When CBS resurrected post-apocalyptic drama “Jericho” last summer after being deluged by 20 tons of nuts from passionate fans, the network was contrite but firm. We’ll bring the show back, CBS told the fans, but you need to come back, too, and bring a few million more fans with you.
The fans didn’t deliver. The show, about a Kansas town coping with life after apparent nuclear holocaust, drew even smaller crowds in its second season, and CBS announced early this year that “Jericho” was finished.
Fans rarely get such clear communication from the brass behind their favorite shows. Cancellations, especially of shows with decent but not spectacular ratings, can come seemingly out of nowhere. (Just ask fans of “Judging Amy.”) But this season, thanks largely to the 14-week writers’ strike, fans of many struggling shows were put on notice. It might not have been as direct as with the “Jericho” ultimatum, but when networks decided which shows to resume filming after the strike, they passively let fans know which shows were in danger.
Most of the freshmen series that networks had faith in, including NBC’s “Chuck” and ABC’s “Dirty Sexy Money,” got early renewals, then were sent to limbo to wait for a fall 2008 relaunch.
By bringing other new series back in the spring, networks essentially told fans that those shows were getting one final chance. Only higher ratings would secure spots on the fall schedule.
So when the networks this month announced which shows wouldn’t be returning, fans of vampire drama “Moonlight” and crime drama “Women’s Murder Club” couldn’t really say they weren’t warned.
Of course, that doesn’t make saying goodbye any easier. And several of the series that got the axe this year deserved at least one more year to connect with audiences.
Why it should have been renewed: It might have been the lowest-rated of CBS’s Friday night dramas, but "Moonlight" still consistently won its time slot against ABC and NBC offerings. That’s impressive, considering all of the tinkering that went on at this series about a blood-sucking private investigator. After multiple show-runner changes and a few shaky scripts, “Moonlight” seemed to just be settling into a charming routine in its post-strike episodes.
Series highlight: As brooding vampire Mick St. John, Alex O’Loughlin injected equal parts hot and cool into his leading-man role. A flash of his smile could make even an undead pulse quicken.
Silver lining: Fans should congratulate themselves on the most charitable “save our show” campaign ever. A well-orchestrated blood drive organized through YouChoose.net might not have been able to save the series, but it did help save lives. Mick would be proud.
“Women’s Murder Club”
Why it should have been renewed: Like “Moonlight,” this ABC crime drama was completely reworked after the pilot, so it needed a few episodes to find its footing. Angie Harmon gave a strong performance as a police inspector Lindsay Boxer, who’s equally tough on criminals and on boyfriends. And the show, based on a series of popular novels by James Patterson, had proven source material.
Series highlight: The title might imply this show was all about the ladies, but Tyrees Allen was always a joy to watch as Boxer’s wry and devoted partner, Warren Jacobi.
Silver lining: There are always the books. The seventh novel in the series (“7th Heaven”) was released in February.
“Men in Trees”
Why it should have been renewed: No show on TV offered better comfort food. “Men in Trees” transformed Alaska into a fictional wonderland of millionaire bartenders and amnesiac innkeepers, where pampered New Yorker Marin Frist could find peace and love — and herself. Spending an hour a week in the town of Elmo was the perfect way to escape the gritty crime scenes, hyper hospitals and crazy courtrooms of other TV dramas. Plus, after myriad time changes and hiatuses, this ABC show deserved to stay in one place for at least 13 straight episodes.
Series highlight: Not since “Gilmore Girls” gave us Stars Hollow has there been a small town as wonderfully quirky as Elmo. The cast’s ever-increasing size was a testament to the town’s wonderfully eclectic population — from the hot homeless guy in need of a kidney transplant to the gristly barfly who once played classical piano.
Silver lining: It’s not over yet. The show returns May 28 with the first of its final three episodes. And show creator Jenny Bicks promised reporters earlier this year the series' ending will provide some closure for fans.
Why it should have been renewed: After a lackluster pilot, Fox’s “New Amsterdam” surged creatively, mining its formula to set itself apart from other crime shows. The series starred Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as John, a New York detective who was cursed to live forever until he found true love. Each episode included a story set sometime in the immortal hero’s past. Airing only eight episodes, the series left plenty of holes in John’s sprawling past.
Series highlight: Thoseflashbacks were almost always a kick, but the awkward relationship between John and his physically much older son (and sole confidante) spoke to the heart of John’s relationship problems.
Silver lining: It’s hard to find one. At least this show gave Coster-Waldau some well-deserved exposure.
Why it should have been renewed: Even with itsscaled-back budget and narrower second-season focus, thisCBSdrama continued to deftly balance heart and action. And seeing more of wonderful actor Lennie James, whose cryptic Robert Hawkins was always the show’s most intriguing character, could never be a bad thing.
Series highlight: First-season episode “Vox Populi” was proof of how good “Jericho” could be. Letting the capable ensemble shine in a storyline fueled by panic and paranoia over the death of a shopkeeper, the standout episode aired right before the extended winter hiatus that ultimately killed this show.
Silver lining: At least there was a second season. Thanks to the now-infamous nut campaign (inspired by a line in the first-season finale), “Jericho” will go down in the annals of TV history as one of the few shows brought back from cancellation by its fans.
“Aliens in America”
Why it should have been renewed: This show about Justin, a Wisconsin high schooler, and Raja, the Pakistani exchange student staying at his house, was funny. Really funny. And it was one of the few family comedies on the air. The CW was wise to pair it with the equally enjoyable — and returning — “Everybody Hates Chris.” Couldn’t they both have survived?
Series highlight: The kids were funny, but the real appeal was Amy Pietz, who with a spot-on accent and painfully funny delivery turned well-meaning mom Franny into “America’s” sweetheart.
Silver lining: Sometimes life just isn’t fair. Still, ever-positive Raja would probably say something optimistic about how it was better to have loved this show and lost it than to have never had it at all, so let’s go with that.