smith-rubio family xmas update, 11th annual edition
music friday: the corin tucker band, "neskowin"

the third annual karen sisco award

[The introduction is largely copied from previous years.]

Two years ago, I started a new tradition. I called it the Karen Sisco Award, named after the short-lived television series starring Carla Gugino. Sisco was the character played by Jennifer Lopez in the film Out of Sight, and the series, which also featured Robert Forster and Bill Duke, was on ABC. They made ten episodes, showed seven, and cancelled it. Gugino was ridiculously hot (no surprise there) and the series, based on an Elmore Leonard character, got about as close as anyone did to Leonard’s style until Justified came along.

When I posted an R.I.P. to the show, my son commented, “Every year there is a new favorite Daddy-O show that gets cancelled mid-season. … You have some sort of fixation with doomed shows, did it start with Crime Story or does it come from your upbringing?” (In fairness, Crime Story lasted two seasons.) The Karen Sisco Award exists to honor those doomed shows.

Previous winners were Terriers (2010) and Lights Out (2011). This year, there are only two candidates, in part because I quit watching most shows long before they were cancelled. Of the two I stuck with, one is still on the air, with three last episodes to burn off. Last Resort is/was Shawn Ryan’s latest series. Ryan is best-known for creating The Shield, although more relevant here is that he was the showrunner for Terriers, so he’s been in Karen Sisco territory before. Last Resort is a pretty good show that didn’t seem to have much chance at longevity, since the basic plot involved a rogue captain taking his nuke-carrying submarine to an island in the Indian Ocean and threatening to launch those nukes if people didn’t listen to him. His enemies are rogue elements in the government of the United States … lotta rogues here. It’s a fascinating premise, but how can you make it last, season after season? At some point, the U.S. and the sub are going to have to make amends or shoot it out. We won’t know how the series will end until January, but it might be best for Last Resort, if not for the people who worked on it, that closure will come in the truncated first/only season.

Having said that, I don’t think it’s the right fit for a Sisco. Terriers and Lights Out deserved a bigger audience because they were excellent shows, and while both had endings which were satisfying enough (Lights Out in particular knocked it out of the park with the last scene), there was no reason they couldn’t have gone on for another season.

The other candidate for the 2012 Sisco carries a bit of irony, since I wrote back in March that the show was “not a candidate for a Karen Sisco Award”. The reasoning behind that statement revolved around the unfortunate circumstances under which the series was cancelled. It was successful enough in its first season, it had a lot of big names attached to it (names like Dustin Hoffman, Nick Nolte, Michael Gambon, and Joan Allen, and behind the scenes, David Milch and Michael Mann), and it was thus a prestige series. It was actually already in production for a second season when the word came down that it was cancelled. Luck wasn’t cancelled because it was unappreciated, and it wasn’t dumped because the folks at HBO didn’t realize what a good show they had. No, Luck was cancelled because too many horses were dying during the production of the show.

I’m not here to decide whether those deaths were reason enough to cancel the series. What matters is that it was cancelled, it was already good, it looked to get better, and now all we’ll ever have is that one season. As I wrote when describing the finale, “Grade for series: B+. Projected grade for the Season Two we’ll never see: A-.” That sounds a lot like Terriers and Lights Out and Karen Sisco.

So there you go: Luck is the winner of the 2012 Karen Sisco Award. The best way you can honor these fine television series is by watching them on demand or Netflix or wherever. You won’t be sorry.

Karen Sisco Award Winners:

  • 2010: Terriers
  • 2011: Lights Out
  • 2012: Luck