June 4, 2011

155: Favorites XIX

Favorite TV one-season wonders, or "oh, look, she's getting verbose about Law & Order: LA again":

I wonder if Fox ever rues the day it canceled Joss Whedon's sci-fi/western dramedy starring a whole host of actors now on other successful shows (e.g. Nathan Fillion, Morena Baccarin, and Adam Baldwin) and featuring a couple of memorable guest appearances by Christina Hendricks (Mad Men's Joan Holloway/Harris).  I -- like most of America, apparently -- didn't watch the series when it was originally on the air, but discovered it through IMDB's streaming video and Netflix.  And thank goodness I did, because it's the perfect blend of two niche genres, offers a bit of steampunk appeal, and created a cast of likable, flawed characters.  Firefly painted a picture of a future that is both amusing and dangerous -- Star Trek it is not.  And, naturally, everyone curses in Mandarin.  It's really a shame the network couldn't see fit to give the show a second chance (and chose to air some of the episodes out of order), but they did make Serenity, the feature-film sequel to the series that helped cap off the story...though how satisfying an end it was is debatable.

Freaks & Geeks
Judd Apatow's high school comedy was set in 1980, featured some true-to-life awkward-looking teens, cameos from Jason Schwartzman and a couple Mystery Science Theater 3000 alumni, and a cast that has been ridiculously successful in the years since the show's premature cancellation.  Sure, some of the gags were so painfully awkward that I couldn't actually watch them (but I have a low threshold for secondhand embarrassment) and the period setting turned some people off (who really wants to relive the early '80s?), but taken as a whole, it was a fantastic show.  These are characters you can relate to, or who remind you just how happy you are to be out of high school (or both).  And Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation" was its theme song!  Maybe network TV wasn't the right home for the series; Apatow's college-set follow-up, Undeclared, aired on MTV...and was also canceled after one season.  So I'm not sure where either of these shows belonged.  At least we'll always have DVD.

This show was great...in theory.  An allegory for the Biblical David and Goliath story, set in a 21st-century kingdom that resembled a slick, modern political machine more than anything else, it was supposed to blend the stories of a soldier-turned-war-hero thrust into the lion's den of the royal machine.  Unfortunately, the show was nowhere near allusive enough -- the protagonist's name was David, and he became a national hero for blowing up the enemy's "Goliath" armored tank.  The names of characters and settings were lifted directly from the Bible with only minimal changes made (e.g. King Saul becomes King Silas).  The series should have worked.  It had IAN MCSHANE, for cryin' out loud.  IAN MCSHANE, gnawing the scenery at every turn!  Of course, I thought the character of David was too much of a goody-two-shoes to be truly likable, but I enjoyed almost everyone else, and I kept coming back because I was interested in the universe the show created.  I would have been interested to see what they would have done with a second season, but it wasn't meant to be.

Law & Order: Los Angeles
I've talked about LOLA on this blog before, and I'm still disappointed that it's been canceled after a single tumultuous season.  Sure, Terrence Howard can be about as engaging as a sheet of plywood, and the long hiatus during which the show was tweaked to the very edge of believability hurt the ratings, but with the addition of Alana de la Garza and (what seemed like) more screen time for Alfred Molina, I think the show still had a lot of life left in it.  But, like the two previous series on this list, LOLA was a victim of the NBC hatchet.  The writing was often hit-or-miss, and viewers may have found it difficult to connect with some of the lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-famous crimes, but I always found the first half of the show entertaining.  When the case was handed over to the prosecutors was usually when the show lost momentum, in my opinion.  If one good thing came from this series, it was the introduction of Corey Stoll to a primetime audience.  Stoll is a fantastic actor who made his character (Det. TJ Jaruszalski, or just Baldy, if you're my mother) likable, believable, and reliably entertaining from the first episode to the last.  Even the dubious subplot in which TJ goes to Mexico to hunt down the drug lord who killed his partner was tolerable, just because I'm so deeply fond of Corey Stoll.  And here's where I heave a big sigh and say RIP, LOLA.  I'm sure there are literally dozens of us who will miss you.

(click photos for sources.)


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