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Freshman Year Drop Outs – Unfortunate Single Season Shows

February 16, 2012

Some shows just never catch on.  Is it their fault?  Is it the fickle audience? Is it my fault?  Can we blame the internet?  I don’t know…  Probably all the above.

Some shows worked well for what they were.  They can live on in the “I wonder what would have happened next” recesses of our brains.  However, the following is a collection of shows that ended too soon.

Wonderfalls – Created by Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies, Heroes, Dead Like Me) with executive producer and frequent Joss Whedon collaborator Tim Minear (Angel, Dollhouse, Drive) is a comedy with a splash of fantasy, a la Bewitched.  Jaye Tyler, played by Caroline Dhavernas, is a recent Brown University graduate who holds a go nowhere job as a sales clerk in a Niagara Falls gift shop.  Each episode centers on Jane being given cryptic instructions from inanimate objects (i.e. a wax lion, a monkey toy, etc) which would lead her to helping a person better their life.  Wonderfalls was mishandled by Fox in 2004.  It was scheduled to air in 2003, but held back.  It was switched from Friday to Thursday with nearly no advertising to notify the audience of the schedule change, and was canceled before the fifth episode.  It is available on DVD Region 1, and is totally worth checking out.

Firefly Was a Space Cowboy action adventure dramedy created by Joss Whedon, who served as Exec. Producer with Tim Minear.  Once again Fox didn’t know what they had on their hands.  Fox continuously preempted broadcasts in favor of sporting events, which is a shame, because you really can’t get a more skewed audience.  The Whedon crowd aren’t typically the sit at the bar as the game goes into extra innings  crowd.  They are the read a great book, work on your cosplay, and brew your own beer crowd. Additionally Fox again aired the episodes out-of-order, making the introductions of characters awkward.  Whedon built the storyline around a seven season/year plan (Ha! reminds me of Uncle Buck) which was entirely too ambitious for a TV show.  Still, it would have been nice to see more of what he had planned.

Freaks and Geeks – Hands down the best coming of age show since the Wonder Years.  Created by Paul Feig and executive produced by Judd Apatow.  This was the story of Lindsay Weir and her younger brother Sam, the Freak and the Geek respectively.  The thing that made this show truly wonderful was the realistic and often bad choices the characters made.  It was true to life.  Their lives were never status quo by the end of each episode.  There were always true repercussions that reverberated through the rest of the characters’ lives.  Most shows are static.  Not a lot happens because producers are afraid to change-up the formula which is tried and true.  Freaks and Geeks was far from formulaic.

The Middle Man – The Middle Man was created by Javier Grillo-Marxuach, (LOST alum) for ABC Family, and is based on the Viper Comics series, The Middleman, also created by Grillo-Marxuach and illustrated by Les McClaine. The series ran for one season in 2008.  This very witty program focused on the larger than life adventures of photogenic temp employee Wendy Watson, as she is taken under the wing of a superhero codenamed The Middle Man.  Over the course of the 12 episodes, the Middle Man and sidekick Wendy Watson, AKA Dub-dub, face menaces like super intelligent primates, vampire ventriloquist dolls, Evil Lucha Libre Wrestlers, precious gem eating aliens, and alternate universe versions of themselves.  This show was on the wrong network, at the wrong time, in the wrong universe.  It should have aired in a place where I rule everything, because it would have been required watching for all of my subjects.  The Middle Man also featured some of the best episode titles in the history of television, including “The Flying Fish Zombification,” “The Cursed Tuba Contingency,” and “The Palindrome Reversal Palindrome.” I’ll go further in trying to coerce you into watching by sharing some funny dialogue from the show:

The Middleman: Special Agent Watson, slacking off the dress code, I see.

Wendy: Oh, I don’t do dress code after sundown.

The Middleman: It’s bad apples like you that put Mr. Hoover in a dress.


Wendy: Uh, Sensei Ping. Like an unborn lotus festering in the mud waiting to blossom, I come to you with humble greetings to beseech your guidance, most awesome…

Sensei Ping: (laughs) Did The Middleman tell you to recite the most hallowed verse of greetings to Sensei Ping?

Wendy: Uh, yes.

Sensei Ping: He is such a comedian. You know, most of us masters of the martial arts are actually very laid back.

Wendy: Really?

Sensei Ping: No! (slaps her)

And here is a wonderful collection of one-liners from the show (Paul, I know you’re in the middle of watching The Middle Man, so skip this.  DO NOT WATCH!  Ha! A spoiler alert for an individual person…)

Drive – Drive broke my heart.  This was such a fun show.  What is wrong with you America that you let this go wrong so quick.  All you had to do was tune in.  You didn’t even need to watch.  You could have gone in the other room.  Drive was an action suspense  show created by Tim Minear (I’m apparently a huge fan of Minear’s failures) and Ben Queen.  Minear  described the show as being”a secret, illegal, underground road race that can be anything from Cannonball Run to The Game to North by Northwest to Magnolia-on-wheels.”  Sounds exciting?  It was!  Drive had an ensemble cast, but the Hitchcockian everyman to relate to was Nathan Fillion’s character Alex Tully.  The series began with Tully receiving a phone call informing him that his wife had been taken, and if he ever wants to see her again he needs to get to Florida, he can’t call the authorities, and he has to DRIVE.  It was so cool.

Story Matters at AMC, but so do ratings unfortunately...

Rubicon – AMC’s Espionage & Intrigue show was deliberately slow at first.  We discovered information as the characters did, which created a tension that was palpable. Rubicon featured a think tank group working for the American Policy Institute, API.  One of their analysts, played by James Badge Dale, uncovers a massive conspiracy involving a secret society that quite literally pulls the strings of governments, world markets, and populations through corruption, murder, profiteering, and the list just goes on and on.  It featured some wonderful nods to real world classic espionage techniques, like codes hidden in crosswords, park bench meetings, cover-ups, etc.  It was pretty awesome.  It was smart TV.  It was unfortunately canceled.  I’d love to see the creator make a film in the same genre.  I’d be first in line to buy a ticket to that.

Thanks for reading!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. February 16, 2012 7:23 am

    wow…so many I have never seen. I remember Heroes was amazing…only the first season, and it fell down tragically in season 2.

    I don’t watch much American series nowadays, I like British series now. They are short but memorable and original.

    Nice post Robert.

    • February 16, 2012 10:35 am

      Thanks for returning after my hiatus Novroz! Hope all is well with you!

  2. February 20, 2012 8:12 pm

    Thanks for the heads up Rob! At first I kept looking at the box (DVD set of Middleman) and saying to myself “What the hell is this crap?” Then I finally loaded the DVD and saw the first three minutes and said to myself “What the hell is this crap?” Then something very funny happened and I was hooked. Cause I realized that it wasnt what I was expecting and that the ultra campy look was on purpose and hilarious. And this is the best silly dialogue ever! LIke a mash up of Clerks and Adam West’s Batman.

    Sensei PEEEENG!!!

    And just when I thought I was over my Firefly phase you post Niskas man getting engined. great. Now I have to watch that episode again. Thanks.

    • February 20, 2012 9:45 pm

      Well, thanks and you’re welcome. It really does look like a piece of crap for the first three minutes. I’m glad your watched to minute 5 to realize the Middle Man is awesome! The only bad thing about that show was realizing that I got to the end, and not having anymore to watch.

      • February 21, 2012 10:25 pm

        yes. I thought with four episodes on a DVD and four DVD i had sixteen episodes. Alas there are only four more. Now I suppose Ill have to checkout drive.

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