5 Great TV Shows That Should've Been Canceled Way Earlier
Bad TV shows get the ax all the time -- some after just one episode. But just as often, shows that deserve the ax avoid it year after year, and I just can't figure out why. For many people, The Simpsons is the go-to poster child for shows that needed to die forever ago. But at least with that show, the new episodes have A) some decent jokes and B) enough viewers to justify their existence. The shows I have in mind have, well, not so much ...
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire debuted in 1999 and, despite being nothing but Jeopardy with multiple-choice answers and BEH-MA-NA-NA-NA-VOOOOOOM, quickly became a monster success. But by 2002, host Regis Philbin had lost interest, and when he left, so did most of the viewers. Hey, better to burn out than fade away, right?
WRONG. It's now 2015 -- a full 10 years after I auditioned for the show and failed the initial test because I refused to wear pants -- and this show is STILL on the air, mindlessly stumbling through syndication like a hippie lost in a homemade incense store. That's a lot of fading away. Regis' replacement, The View's Meredith Vieira, did her job decently enough, but nobody gave the slightest fuck about her. She was the Gary Cherone to Regis' David Lee Roth. Only difference is, Van Halen booted Cherone after one album. Vieira kept her job for 11 years.
ABC: Even Detroit Lions fans don't celebrate mediocrity like we do!
Finally, in 2013, Vieira moved on, and the show's been doing that accursed "upchuck some crappy new host every year" thing ever since, despite a good host being the one thing that can make or break a show whose format is literally nothing but questions. First we got Cedric The Entertainer (who's about as entertaining as a home foreclosure). Then, major cost cuts prompted the show to hire Terry "Yelling Old Spice Guy" Crews, who is shockingly obnoxious when not in character. Man, who could have predicted that?
The moral of this story: Never ever try to act like a normal human being.
The new new new guy, Chris Harrison, is also the host of The Bachelor, and he'd make a real good spy, because every time I see him, I instantly forget who he is. They might as well retitle his one season Who Wants To Be An Unmarked Tub Of Plain Yogurt.
Christ, can't Watson learn to ask questions already?
You know what the show's major innovation is under Harrison? Doing what Regis did. See, for the past few years, Millionaire attempted to innovate (and dance around an intellectual property lawsuit successfully filed by a former producer) with a preliminary round of 10 questions, each with mystery dollar amounts attached. It revived the show about as much as blowing an air horn at a heart-attack victim. And had the show not reverted back to the old format, it probably would've been exactly as dead.
But channeling the old Regis format might actually justify the show's existence again. It simply needs one more ingredient: Regis. Remember, hosts make these shows, and Regis fucking made it. Thrice over, in fact, because Millionaire has returned to prime time twice since 2004. Both times, Regis was the host, and both times people actually tuned in to watch. But take him out of the mix, and it's like removing flour from a cake recipe: You just end up with a bowl full of sweetened scrambled eggs.
America's Funniest Home Videos
When most people hear the name Alfonso Ribeiro, they assume it's a new dish at Olive Garden. Then you tell them that's Carlton, and they remember and get all giddy and try to do his stupid dance, until you finally have enough and decide that the assault charges are worth it.
Sadly, I don't see him as Carlton anymore, just as that guy who hosts TV shows nobody else wants to host. First Catch 21, and now America's Funniest Home Videos. Yes, that America's Funniest Home Videos. It's still around, despite being more redundant than Phillip Phillips and Duran Duran duetting on "Gone, Gone, Gone," and despite being hosted by somebody who thinks "DNA = Dude Named Alfonso" is the height of humor.
And he probably spent three sleepless, chain-smoking nights racking his brain
nonstop just to think of it.
The show certainly served its purpose back in the Bob Saget days. Even during the Daisy Fuentes era, keeping the show was understandable. Where else could you watch amateur footage of people making utter asses of themselves? Yes, they awarded money to the absolute unfunniest video 90 percent of the time, but the journey was hilarious enough to endure the anticlimax.
Would've been funnier if the horse shat on him, or at least squashed his skull in.
But Fuentes and her co-host, John "Probably His Mom Recognizes Him Maybe?" Fugelsang couldn't keep the show afloat, and the series went bye-bye in 1999. That's what happens when you lose a guy good enough at his job to be a squeaky-clean, single dad one day, suck dick for coke the next, and be totally believable both times. Two years later, however, ABC revived the show under Tom Bergeron and, despite being no Saget, he was at least acceptable. Besides, there still wasn't another way to delight in endless arrays of abject stupidity except to people-watch at Walmart, so Videos deserved to live.
But now? Forget it. We have YouTube, and we've had it for over a decade. That should've been it. The second people started uploading their stupid videos for anyone to watch anytime, no longer subject to the arbitrary whims of anonymous producers who swear to this day that kids + boogers = funny, Bergeron should've joined Dave Coulier in the pantheon of people who used to host terrible clip shows and really, really wish they still were.
Hell isn't other people; it's that backdrop.
For whatever reason, this didn't happen, and Bergeron continued hosting Videos nonstop, longer even than Saget did. This, despite most of what made it on the air being way less funny than what you find blind-clicking random links in a drunken haze at 3 in the morning. Now that Ribeiro's hosting, I can safely say that ... not a damn thing has changed. How could it? The show's entire premise is outdated beyond repair. ABC can make the set as bright and colorful as they please, they could give in and pay Saget the gross national product of Earth to come back, and it just wouldn't matter. They're asking us to drive 200 miles to the nearest McDonald's, instead of having our personal chef cook up steak on the spot whenever our pantsless selves demand it.
Survivor's basic formula -- 16 people stranded on an island all alone (except for the off-screen medical crew ready to pounce if anyone super-fails at survivalism), weekly votes to send somebody back to the comfy couches of civilization, and big bucks for the winner -- worked marvelously for a spell. The show was a ratings smash, revolutionized reality TV for worse or for worse, and spawned such iconic celebrities as "naked guy who couldn't survive the taxman" and "hot girl who thought she could wrestle but yeah no not even close."
Admittedly, making your opponents desperately blind themselves to escape the hideousness
was a decent winning strategy.
That spell has long faded away, as two major issues rapidly sunk the show's appeal. For one thing, I've never seen such an oversaturated show. Sixteen years is one thing, but we've had 31 seasons in that time. That's two seasons per year, every single year, save the first one. You know those stories where a kid wishes for Christmas every day, and they get it, and it's inevitably a disaster because doing the same thing every day is boring as shit and nobody can afford presents every single day? That's Survivor. We get it -- life without Burger King blows. Move on.
But endless seasons are fine and dandy if you can differentiate one from the other. But that brings me to issue #2: Every season is the same fucking thing. People live on an island, they squabble and whine, they build campfires, they play stupid "immunity" games, they whine and squabble some more, they vote, someone wins, the viewers lose. And they just do that over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and see how fucking annoying repetition is? Because clearly CBS doesn't.
I have no idea what season this screenshot came from, and neither do you.
The closest thing each season has to a unique gimmick is how they divide the tribes. Not that it ever matters. Usually, it's something so simple as "instead of EIGHT people per tribe, now there's TEN." Other times they'll do guys vs. girls, because starvation and dehydration is one thing, but Heaven forbid anyone catch the cooties. With the current season, they're just throwing up their hands and bringing back old contestants whom we voted to bring back. It's the most blatant possible way to say "We're out of ideas" without actually saying it.
It also implies that somebody was turned on by this enough to chance it happening again.
Survivor's absolute nadir? That time they divided everybody by race: a tribe of white people, one of African-Americans, one of Hispanics, and one of Asians. What skin color can best digest undercooked fish, the show asks, because inquiring minds stuck in 1952 want to know. That season was in 2006. Nine years later, can Satan please collect on that contract he and Jeff Probst drew up?
Last Call With Carson Daly
While all the previous shows stopped being good long ago, at least they peaked. Last Call With Carson Daly can't even boast that. Daly wormed his way into hosting a talk show 13 years ago and has never stopped, despite the fact that this appears to be a show designed for people who just want to fall asleep on the couch with the TV on but need a host just boring enough to not catch their interest and keep them awake.
In 2002, after years of playing 101st fiddle to a hundred tweens squealing OHMYGAWD BACKSTREET BOYSSSSS N'SYNC AHHHHH BRITNEYYYYYYYYY every day, Daly decided he was worthy of moving from after school to late night. Tragically, nobody told him he was wrong.
"Shit, all the Milk-Bones in the world aren't worth listening to this guy."
Last Call reflects its host perfectly. You know how most of these shows have jokes and bits? It took Daly three years to write any. Before then, there was no monologue, no house band, no skits, no nothing. In its place was nothing but interviews, aka the single dullest part of any show. Celebrity interviews work only when they quit shilling and just play beer pong or a silly game show or whatever, and oh boy does Daly not do the shit out of that. They just talk, really. He tried leaving the studio and talking to people on the road for a while, but that went nowhere as hell. It was still a bunch of interviews, and it was still the TRL guy doing them.
They made him leave before opening the bar up to people who wanted to have fun.
The show almost received a mercy kill in 2010, during the Conan-Leno kerfuffle. Had Conan agreed to move his Tonight Show to a later time to make room for Leno's new show, Last Call would've been toast. Apparently, this was because NBC didn't want to move Poker After Dark, which typically followed Daly. This is how unimportant Carson Daly is: His bosses had to choose between him and doughy, expressionless people staring at cards, and they sided with the cards. Only Conan selflessly taking $32 million to go elsewhere spared Carson from the indignity of seven fewer people watching him every night.
A year later, we learned the real secret to Carson's survival: not being funded by a blatant Ponzi scheme.
But you know who cares the least about Last Call With Carson Daly? Carson Daly. He currently appears for the show's opening and closing segments and ... that's it! He has producers and stagehands handle the interviews and film the bands, while he just sits back and technically honors his contract. And while I appreciate the idea of Carson Daly attempting to improve the show by not being on it, it's simply too little, too late. More (legal this time) poker, please!
The Jerry Springer Show
Down to the shit-filled bottom of the rabbit hole we head. Because while the other shows at least tried to shake things up sometimes, Jerry Springer has spent the past 25 years steadfastly doing not even a little bit of that. Hope the Mad Hatter enjoys human turds in his tea, because that's all he's getting from now on.
It's absolutely baffling that, in 2015, I can watch all-new episodes of Springer. For one thing, we've known it's fake for years now. They manufacture the drama, they script the fights, they coach the guests on how to hit -- they even had a "fight quota" for a while, like the show wasn't a success unless they had at least X number of fights. Jerry goes on WWE TV simply to feel something real.
Note: That something isn't better acting.
And, actually, fuck "all-new," because it's not new. Today's Springer is the exact same shit that made the show so famous in the edgy-as-fuck '90s. In 1998, I could watch a grown-ass man swear up a righteous storm because his girl turned out to have a penis AND THAT SHIT AIN'T RIGHT JERRY. Or a girlfriend OH NO YOU DI'INTs and slapfights from start to close because her boyfriend's sidepiecing with a trans girl. AND THAT SHIT AIN'T RIGHT JERRY.
Guess what I found over and over again when searching for 2015 Springer episodes? "Played By A Transsexual." "Secret Transsexual Mistresses." "You Got Me A Tranny Stripper!" Same goes for dwarves, fat people, dark-skinned people, and anyone else who doesn't look like Jerry and thus automatically becomes the punchline. And people watch this shit! Not many, but some. Because for them, it's still 1998 and that shit is HILARIOUS. Also, Limp Bizkit still rocks, Howard Stern still rules radio, Marilyn Manson is still evil and scary, and every day is NOT getting shorter and I'm NOT getting older and NOTHING'S CHANGED and society is NOT passing me by and I'm NOT going to die PLEASE TELL ME I'M NOT GOING TO DIE DYIN' AIN'T RIGHT JERRY.
They think they've found the Fountain of Youth, but it's really just a puddle of polluted piss.
And that right there is why Springer's survival is more ridiculous than any other show (except maybe Maury -- we get it, men don't like babies). Nobody gives a fuck anymore. The conservatives and religious types who once condemned it for harbinging the End Times don't care, because nothing happened. Rome didn't fall because of strippers and catfighting, much like how it didn't fall because of Eminem, Elvis, Alice Cooper, Larry Flynt, or even Miley Cyrus. Kings and queens of controversy have mighty short reigns.
As for the show's underlying message ("people who don't look like me sure are crazy!"), nobody cares about that anymore, either. Nobody who matters, anyway. Because we're evolving, in case you haven't noticed. The people who watch "Secret Transsexual Mistresses" and side with the guy who got bamboozled by the Secret Penis Of Doom are getting old, dying, or simply fading into obscurity. They might emerge every now and again to rail against "PC culture," but they aren't funny or interesting enough to matter. They're just kind of ... there. Just like Jerry.
There's a very good reason the two white dudes look they're in mourning.
So let's officially ax this fake, outdated, unfunny waste of camera and replace it with something more worthwhile. Like reruns of Regis' Millionaire. You know, good, old-fashioned, wholesome '90s.
It's amazing what some TV shows will do to stay on the air. Check out the Baywatch spinoff that transformed into a version of The X-Files in 6 TV Shows That Completely Lost Their Shit, and see the lost episode that almost took Breaking Bad in an entirely different direction in 5 Scrapped Episodes That Almost Ruined Famous TV Shows.
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