The 8 Ball 03.19.13: The Top 8 Wanted TV Revivals
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 03.19.2013
From Heroes and Firefly to Deadwood, Pushing Daisies and more, 411's Jeremy Thomas counts down the top 8 shows that should be revived!
Welcome, one and all, to the 8 Ball in the Movie Zone! I'm your host Jeremy Thomas and as always, we will be tackling a topic and providing you the top eight selections of that particular category. Keep in mind that this list is meant to be my personal opinion and not a definitive list. You're free to disagree; you can even say my list is wrong, but stating that an opinion is "wrong" is just silly. With that in mind, let's get right in to it!
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Top 8 Wanted TV Revivals
An amazing thing happened last week, if you haven't heard: a television show that has been dead for six years now rose from its grave. Veronica Mars was a show that aired on UPN and, in a big way, marked lead actress Kristen Bell's rise to stardom. The teen-oriented noir show was a critical success but--being that it was on UPN during its downward slide (and then The CW for its last season)--had very few viewers. I loved the show as it was an intelligent series with a lot of wit, no problems taking some very dark turns when it suited the story and great characters. It also doesn't hurt that I'm a big noir fan. Anyway, after six years off the air and constant desire from "Cloud Watchers" (fans of the show) for a follow-up film, creator Rob Thomas along with Bell and her other co-stars managed to convince Warner Bros. to give them its blessing to try and obtain funding the movie. A Kickstarter was created and lo and behold: the $2 million that Thomas and company wanted was funded in less than twelve hours, setting a record for the crowd-funding site. At the current time of this writing (circa 1 PM EST), the Kickstarter has pulled in $3.6 million with twenty-five days to go (and that's just the US and Canada; international donations are hoping to be made available soon), virtually guaranteeing that the filmmakers will get at least twice the money they were hoping for.
With that in mind, I (along with just about every other columnist on the internet who covers television) started thinking about what other shows would be good to come back with. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Veronica Mars movie may well have huge implications for fanboy-driven franchises and TV series. However, that being said everyone and their mother has written a blog or column about what shows they think could use a Kickstarter to get a movie or a new season. So I decided to switch it up just a little bit and just look at the shows that I would like to see make a return to TV, whether through Kickstarter or through someone at one of the networks realizing there is potential in a comeback.
Caveat: Keep in mind that this is "Most Wanted TV Revivals," meaning the shows I would like to see come back onto the air. No movie versions here, folks...it's all about the TV return. As such, I left out some shows that I thought would have potential as a film series such as Alias. Also, the sharp among you will note that Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, two shows that I have long professed my enormous fandom for, are nowhere near this list. This is because they received a regular and ongoing continuation through another medium--namely, comic book format. Jericho is also disqualified for this reason. Shows that have gone on to ONGOING (key word) life in another form are not included in this list, whether we're talking about graphic novels, webisodes or the like.
Just Missing The Cut
Wonderfalls Tru Calling Reaper Leverage Torchwood
#8: Party Down
Second on our list is Rob Thomas' other show that should have gone on longer. Party Down has the possible distinction of being even more critically-loved than Veronica Mars but even less-watched. The Starz original series starred Adam Scott pre-Parks & Rec, Jane Lynch pre-Glee, Lizzy Caplan and post-Veronica Mars Ryan Hansen among others as employees of Los Angeles catering team who are mostly would-be actors and writers. The show had a fantastic sense of dry humor with across-the-board great performances, but just never quite caught on; the loss of Lynch to Glee after season one and then Scott to Parks & Rec were the nails in the coffin that the low viewership had built. Still, if any show were primed for a return this may be it; co-creator John Enbom was reportedly writing a film script in January of last year. But honestly I don't know how well a Party Down movie would go; it is the kind of property that really seems like it is best-suited for the small screen. Starz' original series slate hasn't taken off like they wanted it to, largely due to unfortunate passings (Dennis Hopper with Crash and Andy Whitfield with Spartacus). If the network wants to bring an established fanbase back with potential to grow, this would be a prime choice.
Terriers fans rejoice, for the Veronica Mars Kickstarter is most likely to affect you guys. The day that the Kickstarter took off into the stratosphere, executive producer Shawn Ryan went on Twitter and said, "Very interested to see how this Veronica Mars Kickstarter goes. Could be a model for a Terriers wrap up film." As great as a final film for the show would be, I would rather see them get a film that showed there is indeed enough of an established fanbase out there for a series revival. Terriers was created by Ted Griffin and aired on F/X in 2010, the network where Ryan found success with The Shield. However, in the increasingly more competitive basic cable market the show didn't manage to find its audience and was cancelled after the first season. Donal Logue (Grounded for Life) and Michael Raymond-James (True Blood) played best friends and partners in an unlicensed private investigation firm and were immediately lauded by critics for their portrayals, as was the show's humor and charm. Unfortunately--as you will see throughout this list--critical love means nothing if the viewers aren't there. These days both Logue and Raymond-James are on new shows; Logue is set to terrorize SAMCRO on Sons of Anarchy while Raymond-James is Baelfire on Once Upon a Time. However, neither are leading roles and both could probably spare the time for a thirteen-episode season. I have a feeling that if F/X gave this one a second chance, they wouldn't regret it.
There may be some people who don't understand why Deadwood ranks this low on my list, and allow me to promise that it has nothing to do with my dislike of the show. Rather, there is a problem with potentially reviving this show to series: it would most likely require that Timothy Olyphant leave off from his role on the also-awesome Justified. Other than that, I can't think of a reason I wouldn't want this fantastic David Milch-created HBO series to come back. The show, which was set in the real town of Deadwood, South Dakota in the 1870s, was known not just for the extensive profanity and the performance of Olyphant and Ian McShane as Seth Bullock and Al Swearegen; it was also known for the whip-smart writing that had a feeling of authenticity not often seen on television. And there is an excellent reason for that; Milch used many of the actual historical events that occurred in the town and relied on actual diaries and newspapers from the town during that era as reference points. The show won eight Emmy Awards and was nominated for twenty more; that it did not last more than three seasons is criminal. There were discussions about two films to finish up the series but they never came about and fans remained unfulfilled as a result, leaving them as a prime audience to mine for another season or two.
Here's where I may get a significant amount of hate, as few shows went so quickly from being a fan-favorite to a hated show as Heroes did. It was a full-fledged phenomenon in its first season, with an average of 14.3 million viewers. To put that in perspective, NBC's biggest hit of the last few years, The Voice, didn't hit that mark once in the last season. Things plummeted after the second season however and by the time the show went off the air following its fourth season the viewership was in the four million range. And let's be completely fair here; there were problems with the storytelling of the last two seasons. I have always believed, however, that the show's problems lay within the 2007 Writers Guild of America strike. That strike forced the show to cut the second season story arc in half and several plotlines had to be tied up too quickly, resulting in a serious loss of momentum. From that point the writers were constantly forced to try and fix the mistakes of the previous seasons and the show lost its direction. That being said, season four (also known as "Volume Five: Redemption") had some very strong elements and ended on an interesting note, as Hayden Panettiere's cheerleader-turned-indestructible girl Claire revealed the existence of evolved humans to the world. I think that Heroes is a show that could be brought back and redeemed from its ignominious ending. Panettiere is currently on Nashville and Masi Oka is on Hawaii Five-O, but they could easily be brought back in recurring roles with focus on a new set of heroes dealing with the fact that their secrets are now in the open. In fact, that would be preferable since some of the character twists and turns hurt some of the core characters (see: Sylar). Bring Jack Coleman back as Noah, Adrian Pasdar and Milo Ventimiglia as Nathan and Peter and Sendhil Ramamurthy as Mohinder to bridge the gap and provide some guidance for the new heroes and you have potential for a reconstituted show which could wipe a bit of the grime off the series' reputation.
#4: Pushing Daisies
Pushing Daisies is another show that may just see new life thanks to Kickstarter. Series creator Bryan Fuller has reportedly already spoken with Rob Thomas about "how this thing works" and while he notes that a Pushing Daisies film would cost more than just a couple of million dollars, he is excited about the possibilities. Daisies aired for two seasons on ABC and starred Lee Pace as a man named Ned, who made pies and had the ability to bring people back from the dead--with a catch. If he brought the living thing back for more than a minute than something nearby of the same "life value" would die; furthermore, if he touched the thing that he brought back then it would die for good. The show had an amazing visual style and great characterizations, but it was just a little too odd for viewers and it didn't manage to maintain any kind of ratings momentum. Still, the show has a very loyal and dedicated fanbase, much like many of Fuller's shows (more on that in a moment) and it would certainly find an audience of some kind if it was revived, particularly on a basic cable network which are somewhat more lenient and patient with ratings. The series was almost disqualified from this list because a third season comic book was planned, but DC shut down their WildStorm imprint and the comic series never came to pass. If any show could use some good karma and a revival, it may just be this one.
#3: Dead Like Me
The second Bryan Fuller series on this list is my personal favorite of his. Dead Like Me was a Showtime series that ran for two seasons and starred Ellen Muth as George, who dies by way of a space station toilet falling on her and becomes a Grim Reaper. Her afterlife job is to remove the souls of people just before they die and take that soul to the afterlife. Her mentor was Rube (Mandy Patinkin), who hands out assignments and acted as a father figure for George. The show got off to a great start for Showtime with a 1.1 million viewership for the premiere; that may not sound impressive but for a premium channel that's quite good. In fact, for series premieres it was a record for Showtime that wouldn't be broken until Shameless in 2011. Showtime contended though that the ratings were not sufficient to justify a third season and it was cancelled, much to fans' dismay. A direct-to-DVD film titled Dead Like Me: Life After Death was released with Rube having "moved on" that ended with George as the new head of the Reapers. For me that's a perfect starting point for a revived series and I think there would be some potential here, especially since Showtime has given up the premium cable crown to HBO on the strength of Game of Thrones, True Blood and Boardwalk Empire.
One of my favorite comments about the Veronica Mars Kickstarter came from 411 emeritus Andy Clark, who said on Facebook "Crap, now people will never let Firefly die." I hate to prove him right, but...yeah. Now let's be frank here: I know that this has about a snowball's chance in Hell of happening any time soon. Joss Whedon commented the day after the whole Kickstarter kerfuffle and basically said "Yeah, I'm busy with Marvel for the time being and Nathan Fillion's got Castle, so we'll need a couple years at least before it becomes even remotely possible." He also noted that a Firefly revival would need a much higher budget than Veronica Mars, which I think is a no-brainer. Serenity cost $39 million, which is easily eight times what we can reasonable expect the Mars movie to ultimately reach in terms of production budget. And let's not forget that Gina Torres has Suits keeping her busy as well. That being said, there are no fans as crazy and passionate as Browncoats and I don't think it's outside the realm of possibility to think that a Firefly Kickstarter would raise a lot more money than a Veronica Mars one. And with Whedon having the Avengers name attached to him, the series would have the potential for a lot more in terms of audience. The show has had a couple comic books done but they have all been graphic novel one-shots so it doesn't count the same way as a full series. As a tried-and-true die-hard fanatic of the property, if Joss and company make anything Firefly-related I'll be there right in the front of the line to see it whether a TV series, film, webseries or what-have-you. He hasn't let Browncoats down yet.
Only one show could possibly keep Firefly out of the top spot, and that is the one which had one of the cruelest cancellations of all time. This HBO series was originally plotted out for six seasons but was cancelled after two, reportedly due to the producers trying to high-ball HBO on the budget to the tune of $2 million per episode. The incredibly ambitious series saw a battle between good and evil play out amidst the Dust Bowl of the Great Depression between a travelling carnival and a Methodist preacher. The show mixed in Christian theology, Gnostic mysticism, Masonic Lore and much more as the show took a slow burn approach in the first season and really started to kick in with the second. The eclectic cast was all great to amazing, with Clancy Brown delivering a compelling performance as the ominous Brother Justin Crowe and Nick Stahl doing easily the best work of his career as chief protagonist Ben Hawkins. Michael J. Anderson, Adrienne Barbeau, Clea DuVall, Amy Madigan and Robert Knepper (who also appeared on Heroes, incidentally) were all fantastic in their roles as well. Everything was beautifully set up with the conclusion of the second season and then it was gone, leaving storylines unresolved and fans howling in displeasure. No series was ever built up so well and left at such a high note, and no series deserves a revival more.
Note: Now that I am caught up to current, I have gone back to watch the episodes that have become available in the US since I started watching and thus were previously unavailable to me (thus why I have episodes remaining despite being caught up).
Current Series/Season:Season Eleven (1974) Episodes Watched: 605 Last Serial Completed:Invasion of the Dinosaurs - The Doctor and Sarah Jane arrive in 1970s London to find it has been evacuated because dinosaurs have appeared mysteriously and are rampaging through the streets. While the Doctor teams up with UNIT to determine the origins of the prehistoric creatures, Sarah Jane investigates on her own. But can either of them prevent a plot to revert London to a pre-technological level? Surviving Episodes Remaining: 24
And that will do it for us this week! Join me next week for another edition of the 8-Ball! Until then, have a good week and don't forget to read the many other great columns, news articles and more here at 411mania.com! JT out.