Thursday, August 1, 2013


Much like the products of the Tyrell Corporation, television shows aren't built to last. It's something the British figured out a long time ago, often molding the structure of their programming to fit content, as opposed to the American practice of doing the exact opposite. BLACKADDER produced only 24 episodes across a four-year span and people are still clamoring for more. By comparison, THE X-FILES produced more than 200 episodes, and people were praying for its quick death during the show's final seasons.

BUNHEADS is the latest series to be cancelled before its time. It's not a show I paid much attention to, but I understand the many stages of grief its fans will be experiencing in the weeks ahead. Denial, Depression, Anger and Bargaining will all lead to the inevitable online petitions (which will be roundly ignored by the network heads.) Acceptance will probably not make an appearance in this particular melodrama.

We were once given a gift of a weekly sci-fi western starring Bruce Campbell AND WE SQUANDERED IT.
The fact is, few shows ever return from the dead. For every FAMILY GUY that pulls the Resurrection Trick, there are a hundred others like THE ADVENTURES OF BRISCO COUNTY JR., PUSHING DAISIES and 1991's DARK SHADOWS that never emerge from their metaphorical crypts. Even the patron saint of untimely television deaths, FIREFLY, only managed a post mortem spasm in the form of the SERENITY feature film. TV shows are hard to make, and even harder to revive once a network loses faith in them. It's not a coincidence that the few programs that manage the Resurrection Trick usually do so in another forum. VERONICA MARS, cancelled by UPN, is returning in the form of a crowd-funded feature film, while ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, killed by Fox in 2006, returned this year as a Netflix series.

I have a stoic attitude about television cancellations. Yeah, I'm disappointed, but I usually manage to move on with my life. Things like the DARK SHADOWS comic series from Innovation helped to ease the cancellation sting, but the death of one series actually motivated me to move my ass off the couch ... at least for a day.


The fall from grace experienced by the DAVID LYNCH soap set a speed record for pop culture phenomena. Launched in 1990 during my final weeks of high school, the show was America's Favorite New Thing for about 15 minutes. All of that came to a crashing halt in the end of the final episode of the first season. Expecting some kind of resolution to the mystery of Laura Palmer's death, audiences were instead treated to seeing one of the show's main characters gunned down. Fans and critics began to get the feeling that Lynch and his creative staff were jerking us around for their own cruel pleasures, and the second season saw a greatly diminished audience tune in for its premiere. TWIN PEAKS took steps to remedy the audience's frustrations, but it was too little, too late. The show slowly limped toward cancellation in its second season.

Sure, we got the FIRE WALK WITH ME feature in 1992, but I'm about the only person who seems to have liked it.  Since then, TWIN PEAKS has been dead dead dead, save for the pieces of pop culture nostalgia that sometimes rise to the surface.

Bowie makes everything better.
When PEAKS was taken off the air, there was an incredibly rare "rally" for the show at a sports bar outside Charlotte, N.C. And by "rare," I mean things like that generally didn't happen here in the South. We could rally/protest/whatever, but who would notice? With nothing better to do with my time (seriously, I used to watch satellite block feeds of TINY TOONS ADVENTURES on the weekend because fuck you, life) a friend and I decided to join in the festivities.

And the rally was a blast. Even though we all gathered together because of the death of something we loved, there was a celebratory feeling about the event. Even better, the "Save Twin Peaks" rally was dominated by young women dressed as Audrey Horne, with a few log ladies added for local color. It was like an Irish wake, only with more cosplay.

But TWIN PEAKS died, anyway. When you consider that networks usually treat successful TV shows the way Barnabas Collins treated women, maybe it was for the best. For television programs, it's better to live fast, die young and leave a good looking corpse, because the alternative is to go out like SCRUBS.

There was once a time when I didn't want to punch Zach Braff in the throat
Believe it or not, we're actually lucky the original DARK SHADOWS had the luxury of wrapping the shitty "Bramwell Collins" story before Collinwood was mothballed. We even got a sweet postscript read by THAYER DAVID explaining what happened to most of our favorite characters after the end of the series, which is more than shows like TAXI received. NBC pulled the plug on TAXI in 1983 after the cast filmed its last episode, meaning they didn't even get to write a farewell show to tie up loose ends. Instead, the cast had to made a final bow on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE during an episode hosted by DANNY DeVITO.

Had the 1991 DARK SHADOWS continued into a second season, it probably would have improved. I liked where the show was going, and there was enough talent involved to eventually right its many wrongs. But, while the writers were beginning to find their collective voice, there was still the problem of network meddling. NBC clearly didn't understand how the show functioned, insisting on a ridiculous "contemporary" subplot as a device to remind audiences that the 1790 storyline wouldn't last forever. Maybe things would have improved, but maybe they wouldn't. We'll never know.

And that's OK. When a show leaves the air and has us wanting more, it's done its job. It shouldn't matter if that exit happens after one season or a dozen. The lesson of BLACKADDER is that more isn't always better. More is just more, and quantity never makes up for quality.


Mrs. Cousin Barnabas said...

I mean, you're right. But that doesn't mean I'm forgiving anybody for what happened to Deadwood.

Pixel Pixie said...

I approve of any post that features Bruce Campbell.

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