A lot of good TV shows have come and gone, but sometimes I wonder if I miss the show itself or the circumstances around watching it. I used to watch a TV show about the Vikings Sunday afternoons when I was in university. It was a great show on history and archaeology, but I think the real pleasure came out of the fact that by the time it came on, my weekend homework was usually finished. It was the signal to start my night off. I can say similar things about a lot of the British cop shows that were around in the 1980s, because I used to watch them with my Dad. I miss the shows, but I what I really miss is spending time with him.
All that being said, there are some shows I miss because of their pure genius. My two all-time favourites are Babylon 5 and Buffy/Angel. Both were clever and beautifully crafted. Bab 5 was more complex and sometimes struggled with all that creative brilliance (+/ the network execs who simply didn’t get it) but will remain on my keeper shelf always. There is something of a Shakespearean grandeur there. Plus, the Vorlons were just so cool.
I have to point to it as a real influence on how I think about story construction. The plot layering is without peer. If you watch it from the beginning, there isn’t a throw away scene in the entire series. (Watch out for Mr. Morden). Everything counts, even if it doesn’t become apparent until the next season–or even several seasons later.
Both B5 and Buffy ran their course. Angel ended in a rather spectacular, dystopian fashion I love or hate depending on my mood, but at least it ended. What bugs me far more are all the shows that died on vine before they had a chance to reach their full potential. Firefly (see Jessa’s post) is a great example—I will never understand why that one didn’t flourish.
Others committed the sin of stumbling at the starting gate, but given time could have grown into their promise. Moonlight was just starting to hit its groove after a somewhat wan beginning (Vampire Mick needed assertiveness training). Blood Ties started out well but the writing faltered, probably once they figured out they were destined for cancellation. Defying Gravity was definitely interesting, but I think the threads of the story needed to be pulled together sooner. I loved the Dollhouse, but it was too abstract for a lot of people. It took some time to understand what was going on.
Which leads me to think that, while it’s tough enough to get a book series off the ground, there is zero tolerance for any missteps while launching a new TV show. Viewers—or maybe it’s advertisers?—don’t wait around for slow but steady growth. It’s either an instant, or it’s gone.
It makes me cautious about becoming attached to a new series too soon. Does the high rate of cancellation make anyone else reluctant to try new shows?