TV in the 2000s: 15 Shows Canceled After Appearing in Bullz-Eye’s TV Power Rankings*

*Probably Coincidentally

Back in 2005, Bullz-Eye kicked off a regularly-recurring feature that’s become a staple of our site: the TV Power Rankings, which gives us a chance to offer up our opinions once every six months on the best that television has to offer. Now that we’re looking back at the entire decade in our TV in the 2000s feature, however, it gave us an opportunity to look back at all of the shows that have appeared within the Rankings over the course of its history, and when we did, it was a little eyebrow-raising to see how many of our favorite programs bit the dust almost immediately after receiving accolades from us. We’re pretty sure their cancellations weren’t our fault…or, at least, not entirely. Anyway, take a look back through the list with us, won’t you? If nothing else, it shows that we’ve got good taste, even if the average viewer doesn’t always share our opinions.

1. Arrested Development (Fox, 2003 – 2006) – “Even if this is indeed the end for one of Fox’s all time greatest shows, it is better to have loved and lost…oh, the hell with that, Fox is freaking nuts if they cancel this show.” So said David Medsker in February 2006. But did they listen to him? They did not. “We’re not ones to buy into the whole dumbing-down-of-society thing,” Medsker added, “but if this show gets canned while ‘According to Jim’ lives on, maybe there’s something to it after all.” Oh, yeah, there’s definitely something to it: “According to Jim” stayed on the air until June 2009.

2. Deadwood (HBO, 2004 – 2006) – When it was announced that Season 3 would be the last for the semi-historical look at the wild west, there was really only one name that John Paulsen could call the folks at HBO. We probably shouldn’t use it here, but if you need a hint, it starts with a “C” and rhymes with “sock pluckers.” “Everything about the show – the language, the acting, the story, the sets and the costumes – is colorful,” Paulsen observed in February 2007, “and whether or not HBO wants to admit it, they’re going to miss ‘Deadwood’ once it’s gone for good.” They must’ve been in some serious denial, then: creator David Milch reportedly agreed to do a proper wrap-up of the series through a pair of “Deadwood” movies” for the network, but things never really got beyond the discussion stage.

3. Invasion (ABC, 2005 – 2006) – The fall of 2005 was a good time in prime time for sci-fi fans, with each of the big three networks offering up an entry from the genre, but by the spring of 2006, their cheers had turned to tears. NBC’s “Surface” was permanently submerged after 15 episodes, while CBS’s “Threshold” crossed the point of no return after only nine episodes had aired. Give ABC some credit, however, for at least sticking with their entry for the full 22. “’Invasion’ started slowly, but has steadily ramped up the creepiness,” said John Paulsen in February ’06, acknowledging that, although it gave its audience lots of questions, at least it was providing them with more answers than “Lost” was. Unfortunately, there was still plenty to be answered when the show was canceled, and things got even more depressing when Tyler Labine talked to Bullz-Eye about what might’ve been. “(Creator Shaun Cassidy) had written this bible for the show, and he had written this amazing five-season arc,” said Labine. “We were just floored. Our jaws were literally on the floor after he explained it to us. We were, like, ‘Wow, we’re on for a really great ride!’” What a shame for us all that the ride ended as quickly as it did.

4. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (NBC, 2005 – 2006) – Well, you can’t say that we weren’t honest about offering up both the pros and the cons of Aaron Sorkin’s behind-the-scenes look into a late-night comedy series. “The show is pompous, unrealistic and ridiculously left-wing,” admitted Jason Zingale in February 2007, “but it also makes for some damn good television.” Unfortunately, with an awful lead-in – seriously, who thought that pairing the show with “Heroes” was a good idea? – “Studio 60” didn’t develop enough of a following to earn a second season.

5. Rome (HBO, 2005 – 2007) – In its first season, “Rome” turned up at #18 in the Power Rankings, but by the time Season 2 aired, it had leapt to #6. Not that such success earned the show a third season (it was apparently ridiculously expensive to produce, which you can absolutely believe if you’ve ever seen it, but at least the news of its cancellation came in time for John Paulsen to register his annoyance within the February 2007 Rankings. “As it turns out, ‘Rome’ isn’t the heir to the throne of ‘The Sopranos,’” he wrote. “Instead, sadly, it’s a bastard stepchild, just like ‘Deadwood.’” Creator Bruno Heller was probably even more pissed than Paulsen, having mapped out his vision of the series all the way through its fifth season, but as recently as December 2008, Heller was still sounding optimistic about the chances for a “Rome” movie. “I would love to round that show off,” he told the Hollywood Reporter. Hey, we’re behind you 100%, Bruno.

6. Four Kings (NBC, 2006) – If you don’t remember this sitcom, you’re forgiven, as it premiered in January 2006 and was gone by March. Still, it made enough of an impression to earn Honorable Mention status in the February 2006 rankings. “Four Kings” was created by David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, the duo behind “Will and Grace,” and featured Seth Green as one of its cast members, so you might think it surprising that it was off the air within seven episodes (and with a remaining six episodes still unaired). Looking back, however, the fact that the greatest praise Jason Zingale could heap upon the show in his write-up was that “it’s a worthy quick-fix until NBC finds a better alternative” should’ve given us a clue that it wasn’t long for this world.

7. Jericho (CBS, 2006 – 2008) – It was the little show that could, our “Jericho.” It started with an awesomely dark premise – a nuclear bomb goes off in the U.S., and we view the repercussions through the eyes of a small town in Kansas – and, after figuring out its direction (the attempts to meld some “Little House on the Prairie” aspects to the show were soon phased out), the series found its footing, kicked some creative ass, and was promptly canceled. But what’s this…? The show’s diehard fanbase made enough noise (and sent enough nuts) to get the show a 7-episode second season which lived up to everyone’s expectations and then some. Too bad the same couldn’t be said for the ratings, but those who actually tuned in for Season 2 know how many twists, turns, and outright shocks it included. There’s still talk of a possible “Jericho” movie. We can only hope.

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TCA Tour, Day 2: “Spartacus: Blood and Sand”

Back in January, I covered Starz’s panel on their upcoming series, “Spartacus,” and at that time, I freely acknowledged that I didn’t personally have much to say about the show because there wasn’t anything to see. I mean, nothing. All we had to work with were the assurances of the executive producers that it was going to be a hell of a show, which I responded to thusly:

Executive producer Rob Tapert describes it as “our reinterpretation of the famous Stanley Kubrick movie,” calling it “a hard-core, testosterone-driven action drama unlike anything on television right now” and “a totally R-rated, hard, hard show that still has all the things that you need in storylines but that delivers the action component that theatrical audiences expect from their entertainment.” Sounds great…but it would sound a lot more impressive if they actually had anything at all to show us or, indeed, had even cast Spartacus yet.

Well, it’s over six months later, and the premiere is “Spartacus” is still another six months away, but at least we’re finally making some headway. Hell, just hiring some actors would’ve been forward motion from where we were last time, but we actually got to see a clip from the show…and, better yet, it was a kick-ass, completely unedited version that had never been screened for anyone else. So suck it, Comic-Con!

First and foremost, Spartacus will be played by Andy Whitfield, an actor who’s virtually unknown outside of his native Australia (and, to look at his paltry list of credits, possibly isn’t even known very well when he’s at home), with Lucy Lawless and John Hannah playing the owners of a gladiator camp, and Peter Mensah serving as Doctore, a trainer of gladiators.

As you may already know, “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” is going to have a very unique look for television, though it’s similar in appearance and tone, not to mention subject matter, to a certain numerically-named film, a fact which executive producer Rob Tapert tackled headlong.

“Yes, ‘300’ had a particular look and style,” Tapert admitted. “Zack Snyder brought that hyper-realistic style to a period piece, you know. Certainly, ‘Sin City’ prior to that had been all digital backgrounds, and there’s other shows currently on television that have digital background, from ‘Blue’s Clues’ all the way through to ‘Sanctuary.’ So what ‘300’ did so well was make a great deal of money so everyone said, ‘Hey, the audience will accept that,’ and equally the drama played. So it was very easy to point to something and say, well, it worked in that style. Plus, having a digital environment and not having to have ultra-realistic backdrops and an arena like in ‘300,’ or in, like, ‘Gladiator,’ it allowed us to actually bring this to the screen. There was no way to do it without having the artifice, so to speak.”

As Tapert noted last year, this is a reinterpretation of the classic story presented within the 1960 Kubrick film, but there is most definitely a tribute to the man who played that version of Spartacus. At least, I think it’s a tribute.

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“Rome” feature film coming soon?

In an interview with MovieWeb.com, Ray Stevenson (who played Titus Pullo on the HBO series) confirms that a feature-length script is in full development.

Is the Rome movie still moving ahead?

Ray Stevenson: Apparently so. It is no longer a smoke and mirrors rumor. The script is in full development. As you are probably aware, this is a pretty strange process. We could go into production in a year, or it could be as quick as six months. Who knows? It will happen. At least it is no longer a rumor. From what I have heard, they are nearing the end of script development. We shall see. We shall see.

The second half of the second season of “Rome” was quite rushed, so I’m sure there is plenty of story to cover. This is obviously great news for fans of the series and a good reason for neophytes to pick up the DVD sets to get caught up.

  

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Greetings to the New Show: “The Mentalist”

I believe I put this out there in another post, but I think it bears repeating: “The Mentalist” is the new series that my mother-in-law is the most excited about. I can appreciate where she’s coming from. I’m pretty excited about it, too. Mind you, my reasons are different than hers – I love the concept, she thinks the show’s star, Simon Baker, is hot (and has apparently felt this way since he starred in “The Guardian”) – but, still, it means that I can count on her getting excited when I get an advance screener of any future episodes of the series.

In “The Mentalist,” Baker plays the title character. His name is Patrick Jane, and he’s an independent consultant with the California Bureau of Investigation (CBI) who has a remarkable track record for solving serious crimes by using his razor sharp skills of observation…not that that’s a direct quote from the CBS press release or anything. Jane is a guy who knows how profound his abilities are, and it shows in his every word and deed when he’s on a case.

We get an example of his trademark confidence (or possibly hubris) in the first minutes of the first episode as we watch him walk into the home of a murder victim, brew a pot of tea, and make himself a sandwich. It isn’t until the kettle whistles that the victim’s mother even knows he’s there, but he quickly offers her a cuppa and, after demonstrating his powers of observation, says with a sly smile, “I used to make a good living pretending to be a psychic. I tell you this because I want you to understand that there’s no point in hiding things from me.” After a brief conversation with the missus, he then greets the child’s father by identifying himself as being with the police, adding with no further preface, “Did you murder your daughter?”

I won’t tell you how the rest of the scene plays out, but it’s a testament to Baker’s charisma that his last line – “Honestly, it’s not as bad as it looks” – earns a laugh.

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Rome: “About Your Father”

Rome

That’s it. That’s the last episode of “Rome.”

I’ve said before, with all the jumping ahead in time, that this season felt awfully rushed, but the final episode provided a fitting conclusion to most of the show’s storylines.

It starts with a great monologue by Mark Antony as the remainder of his navy rowed its way back to Alexandria.

All my life I’ve been fearful of defeat. But now that it has come it’s not near as terrible as I’d expected. The sun still shines, water still tastes good…glory is all well and good but life is enough, nay?

Then, in contrast, we get another monologue from Atia as she laments the news of Antony’s defeat:

[Octavian] wasn’t like that as a child. He was a good, honest boy. I don’t know what happened. I’m to blame, probably.

Probably?

Antony’s meltdown in the palace is a brilliant piece of acting by James Purefoy. When Cleopatra pleads with him to come up with some military trick to win the war, Antony quips, “I’m a soldier, not a fucking magician.”

Then, he has a “GoodFellas” moment when one of his guests laughs as he gets knocked down. Antony shouts, “I’m a fucking clown?” before killing the weakling in a swordfight. (I had visions of Joe Pesci.) That moment is Antony’s “lampshade” moment. You know, that moment when a partygoer partakes a little too much and their night spins out of control. I’d like to applaud the hazy cinematography of the scene. It really adds depth to Antony’s frame of mind at the time.

He has another great line when Cleo’s slave comes to tell him of her death and to urge him to commit suicide: “Anything to cure this fucking hangover.” The suicide scene with Lucius was intense, and it was a nice gesture that Antony did not force Vorenus to follow him into death.

Then there’s the matter of Caesarion. Though there isn’t any real-world evidence of this, the show’s position is that he is the son of Titus Pullo. When Lucius offers to take Caesarion to his father, Cleopatra asks, “Is he a good man?” Lucius answers, “Define good.”

The negotiation scene between Cleo and Octavian was terrific, and I can see now why they wanted Simon Woods instead of Max Pirkis for the latter half of this season. Octavian was actually 33 when he invaded Alexandria, so casting Woods was a logical choice. Of course, Caesarion was 17 at the time, and the creators didn’t have any problem shaving seven years off of his age.

It was good to see Atia get back to her old self. That was a terrific diatribe she laid on Octavian’s wife before the triumph. Now that the series is over, it’s comforting to know that the bitch is definitely back.

Finally, there’s Titus and Lucius. Even with all its politicking and betrayal, the show is really about the friendship between these two men. It was sad to see Lucius go, but I’m glad he got his wish to see his children and that his eldest daughter decided to forgive him. Titus got his wish – a son – and appears to have finally found some happiness in his life.

And, speaking of Titus, how’s this for the last line of the series?

Listen, about your father…

All in all, the finale did an excellent job of providing fitting conclusions to virtually every major character, but in reality, the only good thing about “Rome” ending is that we’ll finally get to see the last nine episodes of “The Sopranos.”

R.I.P. “Rome.” We’re sad to see you go.

  

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