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Little Lost Shows: TV That Died Too Soon
March 6, 2013  | By Eric Gould  | 34 comments

hasn't been cancelled, but from all the talk on the web since Sunday's season finale, you would think it had. The buzz may be well-founded because of some insider knowledge, but in TV, the numbers seldom lie. According to some reports, Enlightened was averaging 200-300,000 viewers this season, and that puts it in Terriers territory — and that's not good. In fact, for HBO, which used to own Sunday night with such shows as The Sopranos and Six Feet Under, it's relatively dismal, and it's almost a lock that Enlightened won't be back.

And that's a shame. Lots of stories were running last week calling Enlightened the best show that no one was watching. It is. Stars and co-creators Mike White (right) and Laura Dern (top photo, right) brought something very worthwhile to series television: literary-like depth to characters, and a story that took small, surprising steps mirroring everyday life in all its awkwardness.

Enlightened's theme of being courageous instead of comfortable was quiet and relevant at almost every turn. Dern's character, Amy Jellicoe, despite her selfish, sometimes reckless methods, made us consider: Do we live just for work? Does grace mean only quiet suffering? Do we chase what it is we desire, or are we able to pursue what is sustaining?

No so bad for a little TV show. It got us thinking about some other small favorites that should have lasted longer, but didn't.

There were some recent ones; the twisty Awake (2012), the equally twisty Rubicon (2010, with James Badge Dale, left), and the aforementioned, scruffy Terriers (2010, Donal Logue, top photo, second from right). Those got a full season before getting the ax, and we were able to get closure on most of their story lines.

There were some shows, like Enlightened, that got two or three seasons, but we wished had gone on. Men of a Certain Age (2009-10) comes immediately to mind. The oddball Pushing Daisies (2008-09), a fanciful tale of a pie-maker (Lee Pace, top photo, second from left) able to bring the dead back to living by his touch, is another.

There was Eli Stone (2008-09), about the lawyer whose larger-than-life hallucinations lead him to think something greater might be going on. Many other good shows, though, like Caprica (2010), the almost uniformly acclaimed prequel to Battlestar Galactica, did not make it past one season.

A quick call to David Bianculli, Fearless Leader of TVWW, had him instantly pulling a few less recent examples out of the Way Back Machine: Steve Allen's Meeting of Minds (1977-81), the PBS "talk show" that had panel discussions between actors playing significant historical figures. He also eulogized CBS's He & She (right, 1967-68) often cited as the forerunner to The Mary Tyler Moore Show family of sitcoms; the landmark HBO western Deadwood (three short seasons from 2004-06); and The Great American Dream Machine, the PBS political sketch comedy show/documentary series/unpredictable hodgepodge that lasted a single brilliant season (1971-72).

Some TVWW contributors, their impeccable taste being above reproach (and I write that with all humility), while having picked out sure winners for the past five years, have not been above buying into some that did not even make a full season. I was pleased with Allen Gregory (2011) for its retro-hiptser animation style and its irreverent subject matter (seven episodes.) And I was waayyy out in front of this year's Do No Harm, which got cut after a total of exactly two. (But, hey, The New York Times was with me on that one.)

None of us will miss this season's The Mob Doctor or the certifiably incoherent Zero Hour, but the possible demise of Enlightened got us thinking about shows that really touched us, and have stayed with us long after they were gone.

If you have any favorites that got away too soon, let us know.

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The Sarah Connor chronicles
Mar 26, 2013   |  Reply
Harry O, starring the fabulous David Janssen, which was a hit in the ratings but suffered with new management at the network. Also Wiseguy.
Mar 24, 2013   |  Reply
Terriers was a great show, I love the underdogs w/their quirks and cute but normal looks, cancelled way before their time.
does anyone remember 'Starved' another FX gem
Mar 24, 2013   |  Reply
I agree with many of the choices shared and what a cool trip down memory lane for some of my favorite shows that were short lived. I'd also add The Riches from Fx, Life on Mars (the BBC version), MI-5 also from the BBC, Homeland, and even Friday Night Lights. While it had a decent run, it still had stories to tell. Some shows are like good friends who leave us too soon.
Mar 22, 2013   |  Reply
Mark Sjothun
Frank's Place - possibly the funniest comedy ever.
Mar 21, 2013   |  Reply
Joe Agresta
Before Pushing Daisies there was Wonderfalls. Great show that barely saw the light of day. At least we got a full season on DVD
Mar 17, 2013   |  Reply
vince everett
Brooklyn South...a street cop drama in the spirit of Hill Street Blues or NYPD Blue
Mar 13, 2013   |  Reply
Vincent F. Safuto
Shows I miss so much:
100 Centre Street -- Murdered by A&E in budget cutbucks. It isn't even on DVD.
Deadwood and Rome died before their time.
I know this dates me, but does anyone remember "James at 15 (16)"? Tame by today's standards, but too much for the 1970s.
Also, "Frank's Place."

Gone, but not forgotten.
Mar 13, 2013   |  Reply
The Tick is right up there with Better Off Ted and Pushing Daisies for great, wacky shows. Patrick Warburton was hilarious! All too short lived. Flight of the Conchords as well. Been fun seeing Gemaine Clement in a few movie roles, though.
Mar 11, 2013   |  Reply
Better off Ted was another good one! Andy Richter Controls the Universe was fun, too! Miss them both.
Mar 11, 2013   |  Reply
Push Nevada, Last Resort, Awake, Alcatraz, Missing (the Ashley Judd show), GCB's, Men from Mars (the Harvey Keitel show), and one from last year that had to do with a Texan who had two families-a double life). Is broadcast TV trying to commit suicide? They switch shows like most of us change socks. My wife and I hve decided that if we lke it they won't and it will be gone after 2 or 3 episodes. Hill Street Blues would never have made it today.
Mar 11, 2013   |  Reply
TVWW is also adding, from reliable and trusted readers, "Police Squad" (duh) which ran for only six shows in 1982. We just watched the pilot episode (easily found on youtube) and it's still laugh-out-loud funny 30 years on. (Or maybe our sense of humor needs updating.) We also had on the list "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd", a perennial TVWW and reader fave. Technically, it's a two year NBC replacement show that got cancelled, but it then went on to three more at Lifetime, so you be the judge. (We're still waiting for that complete DVD, though...) -EG
Mar 10, 2013   |  Reply
Back in the early 90s, THE FLASH had a single-season run. (Pun intended.) It was quite good and the effects weren't bad for that time. Ratings were good also, but the show was expensive and was pulled for that reason, primarily. (It ended with a fun 2-parter starring Mark Hamill as The Trickster.) Speaking of heroes, anyone remember CAPTAIN NICE? Or the try-and-draw-in-the counter-culture THE NEW PEOPLE?
Mar 8, 2013   |  Reply
I SO agree with you about "Awake"! Very disappointed that that complicated and moving story ended.

I hope the insiders are wrong about Enlightened. What street was Amy walking down at the end, and what is next? I'd really like to know.
Mar 8, 2013   |  Reply
MJ - IN a recent interview Mike White said that season three will be all about the lawsuit the Abaddon CEO threatened Amy with, after learning she had hacked the company files. Let's hope HBO renews, and we get to see it. -EG
Mar 8, 2013
MJ - "Awake" was pitch perfect, not too high of a concept for me. I thought it was a brilliant idea, and it had directions to go in. Funny thing was that I truly disliked creator Kyle Killen's previous "Lonestar", which got the ax after two episodes. But in fairness, that had similar craft to the concept. Hopefully, he will get another chance soon.
Mar 8, 2013
Freaks and Geeks tremendous show, that pilot show was just beautiful i still get choked up when Lindsey dances with the boy with special needs at the dance and that Styx song "Come Sail Away" just mounts..goosebumps. You lose those moments in shows now because everything has to be about sex and language, just a beautiful series. Shame they don`t make that way anymore, no good writers to do so.
Mar 8, 2013   |  Reply
Good call. I still laugh/wince/ache at the memory of young Sam proudly arriving at school sporting a baby-blue disco-style jumpsuit but only making it partway down the hallway before understanding that it's not - at all - the cool thing he thought it was.
Mar 8, 2013
"The Law," with Judd Hirsch as attorney Murray Stone. An acclaimed two-hour pilot and, I think, four one-hours before NBC pulled the plug. Mid 70s.
Mar 8, 2013   |  Reply
Kings - 2009 with Ian McShane, Chris Egan, and Sebastian Stan.

I disagree with Caprica - I'm surprised it made it as far as it did being creepily sympathetic to terrorists.
Mar 8, 2013   |  Reply
David Graham
what about EASY STREETS.
Mar 7, 2013   |  Reply
Freaks and Geeks got cancelled way too early. Same with Arrested Development, but they're bringing that one back this spring.
Mar 7, 2013   |  Reply
Frakki K.
My Notice Board contains FOX for (trying to) kill Firefly. And, NBC for replacing the amazing "Black Donnellys" with a reality show "The Real Wedding Crashers." Idiots.
Mar 7, 2013   |  Reply
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