There were hundreds of canceled shows from the 2011-2012 television season. I try to watch the pilots of any show that I could possibly be interested in and I drop those that are irredeemable. These are 8 of the shows that made my cut but didn’t score with the networks. Some I totally get canceling, and some I will totally miss, others were on the cusp and died in potential land.
I’m not a horror movie fan. When I was in 7th grade I went through a phase for a couple of months and watched a friend’s horror fan collection. I grew up and didn’t look back. So while Cabin in the Woods looks intriguing it was a surprise I found myself watching the television series, The River. The idea of traveling down a river spotted with a malevolent magic is rather intriguing, hitting up the supernatural lover inside me. It was great how you weren’t certain at first if you were seeing things or if it was true magic. The writer in me liked how finding the father gave the show a destination and yet it could spin-off from there if the show was renewed.
Right away though, I found the characters sneer-worthy. I kept begging the doctor to please cut his hair and stop being so ugly. His arc was well-developed but the actor just didn’t fit the bill. I never could relate to his hang up with his dad – not that it wasn’t a valid reaction to the way he was raised – I just couldn’t feel it. The girl was good-looking and even better root-worthy but her character seemed motivated by conflicting ideas and with so many characters felt over worked and fake. I’d have loved to see more of her camera man father but as he was he became a shallow motivation and little else. The mother acted over wrought and so self-centered that you couldn’t root for her even when she was holding the group together or in danger herself.
My favorite characters were the engineer and his daughter due to their back-story. She only spoke Spanish and had a connection to the river and it’s magic; her father didn’t want a life motivated by this like her mother’s was. The black camera man and producer were my second favorite characters, depthful yet light, motivated yet not overly angst filled. If all the characters were so developed the cast would have better fit the tone of the show. The hanging camera man started out with a great back-story, a villain you’d love to hate but whose villainy petered out quickly.
In spite of character problems I enjoyed much of the plot of several episodes. Obviously whoever wrote these episodes enjoys the genre and farmed their ideas from their favorite movies. This didn’t bother me as it was rather newer to me but for you to capture the market such used ideas needed a new spin and a thematic tie that would connect the ideas. Because the plot was developed so haphazardly at times the plot got too weird or at others not weird enough.
My two favorite episodes were when they found the girl’s father on the ghost ship and the doll tree where service for another by the black cameraman broke the curse. As it is both the plot and characters were too hit or miss to capture an audience, especially the hard to please horror crowd.
The River aired on ABC. I concur with its cancellation: Forget it!
I love ABC Family and always try out their shows even though I hate the two most popular (Pretty Little Liars and The Life of the American Teenager). Based on a book trilogy by Liz Braswell, The Nine Lives of Chloe King has a really cute premise with a quasi-new race of cat people called the Mai who are in a silent war with humans. I really enjoyed her fighting and running around the city acting like a cat. I loved that she can kill a male human with a kiss and so must settle on a Mai mate.
I was worried and intrigued in the pilot when Chloe was killed only to return to life. Sure, the writer wanted to intrigue the audience and convince Chloe of her specialness but to use one of nine lives in such a havey cavey fashion seemed rash. And this is the problem with the show, a problem that plagues many new shows. (Better to start with killing the human by accident thus making someone out to kill her more tension filled as it does occupy the plot for the rest of the season.)
There’s this looseness, formlessness to the show that says hasty with no consideration for establishing the world. There is an episode of setup then an assumption of a status quo that hasn’t been fully developed, not enough to be a foundation to rely upon. The writers then try to add to the world each episode with random events but relies on a status quo that is shallow, with so many assumptions that you already feel like you understand while nothing much has happened.
This occurs frequently with fantasy and paranormal driven stories because the world building is so essential to the show working as a whole. The writer must be expert at using reoccurring elements each week that build one upon the next in an orderly but fresh fashion. Many times they get a fresh story, like with Chloe King being a Mai uniter and savior, but it’s formless or they get an orderly story (like The River) but it lacks creativity.
Top this random plot with a clichéd love triangle where the boy she wants (Grey) is out of reach and the boy who wants her (Alek, right) is available but clearly a second choice. If more had been done with developing the Mai premise perhaps it might have made it to a second season. As it is I’m just glad I won’t have to watch her two best friends act like middle schoolers.
The Nine Lives of Chloe King aired on ABC Family. I concur with its cancellation: Forget it!
One of my brothers loved Chuck and so I watched it up until the last year and a half when we stopped watching it together. It’s actually quite amazing how the writers created this bond between you, the audience, and the characters. All the characters to boot.
Chuck is geeky but desirable with a conscious and brains. Sarah is beautiful but with good taste, she knows a good man when she meets him. Casey is tough and hard and not very loyal but a heart of gold. I believe Adam Baldwin goes a long way with making this character endearing. Morgan has all the heart and adds so much to Chuck besides standing on his own as the best friend. Ellie and Devon are the perfect couple and add conflict and threat for Chuck while being a sister and brother-in-law you’d want to have yourself. The crew at the Buy More are a riot and add to any trouble Chuck might encounter, while General Beckman is a great boss at once empowering and challenging.
The thing is, while you care for all of the characters, the writers expect them to do a plethora of stupid stuff and get into increasingly outrageous and unbelievable situations. It’s not to say the plot hasn’t always stretched your ability to suspend disbelief it just stretches it to the breaking point now.
I loved meeting Chuck and Ellie’s mother and father, Ellie and Devon having a baby, Morgan becoming manager and finding a long-term girlfriend (Casey’s daughter) and Chuck and Sarah finally getting married. It’s just we’ve been there done that so now the writers feel the need to out do themselves. Just let it go, you’ve had a good run, against the odds, it’s time to go to bed.
Chuck aired on NBC. I concur with its cancellation: Forget it!
When Memphis Beat came out I felt like another cop drama was too much. After watching the pilot – wow! The city of Memphis almost became a character itself with detailed visuals and Dwight, the protagonist fit the city perfectly. In fact, Dwight himself was well characterized, again through the details.
His sense of justice made his looking out for people part of his character rather than something added for audience expectations. His Elvis love and impersonation hobby added a bit of quirk that Jason Lee carries off to perfection. The song he sang each episode a bit of heart laid to music (better when he actually sang them himself rather than when the producers brought someone else in). His Mama and the conflict between who he thought his Daddy was and the evidence saying otherwise brought depth. His partner, Whitehouse, was a perfect foil for the character with his sarcastic pessimism. His Lieutenant was a great contrast to his own methods. Even the little secondary characters in the precinct added to the character of Dwight and Memphis.
The first few cases were well-written, maybe nothing mind-blowing but tweaked for their run in Memphis and with Dwight. It got weird when they hurriedly tied up the story-line about Dwight’s Daddy being dirty. It was a very puzzling death keel when so much of the show was good.
The only thing that would have made the show even better would have been to develop an intriguing Memphis character every episode and tease the audience about whether they are just a suspect or the true villain of the episode. In this way make the show about Memphis and the south while the vehicle is the cop drama. In the end I believe the producers just didn’t know the gem they had, sometimes after they run through the scripts already written is when the show dies.
Memphis Beat aired on TNT. I reject its cancellation: Miss it!
I wasn’t looking for a new Lost when I started watching Alcatraz. Sam Neill has always been a draw and I wasn’t disappointed in his role in this tv show either. I did get caught up in the whole mystery of the time jump and exploring each of the missing inmates’ or guards’ backgrounds through a present case. Emerson’s love affair with Dr. Lucy Banerjee was very compelling and when she got hurt even though I couldn’t care-a-less I hurt for him.
I loved how they used the doctor as a new age thinker to explore the past prison life of the inmates. Loved the male doctor who always did what he was told whether by the warden or Emerson, yet knew next to nothing about what was really going on. (We needed more characters like this who changed every time something new was revealed!) The connection to Madsen’s grandfather and the odd role he played in recruiting different inmates was intriguing and I wanted to know more about the past. The uncle who raised Madsen also had a connection to Alcatraz and tried to protect her. Even Jorge Garcia as the consultant Soto became more than just the plot device he started life as. There were two problems though.
#1 Sarah Jones as Detective Rebecca Madsen. Hate her. Hate her. Hate her. I don’t use hate lightly either. She made you grit your teeth each and every time she was on screen. When her partner is murdered you couldn’t care less. She didn’t work well with the others in the cast either. There was no sense of relationship with them at different depths, connectiveness or discord. As the protagonist her character was the most essential to get right, preferably someone with chemistry and emotional tension with each of the other essential characters.
#2 The mystery behind the events so expertly set up was shallow. There just wasn’t much to it and what there was, was pretty anti-climatic. A glimpse of an element of the mystery should have intrigued us more than the initial setup did. When something is actually revealed we should feel like we want more, not shaking our heads and rolling our eyes or even worse puzzled because it plain doesn’t make sense.
It wasn’t shocking to me to find out this show was cancelled due to its issues, especially the first one. I will miss Sam Neill on television though – networks, snatch his up!
Alcatraz aired on FOX. I reject its cancellation: Miss it!
Before I even really watched tv I saw a couple episodes of Ally Walker in Profiler. Wow, she blew me away! So The Protector was a must see for me. I was pleasantly surprised.
It wasn’t a show that broke new ground or even blew me away, like I said it was pleasant… and it proved Ally Walker still has acting chops. Here’s the thing – the reason Profiler was so great was because it worked to her strengths as an actress. Much like Kristen Stewart, Ally Walker has this natural vulnerability that films very well. In The Protector she was simply playing against her strengths. I personally loved the quirky stance she took for her character and enjoyed the different relationships she had with her partner, her brother, her lieutenant, her sons and even her different love interests. These relationships didn’t create situations where you’d naturally feel vulnerable and neither did her cases.
As a writer if I was going to go with this quirky character then I’d have really run with it. Made the cases quirky and her relationships quirky. I’d have made her position on the force quirky in some way that makes her one of a kind. Bones and Castle cases come to mind when you think quirky. On Bones the cases always have bones involved. On Castle the way found, position, and/or circumstances of the body always has the feel of a plot opener for a murder mystery book.
It’s not that she can’t play a member of law enforcement, a mother or a lover well – it just doesn’t maker her special either. In a show called The Protector you need to be able to stand out. Think about House, The Mentalist, The Closer and Bones. Yeah I know – there is some X factor that each headliner does well or that makes them different from every other person on the planet. Ally Walker’s specialness is her vulnerability and this wasn’t banked on in her headliner television show.
The Protector aired on Lifetime. I reject its cancellation: Miss it!
After the introductory show on Bones I thought The Finder had a lot of promise. My favorite scene from the episode was Walter sitting in his underwear feeling out the suspect/victim by “wearing” the guy’s apartment. The biggest misstep coming into the first season was the creation of love interest, Deputy US Marshall, wannabe lawyer, plot device Isabel Zambada. Yeah you need an easy connection to law enforcement to run information, arrest people and help you when you get on the wrong side of the law. The drawbacks were she was too easy and didn’t jive with the rest of the characters or their quirk. Perhaps it’s the actress, perhaps it’s the character. More than likely a little of both, copying what worked with Seeley in Bones just isn’t going to cut it.
The best and most lovable character by far is Leo. We lost most of his quirk coming into season one but it didn’t matter much. Perhaps it’s just my love of Michael Clarke Duncan or it could be because he’s the heart of the show. The inclusion of the younger generation in the form of gypsy girl, Willa Monday, was smart and had potential (like in Leo and Willa’s relationship) but wasn’t well-developed. She attempts to steal from Walter but for really very little reason she gives up on it or rather pushes it off to another day then never re-addresses the issue. It was fun when Willa became involved in Walter’s crazy games to sift for clues so you could really see her potential. Even her Uncle Shadrick had potential to add depth to Willa but it was never used.
While it seems a murderer is really what Walter is always “finding” I’d have preferred him to be just finding random items of importance at first. Show his character, his hangups and his relationships. George Stults did carry off Walter’s quirky edge very believably and sincerely throughout the entire season though. This is a very positive thing! Build on it. Alas the writers just fell back on using Walter as your traditional detective and simply attempted to present him in unique packaging.
The biggest failure in the show was Walter. The character and protagonist had zero growth. It was a character without an arc, or even potential to arc. Even if a protagonist is, for the most part, going to remain the same (detectives at their core remain the same; it’s their center that causes them to solve cases the way they do) they do need to feel like they have places to grow, change or soften toward. Many writers utilize the protagonist’s love life and other relationships for this purpose. For example, Goren on Law & Order: Criminal Intent had all kinds of potential for growth; even though we never really saw any, he kept us hooked because he could have.
Due to the episode format, a tv writer in particular needs to get into the flow of their characters quickly as the story starts and stops so often and must have many beginnings, middles and ends. Producers have taken on the role of keeping these consistent and directing the flow of the character arcs. For example, on NCIS - Gibb’s character arc started changing when Mark Harmon took over majority control from the original producer. The Finder was never going to make it unless the writers and producers could get a good partnership going…sadly they’ve run out of time to try.
The Finder aired on FOX. I’m on the cusp about its cancellation: aw well, we’ll never know!
I really like to see cable channels branching out and trying to get original shows that aren’t reality tv off the ground. I try to support them by at least trying the shows and sometimes you find hidden gems. I insisted we try Against the Wall and even I hated Abby, the protagonist! Rachael Carpani is not a favorite of mine and I found her extremely overboard in this, which is her weakness as an actress. As I watched, met her partner and got the low down on working in Internal Affairs I quickly rewrote the show and included a bit of The Protector in it as well.
Marisa Ramirez rocked as Lina, Abby’s pregnant partner. You loved her attitude and she carried off the working mom and wife angle as well. I know I wanted to know more about her character! The Hispanic demographic is huge and a culture that could use some more exploration done right. I know the problem lay with the actors already chosen: Kathy Baker and Treat Williams as mom and dad. Great actors but they don’t fit in the new format. We can even see Lina’s husband’s work at times where it conflicts with hers. Bring family into the picture on both sides as well. As a writer I love the mixed race angle and all of the natural conflict and highs it can bring to the story. The IA angle is great too showing a side to law enforcement we don’t often see and her skills have to come out to deal with the buddy system.
So back to the real show…Abby did win me over by the end of the season. The story had neat angles with the family dynamics, the new partner in IA and the wannabe boyfriends. The friends with benefits relationship she had with Brodie, her brother’s partner, didn’t feel like it fit the actress at first but after more exposure to it I came to accept Brodie and actually enjoy the conflict it created.
The thing is who has such endurance to get to the end of a season before you like the protagonist? I have to say there aren’t many like me around!
Against the Wall aired on Lifetime. I’m on the cusp about its cancellation: aw well, we’ll never know!