5 Failed TV Shows That Deserve A Second Chance
Bad movies are often made fun of for years, but bad TV shows tend to be quickly forgotten and replaced by the next bad TV show. This goes doubly for shows that only last for one season or, in some cases, never make it past the pilot episode. However, there are some shows which totally deserved the swift kick to the head they got when they first aired, but could be revived in modern times as proper entertainment you could take home to Mom. Shows that would suit 2017 better than they ever suited the past. Shows like ...
Misfits Of Science
In 1985, there weren't a ton of superhero shows on the air, and most of the ones that succeeded had featured famous comic book heroes. Stuff like the '60s Batman and The Incredible Hulk had worked well, but rarely had anyone tested the waters with superpowered characters who hadn't come from the hearty loins of DC or Marvel. Then Misfits Of Science showed up on NBC, stuck around for 16 episodes, and was utterly demolished in the ratings by Dallas. As it was written in 1 Corinthians 12:6: "Before Dallas, even kings fall."
Misfits Of Science concerned four superpowered youths and their non-superpowered leader, which is kind of like hiring a penis-less gorilla to organize your Olympic All-Gorilla Dick-Measuring Contest. The show is not very good, and the not-very-good aspects include Courteney Cox, fresh off of her role as Mortified Dancing Woman in Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing In The Dark" video. Courteney had improved by the time she starred in Misfits Of Silence. For one, she dances way less. But her line delivery does not indicate that she would one day go on to play the second-best Friends character. (FOR THE RECORD AND FROM BEST TO WORST: Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Phoebe, Joey, Ross.)
If there had never been any proof of something like this working, I would doom Misfits Of Science to the crypt of questionable science fiction ideas -- a crypt that includes things like Battlefield Earth and two of my three pieces of Jurassic Park fanfiction. And to be fair, it is harder to pull this off than it would be with a show that's just adapting a comic universe. If you're making something based on a Marvel idea, you have a blueprint of what the relationships and storylines might be. But it can be done. The first season of Heroes pulled off a TV-only superhero series nicely. The first season of a one-season show. There was only one season of Heroes. Season 2 is fake news.
A modern Misfits Of Science series, updated to be a little more dramatic but still retaining the comedy, would be great in 2017, especially since we're steadily mastering the formula of these fantastical concept shows. Plus, improved special effects will mean that a 2017 Misfits Of Science wouldn't look like it was filmed by mistake. However, considering that it's 2017, it will probably get some vague tech-company-sounding title, like Changed or just Misfits (which would piss off fans of British TV, but few others would care). Courteney Cox can still be in it, though, as like the head of the Humanidyne Institute that researches the superheroes. And in Episode 1, she can turn to the camera and say, "They're not freaks. They're misfits ... OF SCIENCE." But on the inside, she'll be crying.
Back in 2005, when Andy Samberg wasn't THE Andy Samberg, just a guy who was louder than most other people, he and the Lonely Island crew created a pilot called Awesometown. And Awesometown isn't bad. It's not as polished as their more recent work, but it shows some glimpses of greatness, and with a few more episodes to work out the kinks, it could've been an awesome series. Fox passed on it, as did Comedy Central and MTV. But I understand your decision, Fox. You had to save your money for programs like Standoff, Skating With Celebrities, and The Rich List, wherein competitors made lists of things. The Rich List was cancelled after two episodes, but I train for it every fucking day.
In today's climate of internet celebrities being given shows that they are in no way prepared to handle, Awesometown would be a revelation. I see things like THE JEFF SHOW or whatever, and I wonder what it is and who it's for. Then, after some research, I learn that it's for Jeff, who releases a new prank video every Tuesday, and that you need to like, share, and subscribe to his YouTube channel, or his wife and child will burst into flame or something. And the show never fails to be four minutes of content stretched out into 20, with Jeff mugging at the camera because looking at the camera in funny ways is the only thing Jeff ever learned how to do.
Awesometown has clever sketches and good writing, and definitely doesn't feel like the product of a corporate decision to give an Instagram-famous guy a show without first nailing down what that show would be about. Andy Samberg and Lonely Island are famous enough that they could totally carry a sketch show, and it isn't like they've gotten markedly less funny over time. They're the perfect example of people who need a sketch show.
Sadly, aside from SNL, sketch shows are becoming rarer and rarer. The only time we really see one nowadays is when a major network decides to trot out a tired comedic actor to host one. "It's Funny Business With Joooooooooon Lovitz." Awesometown, but done in the era of Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, could be the sketch show that makes me want to keep breathing. Or buy a Hulu account. Whichever pops into my head first at the time.
Before The Walking Dead and American Horror Story and Hannibal and Bates Motel and Scream and Stranger Things and Penny Dreadful and iZombie and Teen Wolf and Hemlock Grove and Grimm and Sleepy Hollow and Channel Zero and Z Nation and The Strain and Ash Vs Evil Dead, there was Harper's Island.
I list all of those to show you how many horror series have premiered since Harper's Island whimpered its way through one full season in 2009. Never knowing whether it was a slasher series with some dramatic elements or a dramatic series with knives, Harper's Island wasn't good for fans of mystery, horror, or television. The whole show was built around a whodunnit, but rather than create clues or misdirection, it just killed off people, and then at the end was like "These are the only people left! Must be that guy!"
A lot has changed since 2009. Major networks are willing to show more violence than ever before, meaning that if a show like Harper's Island wanted to be about disembowelments with interludes of light dialogue, it probably could. Or, if it wanted to build a season-long mystery, all it would have to do for some kind of guidance is look to the many modern series that have done the same thing successfully. I don't want to say that it should copy anything directly, but I will say that if they re-released Hannibal, completely unchanged, and marketed it as a game show called What's In This Meat?, I'd be thrilled.
Another big problem with the original Harper's Island was that it took place on an island which was meant to be mysterious and spooky. Instead it came off as a location where my friends' rich parents would go to eat oysters and complain about Jimmy Carter. Using the tactics of a series like Westworld, which is built around a few central scary locations, could improve the atmosphere of Harper's Island by adding any atmosphere at all. Harper's Island could be a great horror show, as long as it took cues from more recent horror shows and stopped sucking entirely.
Pryde Of The X-Men
The current Spider-Man cartoon could barely wait for the last one to finish before it started, and the success of the MCU has assured us that every generation of children from now until the Earth spins directly into Mars will get their own Avengers cartoon. The X-Men, on the other hand, are not so lucky. We got X-Men: Evolution back in the '00s to coincide with the release of X-Men, which was pretty successful. Then, in 2009, we got Wolverine And The X-Men to cash in on what was surely going to be the reality-altering success of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. But that movie had the critical reception of finding a piece of dog shit behind your ear, and with behind-the-scenes problems, Wolverine And The X-Men ended after only one season.
A decade later, mutants are viewed a little more favorably. We've gotten modern superhero classics like Days Of Future Past, Logan, and Deadpool, and modern superhero "Eh, it was playing on my flight, so I watched it"s like The Wolverine. And now we're about to see stuff like Deadpool 2, New Mutants, and Dark Phoenix, which signal a change in the franchise now that Hugh Jackman's gone down with a ship shaped like Patrick Stewart's perfectly round head. We'll be getting X-Men series based around characters who aren't, well, Wolverine. Characters who haven't been smeared on the cover of every X-Men comic since 1975. Characters who would fit perfectly in a Pryde Of The X-Men cartoon.
For those of you who went to prom, Pryde Of The X-Men was made before the classic '90s X-Men cartoon, and never made it past the pilot stage. The one episode that we saw centered around Kitty Pryde, a teenage girl with the power to phase through walls. This seems like pretty small potatoes next to characters like Storm, who can conjure all of the shitty parts of the weather, Cyclops, who has a chronic illness known in the medical community as "laser face," and Wolverine, who is a goddamn serial killer. And the show comes within a hair of flat out saying "In an X-Men RPG, they'd level up your character the least, Kitty." She seems useless at first, but she ends up playing an integral part in stopping Magneto.
An X-Men cartoon that puts the spotlight on a B-Lister like Kitty Pryde would be a wonderful companion piece to movies that seem desperate to say, "We don't need a Wolverine. Wolverine who, am I right? Who needs Hugh Jackman when you have, umm, umm ... Cannonball?" By focusing on Kitty Pryde, whose traits are about as far from the typical X-Men ability of "explode stuff" as you can get, you could tell a story about why you don't necessarily need to be Wolverine in order to be important. However, you can totally put Wolverine in there too if you want. Especially if they give him the same Australian accent that he had in the original Pryde pilot. Yes, Wolverine was apparently Australian in this X-Universe, and he sounded like Crocodile Dundee guzzling a family of kangaroos.
Right now, Patton Oswalt is King Nerd. His stand-up is hilarious and poignant, his writing is thoughtful, and his acting roles are overwhelmingly likable. And while he often dives into what people might say is "nerd comedy," his bits never devolve into tossing out references in the hopes of gaining some kind of hipster geek cred from the people in the audience who know what a Hal Jordan is. He is on the Mount Rushmore of nerds, along with Shigeru Miyamoto, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and the one kid in your friend group who won't shut the fuck up about Final Fantasy IX.
But in the late '90s, Oswalt had not yet ascended to Dork Olympus. His claim to fame was playing Spence in King Of Queens, a role added because the producers decided that the cast needed some embarrassed loser in there to balance out Kevin James' unstoppable fuckability. And it was around this time that Oswalt starred with fellow geek titan Brian Posehn (and I mean "titan" very literally, as Brian Posehn is the size of a man who should be clanging Ted Dibiase and Virgil's heads together) in Super Nerds.
Super Nerds was the story of two comic book shop employees who traded unfunny jokes with each other and alienated themselves from the world around them. If you wrote an episode of The Big Bang Theory while trapped at the bottom of someone's well, Super Nerds is what your crumbling mind would conjure. It's terrible. Right now, Oswalt balances self-awareness and unabashed nerd joy so well, but the people behind Super Nerds knew two things for certain: 1) There are nerds, and 2) they're awful and gross.
In 2017, a Oswalt-centric show like Super Nerds could be a great satire on how we've kind of turned "nerd" into a marketing strategy. You can't go into a Walmart without seeing a section devoted to sloppy crossover pop culture T-shirts. (What if ATTACK ON TITAN, but with THOR? What if DEADPOOL, but shaped like PIKACHU?) Comics consist of an underwhelming blend of "event" storylines. And our pop culture news cycle is based around praying that Trailer 9 for Justice League offers something different from Trailer 8. There's so much to comment on, and a smarter version of Super Nerds would be super handy in 2017, especially when the most famous portrayal of nerds on TV is a haunted Bazinga factory.
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