There are so many television shows on now that catching up on shows that have been cancelled or have ended may seem pointless. However, the availability of series through iTunes, Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu (not to mention cheap DVD box sets at Target) means you have no excuse to not go back and discover that there are fantastic series you may have missed. With that in mind, I give you 6 television series, now cancelled, but more than worthy of rediscovery.
Note: This post is spoiler-free. After all, I want people to seek these series out and knowing any twists or plot revelations may defeat that purpose.
1) Twin Peaks (1990-1991)
Twin Peaks aired on ABC to stellar ratings during its first season, only to see its second season’s ratings plummet and the series was cancelled. The series, which was basically a soap opera centered around the murder of an enigmatic teenage girl. Fronted by David Lynch, a director whose filmography centered around the strange and disturbing (see: Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, and almost anything else he has directed), the series introduced some of the strangest imagery ever put on regular television. If you doubt my claim, check out this scene from an early episode:
When the series took its sweet time solving the murder mystery at the story’s center (which it does, eventually), audiences lost patience and abandoned the series faster than Battlefield Earth viewers could flee a movie theatre. However, the show’s loopy weirdness, wonderfully endearing lead character Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), and compulsively addictive series of intertwining plots makes it a show that warrants rediscovery.
The series is available to purchase on a DVD box set loaded with special features or to instantly stream through Netflix.
2) Northern Exposure (1990-1995)
Existing as the sweet, quirky, counterpart to Twin Peaks’s dark, bitter, strangeness, Northern Exposure relished odd, strange characters and situations but played them as lovable and welcoming, rather than sinister and off-putting. Focusing on New York Dr. Joel Fleischman (Rob Morrow), forced to work as a doctor in the small town of Sicely, Alaska in order to pay back medical school loans and the quirky cast of oddballs that resided in the town, Northern Exposure was practically a vending machine of eccentric characters and cultures. Felischman spent the majority of the series being friendly with the town’s residents, but desperate to escape back to New York and frustrated by the town’s quaintness. However, Sicely was the warm and welcoming setting of a series that played its strangeness for good-natured comedy.
Check out this scene in which two of the series’ characters decide to fight to the duel (over a very minor disagreement), only to have the conflict resolved through the breaking of the fourth wall:
The series was fun, sweet, and presented a town in which every viewer wanted to call home.
Northern Exposure is not available to stream through any services, but the first two seasons can be purchased at Target for reasonable prices.
3) Slings and Arrows (2003-2006)
Running for 18 episodes (or three seasons on a Canadian television network), this series centered around a Shakespearean theatre festival, focusing on one Shakespeare tragedy per season. They struggled with funding issues, cast conflicts, and provided frequent Shakespeare analysis. The central character is an actor-turned-director (Paul Gross) who once suffered a nervous breakdown on stage, and is now haunted by the ghost of his former mentor (Stephen Ouimette). Everyone else on the series spends their time wondering if (and when) he will lose his wits again. Before you abandon this show as a something that sounds too serious and self-satisfied to be watchable, let me make it clear that the series creates a fantastic balance between comedy and tragedy. The Shakespearean analysis is also usually paired with a sharp, clever, humor as in this scene below:
It’ a sharp, insightful, funny, artful, moving television series I cannot recommend highly enough.
Slings and Arrows is available to purchase on DVD and Blu-ray, and is available to stream through Netflix and Amazon Instant Streaming (free with an Amazon Prime subscription).
4) Alphas (2011-2012)
SyFy (I hate writing this new spelling of the network’s name. It used to be SciFi, as in science fiction. Now it means nothing.) has a spotty track record when it comes to original programming. On the one hand, they gave us Battlestar Galactica, an audience and critical darling (and it is amazing, so say us all), but it also gave us enough dreadful, schlocky dreck to fill the Albert Hall. However, the series Alphas, featuring Academy-Award nominated David Strathairn as a series lead manages to be action-filled (and only occasionally hindered by its small budget), cleverly written, and dramatically moving. The plot, about individuals with extraordinary abilities fighting crime and dealing with real-world prejudices against them, makes the series sound like a poor man’s X-Men. However, the series rose above its derivative premise to be one of best acted, smartest shows on the (sigh) SyFy channel. Although it was cancelled earlier this year after tw0 seasons which ultimately ended on an amazing cliffhanger, it is worth checking out, seeing what you missed, then giving yourself a good scolding for not watching it at a time when more viewers could have saved it from cancellation.
Check out this series promo from 2012’s San Diego Comic Con:
The first season is available to stream through Netflix, and both seasons can be purchased through Amazon’s instant streaming services.
5) Veronica Mars (2004-2007)
When the concept behind this beloved cult favorite (and soon to revived through a movie- Yahoo!) television series was announced, it sounded very Nancy Drew. It’s a teenage girl who solves crimes, right? Ooh, I can’t wait for the inevitable spin-off centered around the Hardy Boys. However, this series, centered around a teen sleuth, her former-sheriff turned detective father, and a season-long, over-arching mystery, ended up being closer to 1940s film noir than Carolyn Keene. The mysteries were dark and edgy, Veronica Mars (played with extreme likability by Kristen Bell) was a cynical, resourceful series lead, and the twists and turns the series took were shocking and clever. In addition, the appealing cast of characters frequently shift from antagonist to sympathetic co-leads. However, the series heart stemmed from the father-daughter relationship between Veronica and her father, Keith (played with an everyman appeal by Enrico Colantoni). Their relationship, actually pretty groundbreaking as it presented a father and daughter that actually enjoyed each other’s company, was the series most appealing and the series one constant focus. Check out this scene from an early episode that features a typical interaction between Veronica and her father:
Before the movie premieres next year, you should check out the series and see why it inspires such devotion.
The entire series is available to purchase on DVD or through Amazon’s instant streaming service.
6) Deadwood (2004-2006)
Created by David Milch and running for three season on HBO, Deadwood was a series entirely composed of morally ambiguous characters in a town not yet part of the United States. It is a western, but it is a western that is extremely gritty, violent, profane and brilliant. It was a series that features actors who have gone on to more publicity-inspiring endeavors (Justified’s Timothy Oyphant and Winter’s Bone’s John Hawkes), but the true star of the series was the ruthless, psychologically traumatized, electrifying Al Swearengen (played with riveting intensity by Ian McShane). The dialogue was complicated, loopy, and riddled with profanities (making this the most difficult series for which to provide a link), but it is extremely addictive, compelling television.
Check out a series promo below:
The series is available on DVD and Blu-ray, as well as available to purchase through Amazon’s instant streaming service. If you check it out and make it to the end and wonder what they would have done with a fourth season check out our piece about that here.
So, what do you think? Are you fans of these series? What are some series you are desperate to tell your friends to seek out? Let us know in the comments!
- Do You Remember (eastaltonrotary.blogspot.com)