The recent cancellation of ABC’s great remake of BBC’s ” Life On Mars” annoyed me a great deal. Good shows aren’t given chances anymore ( Seinfeld would be cancelled now if it got the type of ratings the first season got). Bad shows aren’t given chances, either, but beggars, choosers, never the twain shall meet. The following five shows are currently on the air and are on the bubble. Four are shows I enjoy a great deal but could survive without if need be. The fifth is a show I would possibly go postal over if it was cancelled.
5. Mad Men ( AMC)
I am unaware of where the movie channel falls in the realm of American cable channels. But on my Canadian cable service, it’s included in the third tier standard cable pack and in the lower fifty channels. We watch the network a lot in my house ( hey, I got a thing for eighties schlock horror and bad war movies and constant Godfather marathons). But in this sadly lacking movies movie network is a surprisingly smart man who has taken up the mantle of what HBO used to. Bless the exec who grabbed Matthew Weiner’s sixties era ad drama when HBO turned it away.
The series is pitch perfect in tone- it kinda feels like a sixties era drama in some way. It is deliberately paced, with impossibly beautiful people populating dark smoky rooms in expensive looking clothes. But it is also darkly subversive, hinting at the socio-political changes about to explode while still reacting to the strait-laced ideals of the fifties. It’s not an easy series to watch- it cuts straight to the heart of it’s characters. In fact, it’s not just a historical piece, it’s a pretty affecting psychological drama.
4. How I Met Your Mother (CBS)
I know, it’s been on for four year, and with syndication money coming up, it seems unlikely that the show will be cancelled ( not to mention there is talk of an eight year plan? Really?) But this and it’s preceding program, the much buzzed about “The Big Bang Theory”, are two really great sitcoms that bend the parameters of the classic multi-camera. Of the two, HIMYM is actually more genre bending. Yes, there is a laugh track, but I hardly noticed it for three seasons. They play with flashbacks, flash-forwards, and memory flaws. There are hints, red herrings, and the show has it’s own separate language. Damn it, this show brought the word “awesome” back to awesomeness. Even when the story telling becomes to goofy, to out there, there is something about this show that is surprisingly heart warming and gentle.
3. Flashpoint (CTV/CBS)
It’s not just national pride here. Do I like seeing a show about Canada, sounding like Canada, on TV? Of course. But the Canadiana is limited. It’s about the cops, their job, the impact.
The fact is, Flashpoint is a very different kind of cop show. Snipers have always been the cavalry that comes in in SWAT jackets and rifles and save the day. The life and emotions of these people have never really been dealt with on television. It’s a thrilling show to watch- it is a well produced cop show. But the strength actually lies within it’s cast- particularly Hugh Dillon, who has the ability to break hearts without saying a word. A strongly ACTED cop show is a rarity.
2. 30 Rock (NBC)
NBC has been getting a lot of flack. A LOT of flack. A lot of it from me. The former network series champion has suffered from a drastic turn of events the last five years to be fourth place. A lot of this comes from Fox having American Idol, 24, and House, three shows that dominated for a few years. Some of it has to do with CBS being able to re-brand itself with crime dramas and solid comedies. ABC has managed to stay a float with popular reality shows. NBC has been stuck. It hasn’t had a huge hit that doesn’t involve Howie Mandel and a suitcase in FIVE YEARS. Even when they get lucky ( the first season of Heroes), they manage to screw it up somehow. It’s flagship shows, the Law and Order triad, have gotten stale, old, and floundered ( the mothership has gained some strength in the last season due to recasting efforts, but it still comes off as comfort food viewing, and the ratings are way down from the glory years of the mid to late 90s). They even moved Criminal Intent to cable ( where, surprisingly, it thrived. Go figure.)
NBC has tried to keep up with what made it so fabulous in the 80s and 90s- Thursday night comedy. And the comedies are good. The three really good ones are all in the Scrubs vein- single camera oddball shows that have their own language and style. Earl and the Office both had a great hook when they started- Earl had a new and interesting premise, the Office had a pedigree.
30 Rock has Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin, two of the greatest things to happen to American comedy in the last ten years- and so few people are watching it. It boggles my mind. The show has always been hit or miss, but man- when it hits, it really hits. The show is never going to be joke- punchline. It’s smart comedy, subversive, shocking, fearless comedy.
Never mind, I think I just answered my question.
So I believe that NBC should rethink it’s programming strategy- take the place of Fox as the network unafraid of being the place where shows can be experimental, fearless, and yes, even low rated. Be the new cult show network. Don’t be scared. Yes, ad revenue will be down. But cult TV fans are loyal and spend according to the cult they follow.
Which explains my strong desire, as a Chuck fan, for I Phones, Nerd Herd shirts, and $5 foot longs from Subway. I also want an Intersect. But I digress.
Chuck is probably one of the top three shows on the air right now. It is probably the greatest action comedy show in the history of television ( i am that bold). It’s another fiercely subversive show, a show in which technology, geeks, and science rule the world. Our everyman Chuck is a genius supercomputer with absolutely no implants or anything in his brain. He is just that smart. The show takes swipes at commercial culture as well ( the employees at Buy More are the laziest SOBs in the world). But mostly, it’s a cool show to watch. Zachary Levi is a charming, funny guy who deserves the success this show should bring him. Adam Baldwin is on this show, people, and Browncoats should be there to see his John Casey as one of the greatest creations right now on television 9 what does it tell you that the man has to be shot three times with a tranq gun to bring him down- and that little smile on his face and the little noise he makes when he falls over stoned? Priceless). The show also speaks volume about family and loyalty, which is really rare these days. It’s not a typical family- Chuck lives with his sister, sure, but both their parents took off when they were young, they raised themselves. They are close without coming off as needy and creepy. The family has extended to include Morgan and Devon, Sarah and yes, even John Casey. This is the family of geek culture, my friends.
Plus, how can you not love a spy comedy? The explosions, the gadgets, the constant Star Wars references ( ” Chuck, you’re my only hope” has popped up a few times with precise cadence without being cloying). The fact our hero has a super computer inside his head. The fact he has to live these two very different lives. The fact Devon’s nickname is Captain Awesome ( this is not even a cynical, sarcastic nickname- he really is that awesome). Everything is right about this show. Why aren’t you watching, people?