With HBO’s announcement that the Mike White helmed Laura Dern comedy Enlightened will not be renewed for another season (cue sobs from hysterical, quirky fans of this hysterical, quirky show), we are again faced with the sad task of reevaluating other uniquely brilliant television shows that left us before their time. Sometimes they’re too weird for the general public, other times they’re juggled from time slot to time slot without ever being given the chance to find their audience, then there’s always the victims of cost overruns. No matter what, it’s always a tragic day when one of your favorites is sent into permanent hiatus. Sadly, I have a special knack for finding these programs and have been left high and dry more than once before a story line is resolved or a series gets the freedom to take off and find its audience (a common post season phenomenon in this download/on-demand/Netflix/BluRay world). Sigh. We’ll always have the DVD extras.

Bored to Death

HBO 2009-2011

Jonathan Ames (Jason Schwartzman) is a writer living in hipster mecca Brooklyn, struggling with his second novel and recently single after his girlfriend moves out because Jonathan “smokes too much pot and drinks too much white wine.” So, like any guy in a rut, he decides to start running a Craig’s List ad as an unlicensed private detective: twee noir antics follow.  This charming exploration of Gen Y angst (and old school detective fiction) lasted three seasons and featured a stellar supporting cast of Ted Danson (never leave TV, please) and Zach Galifianakis as Jonathan’s equally white wine and pot saturated best friends. Production costs, a Monday night death slot and ratings that didn’t take into account non-traditional viewership (DVR, on-demand, etc.) doomed the show before we could get a resolution to the brother-sister incest story line (which series creator Jonathan Ames says has nothing to do with the cancellation) that the third season closed on with a delightfully gross wink. Here’s hoping Bored to Death gets a chance at another life; maybe with the long awaited Super Ray film starring Kevin Bacon.

Carnivale

HBO 2003-2004

I’m still not exactly sure how to describe the epic two seasons of television that was Carnivale. If John Steinbeck met Diane Arbus and Picasso during his circus period and then they all decided to tell a creation myth and had Fellini direct it… Well, that’s a start but not even the tip of the iceberg. The parallel plots tell the stories of a traveling carnival that picks up a young man (Nick Stahl) with strange healing powers in Depression era Dustbowl Oklahoma and a Methodist revival preacher (Tom Clancy) and his flock in California. Also, the entire story is possibly symbolic for the eternal struggle between good and evil and “Simone” from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (Diane Salinger, as in “let’s talk about your big butt, Simone”) plays a catatonic fortune teller. For some reason, this show never quite caught on. Also, the beautifully sordid period production was one of the most expensive HBO had ever produced. Fans still hope that HBO and series creator Daniel Knauf can reach some kind of resolution for a series finale that will wrap up some of the good versus evil mythology and resolve the fates of characters that we last saw in life and death struggles. Rumors have circulated for years of a possible Marvel comic book spin-off of the series, a perfect option for a show that was almost a comic book with some of the many creative risks it took during its pair of too brief seasons.

Arrested Development

Fox 2003-2006

The ultimate in brilliant but canceled, Arrested Development is proof that there can be life after cancellation with a new season coming to Netflix this May and a movie in the works! By now, you all know the story of the Bluth family: a prosperous, dysfunctional clan that loses their fortune in a scandal involving a housing development for Saddam Hussein. With a premise like that, hilarity is pretty much a given. Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, Jessica Walters, Portia de Rossi, Alia Shawcat, Michael Cera, Tony Hale, David Cross, Jeffery Tambor and the dizzyingly perfect Liza Minnelli (no, seriously dizzying: her character has vertigo) lead the cast through such memorable moments as “Motherboy XXX” “Mrs. Featherbottom” and “Franklin Comes Alive!” that have entered the lexicon of a certain segment of the American public (the RIGHT segment). The afterlife of the show offers hope for the other cancelled favorites on this list that someday, just maybe, there will be a well-deserved revival. In the meantime, I’m sitting here in my cutoffs with my frozen banana waiting patiently for the new season.

Pushing Daisies

ABC 2007-2009

This one really hurt when it passed, especially since there was no real life Ned to touch and bring it back to life! Pushing Daisies was possibly too optimistic and too dark simultaneously for most viewers; so basically, they had me from the beginning. It’s a classic story: boy meets girl, boy discovers he can bring the dead back to life and in the process of saving his mother kills girl’s father, boy grows up and girl is murdered, boy brings girl back to life but can never touch her for fear of killing her permanently. Like I said, a classic. Lee Pace and Anna Friel led the cast as Ned and Chuck, boy and girl respectively and were given stellar support by Chi McBride, Ellen Greene, Swoosie Kurtz and the Emmy winning Kristin Chenoweth in the best screen role of her career. As Ned used his powers reviving the dead to solve murders each week he entered one more nouveau-gothic-suburban art directed world after another and met characters so deliciously idiosyncratic you would have thought they were refugees from Preston Sturges films. I’d go put flowers on Pushing Daisies’ grave but only in the hopes that a Carrie White hand comes bursting through the dirt. Sigh.

Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23

ABC 2012-2013

James Van Der Beek playing himself on network television. Seriously, how could you cancel that? Meanies.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nixice Marc Nix

    In before nine thousand “Firefly” posts…

    As much as it hurt, I don’t know if it fits putting Pushing Daisies on such a list since had an ending (whipped up on the fly or not, it completed arcs and that’s all you can ask for in a television finale.) Terriers’ ending was too beautiful (and its ratings were too ugly) to mourn its lack of continuation. I would have gone with Deadwood or Alphas, maybe Samantha Who on the comedy side. Not only were they cancelled mid-stream, these shows are now too tough to recommend to friends on DVD because they don’t conclude, making it even more painful if you were a fan that you cannot share the grief with others.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Karen-Green/1218307463 Karen Green

    While I get annoyed often when I think,a show has not been renewed too soon , a tragedy? I don’t think,so. “No matter what, it’s always a tragic day when one of your favorites is sent into permanent hiatus.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michelle-Castro/1330549350 Michelle Castro

    There was a great comedy called “Action!” that was on Fox a zillion years ago that I love(d). It was about the daily life of a money-hungry Michael Bay-esque movie producer, played by Jay Mohr, and a hooker-turned-studio exec, played by Illeana Douglas.It’s a brilliant look at how f*@ked up Hollywood is. I urge you to watch the entire not-quite-two season run of the show, which is available on DVD.

Author

Tony Bravo

Tony Bravo is a San Francisco freelancer covering fashion, menswear, lifestyle and entertainment stories. He is a regular contributor to The Bold Italic and the San Francisco Chronicle's Style section.

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