teevee 2010
random friday, 2008 edition: ice cube, “gangsta rap made me do it”

the first annual karen sisco award

I was actually saving this for a day when I had nothing else to post, but Alan Sepinwall has inspired a lot of folks with his list of great one-season shows, and to some extent that's what this is about, so …

One ongoing theme to this year’s television was cancellation. Lost and 24 finally finished their runs … you could say they weren’t cancelled, just reached their proper end, but whatever, they are gone, and as popular shows and cultural landmarks, they rightly get the lion’s share of our attention as we say goodbye to some shows at the end of 2010.

But there were other shows … better shows, to my mind, although as always, YMMV … Dollhouse and Caprica (OK, maybe it wasn’t better) and Rubicon and Terriers, shows that no one watched and are thus only missed by their cult followers. Perhaps it’s because Rubicon and Terriers were cancelled fairly close to each other on the calendar, or maybe it’s that Terriers has inspired a lot of fine writing about why such a show will be missed, but I find the cancellations this year to be more bothersome than I have in the past.

Which leads me to create The Karen Sisco Award. Karen Sisco would seem to have had a reasonable chance at success. The title character was played by Jennifer Lopez in Out of Sight, a movie that was highly regarded by critics and a minor success at the box office. The character (and the movie) came from the work of Elmore Leonard, which is a good thing. The star was Carla Gugino, who was one of the stars of the blockbuster Spy Kids franchise, and who, it must be said, was and is smokin’ hot and looked especially good in the outfits they gave her for Karen Sisco.

But Karen Sisco bombed. They only made ten episodes, and only showed seven before cancelling the series. I’m not trying to claim that Karen Sisco was one of the greatest shows of all time. But it was a fine show that would appear to be appealing to enough people that it would stick around for awhile (In Plain Sight, a somewhat similar show, has already lasted three seasons with two more guaranteed, although it’s on cable and thus can live on lower ratings).

So: The Karen Sisco Award, to be given each year to the series that was cancelled when it should have stuck around. I’m not talking about shows that get seven seasons and then are cut … I’m not talking about shows that barely make an impact before they disappear. I’m talking about shows like Karen Sisco, or Firefly, or Freaks and Geeks, shows that should have been able to find a niche.

The candidates this year are obvious … just look at what I said at the top of this post. Caprica has its champions, and I found the first season to be intriguing, but I didn’t care for the reboot, and can’t say I’ve missed it. Dollhouse turned out to be a terrific show, but despite everything, I think it was given a chance … FOX screwed it up, but the show screwed itself by starting off rather poorly in an artistic sense. By the time it got good, people had given up, and the key episode that turned the show into something special was not aired, but appeared as an extra on a DVD set.

No, the two major candidates are the most recent ones, Rubicon and Terriers. And if you’ve read what I had to say about them, I think you’ll be able to predict where the award will end up. Rubicon was a very good show that progressively drew viewers into its paranoid web, but even its fans, like myself, accept that it was one of the slower-moving shows you’ll ever see, and we understand that a lot of the “action” involved people shuffling through papers and looking thoughtfully into the air. And while its cumulative power was strong, it’s hard to blame people who never made it past the first episode to find out how good it was going to be.

Which leaves Terriers. I don’t really have anything new to say … earlier this month, I gave what turned out to be the post mortem, and I haven’t come up with anything since then. It was a critical darling, but, unlike many such shows, it was also extremely appealing. Yet no one watched it. And I mean no one … I think I read that The Riches, another oddball FX series that disappeared (although it did get a second season), a series that most of you haven’t even heard of … The Riches had three times the audience of Terriers.

So there you are. The winner of the First Annual Karen Sisco Award goes to Terriers! I’m sure they’ll be thrilled when they hear the news.