The television shows that break your heart are the ones that only last one season. They're successful enough to last an entire season and entertaining enough to make you fall in love with them. But then they're gone and all you can do is mourn what could have been.
These are often shows that were creative, well-acted and sometimes critically acclaimed. But because of network politics, casting issues or just programming blunders these shows were left hanging at a time when they should have been building an audience and finding some long-term success.
So here are 13 shows (in no particular order) that I think should have be given at least one more season. I purposely left off the predictable choices such as My So-Called Life or Firefly in favor of shows that deserve a bit more love. Damn you, you network programming weasels!!
NOWHERE MAN (UPN, 1995-1996)
Of all the shows on this list, NwM is the one I would most like to see get a reboot. Created by the late Lawrence Herzog, it starred Bruce Greenwood as Thomas Veil, a well-known photojournalist. Veil is at dinner with his wife (Megan Gallagher) one night and when he returns from the bathroom, he discovers no one knows who he is. His wife and friends claim to have never met him and he finds himself locked up in an asylum. He escapes and travels the country in a search for his identity and the reasons why he was "erased." He uncovers secret societies, government conspirators and a powerful private security firm that controls large parts of the Washington D.C. infrastructure. An absolutely stunning series.
ALSO: Larry Hertzog Talks About 'Nowhere Man
COP ROCK (ABC, 1990)
After the success of Hill Street Blues, producer Steven Bochco could do almost anything he wanted. One of his biggest failures was this show, which audiences either loathed or secretly appreciated. The series is an attempt to combine musical theater with a police drama and while it sounds ludicrous, the final results make it a completely original series. If you want to know why Glee relied on all cover tunes, Cop Rock provides one answer. Finding enough worthy original tunes to populate each episode was one of the biggest challenges and the uneven musical side of the equation was one of the big problems with the show. But Cop Rock also has one of the best final episodes ever. The action went on as normal until the final moments of the episode, when a fat lady came down from the ceiling and the entire cast broke into a "goodbye" song.
THE UNUSUALS (ABC, 2009)
ABC described the series as a "modern-day M*A*S*H," and while that description isn't entirely accurate, it gives a fair representation of the show's tone. The show starred Amber Tamblyn as a detective transferred into a NYPD precinct and given the task of uncovering corruption. While that storyline was fine, what really made the show special was the ensemble and their various quirks and personal challenges. This might be Tamblyn's best acting ever, and if there is a funnier cop/buddy dynamic than the one between Det. Leo Banks (Harold Perrineau) and Det. Eric Delahoy (Adam Goldberg), I haven't seen it. And then there was the pre-movie star Jeremy Renner. Series creator Noah Hawley came back the next year with the short-lived My Generation before finding critical and ratings success with the wonderful Fargo. But this still may be my favorite show of his.
DAN AUGUST (ABC, 1970-1971)
Burt Reynolds played Det. Lt. Dan August, who worked the crime beat in his home town, Santa Luisa CA, working with (and against) people with whom he grew up. It was a Quinn Martin production, and dealt with a lot of the "hip" stories of the day: student arrest, drug use, changing morals and race relations. The qualities that made Reynolds a movie superstar are evident in this show. But no one was watching at this point in his career.
BRIMSTONE (Fox, 1998-1999)
Peter Horton plays a dead police detective whose mission (assigned by the Devil) is to return to Hell 113 spirits who have escaped to Earth. John Glover played the Devil and while the tone of the show was sometimes a bit uneven, the premise of the show held together very well over the season. Besides, how can you not love a show that features Teri Polo as a dead pagan priestess?
ROAR (Fox, 1997)
Set in the year AD 400, Heath Ledger plays a young Irish man, Conor, who sets out to rid his land of the invading Romans. But in order to accomplish it, he must unite the Celtic clans. Ledger displays the charisma and acting chops that ultimately made him a movie star. The action is fast-paced and in a lot of ways it was the perfect summer series. The ensemble was also exceptionally strong, and it included Vera Farmiga, Melissa George and Keri Russell.
NOW AND AGAIN (CBS, 1999-2000)
There have been a lot of attempts to combine romance and comedy with a sci-fi element. But no has managed to do it as well as this one. The U.S. engineers the perfect human body for use in espionage, but can't build a workable brain. The answer comes via overweight family man Michael Wiseman (John Goodman), who is killed in a subway accident. Scientists take his brain and implant it into their perfect body. Creating...well, Eric Close.
THEN CAME BRONSON (NBC, 1969-1970)
Some shows are born out of the times that created them. This is certainly a show that screams "counter-culture." Michael Parks played Jim Bronson, a newspaperman who becomes disillusioned after the suicide of his best friend Nick (Martin Sheen) and, after a heated argument with his editor, "working for the man." He decides to travel the country on a Harley-Davidson Sportster motorcycle, helping people and finding out what life has to offer. He exposes pacifism and tries to defuse dangerous situations by working as a catalyst for change.
NOTHING SACRED (ABC, 1997-1998)
There haven't been many broadcast TV shows that have attempted to tackle religion in any fashion. Much less in the questioning way it was handled in this series starring Kevin Anderson. He played a liberal and retro-1970's priest with self-doubts, although he ultimately remained a committed spiritual person. The premise of the show sparked a number of protests, including one from The Catholic League. The show won a number of awards, most notably a Peabody Award for its "honest portrayal of the complexity of faith in the modern era."
BACKSTROM (FOX, 2015)
The best shows are the ones that surprise you and that was certainly the case with this drama. Rainn Wilson played the lead character, a drunken, bitter shell of a detective who spouted racist and sexist comments with the frequency most people say hello. While that sounds like an unlikely premise to build a great show around, in the hands of Hart Hanson (BONES), Wilson and a crazy talented ensemble cast, BACKSTROM was that rare procedural that managed to both embrace and transcend the genre's limitations. While it's a cliche to argue a show would have done better on another network, it's difficult not to imagine what would have happened if this series had premiered on Netflix or Amazon.
ALSO: Hart Hanson Wants You To Watch 'Backstrom'
COVINGTON CROSS (ABC, 1992)
Imagine if BONANZA were set in the Middle Ages and you would have a pretty good idea of the tone for this ABC series. Nigel Terry starred as Sir Thomas Grey, the patriarch of a family that often clashed with their evil neighbor, Baron John Mullens (John Faulkner). The cast included Ione Skye as daughter Eleanor Grey and Glenn Quinn (who went on to star in ROSEANNE and ANGEL). What I liked best about the show is that it's the type of series you just don't see on television anymore. A light-hearted and fun period piece.Granted, I am stretching the guidelines of this list a bit, since COVINGTON CROSS was yanked by ABC after only seven episodes. But the complete season did air in the U.K., so.....
JACK & BOBBY (WB, 2004-2005)
The WB was best known for teen-driven dramas that tended to be heavy on the angst and personal conflict. This series took that programming preference and included a subtle backstory about the teenage years of two brothers, one of whom would become President of the United States in 2041. The series was Greg Berlanti at his best and it boasted a cast that included Christine Lahti, Matt Slattery, Bradley Cooper, Logan Lerman ("Percy Jackson") and Jessica Pare. Inexplicably, the series has never been available on DVD or SVOD, which is a great loss.
KINDRED: THE EMBRACED (Fox, 1996)
Before "Twilight" and The Vampire Diaries there was this eight-episode summer series centered around several clans of modern day vampires. An excellent cast that included C. Thomas Howell, Kelly Rutherford, Jeff Kober and Stacy Haidu. It's notable not just because of the quality of the episodes but because it was one of the first television shows to develop a rabid online fan base.
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