ABC Family Consigns “Bunheads” to One-Season-Wonder Status

Bunheads, ABC Family

One last Bunheads pic for the road: Bailey Buntain, Kaitlyn Jenkins, Emma Dumont, and Julia Goldani Telles.

It’s never easy when one of your favorite shows ends prematurely without a chance for a tidy series finale.

After months of stalling on a decision, ABC Family finally revealed on Monday that Bunheads has been officially canceled. Despite internet buzz among select circles that now qualify for collective relabeling as a “cult following”, ratings among the Nielsen commoners were never great, especially compared to the performance of the rest of ABC Family’s mostly teen-soap lineup.

As created by Gilmore Girls mastermind Amy Sherman-Palladino and a talented staff working with minimal resources, Bunheads was a literate, tragicomic fusion of ballet, Broadway, a female-majority cast, Sorkin-speed dialogue, showtunes, obscure entertainment punchlines from previous decades, dexterous back-and-forth rhythms, and musical numbers not set to the tune of current Top-40 hits or overplayed ’80s oldies. On a broadcast network, a show containing any two of these elements would’ve been lucky to reach episode three, even on the CW.

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Every Episode Ever: Thoughts About TV Completism

Persons Unknown, NBC

My son and I liked NBC’s short-lived, suspenseful Persons Unknown so much, we had to watch the last two episodes online after NBC had given up on it, even when we hadn’t. The cast included Chadwick Boseman (42), Daisy Betts (Last Resort), and Alan Ruck (Bunheads!). Not pictured: Reggie Lee from Grimm.

In my childhood, seeing every episode of a TV series was next to impossible. Series were allowed to last for at least a full year, even multiple years — no instant cancellations after two failed airings — which meant you really had to maintain long-term dedication in order to catch a show in its entirety from pilot to finale. Syndicated reruns were kindly kept in chronological order but always skipped episodes. Woe betide the star-crossed younger viewers who found their viewing rituals disrupted by finicky parents who controlled the channel dial. Also, sometimes I liked playing outside with friends instead of keeping appointments with my favorite small-screen characters. No, really. That used to be a thing.

In this present age of DVD boxed sets, TV series completism is easier than it’s ever been in world history. Buy a complete-series set (or collect seasons one by one as funding permits); set aside multiple weekends for binge-viewing; repeat until you’ve become an authority on the series long after it departed the airwaves. Cable networks provide reruns of many series for your catch-up pleasure, if you’re patient enough to wait until the ones you missed take their turn. Even easier to complete are those fledgling upstarts that grab your attention, air two or three episodes, and find themselves axed by ill-tempered TV execs who’d rather be flooding the airwaves with cost-effective reality stunts instead.

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“Veronica Mars” Kickstarter Success Raises Unreasonable Hopes in Fans of Every Canceled Series Ever

Kristen Bell, Veronica MarsJust as Star Wars fans spent weeks celebrating in the streets at the news that their beloved childhood franchise will return to theaters, so is another fan base breaking out the party hats this week…and, more importantly, their wallets.

In a first for a major-studio intellectual property, Warner Bros. has allowed producer/creator Rob Thomas to use the power of crowdfunding to extract Veronica Mars from mothballs and feature her in a major motion picture. Thomas launched a Kickstarter campaign less than 48 hours ago with a lofty goal of $2,000,000.00. As Thomas describes the conditional deal with Warner Bros.:

Of course, Warner Bros. still owns Veronica Mars and we would need their blessing and cooperation to pull this off. Kristen and I met with the Warner Bros. brass, and they agreed to allow us to take this shot. They were extremely cool about it, as a matter of fact. Their reaction was, if you can show there’s enough fan interest to warrant a movie, we’re on board. So this is it. This is our shot. I believe it’s the only one we’ve got. It’s nerve-wracking. I suppose we could fail in spectacular fashion, but there’s also the chance that we completely revolutionize how projects like ours can get made. No Kickstarter project ever has set a goal this high. It’s up to you, the fans, now. If the project is successful, our plan is to go into production this summer and the movie will be released in early 2014.

Thomas worried for naught. Pledges from tens of thousands of fans reached that formidable goal in a record-setting, jaw-dropping twelve hours, leaving 29½ days for slower fans and curious bandwagon-jumpers to keep adding to the budget in hopes of upgrading the film from niche project to wide-release underdog, maybe even with action scenes and trained stuntmen. At the rate the pledges are accumulating, they’ll have enough money to set it in 2030 and equip Veronica and her dad with robot sidekicks.

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2011-2012 TV Cancellations Announced, All My Favorite Shows Spared

The week of May 14th-18th will be the annual TV network upfronts, in which America’s least predictable executives present their next fall’s schedule to advertisers in hopes of fostering viewer anticipation and large sacks of money. These mostly finalized lists provide us with the best possible confirmation of renewals, cancellations, midseason postponements, and symptoms of executive dysfunction. Thanks to the last two days’ deluge of announcements from Entertainment Weekly and other sources, 2012’s final results are mostly in ahead of schedule.

Several shows were already canceled in previous months; some of them, mere minutes after their second episodes ended. Some crews have been notified of their loss within the past 48 hours and are still working through the Five Stages. For me the casualties of the 2011-2012 season fall into five categories.

(Please note: I am far from completist on this. No doubt we’ll receive solemn notice of more victims shortly. Let it be known I pay no heed to reality-show obituaries at all. Or reality shows in general, for that matter.)

Shows I watched at least once:
Prime Suspect
Terra Nova

Ten minutes of Prime Suspect was enough for me. I no longer remember why, though I recall the hat didn’t help. I lasted through the full two-hour premiere of Alcatraz but couldn’t forgive Sam Neill’s stern appropriation of Dr. Evil’s cocked eyebrow. Awake started strong, but I bowed out after four episodes, once it lapsed into its own unique but grating formula that required the exact same scene twice every week:

“Let’s go check out this completely irrelevant thing! It’s extremely important to our case!”
“What? Why? It has nothing to do with anything.”
“Uhhhhhhhhhhhh…magical hunch?”
“That’s utterly stupid. Let’s roll.”

Terra Nova, on the other hand, I followed from start to finish. For the first several episodes, I had little love for any of the Shannon kids (mandatory cutie-pie Zoe, lovestruck rebel/dork Josh, and Not Quite Jan Brady), but by the end their family was functioning much better as a unit and had developed a rudimentary foundation of supporting characters that could be built upward in future seasons. Sometimes there were even dinosaurs. My son appreciated that every episode had a one-dinosaur-head minimum. The cliffhanger finale hinted at interesting new directions in the days ahead, but the showrunners’ imaginations wrote checks that their advertising income couldn’t cash. I had hoped for a second season with downgraded expectations (say, CG supplanted by sock puppetry), but I’ve had to let that go.

Shows I never tried, but bear no ill will:
The Finder
The Firm
A Gifted Man
Harry’s Law
The River
Secret Circle

If someone bought me a Complete Series set as a gift, I wouldn’t sneer and toss it in the Goodwill bag, but it might be several years before I find time to sample episode one.

Shows you could pay me to watch once, but no one ever did:
Allen Gregory
Are You There, Chelsea?
Breaking In
Charlie’s Angels
Free Agents
How to Be a Gentleman
I Hate My Teenage Daughter
Man Up!

Some shows I look at and say, “Why?” TV execs look at them and say, “Why not?” I await their cancellations and say, “That’s why.” Many shows have outlived my expectations. None of these did.

Shows you couldn’t pay me to watch because of, shall we say, scruples:
Pan Am
The Playboy Club

Shows 100% unfamiliar to me:
Best Friends Forever

I first learned about the existence of these two shows in this week’s headlines. I think I blinked at just the wrong month.

I was pleasantly stunned, however, at some of the renewals. As a past viewer of Firefly, FlashForward, Persons Unknown, Brimstone, and other unplanned fatalities, I’ve come to expect most of my shows to vaporize every year as a tradition. My TV habits dwell in a Hunger Games world where Grey’s Anatomy and Two-and-a-Half Men are Career Tributes and my favorite scripted shows are the carcasses that fertilize the field around the Cornucopia.

Surprise twist for me, then: other than Terra Nova, all my shows will return next season, even NBC’s widely shunned Thursday lineup. I’m grateful to those responsible for granting stays of execution for my unfairly unwatched shows this year, despite attempts by those nefarious Nielsen families to ignore them into oblivion.

For once, the day is saved thanks to…TV executives!

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