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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.

7. The Nine Lives of Chloe King (ABC Family)

My wife’s the one who tipped me to this show, describing it as being more than a little bit “Buffy”-inspired, and I don’t disagree with that assessment, though it’s inevitable that any ABC Family series isn’t going to be as rough and tumble as the adventures of our favorite vampire slayer. Also inevitable, unfortunately, was the fact that it only lasted a single season. Apparently, if a sci-fi series doesn’t feature a hot teenage boy as its lead (stand up, please, “Kyle X-Y”), then it doesn’t have a chance in hell at making it very long on ABC Family.

6. The Chicago Code (Fox) / Detroit 1-8-7 (ABC)

And what’s the deal with the lack of love for new cop shows? Apparently, America loves crime procedurals to the point where the thought of a little extra character development scares them away. Thankfully, “Blue Bloods” has proven to be at least somewhat of an exception to that rule, but it doesn’t come anywhere near the work that was being done on “The Chicago Code.” Hell, even “Detroit 1-8-7” didn’t touch “The Chicago Code,” but at least filming in the Motor City gave it a slightly different look than your typical cop show…though, in fairness, having Michael Imperioli and James McDaniel in the cast would’ve made it worth watching no matter where it was set.

5. Sports Show with Norm MacDonald (Comedy Central)

If the Germans can learn to love David Hasselhoff, then, dammit, why can’t we as a country see fit to embrace the brilliance that is Norm MacDonald? I don’t even like sports, and I still TiVoed the damned thing every week. America, you’re on notice. Again. (Seriously, I’m about ready to move to Canada. They like me better up there, anyway.)

4. Mad Love (CBS) / Traffic Light (Fox)

Yes, I agree that “Happy Endings” has grown substantially as a series since last season, which means that, okay, fine, maybe my previous claims that it should’ve been cancelled instead of “Traffic Light” were said in haste. But I still think “Traffic Light” was a better-than-average comedy about a bunch of friends, and I thought so from the very first episode, so to watch it get even better as it went along and still get denied a second-season pick-up was downright infuriating…though not, I suspect, as infuriating as it was for Tyler Labine to see “Mad Love” lose its battle to stay on the air. The ensemble of Labine, Jason Biggs, Judy Greer, and Sarah Chalke didn’t gel quite as instantly as one might have liked, given the comedic abilities of the foursome, but, again, by the end of season, it was tooling along quite nicely. And what did we get in its place? “2 Broke Girls.” Not that I don’t love Beth Behrs’ impossibly-long legs and the way Kat Dennings always looks like she’s about to bust out of her waitress outfit, but all things being equal, I’d still trade ’em for another session of “Mad Love.”

3. Hung (HBO)

I’ll be the first to admit that Season 2 of “Hung” was a less than stellar showing from the series, so much so that I probably wouldn’t have picked it back up in Season 3 if I hadn’t pulled a gig blogging the show for the Onion A.V. Club. That, as it turns out, would’ve been a tremendous mistake, as just about everything that had annoyed me during the show’s second year was discarded (so long, subplots about Ray’s creepy kids!) in favor of ramping up the things that had actually worked…like, say, Lennie James, who worked his acting magic every time he turned up as Tanya’s former-pimp boyfriend. I don’t know that the show has a fanbase substantial enough for us to ever see “Hung: The Movie,” but I’d sure as hell pay to see it.

2. Lights Out (FX)

Just as I was starting to get over FX’s decision to cancel one of 2010’s best new series (“Terriers”), they decided to pull the plug on another great show. I’m sure the reason it never took off was because casual viewers couldn’t get beyond the fact that it sounded like a rehash of “Rocky Balboa,” but it was so much more than that, thanks to Holt McCallany’s performance as Patrick “Lights” Leary, the boxer who, as a result of bad investments over the years, was forced to battle back against pugilistic dementia and get into the ring again in order to support his wife and three daughters. With a supporting cast featuring Stacey Keach as Leary’s dad and an impressively threatening performance by Bill Irwin (between this and “CSI,” I just can’t look at Mr. Noodle the same way ever again), “Lights Out” deserved far better than to hit the canvas after only one season.

1. Men of a Certain Age (TNT)

Dammit, dammit, dammit. Just typing the title of the show and looking at the shot of Ray Romano, Scott Bakula, and Andre Braugher is making me sad all over again. Some people couldn’t understand all the love that was lavished on the series, but those who saw a bit of themselves in these three men – and, believe me, you didn’t have to be their certain age to be struck by the familiarity – quickly found “Men” to be must-see TV. Joe, Owen and Terry weren’t just characters. They felt like real guys. You don’t get nearly enough of their like on television. I don’t blame TNT for pulling the plug if the ratings weren’t there, but I do blame audiences for not branching out and investigating series that fall slightly outside of their usual viewing patterns. Set aside the predictable once in awhile, wouldja? There’s a lot of great television out there that deserves to thrive, and all it takes is for you to give it a chance.