts were constantly on the run from The Alliance, an expanding galactic government comprised of Western and Asian heritages and was the basis for futuristic slang, meals and ambience of the ship. Only 11 of the 14 produced episodes made it to the air when Fox cut it in 2002. Fortunately, Universal Pictures reunited the crew for a final move, Serenity in 2005. The full series available on Netflix Instant Queue.
Freaks and Geeks
One of Judd Apatow’s first forays into TV had many now-familiar faces. Casting James Franco, Jason Segel, Seth Rogen and Linda Cardellini as high school students trying to stay cool, Apatow gave an honest view into two teenager’s lives during the early 80s –one ‘Freak’ and one ‘Geek.’ Before he explored getting laid in 40 Year Old Virgin, having a child in Knocked Up and dying in Funny People, Apatow used dating, house parties, Dungeons and Dragons and the Grateful Dead to to break down who the freaks and geeks really are of High School. Interspersed with humor and drama, NBC was convinced by an enormous outcry from fans to air the final three episodes before finally pulling the plug. The complete series was released as a boxed set in 2004.
Apatow gave a second swing at teenage life with Undeclared, a show about freshman year of college. The show is not a direct follow up to Freaks and Geeks, but Apatow used many similar actors and explored relationships in the same format as his previous show. It follows Jay Baruchel’s character as a freshman trying to make friends earn respect with his floormates and upperclassmen. Like the rest of the shows here, Undeclared was cancelled due poor numbers after one season. The complete box set was released shortly thereafter.