The Waning TV Show Perspective


In recent years I’ve noted a decline in television show quality & production values, not to mention – alarmingly – that most of my favourite shows have ended or been shown the door (cancelled).  This morning I was lamenting the absence of good writing and acting – no doubt due to the ongoing popularity of reality TV.

Some shows failed to find a chord with viewers (in the US mostly) and were discontinued after a promising start.  Here are some characters and shows we’ve parted with which left an impression on me.. In no particular order.

Life on Mars (US edition) – Drama

That’s right, the US edition of the UK show wound up running with more episodes (due mostly the the shorter season run in the UK) but looks like there will be no sequel (unlike the UK version which is winding up it’s sequel show this year also). 

Despite the naysayers, I enjoyed the show, the 70s music and the look back at New York in the early 70s.  There were plenty of goofs and gaffes, but at least it was an attempt at a semi-cerebral show in the age of moronic entertainment.

Las Vegas – Drama/Comedy

Speaking of.. No, I really enjoyed Las Vegas while it ran.  Although the show had markedly declined by the fifth (and final) season, it was still enjoyable.  I’d still like to know what happened in the cliff-hanger finale though!  This show really did capture the pizzazz of Las Vegas whilst providing an entertaining backdrop.  The babes, the bods and the fast cars on top of some (at times) quite intriguing plots.  There was also an excellent array of special guest stars.

Friday Night Lights – Drama

It is rare for a show predominantly based on American Football to do well on the small screen, especially in overseas markets.   Banking on the credibility or strength of the movie and novel by the same name didn’t hurt either.  In season one, my initial thoughts were ‘oh, just another high school football show’ however the quality writing and well blended musical score in particular caught my attention. 

Although the football parts in the series were less than accurate at times, and the social undertones/overtones a tad pretentious at times, it still represented a marked improvement over anything else on at the time.

Firefly – Sci-Fi/Comedy/Action

The closet Sci-Fi fan in me would love to see this show resurrected, although after the events in the movie Serenity (and the potential success of Joss Whedon’s new show ‘Dollhouse’), it’s highly unlikely.  This show was an odd blend of part space adventure, part western (!) but somehow managed to pull both off, by establishing likeable characters and intriguing back stories.  If you haven’t seen it yet, it comes highly recommended.

Boston Legal – Drama/Comedy

The perfect show to showcase former brat-pack star James Spader as well William Shatner, Candice Bergen and John Larroquette and many other fine actors. 

This show started to wane after season three, but still provided spunk and attitude missing in many comedy/dramas.  A soapbox, many might say, for liberal viewpoints so brilliantly counter-balanced by Shatner’s legendary Denny Crane which may have given some of us hope during a tumultuous time in US and world history.  This show will live on through the strength of a cult following and more than a handful of classic Denny Crane/Alan Shore witty one-liners and classic moments.

The West Wing – Drama

Please believe me when I say that in all sincerity – this may be perhaps the best drama series I’ve ever watched, period.  So it’s no coincidence that the show also won the Emmy award for outstanding drama series four years in a row (2000 – 2003) . 

I could wax lyrically about why the show was such a great series, but it’s better that you watch it yourself (if you haven’t already).  Despite inventing the concept of “meetings whilst walking through corridors”, the acting, writing, direction, score and production values were top shelf, and the series itself was topical, controversial and engaging.  The writing proved to be endearing, funny, dark, thought provoking and at the same time addictive, blending intriguing characters against the backdrop of the American political system. 

It’s highly doubtful we will see a show of this pedigree again.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip – Drama/Comedy

Naturally, writer Aaron Sorkin (who wrote “A Few Good Men” and “The West Wing” was going to do something new.  This time it proved to be Studio 60, however the show appeared to lose US audiences and it lasted only one season.  It was a highly enjoyable season for West Wing fans (myself included) and did the almost unthinkable/impossible – recast Matthew Perry after the huge success of his previous role as Chandler Bing in Friends.

Coupling (UK) – Comedy

Speaking of Friends, this comedy out of the UK initially looked to be very similar – but turned out to have a life (and uniqueness) all of it’s own.  Depending on whether you enjoy British humour or not, you can’t help but laugh-out-loud at some of the excellent acting and writing in this show which lasted four seasons.  Centred around a married couple, a group of six friends (3 males, 3 females) included many taboo topics including dating, sex and the various rituals from both the male and female perspective.

Friends – Comedy/Sitcom

You can’t mention it in passing – Friends wound up it’s long run this decade and although we missed the airing of the final season as we were moving internationally (thanks a lot, channel 9, who dragged out the final season with reruns).  We still miss some of the gang’s antics although by the last season it was fairly obvious that the show needed to finish up.  I suppose Friends will be long remembered as a major TV comedy of the 90s (alike The Simpsons) however the more recent years still proved to be just as funny.

You can see how some of these shows stack up against current TV shows in this list of 100 most popular shows on tv.com. Though none of the shows cracked the all-time Nielsen Top 100 (figures for US audiences) which is dominated by the NFL Super Bowl and the mini series Roots.

Which shows do you miss?  What should be on this list here which is blatantly missing?? 
Leave a comment!


About Rob Sanders

IT Professional and TOGAF 9 certified architect with nearly two decades of industry experience, 18 years in commercial software development and 11 years in IT consulting. Check out the "About Rob" page for more information.

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