Why I Think These Shows Got Canceled

There have been some shows in the past decade that were canceled prematurely, despite the quality and decent following. I went back and watched entire series of some of the most raved about television shows so I could determine the validity of the hype, considering they were eventually canceled, and partly so I could participate in the cult discussions.

Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000/NBC)

Why It’s Good: A show about the high school experience through the eyes of outsiders, Freaks and Geeks was rashly aborted after one season. This show is hilarious in such subtle ways and the casting is unbelievable. James Franco, Jason Segal, Seth Rogen, Rashida Jones and little Shia Lebouf (for 30 seconds of one episode) were among the now star-studded cast.  The dialogue and storylines are funny and well-executed by the cast. It’s more realistic than most of any high school-based shows on television.

Why It was Canceled: I never understood why this show was 45 minutes. The best moments of the dramedy would have been illuminated in a more succinct script and I think audiences would have grown to adore the characters more quickly in a 23-minute episode. Along with that, it’s set in the 1980s, and it outwardly depicts kids doing drugs, which maybe the audience wasn’t prepared for quite yet. The true realistic approach that the writers took, however, was that none of the beloved characters really found any success in their adolescent adventures. There’s a group of underdeveloped dorky boys (the geeks) that try to get the ladies, despite their love for Dungeons and Dragons and complete lack of athleticism. The freaks were a group of burnouts that former Mathlete Lindsay Weir ends up joining in an effort to rebel against her picturesque suburban lifestyle. In the 18 episodes you learn to adore every character and so it’s agonizing to see them fail, in their attempts to fit in or rebel, over and over again.

“When I created that show, I honestly thought, who wouldn’t relate to something like this? Who wouldn’t want to see true stories from their past shown in a funny, realistic way? And maybe I didn’t bank on the fact that there were a lot of people who didn’t want to re-experience those years. But I found out pretty quickly. Here’s a good example: I was talking with a TV critic when the show was on the air. We were discussing the episode “I’m with the band” –this is when the Nick character auditions as a group’s drummer. Nick is terrible and embarrasses himself in front of Lindsay, the girl he wants to impress. And the critic said to me, ‘When Nick walked into that audition I had to leave the room. I knew everything was going to go wrong and I couldn’t deal with it’….The problem with Freaks and Geeks was that it didn’t hit that pleasure center. It played in the pain center.” – Creator, Paul Fieg

Arrested Development (2003-2006/Fox)

Why It’s Good: AD absolutely lives up to the hype that its cult-following has established. It is probably the most clever show that has ever aired. The jokes are quick and the casting is out of the park. Jason Bateman’s character sits well in between the dramatized personalities surrounding him. The genius in the writing is unmatched.

“In the ‘Out on a Limb’ episode, we had the one-handed character of Buster Bluth sit on a bench that read Army Surplus Official Supply, but all you could see around Buster’s body were the words ‘Arm Off,'” creator Mitch Hurwitz notes.

Why It Got Canceled: I think the humor was too elevated for a lot of viewers. The plots are complex and there aren’t really any pauses after most quips, so if you’re not paying attention, you won’t catch the joke. Also, the first two seasons are tears-worthy funny, but the third season does decline a bit in its plot.

“Do you know what a callback is? It’s when a writer revisits a past event and then uses it to make a joke. A callback usually gets a laugh because the audience is part of the joke; they’ve experienced an event along with the characters. But in arrested, I put in “call forwards,” which were new for me. I inserted hints of events that hadn’t yet happened. And, of course, there’s no way you can get laughs out of that.

“In a larger sense, Arrested paid off with the portion of the audience who wanted to pay close attention. I wanted there to be hidden clues and auguries o things to come. Those viewers who paid attention would be more rewarded than those who didn’t.” – Mitch Hurwitz, creator

Party Down (2009-2010/Starz)

Why It’s Good: Party Down is about a group of wannabe Hollywood actors and writers that instead work as caterers in LA. The genius of it is that each episode is an event they cater for, so the setting, characters and plot is easily changed, but the heart of the story – their wanting to succeed in their other passions—is always the overarching theme. The characters are great and the chemistry between the two main characters (Adam Scott and Lizzy Kaplan) is perfect. Ken Marino and Jane Lynch were also highlights, and Martin Starr, a geek in Freaks and Geeks, plays a grown-up geek to the tee.

Why It Got Canceled: The best parts of the show were the relationship between the two main characters, Ken Marino’s character and Jane Lynch. When second season came around, all of that was botched, especially in the beginning of the season. Without the brewing love story, I really didn’t care about anyone else enough. Jane Lynch was replaced by Megan Mullalley and obviously there’s no discussion even comparing the two. And Ken Marino’s character is completely different in the earlier episodes of second season, and he becomes less likeable and therefore you root for him less. In essence, I think the show got off track a bit and perhaps lost its fans along the way (or just me).

Heroes (2006-2010/NBC)

Why It’s Good: I always tell people that the first season of Heroes is one of my favorite seasons of any show because it introduces supernatural powers in a way that you don’t have to stretch your imagination too far, because the writing, for example in the opening monologues, is really stellar, and because the plot twists were both riveting and believable. It was a show that I thought could be cool for both comic book nerds and people with limited imaginations.

Why It Got Canceled: Something happened along the way that I think they just forgot what the show was about to begin with. The writer’s strike forced a shortened second season and an abrupt ending to the plot. The third season tried to pick it back up with momentum, but it unfortunately it ran with momentum in the wrong direction. As each season went by, the new super powers being introduced were unrealistic, even to a lover of fantasy. The plot twists seemed completely forced and I never like the shift that happens in characters where they switch from being bad to good and vice versa, and suddenly this happens in every other episode with 80% of the cast. It’s so easy to detach yourself from these characters by the fourth season, which I think is a horrible attribute in a show.