The decisions of network executives are capricious and fickle. For instance, last year I could have sworn Ringer would get a second season. Instead, The CW renewed Hart of Dixie. (Don’t let the title fool you; the show doesn’t actually take place in Dixie. But “Hart of a Fictional Town in Alabama That is Actually Probably Filmed on the Gilmore Girls Set” doesn’t have quite as nice a ring to it).
Mediocre shows live on while ambitious and potentially great shows get the axe before they have a chance to find their stride. For example, with a few tweaks Last Resort, Emily Owens M.D., and 666 Park Avenue all could have entertained us for years, but instead none of them got past 13 episodes. It’s a shame really. Here’s what went wrong with these three shows – and my prescription for what might have saved them.
Last Resort had tons going for it. And by tons, I mean Scott Speedman. The man is easily one of my favorite Canadians (on a list that includes Stephen Amell, Eric McCormack, Ryan Reynolds, and that customs agent at Vancouver International that told me I looked way younger than my passport picture). But the main problem with Last Resort was… there wasn’t enough resortwear! Note to TV showrunners: when you strand a hot sailor and his almost-as-hot crewmates (plus a few renegade Navy Seals) in a tropical setting, you don’t leave them in full military uniform almost the entire time. Talk about wasting your cast.
I’m no Hollywood insider but if they’d given Speedman a bit of a tan, had him do a lot of walking around in his skivvies, and perhaps a Baywatch-esque running in slow motion on the beach sequence once in a while, this thing would have nuked the ratings! (Nuked? Get it? Because the submarine has… okay, fine!)
And instead of wasting a lot of screen time on shadowy Washington D.C. figures in three piece suits, they might have ditched the international conspiracy stuff entirely. Simply make the show about a sub that runs aground on a mysterious island. Have the stranded sailors go native and shirtless. And in the darkness, beyond the palm trees, a smoke monster…
No, wait – I think I’ve seen that one before. Okay, scratch that.
Unlike Last Resort, Emily Owens M.D.wasn’t going for political intrigue or high-stakes drama; it was just a hospital show with a somewhat (read: completely) insecure main character trying to navigate real life after high school. Even though for this recent med school graduate, high school was 10 years ago. Time to grow up, Emily.
The character is played by Mamie Gummer, who has one serious acting pedigree. In case you didn’t know, Mamie is Meryl Streep’s daughter, which means everyone expects her to be able to deliver Oscar-worthy performances regardless of the material she’s given. I’m not going to sit here and say whether or not she delivered on this series, I’ll simply say she plays mousy and insecure very well. To the detriment of the show, really, because mousy and insecure are not big selling points for a lead character on a TV series.
Sort of like how Ally McBeal might have been better if they’d killed Calista Flockhart‘s character off in the pilot episode, Emily Owens M.D. would have made a far better series if it had been centered on Emily’s boss, Dr. Bandari (played bythe fabulous Necar Zadegan).
Dr. B looked like she just stepped off the RuPaul’s Drag Race catwalk and into a lab coat, what with her flawless contouring, blending, and shading. Who wouldn’t want to watch an entire show centered around a doctor reading bitches and giving all her colleagues and patients the fiercest of side eye glances? She can suture and throw shade! “Gina Bandari” even makes for a fierce drag queen name, Gina Banderi M.D. could have been a medical procedural focused on the trials and tribulations of a drag queen physician. Marcus Welby might have spun in his grave, but people would have tuned in for that!
Evil took architectural form on ABC’s quickly shelved supernatural drama 666 Park Avenue. Now this was a cast to envy if there ever was one! The show featured Terry O’Quinn’s special brand of mysterious and creepy, Vanessa Williams’ impeccably flawless sashaying across any flat surface, and Dave Annable’s adorable puppy dog eyes and furry chest. (Love Matthew Rhys, but why couldn’t he have been the gay one on Brothers & Sisters?! ) It wasted all three of them.
The premise centered on Jane (Rachael Taylor) and Henry (Annable), a young couple that just moved into The Drake on, you guessed it, 666 Park Avenue, as the building’s new co-managers. Jane and Henry are about as clueless as you can get,. Weirdly oblivious to most of the spooky goings on around them. So clueless that it’s hard to work up much sympathy or interest in them.
The other tenants in the building didn’t do much to salvage this sinking ship either. For example, the hunky Robert Buckley plays a married writer whose career isn’t exactly going places, and instead of Arrow-esque work out scenes and long showers, we get him moving his mouth a lot and making sounds.
Brief aside, but every time I see Buckley in a new TV series I feel a little bit like Mean Girls‘ Regina George telling Gretchen Wieners to stop trying to make “fetch” happen. Casting directors, stop trying to make Robert Buckley happen! (Oh come on, don’t boo and hiss. Let’s do a count, shall we? He was on Lipstick Jungle, Privileged, One Tree Hill, and now 666 Park Avenue. What do they all have in common besides Buckley? They were all cancelled!
But as for 666 Park, rather than some convoluted night-time occult soap with plain Jane at the center, why not turn the thing into a straight up architectural makeover reality show where Vanessa Williams helps transform, not just The Drake, but its tenants as well? 666 Park would have worked so much better as a sort of Extreme Makeover: Manhattan Edition.
When all is said and done, what keeps a show afloat these days is a bigger mystery to me than whatever the heck was going on at The Drake. But one thing is clear: international nuclear submarine crises, insecure physicians, and Faustian bargains are not it. In the end, all we can do is tune in, do our best not to get too attached, and hope for the best. My advice to avoid the cancelled show blues? Slip on your Slanket, grab your favorite bottle of wine, plop down in front of your TV and raid Netflix for your favorite shows from the past. At least you’ll be guaranteed a full season.