In this, the first of what will hopefully be a series of articles, I will be looking to discuss those TV shows that were (rightly or wrongly) cancelled before they had a chance to fulfil their potential.
The idea is to raise awareness of some great (and some not so great) shows you might have missed, or simply forgotten and in some cases also to identify what went wrong.
The fact is most cancelled TV shows deserve their fate (and so do an awful lot of long-running TV shows). They are poorly made and are often a waste of talented people’s time and effort, even if they do appreciate the money!
To kick things off I’m going to talk a bit about the very short-lived TV series, Drive.
First aired in 2007, it seemed to have everything going for it. From the brain of frequent Joss Whedon collaborator Tim Minear, and Ben Queen (who went on to write Cars 2), it starred everyone’s favourite space cowboy, Nathan Fillion along with an ensemble cast that included an up-and-coming Emma Stone. This was a show that didn’t want for a lack of talent.
The plot was also somewhat intriguing, if deceptively simple. A bunch of people took part in a secret, illegal cross-country race in order to win $32 million. If that wasn’t enough, each had their own personal incentive. In the case of the main protagonist, Alex Tully (played by Fillion), they kidnapped his wife (played in cameo form by Angel/Dollhouse regular, Amy Acker) and to get her back he had to win. Oh yeah, he also had to avoid the dogged police officer who suspected him of murdering her.
So the show followed a series of groups, with their own increasingly intricate sub-plots and motivations as they competed each week to stay in the race and not finish last, lest they receive a brutal forfeit. Still with me? Good, because it’s about to get complicated.
Intertwining between the race itself, the cryptic clues for the next checkpoint, and the individual sub-plots was the greater story arc regarding the bigger picture of who ran the race and to what purpose? And if that wasn’t enough, each racer was hand-picked by a mysterious sponsor for reasons unknown.
So straight away it becomes clear that this was a pretty bold idea for a television show and not necessarily something that the casual viewer would get into, especially considering not all the sub-plots were covered in every episode.
So why was it cancelled?
Well, the intricate sub-plots and twist after twist meant that no-one actually knew what was going on from one moment from the next and given the great number of characters, it was difficult to give most of them enough air time. Then there is also simple fact that a number of the bigger sub-plots were just boring. One of the central characters spent the entire series whining and worrying that her abusive husband might find the newborn baby she sent to a secret safehouse.
But the simple fact is that the show could easily have survived all of those problems and become more compelling in the future if it wasn’t for the obvious fact that everyone seemed to miss. Watching people drive is boring.
Even when they’re having blazing rows, or swerving in and out of traffic a terrific speeds it’s just tiresome. There is something about conversations in cars that screams boredom. Perhaps it’s because everyone has had a stupidly long road-trip which never seemed to end. Perhaps it’s the confined nature of the thing. Either way, it was just too much time in cars. Even when they’re going really fast and swerving in and out of traffic. After the fifth time that episode, it just seems dull.
True, it wasn’t all set in cars. The rest was set in famous landmarks and in petrol stations and cheap motels and the such, which gave it a feel less like a wild road-trip with your friends and more like a documentary about a schizophrenic travelling salesman.
So, even though it had a great cast and crew and an interesting concept it only lasted a grand total of six episodes, not nearly enough for a show of this scale to find its feet.
They aimed high and missed, but at least they tried and that is something everyone involved should be proud of.
And that is why we should never forget this ridiculously convoluted story about people driving.