Posts Tagged ‘cancelled show’

TV is a strange place. That little box (although it’s more like a piece of paper these days…) in your living room brings you a cocktail with more ingredients in it than a long island ice tea – and just as much booze. Only on TV can you see a man make a gigantic fondant covered hogwarts cake, and then switch to a chick standing in a plastic cube while trying to blow a ball-bearing into a hole with a straw. Only on TV can you have bad singing and then bad dancing, laced with bad sob stories… and then flick over to the other side and OH MY GOD there’s a man on a desert island giving himself an enema (seriously channel 4? We did not need to see that). We have TV shows were we watch people watching TV, we have shows with dancing ‘celebrity’ dogs… we even have a show were we sexualize toddlers (?!) and make them compete with each other in order to vicariously fulfil some lady’s self esteem issues.

TV can be messed up. But it is the purest form of social commentary and can occasionally be the greatest form of entertainment the world has ever seen. Sometimes though, it takes a lot of delving through the mud and sludge to find those rare tiny gems that are worth switching on the box and delving in.

This is three of the most underrated, underwritten or unknown show’s you’ve never watched – that you definitely should. And with netflix you have no excuse not to.

1) Nikita 

Nikita is unusual in that it isn’t unknown – it is just totally written off. From pretty much the pilot, Nikita got a bad rep. Being on the CW network meant it was never taken seriously by anybody, and totally missed it’s target audience – and likewise, as it wasn’t a teen TV show, no one who ever watched the CW ever gave it a look in. Marketing for the show also ruined its chances, the network wanted us to think this was a show about sexy women wearing revealing outfits yet being super spies and kicking butt. People said it was shallow and against feminism. When in reality, Nikita couldn’t be further away from that. Three of the lead characters are strong, complex women with dark, traumatic pasts. There is no skimpy outfits or overtly sexual scenes unless they have to for a mission, and even then it is rare. Nikita’s bad rep is totally and utterly unfounded, and here’s why.

nikita gifFirstly, it takes a hell of a lot to make an action show. Especially an action show with a full weekly roster of hand to hand combat like Nikita. I don’t think people appreciate just how difficult it is to choreograph it, get the actors to learn it – as well as their lines – and then bring in the explosions, gun work and stunts. Hell – Maggie Q did all her own stunts. And she got hurt a lot because of that. But Nikita never faltered, from start to finish the action scenes, especially the fight scenes, were always impressive and as good as any you would see in an action movie. I guess that’s what happens when you hire an action star. 

alex cage gifSecondly, the strength of the characters meant that it transcended being just an action show. It wasn’t just about a fight against Division, it was about these characters and their lives before, and then after, Division. It was about learning what made them who they are, and what got them on the dark path that led them to end up in prison. Each major character was deeply complex. And in a way, we were probing them all just as Amanda obsessively did over the four seasons. For me, Alex’s story was most interesting. When do we ever have a lead character of a TV show who has a past that involves drug addiction, abduction and sex trafficking? We don’t. These issues are skirted around on a lot of shows, and maybe looked at in depth for an episode or two, but never do we see the soul of a character like we saw Alex. We knew her, and we saw her pain and then we saw her evolve past it and even, in the end, use it. Nikita similarly had a dark past with drugs and abuse, and interestingly we saw how she was moulded by Division into this person who was now so fiercely trying to tear them down. Throughout the series, Amanda goads Nikita by saying Division made her – and in truth they did.

And finally, the writing. It is really tough to write any serial drama, but spy shows have to be complex and they have to keep surprising you. Most of all, the spine of the show has to be the series ark – for a show like Nikita, a mission of the week premise was never going to work without a boatload of story development. Nikita, despite the occasional derailment, did that. The dialogue was great and to cap that, the cast had a great chemistry. Lyndsy Fonsecca – despite her parents having spelt her name wrong – is going to have a long and fruitful career ahead of her. Maggie Q – well, she’s already an action star, but I think she proved she can do drama as well. And that she actually doesn’t need to be wielding her fists to delve some killer blows. Melinda Clarke, as always, plays the slightly odd and manipulative villain fantastically. She’s almost pantomime, and it works. Xander Berkley actually manages to get me to hate him as Percy, even though my heart still aches a little after his (spoiler!) martyrdom in season 2 of 24. Shane West is Nikita’s Romeo, but he also has a painful past and does the tortured soul well. And finally massive kudos goes to Aaron Stanford as Birkhoff who provides some brilliant one liners and at times, some much needed comic relief.

amanda gif

Nikita ran for three seasons, with six farewell episodes added on after it was cancelled to wrap things up. So we thankfully got some closure, and thanks to the great writing you couldn’t tell there was any kind of rushed ending. While it sort of went out without a whimper, with not a lot of people discussing it, and no real fuss – it was sort of fitting. Nikita did the spy thing – pulled off an impossible feat in that it brought three years of possibly the greatest spy show ever on a network usually dominated with teen angst, and with that brought all that badassery (not a word – should be) and then faded into the background. Unseen. Unheard. Untraceable. Sound familiar?

Yes, Alex is drinking milk.

Yes, Alex is drinking milk.

2) American Gothic

The 90s was a revolutionary period in terms of TV. We were gifted with strongly written feminist shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Xena. The face of procedural and medical dramas changed forever with the beginning of Law and Order and the brilliant ER. Comedy got two of the greats with Friends and Frasier, and science fiction changed forever when Captain Janeway took the bridge and Mulder and Scully opened their first X File. But one revolution that never took off was in the horror genre with the highly underrated American Gothic.

Before there was American Horror Story – the 90s gave us American Gothic. Sam Raimi – before he made us all hate him with Spiderman 3 – had quite the repertoire. Evil Dead, Darkman and this extremely underrated series. CBS are the idiots in this story, after cancelling American Gothic after one season. Ahead of its time, and therefore still watchable now, American Gothic revolves around Caleb Temple (Lucas Black) and the town’s corrupt sheriff, Lucas Buck (Gary Cole). Though appearing affable and charismatic, Sheriff Buck is a murderous rapist whose powerbase is backed by apparent supernatural powers, which he generally uses to manipulate people to “fulfill their potential” and make life-changing choices (usually for evil). Gary Cole plays a villain so well in this show that he literally ruined himself for me in anything else he is in. A very young Lucas Black is fantastic as Caleb, making himself the anchor for this wierd, anything goes series.

American Gothic was basically American Horror Story, but it was the 90’s and the world wasn’t ready for it yet. Hell – it even had Sarah Paulson in it to boot just in case you weren’t sure. The show was the epitome of strange, dark and disturbing all rolled into one. Had CBS had a backbone, no doubt it would have become a cult classic like the X-Files.

Despite its short run, it is still worth a look, and it really is a timeless hidden classic. I first saw this show when I was a teenager, about ten years after it first aired. And I remember being astounded when I discovered it was made in 1996. You really couldn’t tell.

If you get a chance, give this one a look.

3) Vikings

Vikings may be an Emmy nominated show, but I don’t know anyone but me who watches it. Where did this show come from? I didn’t even realise the History Channel made dramas, never mind dramas so breathtakingly shot, wonderfully acted and superbly written that it makes you want to sell all your worldly possessions, grow a beard (I’m a chick and I want one that includes a rather dashing mohawk), live off the land and kill a bunch of English people – a problem when you are actually English.

Vikings follows Ragnor Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) an actual 9th century notorious Viking famous for exploring the west and visiting all parts of Europe and fathering some very famous Viking sons. More notable however, at least in my eyes, is Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick), Ragnor’s shield maden wife who strides into battle even more fiercely than her husband, and is by far the strongest female lead on any TV, in any country at this current time. Winnick, who had a part in the hit show Bones, was otherwise a relatively unknown actress before getting this part. However, she shines as Lagertha, really bringing the character to life and managing to portray a character both ferocious and fragile at the same time. The supporting cast is also flawless. Special mentions go to Gustaf Skarsgard – another Skarsgard, just what the hell was Stellan feeding these kids? What ever it was, keep doing it! – who plays the eccentric Floki, and Jessalyn Gilsig who plays the manipulative Siggy. Fimmel, meanwhile, leads from the front. He gives a solid performance as Ragnor, bringing a light shade to a character that could potentially have been all dark. He does the misunderstood, persecuted farmer well, while always eluding to an arrogance that eventually leads him to lead.
But it isn’t that acting or the weaving storylines that makes Vikings a stand out show. Instead, it is just how breathtaking the show is visually. Week in, week out, we the viewers are treated to shots that surely belong in a photography exhibit or on the big screen. But it isn’t just the lovely scenery gifted to us by it’s Irish location, it’s the vision created by the cast and crew, and the impeccable direction and care given to each and every episode. It makes Game of Thrones look visually unstimulating, and when you can say that about a show as fantastic as Game of Thrones, you know Vikings is bringing something very special to the screen.

It should be noted however, this is a show about Vikings, so expect a lot of violence and sex, tons of Norse mythology and a general distaste for morals. The Viking women were strong, merciless and often rode into battle alongside their male counterparts. They were still looked down upon, but were seen as much fiercer individuals that could earn respect on the battlefield. In their own way, the Vikings were more advanced than any of their Western counterparts – and despite being reviled as bloodthirsty barbarians, it took the rest of us a thousand years to catch up (and in a lot of places in terms of combat – we still haven’t).

Overall, Vikings is brilliant and refreshing and needs to be your newest show.

What is your most underrated show?

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Some call me an optimist – or at least I like to think they do… But when it comes to TV, I’m unfortunately that grumpy old man who sits on the bus murmuring about you because you had the audacity to sit next to him. Alas, that may be soon to change.

So what made me this way? Well, I was an optimist, I really was. I grew up watching seven years of Buffy, eight years of Charmed. Never did the words, ‘Network’ or ‘Cancellation’ enter my little head. But then I got older. And I got wiser. And I got pissed. Why? Well because the greatest show I’d ever known, the show I related to on so many levels, the show like no other got cancelled. And that show was the masterpiece they call Veronica Mars. What is this, I hear you say… Well not many people watched it. But those that did loved it. It launched the career of the lovely Kristen Bell, and critics called it the sassiest and smartest show on TV. But here is were I got mad. Networks are businesses. Businesses are about making money. To make money, you need to make a huge hit that sells globally, or a pile of shit that costs no money to make. Which is exactly why we have the ‘Only way is Essex’ and the ‘Jersey Shores’ of the world. It costs about 10 grand an episode to have a man with a camera follow a bunch of bad acting chav’s around for the day. Whereas it costs hundreds of thousands an episode to hire good actors, good writers and basically good everything. And that was when I learned the important lesson of – money makes the world go round. It does – money and sex. That’s life. And so after Veronica Mars got cancelled, despite it being arguably the best written show on TV,  I lost faith in TV. I didn’t want to watch anything  new, especially anything the US was churning out, because I didn’t want to get so god damn disappointed again. But eventually, inevitably, I did. I picked up another show. I couldn’t resist once I realised it had my all time favourite Law and Order ADA, Angie Harmon as the the lead character. So I took the gamble. What happened? Well ever heard of Women’s Murder Club? The books? Yes. The series? No. Why? Because it was canned. And it was a nice little show. Funny, heart warming, exciting. But when the writers strike hit, the networks wanted to get rid of it, and fast. So they fired a few people. Hired a bunch of new people who basically could not give a shit, and then the last 3 episodes were made, and they were made badly, and that was that. All over.

By this point, I was worse then mad. I was upset. The renewal period of TV felt like waiting for exam results. Which is a ridiculous, but true, notion. But I decided that I owed it to myself to keep trying. I love TV. I’m a watcher – I always have been. Whether it be films or TV. So I kept going, and I stumbled upon Joss Whedon’s new creation known as Dollhouse. Original, innovative, well cast, exciting, thought provoking..! There was nothing this show didn’t have! And as soon as I saw the pilot, I was worried. Seems like a strange time to be worried, I know. But I knew that a show like this, that wasn’t mindless “You cheated on me!” or “Your through to the next round!” BULLSHIT, was going to go through some tough, tough times. Now I’m not trying to insult the whole of America. But the average Joe doesn’t watch shows like Dollhouse and Veronica Mars. They watch Deal or No Deal, American Idol, and Dancing with the Stars. I guess people work so hard through the week, they don’t wanna use their brains too much when they have time off. <——-That, right there, is not me. I wanna be challenged by a show. I wanna laugh at extremely well written dialect. And I want to cry because a character I cared about is hurt or dead, not because American Idol’s newest contestant once had a pet chameleon and it DIED. Honestly, who gives a shit? And so when the first season of Dollhouse ended, it struggled. As I knew it would. But like Veronica Mars did more than once, it held its ground and got renewed. Unfortunately, by the second season, the network felt it was just too ground breaking for america and it got cancelled. And once again, I was pissed/angry/annoyed/upset. 

Just in case your thinking I am pathetic right now, with no life and someone who lives in the box – I don’t. But when you invest time in something, that never gets a proper end, or watch something so well written that you care about these characters – it is heart wrenching when your loyalty to them is rewarded with no continuation. Its like networks are the worst storytellers ever to exist. One out of every hundred shows gets a proper ending, if were lucky. Where is the sense in that?

Don’t get me wrong, if something is bad – I am the first person to say cancel it. Because there is nothing worse then the good shows being blocked by the bad ones. But its when the quality shows go that I have a problem. And they do, incessantly.

So what’s my point? Well about a year ago, I once again stumbled upon a new show. Not again – I know. I myself was hesitant. So what got me watching? Well Angie Harmon, again. After the disappointing cancellation of Women’s Murder Club, I really wanted to see her do well. She’s a great actress, and a lovely person. And I just felt after how well she did in Law and Order, she needed a proper opportunity to prove herself once again.  Add on to that the lovely Sasha Alexander who was the hilarious Kate from NCIS – well it couldn’t really go wrong in my book. And well, Rizzoli & Isles was born. And I loved it. Every second of it. It was a crime show at its core yes, but it was funny, likeable, enthralling and well written. The two leads had more chemistry than a hydrogen bomb, and all the supporting cast were just as loveable. And so I waited. Would this one be successful? Would this survive the chop?

A year on, and it’s cables highest rated show. It’s being shown in several countries. It’s DVD is available for purchase. TNT are calling it there new main show after the Closer ends. And its just doing fantastically! Amazingly! Beyond expectations! Season 3 has already been given the go ahead. And it’s constantly trending on twitter. What more could I ask for?

Well there is this – Don’t mess it up TNT. It’s an amazing show. Please please stay true, and keep it on the air. Let it come to its natural end when its time. And not before. 

Not a big ask… is it?

Big news in TV land today, as NBC reveal that long standing cast member, Chris Meloni – who plays Elliot Stabler on Law and Order: SVU has decided not to come back for another season. The news comes off the back of the reduced contract taken on by co-star Mariska Hargitay. Rumour has it that Meloni was offered a contract yet he still turned it down – so it looks like he already set his mind on leaving.

I’m a big fan of the Law and Order franchise, especially the mother show, which was cancelled last year to make way for the awful spin off – Law and Order: LA. That has also recently been cancelled, so it is impossible not to think about SVU’s chances of renewal in the 2012/2013 line up after practically losing the shows stars. Rumoured to replace Mariska (after her character Olivia Benson is promoted) is actress Jennifer Love Hewitt. And since the news broke about Meloni, its been revealed that NBC are looking for a huge star to replace him, and bring the viewers in. I can’t help thinking to myself, that any actor or actress would be insane to do it. The show would need a miracle to survive another series, and any person who decides to take the roles is pretty much destined to fail no matter who they are.

Remember Dani Beck? Played by Connie Neilson? She replaced Hargitay when she was on maternity leave. Now she’s not exactly an inexperienced actress, starring in blockbusters like Gladiator and the Devils Advocate. Yet she pretty much bombed. Not because she didn’t do a good job, but because we all hated Dani Beck – because she wasn’t Olivia Benson. Those Mariska shaped shoes were pretty impossible to fill. And I am in no doubt that whoever replaces Chris will have a similar fate.

The way things stand, it looks to be the end of an era, the end of a franchise and the end of Law and Order: SVU.