In memoriam: cancelled TV comedies

Ladies and gentlemen, we have gathered here today to remember four remarkable TV shows, whose lives were cut far too short by the cruel hand of network executives.

Each of these delightful comedies lived every minute of every scene to the fullest, with expertly crafted characters, oh-so-clever dialogue and beautifully absurd situations. They were true gems of the small screen that touched the hearts and funny bones of all viewers lucky enough to know them. They can best be remembered by anyone who chooses to witness their glory days — or rather, episodes. May they rest in peace … and in your DVD collection.

 


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Freaks and Geeks

Season: One (1999 ñ 2000, 18 episodes)

With Jason Segel, Seth Rogan and James Franco as stars, the cast list of this more than a decade old show seems like today’s Comedic Hall of Fame. Produced by the unofficial king of the “bromance comedy”, Judd Apatow, “Freak and Geeks” is set during the 1980-1981 school year at the fictional William McKinley High School — a name also used for the school of “Glee.”

But unlike that rarely realistic musical series, “Freaks and Geeks” manages to entertain its audience through simplicity. Everyone is an outcast, but the sort of outcast that viewers wish was in their group of friends. Whether you’re a freak or a geek or somewhere in between, this cult favorite of a comedy-drama will have you laughing at its wit, cringing at its awkwardness, cheering at its relevance, and, maybe, crying at its surprising sentimentality.

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Pushing Daisies

Seasons: Two (2007 ñ 2009, 22 episodes)

Within just 22 whimsical episodes, “Pushing Daisies” worked its eccentric way far enough into critic’s hearts to earn it seven Primetime Emmy Awards — including Outstanding Actress in a Supporting Role for Kristin Chenoweth’s portrayal of adorable waitress Olive Snook. Alas, lack of significant viewership resulted in its far too early death.

But death is the show’s forte. Protagonist and pie-maker Ned, played by the boyishly handsome Lee Pace, has a very special “gift” — which may actually be more of a curse; he can bring the dead back to life with the  mere touch of a finger. However, if Ned touches the no-longer-deceased a second time, it’s lights out again … forever. Touted as a “forensic fairytale”, Ned aids a private investigator in solving crime, while managing The Pie Hole and romancing his childhood-crush-turned girlfriend, Charlotte “Chuck” Charles — who, being formerly deceased herself, he can never so much as hug.  With its stunning visual style, fast-paced dialogue and touching relationships, “Pushing Daisies” will leave the sweetest of tastes in your mouth — pie not included.

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Party Down

Seasons: Two (2009 ñ 2010, 20 episodes)

What do you get when you cast half-a-dozen comedic actors, toss in a generous serving of charming guest stars, slap on some light pink bow ties, and roll the camera? Well, the simple answer is “Party Down”, but the show’s hilarious stars could surely think of an alternative witty punch line.

The partially improvised comedy series centers around a Los Angeles catering team, composed of a quirky crew of actors you either will already recognize or will quickly fall in love with — including Jane Lynch, Megan Mullally, Adam Scott, Lizzy Caplan and Ken Marino.  Each main character is a loveable loser, aspiring for Hollywood success, and each episode follows their antics at a different catering gig, during which they get tangled up in the whimsies and woes of that event’s guests. They cater a senior’s single mixer, an adult entertainment awards after party, a high school reunion, and in one wonderfully twisted episode, a funeral reception. “Party Down”’s offbeat characters, bizarre settings and unexpected heart make it an unforgettable TV treat, perfect for any party.

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Better Off Ted

Seasons: Two (2009 ñ 2010, 26 episodes)

It may be tempting to label “Better Off Ted” a standard workplace comedy. Except there’s nothing standard about a company that tries to cryogenically freeze an employee, proposes selling “meatless beef” and uses racist motion sensors that “don’t detect black people” — all within its first four episodes.

The heart of this satirical comedy and its immoral fictional company is Ted Crisp, a not-quite everyman who heads the research and development team of Veridian Dynamics. His demanding boss Veronica Palmer, played by Portia De Rossi, manages to heat up the screen while being extraordinarily cold — in the most hilarious way possible. Ted’s outspoken workplace crush, idiotic duo of lab scientists, and adorable 7-year-old daughter — who just may be the most mature character of all — round out the eccentric ensemble cast.

Among the show’s best running gags are its mock company commercials, whose perfectly imperfect slogans include “Diversity: Good for us.”, “Family: Yay.” and “Food: Yum.” And the slogan for Veridian’s “charitable” foundation serves as a perfect example of the show’s cheeky humor: “Helping the word … by telling people we’re helping the word.”

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