The Greatest Shows No One Watched
Earlier today, I was talking to my dad about TV shows, and we got on the subject of great TV shows that never found an audience. He said that the 2004 version of Battlestar Galactica is the greatest show that no one ever saw, to which I responded with Firefly, my go-to canceled before its time series. Although Galactica was definitely great and did not have the exposure it deserved, it had a four-hour mini-series pilot, four seasons, two made-for-TV movies, one already completed spin-off (which certainly qualifies for a spot on the list of great shows no one watched), and another spin-off in development. Firefly, on the other hand, had one season and a movie that barely broke even. Also, while I don’t have the enmity for later seasons of Galactica that some have, the quality definitely went down as the years went on, with two episodes in particular standing out as pretty awful. Firefly, fortunately or not, based on how you wish to look at things, never had a chance to decline in quality, as all shows must (except Angel*).
This got me thinking of other canceled-too-soon shows and the circumstances that helped lead to their downfalls. Some are mishandled by their networks, like FOX airing Firefly out of order and failing to promote it or Veronica Mars being sold to the wrong demographic, especially in its third season (to those who watched it live: remember those awful Aerie Girls spots?), as well as The CW forcing it to have shorter arcs (also in the third season). NBC constantly moved Freaks and Geeks around and did not like how frankly the show treated some of its subject matter. Angel is a slight case of this; it never got the respect that Buffy did and The WB didn’t have the faith in it that it some of its other shows. Even though it got five seasons, it was just hitting its peak, and it seems like it never gets the recognition that Buffy or Firefly did (Firefly post-cancellation, that is), but now, more people seem to be recognizing it.
Other shows are just really hard sells. Arrested Development and The Wire required extremely close viewing and would not make sense at all if viewers missed an episode. The subject matter of Dollhouse probably didn’t sound too appealing to many people; who wants to watch a show about human trafficking? (Never mind that is such a gross oversimplification that it borders on incorrect.)
And then there are the shows like Galactica, which are on cable and thus don’t need huge audiences. Currently, Mad Men and Breaking Bad are two of the most critically- and internet-beloved shows, but you’d never know that to look at the ratings. Fortunately, with shows like those, the anemic ratings do not prevent the full story from being told, as Mad Men and Breaking Bad are both going into their fifth seasons.
*Obviously, this only represents my opinion.
What do you think is the best ratings-challenged, under-appreciated show?