Posts Tagged ‘ pushing daisies ’

Cancellations good and bad

We’re coming up on the time in the television calendar known as the ‘up-fronts’ it’s where the various networks introduce their schedules for the following year, it helps them sell advertising and also sell to the international broadcasters. In the weeks leading up to the presentations, news and announcements start to trickle through not only about the new shows, but also the old shows which are being cancelled to make space in the schedules. Watching the news roll in made me think about shows I loved and lost and I realised that while there were a number that I really missed and who’s cancellations made me angry, there were a surprising number that I actually accepted happily.

Five cancellations which made me cross…

1Firefly
I’ve written plenty about why I think Firefly is one of the greatest shows of all time, and in many ways maybe the reason it will forever live in people’s memories as such is that was cancelled so early. In fact it was pretty much doomed from the start, miss-marketed and mucked about by the networks – it never really had a chance. Inevitable though it may have been, it didn’t make me swear any less when the announcement came in though.

2The West Wing
You might say that at seven seasons The West Wing had a pretty good run at it and I should be happy with what I got. But the frustration was that after a disappointing couple of years, season 7 was really turning things around. Preparing to re-launch itself with a new president, a new bipartisanism and new characters, season 8 would have been West Wing: The Next Generation. That we didn’t get to live with President Santos is compensated for by the knowledge that the character was partly inspired by a young senator named Barrack Obama.

3Wonderfalls
Wonderfalls was just one of a string of series from Bryan Fuller that died the death (Pushing Daisies is listed below, Dead Like Me almost made the ‘disappointed’ list, and Heroes almost made the ‘not so much’ list). The first episode introduces Jay, a cynical philosophy graduate who lives in a trailer and tries to avoid her crazy family. Then a small toy lion starts talking to her and giving cryptic instructions that eventually seem to help people out. It was weird, but had some great characters, a real charm and was hilariously funny. It was pulled off the air after only four episodes and I was very cross.

4Angel
Angel was similar to The West Wing in that after a few years things were getting a little stale and there had been some miss-steps with storylines. But they were turning things around, introducing a new situation, new characters (although not necessarily new actors) and a new mission. Personally, I found it breathed new life into the show, and many agreed with me because the ratings actually went up. Sadly it seems that a spectacular amount of internal politics at the network caused the show to be rather unexpectedly cancelled. At least they were able to wrap up their stories, and Angel got to fight his dragon.

Carnivàle
Carnivàle was a peculiar series, set in a dustbowl era freakshow with a complicated and intricate plot centred on the battle between good and evil and the very nature of those labels. The problem is we will never know how the battle would develop, what all the subtext and hints were leading up to, because the show was cancelled two years into its six year plan, making the first two seasons feel a bit of a waste of time.

… and five that I didn’t mind
1Veronica Mars
The first season of Veronica Mars is one of the best seasons of television ever made. The second wasn’t quite as good. The third was worse still. In a desperate attempt to save his at risk show Rob Thomas proposed a few years into the future to when Veronica is a new agent with the FBI. The problem was that in making that proposal he lost my support, because he declared that Veronica would be the only character to make the jump. Without her dad to stable her and Logan to unbalance her, I wasn’t really that interested.

2Studio 60
I was so excited about this show; Aaron Sorkin, Matthew Perry, Bradley Whitford, Thomas Schlamme all came together to produce a brilliant pilot. But then something went wrong and I’ve never quite worked out what happened. There were no spectacular failures, things just didn’t quite gel together; the romances felt creepy and annoying, the supposedly hilarious show-within-a-show just wasn’t funny, and the tone was often too preachy and smug. By half way through it was pretty clear that the show wasn’t likely to be picked up, and I was more disappointed about the wasted potential than I was about the actual cancellation when it finally came in.

3Dollhouse
Another cancellation that I met with faint sadness rather than anger. Once again despite a great collection of ingredients, the mixture just didn’t work. Maybe the network hadn’t realised they were buying a show with some pretty deep philosophical considerations and tried to re-engineer it, leaving a mishmash that satisfied no one; but maybe it was just a show that was never really going to work at all. Due credit to the network, they gave it a second year when no one, not even Joss Whedon himself had any hope, but the writing was on the wall by halfway through and with an acceleration of the plot we got to see how it would all play out. By the end I was satisfied that the series was finished, rounded out and enough.

4Pushing Daisies
The popularity of the first season of Pushing Daisies reaffirmed my faith in humanity. This was a bizarre idea: weird plots, quirky dialogue, random spontaneous singing and a peculiar visual style and yet it was a critical and public success. I adored it. But something happened during the second season and I just fell out of love with it. Others did the same and the ratings died. When it was cancelled I was a bit sad that there was no place for a show like this in the schedules, but I was unlikely to have watched the next season anyway.

Primeval
Primeval managed a pretty impressive deterioration, from the really enjoyable first season which dropped just enough hints of a complex time travelling background story to make it more than just disposable dinosaur fun. But by season three most of the original cast had left and when the major storyline was resolved I was left shouting “is that it?!” at the TV. The show was cancelled and I felt all was right in the world. As it turns out though, other countries love the show, so a whole mix of channels have invested money to save the show. Of all the show’s that deserve saving, this is probably the worst!

Amazon Links
A positive side effect of a show you like being cancelled is that the price of the dvds drops dramatically, most of these are available at massive discounts. Also I’m shamelessly trying out Amazon associates ;0)
Firefly – The Complete Series [2003]
The West Wing – Complete Season 1
Angel Season 1
Carnivale: Complete HBO Season 1 [2003]
Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip – The Complete Series [DVD]
Pushing Daisies – Complete Season 1 [2007] (just 6 quid)
Primeval : Series 1 [2007] (just 3 quid)

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Dramas and Melodramas

The drama category is a pretty odd one, after all the majority of the shows I watch are counted as drama, so this category ends up only holding those that don’t fall into another category – covering a massive range from sublime to ridiculous.

On the ridiculous side of the map we have Gossip Girl and Brothers and Sisters, both of which I treat as completely shameless trash TV. The plots border on the ridiculous and the melodrama and cheese are brought in by the lorry load, but they’re both good for a laugh and the occasional sniffle. I’m not sure how well Gossip Girl will deal with moving on to college, it came dangerously close to shark jumping towards the end of the season; while the loss of one of the siblings from Brothers and Sisters should prove an interesting shake-up, and I won’t miss the under-developed character much at all.

Meanwhile on the sublime side we have Mad Men and Friday Night Lights. Both of these shows have short seasons, air off the main networks in the US and get superb critical acclaim; however one of them gets eleven Emmy nominations and the other gets none. I love Mad Men, it’s smart and dark and funny and stylish, doing period drama in a way I’ve not seen US shows do successfully before. However I think Friday Night Lights is a far superior show, which completely blows me away every episode. Every time I recommend this show to someone it takes a little bit of persuading, but they are soon as hooked and amazed as I am. I’m thrilled the series is coming back next year and just wish the awards people would give it some attention.

On the sublime to ridiculous scale Pushing Daisies sits firmly by itself in the batshit crazy section. It pitched its tent in crazy land from the first moments of the pilot and stuck to its territory admirably. I was surprised that something so different and unashamedly quirky and sweet lasted as long as it did. I enjoyed watching each episode, but I can’t say I’ll really miss it that much, I think it may have done all it needed to do.

Pushing Daisies: Season 1

A very sweet and quirky show that seems to have found success and thereby somewhat renewed my faith in the viewing public and network television. I never imagined this show would succeed, figuring it would follow the path of Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls, both of which it owes a large creative debt to. But it’s been surprisingly popular and picked up for a new season very fast.

Quirky really is the only way to describe the show. There’s nothing normal about it from the production style to the characters. The show looks both fantastic and bizarre with saturated colours and odd bluescreen effects. The characters are all simultaneously very simplistic but with obvious ‘hidden’ depths. As for the show itself, it can do anything from burst into song to pretty revolting make-up and dark concepts.

To be honest – it’s a little intense and can all get a bit much. I think the shorter season served it well – a full 20episode season would have become cloying and drawn out. But in short bursts the cynicism and bitterness of Emerson and Lily are sufficient to balance out the hopeless sappiness and adorableness of the lead characters and the astonishing perkiness of (the fabulous) Kristin Chenoweth.

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