I’m starting to feel like the Flying Dutchman of television.
It seems like every time I get hooked on a new TV show and recommend it to friends and family, the program is promptly canceled and driven off the air like a plague.
I first noticed this phenomenon back in 1992 when I stumbled across “The Ben Stiller Show” on Fox.
It’s been a while, but I remember the show having some excellent sketches, including a medieval version of “Cops” and a take-off on “A Few Good Men” that featured Stiller cross-examining himself as both the Tom Cruise and the Jack Nicholson characters.
I told my friends at work that the show was funny and they should watch it. And it got canceled.
Twenty years later, I still haven’t lost my touch. The latest victim was “Awake,” a brilliant show on NBC that starred Jason Isaacs as Michael Britten, an L.A. cop who finds himself living two different lives after a fatal car crash.
In one version of reality, Britten’s wife has been killed in the accident and he struggles as a single father.
However, when he goes to sleep, he wakes up in another version of his life where his son has died and he and wife cope with the loss of their only child.
Yes, it was nominally a cop show, but that genre label was really a jumping off point from which the stories could explore the hero’s fractured psyche.
I particularly enjoyed the scenes with the psychiatrists in the dual (duel?) realities—portrayed by two fine actors, B.D. Wong and Cherry Jones--who tried to help the detective through this bizarre situation.
The show had an original idea, great scripts and an excellent cast. So naturally it was cancelled.
"Here's Your Hat, What's Your Hurry?"
Of course, now you did actually have to pay attention to what was going on and that might have been the program’s undoing.
“Awake” can now go off to TV Valhalla, along with “The Chicago Code,” a well-executed police drama, and “Men of A Certain Age,” a show I really loved about three middle-aged guys trying to get by in Los Angeles.
Now, I don’t want to cop an attitude that I’m some sensitive artistic soul who can truly appreciate good programs, while everybody else is a slobbering, knuckle-walking philistine—even though that’s true.
I know nothing lasts forever, especially in television. And there’s no shame in a short run. There are a couple of shows I actually like that should probably think about calling it a day.
Just because Marshall Dillon enforced the law in Dodge City for 20 flipping years on “Gunsmoke” doesn’t mean every show has to be on the tube through four presidential administrations.
“Life on Mars,” a British program about a modern day cop who wakes up in the Seventies after being hit by a car (what is it with TV cops and cars?) ran for two seasons for a total of 16 episodes, but that was plenty.
The story ended and the writers came back with a sequel called “Ashes to Ashes” which has yet to cross the DVD divide to the States.
So “Awake” has been put to sleep and another good show hits the deck. I probably watch too much TV already, even though I zap my way through the commercials with the DVR, and I should be doing more of my own writing.
As for the Curse of Howdy Doody, well, allow me to recommend a little show called “Keeping Up With the Kardashians”…