Canceled shows whose lives might have been saved

TV Arts

Canceled shows whose lives might have been saved
Tim Goodman

Sunday, May 18, 2008

While it's easy to lose track of such things, given the carnage that
happens in the TV industry in the month of May, it appears that 28
scripted shows have been pronounced dead for next season. Some of
those clearly deserved their fate. Many should never have been
written, produced or aired in the first place. But some of them
clearly deserved better from their networks - a change in tone,
tighter writing, a tweak to the premise.

Before these dramas and comedies are forgotten ("Are you sure it was
called 'Carpoolers'? It doesn't ring any bells"), here's a smattering
of canceled shows and what could have been done to help them.

"Bionic Woman" (NBC): This was supposed to be the can't-fail series of
the fall. It was certainly the most hyped. Reimagined by David Eick
(who has done a tremendous job with similarly reimagined "Battlestar
Galactica") and Jason Smilovic (who wrote "Lucky Number Slevin" and
was an executive producer on the acclaimed but short-lived series
"Karen Sisco" and "Kidnapped"), how could it not work? Easy: casting.
British actress Michelle Ryan never breathed any life into this role,
and her bad fit was magnified when Katee Sackhoff ("Battlestar
Galactica") was hired to play the first bionic woman gone bad.
Infinitely more interesting, Sackhoff stole every scene she was in.
This whole series imploded because they picked the wrong bionic woman.

"Journeyman" (NBC): Had NBC promoted this series over "Bionic Woman,"
it might still be on the air. Unlike "Bionic Woman," "Journeyman"
earned a late groundswell of fans, which highlighted the series' main
problem - it was too confusing at the start. People couldn't quite
figure out the rules in this time-traveler series.

"Cavemen" (ABC): Although this vilified series was funnier than it got
credit for, it wasn't nearly funny enough to overcome the fact that
making a sitcom out of an insurance commercial just rubbed everyone
the wrong way. The original pilot tried to make connections to race,
which was a misstep in a comedy but also had the unintentional outcome
of seeming racist itself. A dumb, no-win idea from the initial pitch.

"Viva Laughlin" (CBS): Even the British version of this musical-murder
mystery wasn't everyone's cup of tea, but at least it was daring and
inventive (which, presumably, was why CBS tried to remake it). And yet
- a musical on CBS? Is there even a need to dissect this further? OK,
how about this: You need to sing it like you mean it. Either do a
musical or don't. Anything in between is lame (and canceled).

"Back to You" (Fox): Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton in a multi-
camera, laugh-track-heavy old-school sitcom? Sounds great for CBS. The
writing was mediocre, but it probably would have survived, and
thrived, on CBS. It was a fully formed traditional comedy that could
have easily been salvaged.

"Aliens in America" (CW): America's fifth network had a good
development season, but only "Gossip Girl" managed to thrill it;
"Reaper" barely got renewed, and "Aliens in America" wasn't given much
of a chance. Too bad, because the comedy about a Pakistani Muslim
exchange student coming to Wisconsin had loads of potential and a
number of very funny episodes. Could the writing have been sharper?
Sure. But the CW didn't promote or nurture this series. Oddly enough,
it would have worked swell on Fox.

"Cashmere Mafia" (ABC): In the battle to give women what they want,
apparently "Lipstick Jungle" on NBC is the winner. That's not much to
celebrate - neither of these two "Sex and the City" wannabes were very
good, and other than changing the title and firing the writers, there
was little ABC could do with "Mafia." But ABC prides itself on going
after female viewers, which brings up a related show: "Men in Trees."
This series certainly deserved a better fate - it was a quirky,
touching romantic comedy that ABC bungled starting the season before.
Yanking it on and off the schedule and changing time slots all but
doomed it. ABC had extra episodes of "Men in Trees" to work with
during the strike but mishandled the opportunity, which foreshadowed
its fate. Too bad, really, because the net couldn't do any better -
certainly not with dreck like "Women's Murder Club."

"Canterbury's Law" (Fox): This was a great character looking for a
better show, smarter plots and an upgraded supporting cast. Julianna
Margulies was wonderful in the lead, and the series looked like one of
those rough, dark cable dramas that other superb actresses have turned
into Emmy-nomination vehicles. But "Canterbury's Law" had nothing but
Margulies and her drinking, philandering lawyer part. Fox should have
seen the weak areas and addressed them sooner.

"Miss Guided" (ABC): Not to pick on the alphabet net, but it did
cancel more scripted series than anyone else and it has a woeful track
record with sitcoms. So what happens when it gets one that's funny
more often than not? It gives up (same thing with "Notes From the
Underbelly," but why pile on?). The demise of this show might have
something to do with ABC being unable to develop a culture of comedy -
the show could have worked on NBC or Fox. But ABC certainly lacked
patience as well. Writing can always be tightened. But sometimes you
can't loosen a wound-up and worried programmer.

E-mail Tim Goodman at [email protected]
You can read his blog, the Bastard Machine, at www.thebastardma
In article 

Nonsense.  The casting was terrible, yet, but the series was doomed the 
instant they hired Laeta Kalogridis.  No amount of casting is gonna get 
you past bad writing.