As long as we’re remembering the decade in television, here’s a list of a dozen shows that could have been among the decade’s best, but lasted only a season or two (or less) before being snuffed out. (Note: I put Freaks and Geeks on my Best of the Decade list, and not here, because I thought it managed to fully realize its vision in its single season. Also because it was my list, nyaah. Ditto Firefly, though that made my Honorable Mention list.)
This is not ranked in order, and it’s not a complete list. Truth be told, they’re just the first 12 shows that came to me, more or less off the top of my head. But that may be the best way of figuring out, subjectively, the shows that died too soon for me. Feel free to remember your own. The list after the jump:
UNDECLARED. A sort of continuation of Freaks and Geeks by other means, Judd Apatow’s college sitcom adapted the cringe humor of his high-school show while refining the loose style of comedy (and much of the cast) that would dominate his movies.
WONDERLAND. Peter Berg’s brutal but thoughtful drama about a psychiatric hospital never stood much of a chance (the ratings skydived the second a patient stabbed a pregnant woman with a hypodermic needle), but it left an outsized impression.
KAREN SISCO. The short-lived Elmore Leonard adaptation captured the hard-boiled melancholy of the character from Out of Sight.
WONDERFALLS. Before Pushing Daisies, Bryan Fuller created a whimsical and fantastic alternate world in this story of a jaded tourist-trap worker who’s psychically aware–or maybe just crazy.
PASADENA. This weird, dark soap opera from Mike White (Chuck and Buck, School of Rock) never had a chance to realize its twisted vision.
TELL ME YOU LOVE ME. HBO’s talky, explicit sex-and-relationship drama turned off some viewers, but at its best it was searingly honest and minutely psychologically detailed.
GROSSE POINTE. On the late, teen-oriented WB network came this scathing, hilarious teen-oriented soap satire from Darren Star (who, having produced Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place, knew what he was talking about).
ANDY RICHTER CONTROLS THE UNIVERSE. The prequel to Victor Fresco’s Better Off Ted, with Richter as an overimaginative and understimulated office drone.
PLATINUM. John Ridley’s drama of the hip-hop business for UPN was tantalyzing and provocative but flamed out early.
WONDER SHOWZEN. Like a cross between Yo Gabba Gabba! and a psychotic’s nightmare, this not-for-kids kids’ show was a brilliant and disturbing trip to a brightly colored dark side.
PLAYMAKERS. ESPN canceled this smart and scathing look at pro football not because of ratings or critics’ reaction but because of a thumbs down from a king-sized audience member: the NFL.
VIRTUALITY. Maybe more like brilliant-but-never-picked up: when Fox burned off the thought-provoking pilot of this show about space travel, virtual reality and reality TV, it was a taste of a future that was never to be.