Tuesday, December 30, 2008

On The Fourth Day Of Christmas

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love – Television – gave to me... four shows from last season that I wish were still on this season.

Okay, first of all this isn't the "fourth day of Christmas" post that I had originally planned. What I did have planned was a series of gripes about Canadian TV and the difficulties that being a Canadian imposed on people who love TV – like the fact that the best premium cable, and some basic cable, shows don't show up on basic cable here for months or years after they air in the United States. I could have reviewed Deadwood and Rome, but what would be the point; they had already been cancelled. And please don't ask me to subscribe to the premium channels to see these shows unless you are willing to provide me with a guaranteed $28 each and every month to pay for them. And don't even get me started on people who embed HULU clips on their websites that I can't see because I'm not an American. At least HULU tells me up front. Some other sources make me watch a commercial first and then tell me.

I know, this all sounds a bit self-centered. More to the point writing it was increasingly difficult for me, so I dropped it, but what to replace it with. I very nearly wrote "On the fourth day of Christmas my true love – Television – gave to me... nothing at all." I think I could have spun that into a piece about the industry but it kind of loses the numerical flavour. But then I thought of a great old standby, the "wrongly" cancelled show. Networks have all kinds of reasons for cancelling shows of course but in the light of what we got from them instead, maybe they shouldn't have been so hasty with what they did dump.

Moonlight – CBS: CBS cancelled a show that usually finished first in its timeslot and replaced it with The Ex-List. More to the point they cancelled a show about a vampire in love with a human (and vice versa) six months before ($150 million gross in four weeks), and less than four months before HBO put True Blood on the air. Yeah I know there were fan protests, and I know that after what happened with Jericho (which the network totally mishandled, but that's beside the point) CBS might be just a little wary of on a show that might be described as a "cult favourite," but come on, can anyone really say that the show wouldn't have performed better than The Ex-List? No, I didn't think so.

Women's Murder Club – ABC: This was the show that was usually on opposite Moonlight an alternated winning the time slot with it. The show, about four women involved in the criminal justice system – a cop, a coroner, an assistant district attorney, and a reporter – did reasonably well in the ratings and was one of the few new ABC shows to come back after the Writers Strike, and did so with little apparent erosion in the ratings. The show was not the unanimous critical success that Pushing Daisies or to a lesser extent Dirty Sexy Money and Eli Stone were, but in terms of audience numbers it was close to the latter two series. The time slot might have hurt it; Grey's Anatomy on Thursday night might have been a better fit for the show than 20/20 or the weak and often moved Men In Trees. Certainly Women's Murder Club would have done better coming out of Grey's Anatomy than Big Shots did last season or Life On Mars did this season.

Las Vegas – NBC: Yeah, I know it was expensive, and yeah I know that it was coming to the end of its string but it was one of the great "guilty pleasures" and it deserved to be treated better than NBC treated it in what turned out to be the final not quite a season. Particularly when you remember that this season NBC had Crusoe, My Own Worst Enemy and Knight Rider, none of which can be classified as "great guilty pleasures."

1 vs. 100 – NBC: This one was really hard to decide on. There are a lot of people who would have said Journeyman but it wasn't a show that I saw much of, and I could make arguments for FOX's New Amsterdam (because I liked the concept; it reminded me a bit of Highlander) or Shark (because it's fun to watch James Woods chew scenery), the CW's Aliens In America (which I never saw, but had good ratings – well good by CW standards – until it came back from the strike and let's face it the CW needs all the help they can get). In theory at least I could even make a case for the CW's Life Is Wild on the grounds that it was closer to family fare than most of what is on any network and even at its worst in terms of ratings it did way better than all of the MRC shows that the CW put on combined. But no, I went with a game show, 1 vs. 100 and I did it because as game shows go it was more knowledge based than something like Deal Or No Deal and despite all of the tinkering that NBC did with the scoring system (instead of money levels for each question where you got that amount for each mob member eliminated they changed it to ten levels were you had to eliminate ten mob members to collect that amount of money) and the composition of "the Mob" (putting permanent mob members in, some of whom wouldn't have survived the old system – I'm looking at you Dahm Triplets and you Oscar the Grouch) it was always an enjoyable show to watch.

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