The Light from the TV Shows: 11 Series (give or take) That Should’ve Survived 2011

As 2011 rapidly winds to a close, it’s easy to fall back on lists as a way to fill columns – indeed, as a TV critic, it’s my God-given right – but HBO’s announcement this week that it was cleaning house and cancelling “Hung,” “Bored to Death,” and “How to Make It in America” served to convince me that I needed to discuss a number of now-defunct series that lost their bid for continued existence during the course of this year. I’m not talking about shows like “Friday Night Lights,” which had an end-game in sight and wrapped on their own terms. I’m talking about series that effectively had the rug ripped out from under their feet. Believe me, there were a bunch…and I’m still kind of pissed about quite a few of them.

11. Medium (CBS)

After seven seasons on the air and surviving a switch between networks (from NBC to CBS), it’s hard to say that “Medium” didn’t live a good, long life. With that said, however, the show had continued to find new ways to keep things interesting, and with the trio of DuBois daughters growing up and getting their own storylines almost as often as their mom. As such, Allison, Joe, and the gang could’ve easily kept going for another few seasons without any complaints from me.

10. Outsourced (NBC)

Am I going to try to defend my enjoyment of this show? No, I am not, because there’s no point in wasting your time or mine. You may not have thought it was very funny, and if you didn’t, that would be your right. I, however, did. And I still miss it.

9. Law & Order: Los Angeles (NBC)

There’s nothing I dislike more than a series that doesn’t know when to leave good enough alone, and for my part, I don’t know why they felt the need to change the formula and kick Skeet Ulrich‘s character to the curb. Sorry, did I say “curb”? I meant “grave,” of course. Not that there’s anything wrong with giving an actor of Alfred Molina’s caliber a more substantial role, but to do so in midseason can’t have pleased the existing viewership very much. Truth be told, I’d rather they’d just kept the original “Law & Order” around, but in its absence, this was a nice substitute, and it sucks that it never had a chance to really spread its wings.

8. The Event (NBC) / V (ABC)

When it comes to casualties in the alien-invasion field, I can accept the cancellation of “V” a bit more than that of “The Event,” if only because it was a minor surprise that it made it to a second season in the first place. And if I’m to be honest, I’m not really surprised that NBC couldn’t be bothered to give “The Event” a shot at a sophomore year, since they probably figured it’d only let them down the way “Heroes” did. But whereas “Heroes” really dropped the ball in its second year, I felt like “The Event” had a better chance of upping the ante. Guess I’ll never know for sure.

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The Light from the TV Shows: The Current State of “Law & Order”

Is it me, or does it feel inherently wrong that there’s only one “Law & Order” series on the air at the moment?

I’m not saying that it hasn’t been completely and totally warranted to make fun of how many members of the franchise there have been over the years. In addition to the so-called mothership, “Law & Order,” you’ve had “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “Law & Order: Trial by Jury,” and “Law & Order: Los Angeles.” Oh, and lest we forget, there was also “Conviction,” which – although it didn’t feature the words “Law & Order” in front of its title, was a spin-off featuring the character of Alexandra Cabot (Stephanie March) as a Bureau Chief Executive ADA supervising the newest crop of ADAs.

I admit it: that’s a hell of a lot of “Law & Order.” But, dammit, I like “Law & Order.” Even if I’ve never liked the various spin-offs quite as much as the mothership, all of the series still served as TV comfort food, each just different enough from the other to make me happy. All things being equal, I can’t complain that the one “L&O” series left is “SVU,” as that’s the one that’s often been on the verge of overtaking the original series as my favorite, but now that there’s no Stabler, even “SVU” feels…dare I say it?…a little unstable.

Thank heavens, then, that the series has decided to delve into its universe of characters and bring back one from the mothership: Michael Cutter, played by Linus Roache. The relationship between Roache and Sam Waterson on the original series was great, but in his return to the franchise, we’re now going to see Cutter standing on his own, getting to be the big shot this time around. Also turning up on the series is another actor who recently his full-time gig go under: Andre Braugher, late of “Men of a Certain Age.” If you’re a real diehard “L&O” fan, you may remember that Braugher once turned up on the original series, but…well, I’ll let him remind you about it.

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