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Beware the Ides of May!

(Suck it, Shakespeare—I can fabricate ominous phrases, too.)

For those of you not hip to the inner workings of the TV biz, May marks the end of the traditional television season, when networks start cancelling underperforming series. In other words, they’re gonna kill your favorite show! It’s personal vendetta against you and your impeccable TV taste! I know; I’ve been there.

No amount of critical buzz, and especially no “Save Our Show!” online petition, can stay the execution of a barely watched gem. Many great series have been put down after only a single season, most infamously Firefly and Freaks and Geeks. Neither will be discussed here, because … infamy.

Instead, this month’s Content Shifter will turn you onto 13 under-the-radar shows that met their untimely demise after Season 1:

Terriers (Season 1 on Amazon and iTunes): This confusingly titled show was cancelled by FX in 2010. Ex-cop Hank Dolworth (Donal Logue) runs a low-rent, beachside private-detective operation in Ocean Park, Calif., pining for his ex-wife and generally slacking off. But when a small-time case leads to a big-time political scandal, and bodies start dropping, he’s in way over his head—and, like a terrier, Hank won’t let go. Thirteen episodes of SoCal crime-noir at its finest (and grungiest).

Action (Season 1 on Amazon and iTunes): In 1999, Fox produced a bitterly pointed, caustically funny dark comedy that took a Schwarzenegger-sized shit all over the Hollywood business of show, led by a scumbag character named “Peter Dragon” (Jay Mohr)—and yet somehow Action didn’t catch on. HBO or Showtime would have been a better home for Action (Fox only aired eight of 13 episodes, dumping the rest to cable), but glorious asshole Peter Dragon wasn’t built to last.

Wonderfalls (Season 1 on DailyMotion): Star Caroline Dhavernas once described her 2004 Fox series Wonderfalls as “Touched by an Angel on acid,” and I won’t even attempt to improve upon that. Dhavernas (later of Hannibal and obscure treasure Mary Kills People) and writer/producer Bryan Fuller created such a weird world of talking toy animals and existential angst that it’s a wonder that Wonderfalls managed to air 13 episodes on network TV. Best watched with herbal enhancement.

The Grinder (Season 1 on Hulu and Crackle): Again, Fox? Why you gotta cancel everything? In 2015-2016’s The Grinder, Rob Lowe played an actor who played a lawyer on a hit legal drama call The Grinder—follow? After the show is cancelled, Lowe returns to his small Idaho hometown to work in a law firm run by his attorney brother (Fred Savage); life-imitating-and-irritating-art shenanigans ensue. The Grinder was supremely stoopid, but still smarter and funnier than most everything Fox has produced since.

Constantine (Season 1 on CW Seed): After a rocky start in 2014, NBC’s Constantine (based on the DC/Vertigo comic book Hellblazer) evolved into a highly entertaining supernatural series … just in time to be cancelled after 13 episodes. British actor Matt Ryan injected sorcerer/demon hunter John Constantine with a snarky cynicism that did the comic justice; NBC just didn’t know what to do with him. Constantine, the character, lives on in The CW’s Legends of Tomorrow.

The Middleman (Season 1 on Amazon and Google Play): Another comic-book adaptation, 2008’s The Middleman was a goofy romp notable for its rapid-fire pop-cultural references, odd-fit home (ABC Family?!), and co-star Natalie Morales in leather pants (inappropriately, yet magnificently, bootylicious for a Disney channel). The Middleman (Matt Keeslar) battles alien and supernatural threats, Men in Black-style; Wendy (Morales) is his wiseacre apprentice; much big dumb fun is had.

Trophy Wife (Season 1 on ABC.com and ABC App): A party girl (Malin Akerman) falls in love with and marries an older man (Bradley Whitford), much to the dismay/disgust of her BFF (hey, Natalie Morales again) and his two ex-wives (Marcia Gay Harden and Michaela Watkins). Saddled with a divisive and misleading title, 2013’s Trophy Wife had a killer cast, sharp writing and critical acclaim to burn, lasting 22 episodes before the ax dropped. Whitford can’t catch a break.

The Good Guys (Season 1 on Amazon): Case in point: The Good Guys, a 2010 Fox (ugh …) series that was 50 percent buddy-cop drama and 210 percent lunacy, featured a mustachioed Whitford at his freak-flag funniest, only to be shut down after 20 episodes. Dallas detective Dan Stark (Whitford) is an old-school, loose-cannon cop who hates “computer machines” and “smarty phones”; Det. Jack Bailey (Colin Hanks) is his by-the-book partner. A cop show for people who hate cop shows.

Warren the Ape (Season 1 on Amazon and iTunes): This whole column could be about single-season MTV shows, but 2010’s Warren the Ape (an unlikely spinoff of equally unlikely 2002 Fox series Greg the Bunny) was easily the most eff’dup. Thespian monkey puppet Warren’s career spirals into drug-debauched chaos following the cancellation of Greg’s hit kids’ show, leading him into exploitation flicks, cheap porn and, worse, off-off-Broadway theater. Dr. Drew (as himself) is no help.

Death Valley (Season 1 on Amazon and iTunes): Another one-and-done MTV series, 2011’s Death Valley followed the twilight cop cases of the Undead Task Force, charged with policing vampire, werewolf and zombie crimes in the San Fernando Valley. MTV wasn’t the place for a bloody blend of dark comedy and genuine horror; Death Valley probably would have lasted longer than 12 episodes on Syfy, or any other cable outlet. Still, it gave Tania Raymonde’s (Lost) eyebrows a chance to be funny.

Quarry (Season 1 on Max Go and Amazon): Quarry was the Memphis-barbecued second season of True Detective everybody really wanted—too bad it went unwatched on Cinemax instead of HBO proper. This ’70s crime-noir series was grittily crafted and spun with jarring twists, and Logan Marshall-Green’s seething performance as a Vietnam vet-turned-reluctant hitman should have won all the awards. Instead, Cinemax cancelled Quarry after an eight-episode run in 2016.

Moonlight (Season 1 on CW Seed): Not so much “good” as “so hilariously bad it’s ironically good,” 2007 CBS vampire drama Moonlight was either a ripoff of Angel or an attempt to cash in on pretty-vamp Twilight mania. Whatever the plan, it didn’t work: CBS staked L.A. private dick Mick St. John (Alex O’Loughlin) after 16 ridiculous episodes. Even funnier than a vampire detective was his girlfriend, a “famous” “Internet journalist.” In 2007? And she’s not on TMZ? Please.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker (Season 1 on Amazon and iTunes): Now here’s a supernatural investigator and a real journalist, Carl Kolchak! Kolchak: The Night Stalker only lasted 20 episodes over 1974 and ’75, but actor Darren McGavin’s rumpled Chicago newspaper reporter inspired myriad sci-fi series over the decades—most famously, The X-Files. Sure, it looks cheesy now, but Kolchak was groundbreaking, disturbing stuff in the post-Exorcist ’70s. Warning: Avoid the 2005 reboot, as it suuucks.

Bill Frost talks about television on the TV Tan podcast (BillFrost.tv) and tweets about it at @Bill_Frost.

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No, not all of the great shows are here; 2016 served up too much quality TV to contain in this space, while not all of the great shows rise to the level of year-end best lists. (Too many other critical lists are surrendering space to Stranger Things; just sayin’.)

These 16 shows are binge-worthy alternatives to holiday family time—Merry Xmas!

Westworld (HBO): This Westworld was smarter, sleeker and more terrifying than its 1973 origin flick, but it also imbued the Wild West park’s androids with a tragic “humanity.” (Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton for all of the awards.) It also reminded us that actual flesh-and-blood humans are just the worst.

Veep (HBO): Now more than ever, huh? Vice president-turned-president-turned-footnote Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) suffered an exhausting political beating months before the rest of us did in 2016, but at least hers was funny (and slightly more F-bomb-heavy). Forget IdiocracyVeep is our republic’s true guide.

BoJack Horseman (Netflix): Animated series BoJack Horseman has always been about the aggressive shallowness of Hollywood and celebrity, but Season 3 went deeper and darker (and more experimental, including a dialogue-free underwater episode) than ever before. It’s also funny as hell. OK, it’s everything as hell.

Lady Dynamite (Netflix): Maria Bamford’s Lady Dynamite was a meta-comedy that did for bipolar disorder what BoJack Horseman did for depression and Jessica Jones did for PTSD: It made entertaining, thoughtful art out of the usually “too heavy” to talk about. Both way surreal and way real … sounds good, feels right.

Quarry (Cinemax): This overlooked, 1972-set crime-noir series is grittily crafted down to the most minute details, spun with jarring twists, and anchored by Logan Marshall-Green’s intense, mercurial performance as a reluctant hit man. It’s the Memphis-barbecued second season of True Detective you really wanted.

Better Call Saul (AMC): The debut of Better Call Saul was a fantastic surprise that expanded upon Breaking Bad, building its own pre-Heisenberg world. From hilarious to heartbreaking, Season 2 further transformed small-time Albuquerque lawyer Slippin’ Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) into future legal shark Saul Goodman.

Halt and Catch Fire (AMC): Behind Saul, Halt and Catch Fire is AMC’s best drama, even if it doesn’t generate Walking Dead numbers. The ’80s-set computer-revolution saga moved to Silicon Valley in Season 3, amping the startup fireworks between Mackenzie Davis and Kerry Bishé, who overshadowed even Lee Pace (!).

Mr. Robot (USA): Elliot (Rami Malek) and hacker group fsociety brought down E(vil) Corp at conclusion of Season 1, but it just caused more problems than it solved. Mr. Robot 2.0 was less buzzy, and trickier to follow, but it gave Elliot’s circle (especially Carly Chaikin and Portia Doubleday) space to shine.

Goliath (Amazon Prime): David E. Kelley and Billy Bob Thornton streamed a classic Los Angeles legal-noir drama that overcame a middling plot with killer performances from Maria Bello, Molly Parker, Nina Arianda, Tania Raymonde, William Hurt and, of course, Thornton himself. Binge with a stiff drink—or eight.

Atlanta (FX): Donald Glover’s Atlanta wasn’t what anyone expected. Something far more than a comedy (though there are hilarious moments) or a drama (ditto, heavy moments), it unfolded like an indie flick in no hurry to get any Big Moments, and depicted the flat-broke-and-black experience with unflinching detail.

Better Things (FX): One of the rawest comedic TV portrayals of single motherhood ever, Pamela Adlon’s Better Things swung from sweet to sad to snarky with an assured precision that her creative partner, Louis C.K., never quite nailed with Louie. Subtle jabs at Hollywood’s treatment of women are just a bonus.

You’re the Worst (FXX): The Only Anti-Rom-Com That Matters got back on track after some downer detours last year—which isn’t to say You’re the Worst didn’t take chances in Season 3. Gretchen (Aya Cash) and Jimmy (Chris Geere) may never work out, but it’s sweet (and profanely hilarious) to watch them fail.

Shameless (Showtime): Emmy Rossum, who’s played Shameless’ surrogate Gallagher mom Fiona for seven seasons now, recently got a pay bump to at least equal co-star William H. Macy’s salary. Coincidentally, she also turned in her best, most heartbreaking work this year. ’Merica isn’t Modern Family; it’s Shameless.

The Good Place (NBC): Kristen Bell and Ted Danson are an unbeatable comic combo, and fears that afterlife sitcom The Good Place would be too weird for broadcast TV were apparently unfounded: It’s a (relative) NBC hit and, even better, the Jesus people are mightily offended by this inclusive version of “Heaven.”

Wynonna Earp (Syfy): If you were somewhat disappointed with Syfy’s recent zero-fun heroine epic Van Helsing—I know I was was—look back a little further in 2016 for Wynonna Earp, a Buffy the Gunslinger supernatural series that star Melanie Scrofano tore up with quippy glee. Also: hot Doc Holliday!

Not Safe With Nikki Glaser (Comedy Central): Nikki Glaser’s Not Safe was a sex-and-relationships talk show that combined intelligence, real information and filthy comedy that more than lived up to the show’s title. So, of course, Comedy Central canceled it after 20 episodes to make room for more Tosh.0. For shame.

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Quarry (Friday, Sept. 9, Cinemax), series debut: If Quarry were premiering on HBO instead of lesser-subscribed-to cousin Cinemax, it would be hyped like the second coming of True Detective (Season 1, of course). The 1972-set crime-noir series is based on the novels of Max Allan Collins (Road to Perdition) and directed by Greg Yaitanes (the late, great Banshee), so Quarry’s pedigree is already as hard-boiled as they come, and the pilot episode delivers even harder—but it’s a slow burn, so patience. U.S. Marine Mac (Logan Marshall-Green) returns home to Memphis after enduring a harrowing—and well-publicized stateside—tour in Vietnam, only to encounter anti-war hippie-hate and bleak job prospects; even his devoted girlfriend, Joni (Jodi Balfour), is wary of him. When approached by a man calling himself The Broker (Peter Mullan), a mysterious crime boss looking to hire a killer with Mac’s marksman skills, Mac initially turns down the offer, but is inevitably sucked in—because, crime-noir. Quarry (named both for Mac and The Broker’s rocky meeting place and the hunter/game definition) is grittily crafted down to the most-minute details, and then spun with jarring twists, all anchored by Marshall-Green’s intense, mercurial performance. Here’s the second season of True Detective you really wanted.

Son of Zorn (Sunday, Sept. 11, Fox), series debut: Fox has moved up the debut of combo animation/live-action comedy Son of Zorn a couple of weeks to be unleashed after an NFL doubleheader—because if there’s anything the ever-intellectual football audience loves, it’s hyper-weird meta-sitcoms. Son of Zorn, from writer-directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord (The Lego Movie, though I prefer “the creators of MTV’s unheralded classic Clone High”), is about cartoon warrior Zorn (voiced by Jason Sudeikis) leaving the ’toon nation of Zephyria and returning to flesh-and-blood Orange County to reconnect with his ex-wife (Cheryl Hines) and son (Johnny Pemberton). He’s Sterling Archer in He-Man’s body, and SoZ doesn’t bother to look for much comedy beyond that, because how could mashing-up two Fox mainstays—ridiculous cartoons and quirky suburban families—possibly fail? Barring Bob’s Burgers-level development from lame pilot to much-improved series, Son of Zorn isn’t long for this world … or Zephyria.

Masters of Sex (Sunday, Sept. 11, Showtime), season premiere: Bill Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) finally cross over into the ’70s—burn those bras, and break out the polyester (but not too close to each other; flammability was a major concern back in ancient ’Merica). The sexual revolution that Masters and Johnson inadvertently sparked in the ’60s is also in full swing—insert all puns here—but Bill’s in no position to enjoy it, as he’s battling in court to keep his controversial practice while battling other demons in AA. He’s also still estranged from professional partner/obsession Virginia, who ran off with Dan (Josh Charles) at the end of last season. The former Mrs. Masters, Libby (Caitlin FitzGerald), is D-U-N with Bill and exploring her new world of options like a champ. (Thanks for that sexual revolution, M&J.) Season 4 of Masters of Sex also steers a bit lighter than the tearjerkers of the past few years—obviously, the hair and clothes alone are comedy gold.

Legends of Chamberlain Heights (Wednesday, Sept. 14, Comedy Central), series debut: The only funny aspect of Comedy Central’s new animated series Legends of Chamberlain Heights is the name of the school where it’s set: Michael Clarke Duncan High. That’s it.

American Horror Story (Wednesday, Sept. 14. FX), season premiere: As of this writing, there’s been no “official” announcement from FX regarding the theme for Season 6 of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story anthology series—just a handful of promos that were meant to be misleading. Where to go after Murder House, Asylum, Coven, Freak Show and Hotel? My personal pick would be American Horror Story: Comcast Service Center. Review-dumpster website Rotten Tomatoes recently listed the upcoming season as American Horror Story: The Mist, but that was once a Stephen King novel and movie, and Spike already has a related television series in development. Themes hinted in the promos include aliens, cults, the Antichrist, radiation fallout or even a return to Hollywood (à la Season 1, Murder House), but why not make a play to get Connie Britton back with American Horror Story: Nashville?

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