Our DVR broke this week. I won’t go into the trauma of missing the last installment of Zen on Masterpiece Mystery, or of losing the final three (still unwatched) episodes of the now cancelled Men of a Certain Age. The upside of this technological crisis, however, was that it spurred us to unearth old TV favorites on streaming video from Netflix and break out some DVDs. There’s always something kind of bittersweet about that, though, especially running across old friends that were cancelled well before their prime, and in some cases even before they quite hit their stride. And so, in memoriam, tonight borg.com will spotlight a few of our genre favorites that were cancelled too soon.
Life (2007-2009/NBC/21 episodes)
NBC’s short-lived quirky police procedural about a mild-mannered homicide detective wrongfully convicted of murdering his partner’s entire family starred English actor Damian Lewis (Assassin in Love, Showtime’s new series Homeland) and Sarah Shahi (USA’s Fairly Legal). Its offbeat mix of gruesome murders and weird-but-lovable cast members was probably a little too offbeat for most viewers, but we loved Lewis’s Zen-meditating Charlie Crews and his efforts to fit back into his life and job after eleven years in prison and an undisclosed multimillion dollar settlement with the LAPD. An intriguing series-long mystery plot (who really killed Crews’s partner?) might have made it more difficult for new viewers to join mid-season (although we had no trouble getting hooked after just one episode), but was thoughtfully resolved in the series finale. Standout performances by Donal Logue and Adam Arkin only compound our sense of loss for this series.
The Riches (2007-2008/FX/19 episodes)
Before the days of Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy, FX broke every rule of tasteless TV in this outrageous series about a family of Travellers trying to make it as “buffers” in an upscale suburban neighborhood, after assuming the identities of a family killed in a car accident. Starring standup comic Eddie Izzard as title character “Doug Rich,” and Minnie Driver (Phantom of the Opera), The Riches featured scams, drug abuse, murders, robbery, and a host of other illicit goings-on–and that’s just by the heroes! Alternately appalling and hilarious, ultimately The Riches just couldn’t hold on to its early impressive ratings, and was cancelled after only 19 episodes, leaving loyal viewers without even a semblance of closure to the Riches’ compelling storyline.
Tru Calling (2003-2005/Fox/26 episodes)
Eliza Dushku’s first starring vehicle of her post-Buffy days, Tru Calling had an excellent sci-fi premise, sort of Medium meets Groundhog Day. Medical student Tru (Dushku) gets a part-time job in the morgue and discovers that the recently deceased can ask for her help, causing her to relive their final days, in the hopes of saving their lives or solving their murders. Co-starring The Hangover‘s Zach Galafianakis in a wonderful role as Tru’s morgue mentor, and White Collar’s and Chuck’s Matt Bomer as Tru’s love interest, Tru Calling was gearing up for great things, the mysteries surrounding Tru’s power only building, just as the series was unceremoniously axed by Fox.
Eleventh Hour (2008-2009/CBS/18 episodes)
This American adaptation of the even-shorter-lived BBC medical thriller (with Patrick Stewart) starred accomplished English actor Rufus Sewell (Zen, Knight’s Tale, Pillars of the Earth) as Dr. Jacob Hood, FBI consultant solving baffling scientific crimes. Not an outstanding series by any standards, Eleventh Hour was nevertheless competent and entertaining, and one had the feeling that the performers were better than the material they had to work with. I firmly believe the show could have gotten even better, but it was trapped in a dead-end timeslot (Thursdays at 10 pm) and ultimately failed to interest the CSI viewership the network hoped would bolster ratings.
The Dresden Files (2007/SyFy/12 episodes)
I’m still stinging from the cancellation of this great adaptation of Jim Butcher’s bestselling urban fantasy series. Starring the always-solid Paul Blackthorne (guest appearances in Burn Notice, Monk, Leverage, Warehouse 13, and others), the show featured excellent writing, engaging paranormal storylines, and an absolutely winning cast, but wasn’t given the same network or fan support of later SyFy hits like Warehouse 13 or Eureka. Fortunately, all twelve episodes are currently available via streaming video on Netflix.
Tomorrow, C.J. Bunce will continue the list with the rest of our list of TV series that ended too soon.