Great TV Comedies That Were Cancelled Too Soon
You should have watched when you had the chance.
Here are five great television comedies that were cancelled because you didn’t watch them. Now, they’ll never be seen again… or maybe they will be.
5. Arrested Development, FOX (2003-2006)
Now the story of a wealthy family who lost everything and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together… it’s Arrested Development. It’s also, arguably, the greatest sitcom ever made, and perhaps the greatest comedic achievement of all time. I’m serious about that last part – it’s hard to be hyperbolic when talking about how great this show is. Arrested Development is a masterpiece. It should be placed in museums; it should be rocketed into outer space for alien life forms to discover; and it should be buried in time capsules for future generations of humans to enjoy after the aforementioned aliens watch the show and subsequently attack Earth because they were threatened by our collective intelligence. It’s that good.
Yet, despite a dedicated fan base and critical praise (six Emmys), it only ran for 53 episodes over three seasons before it got canned. That being said, there are more jokes, laughs, and references packed into those 53 episodes than any standard network sitcom could generate in an entire series.
I could continue heaping praise onto this show for another 10,000 words; but let’s save that for another time. Until then, why don’t you catch up on the show. And there’s no excuse of not being able to find it. It’s on Netflix Instant, the DVDs are cheap, and if none of those options work for you, then go find your friend that’s been bugging you to watch it for seven years. (If you’re having trouble remembering who that friend is, it’s the one who sometimes says, “There’s always money in the banana stand!” and then you say, “What?” and he says, “Never mind” and sighs.) He or she will be more than happy to loan the DVDs to you. And hurry up, already! Arrested Development is coming back for 10-ish more episodes (on Netflix) sometime in early 2013 and then a movie. If you want to be caught up by then, you only have a few months to watch those 53 episodes at least three times each (once will not be enough). And I hope I’m not making it sound like a burden, it will surely be the happiest time of your life.
4. Bored To Death, HBO (2009 – 2011)
Created by novelist Jonathan Ames, Bored To Death ran for 24 episodes over three seasons on HBO. The show follows Jason Schwartzman (who plays a fictional Jonathan Ames), as a writer in Brooklyn who moonlights as a private detective. His escapades frequently involve his two very different best friends, Ray (played by comedy all star Zach Galifianakis) and George (played by member of the Television Situational Comedy Hall of Fame, Ted Danson). There’s lots of wine, lots of weed, and even more laughs. The writing is fantastic, and the cast’s chemistry is great, as is the theme song.
It’s a true bummer that Bored To Death never found a huge audience; and perhaps nobody was more bummed about it than Ames himself, who, not long after HBO dropped the axe on the show, got bombed off Prosecco and presented awards at the Writers Guild of America East Coast Award (click through to watch the hilarious video). On the bright side, earlier this month Ted Danson reported that a deal for the Bored To Death movie is about to be signed and that Ames is apparently working on the script.
3. Clone High, MTV (2002-2003)
Every so often, MTV ventures into the world of animation. History has shown that they’re attempts are rarely commercially successful. Aside from Beavis And Butthead, Daria, and Celebrity Death Match, I’d wager that most could not name another animated program that aired on the Music Television Network. That being said, if anybody was going to know any other show, I hope it’d be Clone High. Despite the fact that MTV pulled the show before the entire first season could air, Clone High’s 13 episodes still hold up today, a decade later.
Still, I can’t help but think that when I say “Clone High”, most of you are confused. So, here’s the premise: Way, way back in the 1980’s, secret government employees dug of famous guys and ladies and made amusing genetic copies. Now their clones are sexy teens…
What’s that – you’re not sold on the premise alone? Say whaaaaaaat?!?! Well, let me break it down for you. The student body consists of all our favorite historical figures: Abe Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, Gandhi, etc. However, instead of facing the historical burden of shaping the world, they’re merely charged with navigating the troubles and stress of awkward high school teenagers. It’s extremely funny, endlessly quotable, and has a great voice cast (including Will Forte, perhaps the most underrated voice actor of our time!).
The show was created by Bill Lawrence, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. If you recognize one of those names, it’s that of Bill Lawrence (future member of the Television Situational Comedy Hall of Fame), who created Spin City, Scrubs, and Cougar Town, among others. He’s a pro. Everything he touches turns to gold. Clone High is no exception.
This is the part where I write the good news about a Clone High revival; but unfortunately, there is no such news. However, you can now buy the show on DVD. And last time I looked, there was plenty of it uploaded on to YouTube. That’s right, Clone High is so long forgotten that it’s not even on the radar of Viacom’s vigilant Internet police anymore. But that doesn’t mean everyone’s forgotten about it, including Lawrence who currently lists it as a credit in his Twitter bio.
2. Best Friends Forever, NBC (2012)
Of all the gems on this list, NBC’s Best Friends Forever is the most recent show to have met its demise. Actually, it feels wrong to call it “NBC’s” since they casually tossed it in the trash after a six episode first season that aired as an unadvertised mid-season replacement that got burned off in the summer.
BFF was created by real-life BFF’s and alumnae of the Upright Citizens Brigade, Jessica St. Claire and Lennon Parham. By writing each episodes themselves, they were able to preserve the natural feeling of their improvisational comedy background in the show. It was funny, accessible, and felt very fresh. Out of all of the shows on this list, the cancellation of Best Friends Forever stings the most. All we’re left with is the question of what could have been…
In the end, NBC cancelled Best Friends Forever because its (really good) six episode first season had low ratings. Do you know what other two NBC shows recently premiered with (mediocre) six episode first seasons and low ratings? The Office and Parks and Recreation – two staples of NBC’s comedy lineup. More than any network, NBC knows that sometimes you have to give a show a chance to find an audience; yet, for whatever reason, they decided to not roll the dice on Best Friends Forever. Another major bummer. I truly believe NBC made a huge mistake with that one.
The upside is that this earlier this month on comedian Pete Holmes’s podcast You Made It Weird, St. Claire mentioned that her and Parham are currently developing a new show with a similar dynamic: “In our next show, Lennon is gonna be pregnant and then we’re gonna kick her husband out and raise a baby together.” Count me in.
1. Party Down, Starz (2009-2010)
For almost four years now, my standing recommendation for a television comedy has been Party Down. Much like Arrested Development, Party Down is a masterpiece… just in a different way. For awhile, I was debating whether or not it’s better than Arrested Development. Then a friend shed some light on the comparison: where both shows have scored a 100%, Party Down scored a 100/100, while Arrested Development scored a 10,000/10,000. But that’s not to take anything away from Party Down. If Arrested Development is the bar for comedies set in a comedic universe (e.g., 30 Rock, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia), then Party Down is the bar for comedies set the real universe (e.g., Parks and Recreation, Girls). According to the show’s creators on the Season 1 DVD bonus features (Yes, I’ve seen all the bonus features. There are never enough bonus features.), they half-seriously described the show as an attempt at “crealism,” or “comic realism.” (The non-serious half of their sentiment was in regard to their choice of portmanteau, not the concept behind the word.) Word choice aside, if you’re going for “crealism” these days, you best be aiming for Party Down.
Party Down follows a group actors and writers that are trying (or tried) to make it in Hollywood. If you’re thinking this sounds likeEntourage, you couldn’t be more wrong. In Entourage, Vince & Co. deal with problems like trying to convince some producer at a party to finance their dream project so they can make it a reality. The characters in Party Down are the caterers at that party. It’s superbly written, extremely funny, and just as tragic. Harold Ramis (Groundhog Day, Caddyshack) once said, “No one will laugh at how great things are for somebody.” If you’re looking for evidence to prove that theory, you need not look further than Party Down and Entourage. And Party Down doesn’t just touch on tragedy, it basks in it. The show is about people who shoot for the moon, and instead of landing among the stars, they either burn up in the Sun or drift endlessly through outer space in a lonely, silent vacuum. In fact, one of the show’s characters, Ron Donald (played by the incomparable Ken Marino) is perhaps the most tragic television character of all time (but that topic necessitates its own article). Yet, despite the bleak outlook for these characters, there’s still plenty of heart.
Party Down was Starz first real foray into original comedic programming and consequently, nobody really ever heard of the show. It lasted for a total of 20 episodes over two seasons, the finale of which drew a 0.0 rating – a whopping 74,000 viewers. Yikes. That’s the reason nobody knows what I’m talking about when I tell them to watch Party Down. Nevertheless, I’m giving you my 100% iron-clad guarantee here. Take my word for it, watch Party Down, introduce your friends to it, and watch it again. You will not regret it. After all, there’s a Party Down movie coming down the pipeline, too.
What do you think is one of the greatest television comedies to be cancelled before its time? Did I miss anything on my list? Is there anything better than these five shows? Let’s talk. I’ll meet you in the comments section.