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Monday, April 19, 2010
The Canceled Series Network
What I want is my own television network. Actually, I could just buy the Sci-Fi network and cancel all the "reality" shows and horror movies and do just as well. What I would replace them with are all the television series that people loved that were canceled without ending properly.
One of the reasons a television series gets canceled is because they don't find an audience quickly enough. Oddly enough, this isn't so much a consequence of the quality of the show or how well-written or well-acted it is. It's all about numbers. What's aggravating for television viewers is that too often, the networks' dim-witted scheduling decisions, hide the good shows so that you can't find them and by the time you do, they've canceled it. Is it any wonder so many shows don't collect a fan base quickly enough to save them.
I don't know about anyone else, but I'm just about ready to stop watching network television of any kind. I'm sick of investing time in a new show only to see it canceled just as it is getting interesting. I can name a whole string of shows that have gone by the board that shouldn't have. I can also tell a couple of cautionary tales about dumping a show prematurely.
Way back in the 60's an unlikely new show came out called Star Trek. The network didn't quite know what to do with it and almost canceled it. It was their first experience with outraged fans and it frightened them a little so they left the show in place. They finally canceled the series well short of the end of Enterprise's famous "5 year mission". The ensuing movies and cable series are proof as to how wrong the network was.
Then, an oddball comedy show called M*A*S*H appeared on CBS. The network moved it around all over the schedule so no one could find it anymore and then almost canceled it the first year. Fortunately, smarter folks at CBS prevailed and M*A*S*H went on to become one of the longest running series in history with the largest audience for a finale in TV history.
Give an audience time to find really well crafted writing and acting and you will have a loyal audience. The hardest part for audiences is finding something worth watching. Networks should make it easy for them to do that. That's why I propose creating the Cancelled Series Network (CSN).
Now not everything that is canceled deserves to be revived, of course. My Mother the Car springs to mind. But finding a good canceled series is easy. Just check what people are watching on Hulu or in the network archives and pluck from oblivion, any series with a loyal fan base. In the past few years, here are some notable examples:
1. Firefly - I don't care how many people didn't "get" Firefly at first, it was great storytelling, wonderful characters. The best SF series ever if you listen to the rabid fans. That's the first one I'd bring back.
2. Jericho- Even if you only shot another 5 episodes and brought it to an end, at least you'd have a DVD set worth buying! I mean, the Republic of Texas was fixin' to kick some Western Alliance behind unless I missed my guess. My favorite post-cancellation stunt by the fans was filling up CBS's lobby with nuts in protest! That kind of imagination and loyalty should be rewarded.
3. Kyle XY - It took me a while to find this little ABC Family gem as it did many others. When it went to Hulu, viewers worldwide discovered it and made the series immensely popular in places like Canada, France, Brazil, Iraq and Turkey of all places. It needs another season or two to bring the story cycle to its end. Besides it's a really good story with admirable characters actually doing honorable things.We should be exporting shows like this one with a really decent main character set.
4. Journeyman - This involuntary time traveler tale was just beginning to get interesting when ABC pulled the plug. I think there should be a rule of a minimum one year and a requirement that the series be ended properly or you can't start the series at all. A one-season mini-series would have been about right for Journeyman.
5. New Amsterdam - This one, a Highlander-like, tale of a 400 year old police detective was, again, just starting to get interesting when they killed it. This is another one that begs to finish the season and have an ending.
6. Life on Mars - This one they did right. I'd like to have seen one more season for this series, but at least they ended the series. I loved the ending. I think the American ending was better than the British one, but then I like my stories to have closure. I hate open-ended ambiguity. Bravo to whoever let "Mars" write an ending before they killed it.
7. Crusoe - I was really getting into this retelling of the Robinson Crusoe story and I don't care how politically correct it was compared to the original or how few people watched it. At least end the series for crying out loud. For people that liked the series, you could at least buy the series or watch it on Hulu or something where it could generate some ad revenue. Get the man home to his wife at least.
8. Defying Gravity - This intriguing bit of science fiction got pulled halfway through the first season and left me hanging big time. I'm beginning to despise ABC for doing that to me. They will be the first network I boycott. Let them do dancing idol worm-eating survivor desperate ghost wife shows without me. At least finish the couple of seasons it will take to complete the series. That or turn it into a mini-series and end it.
9. The Unit - Finally the network does a military series that isn't anti-military. But, of course, CBS can't figure out where to put it and manages to hide it from any hope of an audience. This one just needed to go on for about 5 more years till everybody on the team's hitch is up.
10. Early Edition - The engaging saga of Gary Hobbs, the pub owner who gets tomorrow's newspaper today lasted only 3 seasons. It could have gone on much longer. I don't know whether they ended it or not, because I can't watch it on-line anywhere yet (at least not without risking an FBI raid). I hope it ended well for Gary. At any rate, EE was one of those good-hearted shows that you watch every week to make you feel like there's some hope for the world. I miss it.
The Rest - Eli Stone I would have like to have seen brought to an end. It was quirky and interesting. Same with My Own Worst Enemy. Dead Like Me was a very strange little show, but killing it, then following up with a movie that doesn't end it either is just goofy. Showtime needs to go ahead and run a few more seasons or finish with a closer movie WITH Mandy Patinkin this time. Threshold and Invasion were two SF shows that deserved at least an ending for crying out loud. And I don't think I'd have ever got enough of Monk, but at least they did wrap the series up.
Shows in Jeopardy:
Chuck - If NBC kills Chuck, I may commit an act of terrorism. Terminator - The Sarah Connor Chronicles - My Sweet Baboo likes the Terminator movies and this spinoff TV series. I don't know why, but I put this in for her. Flash Forward - I just got into this one. Please don't cancel this one. I'm just catching up on the back episodes. Numb3rs - They always cancel the geek shows. Remember Dweebs. I loved that show and it didn't last but a few paltry episodes. Numb3rs is brilliant and must be a bear to write with all that math in it. I hope they at least bring it to an end. I think they are, at least based on the last few episodes I've seen.
My network would mine from these series that have a dedicated fan base and set them up with a secure home for a minimum of one complete season. No series would be canceled without at least a two hour series finale or more. The first series I would sign would be FIREFLY, then The Unit, Jericho, Early Edition and Kyle XY and on down the list. I think you could make a fortune buying and rebroadcasting these series with the promise of new episodes and an ending. I'd rerun Life on Mars and add a half dozen or so new episodes sandwiched in between the last two episodes. Forget the 26 show season minimum. We could just broadcast however many episodes the series works out to be.
I'd love to borrow Fawlty Towers, Red Dwarf and Good Neighbors from the BBC and revisit them too. I think you could build a successful TV network using that model. Only two rules.
1. NO CELEBRITY ANYTHING.
2. NO REALITY ANYTHING.
Only good storytelling, great acting and well-crafted concepts. I'd work for 5 figures and hire gifted amateurs to run the network and shoot the first marketing guy that shows up to tell me my demographic is skewed.
I would. I'd get a conceal and carry permit just for that purpose.
That awful power, the public opinion of a nation, is created in America by a horde of ignorant, self-complacent simpletons who failed at ditching and shoe-making and fetched up in journalism on their way to the poorhouse. -Mark Twain