Wednesday, September 14, 2016

In Memoriam: Shows & Characters We Lost in the 2015-2016 TV Season [Contributors: Jenn, Rae, Maddie, Deb, Lizzie, Megan, and Chelsea]

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As the fall television season approaches next week, you — like me — are probably filled with excitement. This is the chance to watch pilots and revel in their newness, as well as celebrate the return of shows we've longed for during summer hiatus. Fall, in general, is much of the same: the opportunity to celebrate the new with open arms. But unfortunately, some television shows won't be returning this year for more seasons. And before we move into a new season of television, some of the writers and I thought it would be good to pause and reflect on our favorite cancelled television series of last season.

So grab your tissues as we say goodbye (again) to some of the greats that we lost in the 2015-2016 season. Darn you, Nielsen ratings.

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Jenn: I loved Brian Finch so much, and am saddened by the fact that CBS chose to cancel Limitless this season. When I screened the pilot at Comic-Con in 2015, I won’t lie — it wasn’t my favorite pilot ever. But I think that’s okay. Pilots aren’t meant to dazzle completely (and if they do, I tend to find that a majority of the time, they end up being disappointing as the episodes wear on), and Limitless’ was strong, but also propped the door open for the show to expand upon what made it great, and improve its weaker areas. Brian Finch is who I will miss the most. He was my favorite character of 2015, and not just because he was played by the endearing Jake McDorman.

No, it was because Brian was a really complex character. He had a moral compass, even if he didn’t always abide by it. And you never really felt like you had to learn to like Brian or that he had to learn to like other people. From the pilot, Brian was a likable guy who made mistakes. He was endearing and empathetic and that’s what allowed him to grow into a more well-rounded, complex character as the series went on. He was an incredibly determined, but also sensitive guy who was trying to learn to believe that he had a role to play in the world and in a career. I remember the creators of the show talking about what set Limitless apart — that it was a show about a guy who isn’t an expert at the field he’s in. Brian isn’t an agent when the show begins or when it ends. But he’s thrust into an environment where he’s a “normal” person in an abnormal situation.

That’s what really set Limitless apart as a procedural for me — the importance of Brian in the narrative. He’s unskilled and he doesn’t miraculously become a trained fighter over the course of three episodes. Because of NZT, he’s able to acquire skills that he doesn’t possess normally, but the truth is that Brian is average in the best way possible. He’s the kind of guy you care about because he’s the kind of guy you know. McDorman brought this incredible energy and comedic chemistry to Limitless, but also this deep well of human emotions. We see Brian make sacrifices and fall in love and protect people he cares about. We see him break down on multiple occasions (refreshing, honestly, to see a male character cry and express emotions like Brian did), and we also see him kick the bad guys’ butt. Jake McDorman was able to match Bradley Cooper’s charisma and prowess, and that’s not an easy task.

Honestly, I’m still mad that Limitless was cancelled. Can you tell? And I probably always will be. But the good news is that you can watch the entire first season on Netflix! Do it, and then come back here and lament with me. Sound good?

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Rae: When “the end” flashed on my screen during the finale of Penny Dreadful, I refused to believe it. I kept running through ideas of how the gang could save Vanessa from death and fight the underworld once again. I didn’t believe it was really the end of the show until the next morning, when the showrunners told the world that it was really true.

Penny Dreadful ended with intent — they felt that they told the story they needed to tell, rather than it getting canceled outside of their control. But the way it went down still made me feel like the show was ripped away from me when I wasn’t ready. The network decided to keep the end of the show a secret from viewers because they felt it raised the suspense for the episodes. But the opposite was true for me: because I believed the show would keep going, I didn’t worry about Vanessa dying. The show already had several undead characters, why not one more? It could have opened up more stories, even. Why not show how Vanessa grappled with death in a way that John Clare or Lily couldn’t? How would the Scooby Gang go on knowing they couldn't save their leader? How would Ethan and Vanessa nurture their love when death didn’t do them part?

But instead, I got to watch another woman give her life to save a group of men, and nothing more. The more I think about the ending of Penny Dreadful, the less I like it. Vanessa had so much more to her story, and it’s a shame we won’t get to see it.

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Maddie: I love this show so much that I just finished binging it in its entirety for the second time since it was released on Netflix this week. While I could endlessly expound on its excellence, I give you an ode to this dearly departed show set to its epic theme music:

Ratings weren't quite grand
Still have to give them a hand
For such smart and clever writing. 
We all knew it wouldn't last
Despite its perfect cast 
And songs written by Alan freaking Menken! 

Alas, friends,what can you do? 
But love the miracle of season two
So there!
The show's now off the air 
Which means it's time to share
What I loved about Galavant!

The delightful chemistry
Between Gal and Izzy
Made me hardcore ship them
King Richard played by Omundson
Was absolute perfection
And his arc went in such a great direction. 
Furthermore, this show had wit and heart
From the series finale to its start

And so!
Fans still hope for a stage show!
One thing I do know 
Is I'll keep wishing for more Galavant!

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Deb: I know that Sleepy Hollow wasn’t canceled, but come on. It totally should be canceled. They pulled something incredibly stupid when they killed off Abbie Mills. Like, so stupid I actually broke my promise not to say the really bad swear words on Twitter when I watched it.

In one of my reviews here on Just About Write, I called Abbie Mills the linchpin of Sleepy Hollow. I stand by that statement. Sleepy Hollow is — or should have been — a dual-lead show, with equal importance split between Abbie and Ichabod so that its fantastical and procedural elements could balance out. Ichabod could provide the ooky-spooky wonderment and time travel hijinks all he wanted, but it was Abbie who pulled viewers in and made them feel connected to the show’s outlandish narrative. It was Abbie who grounded its bizarre premise with something human and real: a character full of strength and emotional vulnerability, certainty and fear, unhealthy compartmentalization and calm understanding.

I think I’ll probably always list Abbie Mills as one of my favorite TV characters of all time. There was something incredible — and incredibly original — about her, a tough-as-nails cop who could shoot a gun without blinking, but couldn’t quite meet her best friend’s eyes when she had to deal with the emotional stuff. She was a character who could rise above Sleepy Hollow’s sloppy writing and shine brilliantly, remain interesting, and remain miraculously complex. Because — and maybe it was all thanks to the absolutely stellar acting abilities of Nicole Beharie — even when it felt like the show was trying to push Abbie into the realm of cliches, she deftly avoided them.

The most painful thing about Abbie’s end might be the fact that the show couldn’t even manage a decent send-off for such a wonderful character. They stumbled their way through a half-baked explanation for why she had to die and could never come back, botched her story by making her a stepping stone in the life of Ichabod Crane, and threw the whole show under a bus by making her soul transfer to the next person in line. Like Abbie’s soul was a cheap old umbrella swiped from a restaurant’s Lost and Found box. Jeez.

So I guess it all boils down to this: Abbie Mills deserved better.

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Lizzie: I understand that the ratings for this show weren’t great. What I don’t understand is cancelling an intelligent family-oriented comedy and greenlighting stuff like a show about time-traveling in a duffel bag. I just... don’t. That’s literally adding insult to injury, and makes me want to get a pitchfork.

Rob Lowe deserved better. Fred Savage deserved better. And we, the fans, definetively deserved better.

At least we got a season of The Grinder, one that — I’m quite sure — people will appreciate more in years to come, when a new audience gets a chance to binge-watch it. There are a lot of comedies on TV. A ton of them have heart, and most of them even explore the dynamics between very different people. But none of them puts a relationship between two brothers at the forefront like this one did. Two sisters, yes. Female friends, of course. Two brothers? Nope. That’s new. That was exciting. It was a type of family dynamic that we weren’t used to seeing highlighted. And it was proof that a comedy CAN focus on brothers, on an uncle and his niece, and that this same show can be funny and sensitive while still making you laugh out loud.

There’s laughter everywhere, after all. There’s laughter in everyday life. And The Grinder took advantage of that.

And now it’s gone. Maybe it was just too good for us. Maybe it was too smart. Maybe we weren’t ready. There was a void before — one that The Grinder filled. And now, with it gone, the aforementioned void is now Grinder-sized. It’ll be harder from here on out. But hey, no sympathy here for FOX. They should have thought of that before cancelling it.

Grinder rests.

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Megan: I love TV. I love laughing. But I don’t always like laughing while I watch TV. I know, it’s pretty weird. But it’s just not for me, you know? Comedies aren’t really my thing, so when one comes along that I truly enjoy, I cling to it and pray it’s the-little-show-that-could.

That’s how I felt last year about FOX’s Grandfathered. The premise was pretty simple: a playboy restaurateur played by the frozen-in-time, handsome John Stamos discovers that he has son — played by Josh Peck — and a granddaughter. The show’s plot was not revolutionary. It was just a man discovering he has a family and having to reconcile those new responsibilities with the life he worked so hard to cultivate.

But Grandfathered was funny and it had heart. Everyone played their parts so well that you wondered if this wasn’t a docuseries. It was so effortless. The comedy wasn’t over the top, and it wasn’t trying too hard. It was about a boy trying to figure out how to gain a relationship with his previously absent father, and a man trying to understand what it’s like to be a family man and realize that he actually enjoys having that in his life.

The show was about a mess of emotions and navigating them, and I loved it. I was so sad to see it go and I will wonder what it could have been if FOX had just let it spread its wings and fly. I loved seeing Josh Peck still play the silly role we love him for, but also having serious depth and emotion. Christina Milian always made me laugh with her ridiculous one-liners. John Stamos was flawless, as always. The entire cast was just so great and I loved the writing. Are you sure we can’t keep this one, FOX? Please?



Chelsea: I have a lot of experience with tragically cancelled television. It’s practically my favorite genre to watch. We’re lucky if something I like makes it past the first season. Happy Endings is really the show that solidified the #TRAGICALLYCANCELLED hashtag, after ABC spent three seasons trying to figure out what to do with it (and Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23 too, for that matter) before cancelling it. It was a smart, progressive comedy that was the true heir to Friends without scamming stories from Friends. It had its own voice, wasn’t mean or cynical, but was still incredibly wacky. There was nothing else really like it on TV.

So when I think of shows that were taken away too soon, that’s my criteria a show needs to fill before I start shouting about how terrible a network’s actions are regarding it. I majored in television production and now I’m teaching it. I understand that TV is a business and if something isn’t getting the ratings and earning money back, I’ll be the first to say goodbye. That’s not the case for Happy Endings and certainly not for MTV’s recently-axed Faking It.

Faking It debuted on MTV amid controversy when the marketing portrayed it as two straight best friends pretending to be lesbians to become popular. The twist you later found out if you watched the show was that half of that duo was actually trying to figure out her sexuality, and that’s what Faking It was really about. Queer female lead! First intersex character on TV! The show broke so much ground in creating not only queer content, but content for a youth crowd — teens who are confused and keeping secrets because they’re just trying to figure themselves out. Yes, the show was set in this idyllic school, where being different was a badge of honor. It was refreshing to see that though, versus other programs where being queer was an uphill battle. The show was better able to explore the spectrum and interpersonal relationships among these teens and their parents.

Also, Faking It show was just hilarious. From Lauren’s biting, conservative commentary to Amy’s graceless interactions with food, this show managed to tell smart, progressive stories within this ridiculous comedy. Each character dynamic was just gold. Lauren and Amy’s journey from feuding stepsisters to best friends, Karma and Shane frenemy status, Amy and her mother. That’s why we stuck with the show. It gave us something we weren’t seeing anywhere else and gave us representation across the spectrum. When it was cancelled, the series creator gave an outline of what the last season would have been like, giving the fans some closure to this great high school tale. And for that, we are all grateful. So thanks for killing queer inclusion MTV, but a bigger thank you to the Faking It cast/crew for giving us a wonderful show the past few years.

What are your favorite tragically cancelled series this year? Sound off in the comments below!


  1. Replies
    1. We know there are so many great shows that our writers didn't get the chance to discuss! (Some writers wanted to participate but just didn't have the time.) But you can check out all of our Castle recaps under our Reviews/Recaps page. :)