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Firefly tops brilliant-but-cancelled decade list

Saturday 12 December 2009, by Webmaster

Best of the ’00s in TV: Best Brilliant-But-Canceled Series

Deserve’s got nothing to do with success on television. Some great shows will be canceled after two episodes, while some terrible ones will be big hits. To put it anotherr way, "According to Jim" produced more episodes than all five of the following one or two-season wonders combined.

"Firefly" (Fox): Fox had no idea what to do with this space cowboy series from "Buffy" creator Joss Whedon, burying it on Friday nights (the same night that killed Whedon’s recent, more flawed "Dollhouse") and running the episodes out of order. Viewed in their proper order (as you can on DVD), the characters are richer, the blend of horse opera and space opera makes sense, and the performances (particularly from Nathan Fillion of "Castle" as the Han Solo-esque rogue captain) remain wonderful, and fans loved it enough to help get a feature film sequel made.

"Undeclared" (Fox): If "Freaks and Geeks" was about the limitations and humiliations of high school life, Judd Apatow’s contemporary follow-up comedy was about the limitless possibilities of college – of going to a place where no one knows what a loser you used to be, and where you (in this case, Jay Baruchel as a reformed nerd) can create an identity that’s not defined by something that happened to you in the second grade. Aware of NBC’s complaints about how bleak "Freaks and Geeks" was, Apatow tried to focus more on fun hijinks, and he let his characters win some of the time (at the end of the pilot, Baruchel loses his virginity to Carla Gallo’s pretty girl across the dorm room hall), but still not all of the time (Gallo would spend the bulk of the series trying to act like their night together didn’t happen). As with many Fox live-action comedies of the era (like our next entry), the audience wasn’t quite there, and the rollicking and honest show was one-and-done.

"Andy Richter Controls the Universe" (Fox): Conan’s sidekick starred in this hilarious but short-lived comedy about a cog in a large corporate machine. The show had the poor timing to debut a half-season or more after several other comedies peppered with fantasy sequences (notably "Scrubs"), and Richter would go on to star in several lesser sitcoms, while creator Victor Fresco eventually refashioned the show into ABC’s "Better Off Ted," which would kill for the ratings "Andy Richter" got seven years ago.

"Karen Sisco" (ABC): Carla Gugino assumed the Jennifer Lopez role – and took advantage of the serial TV form to give the character more layers - from "Out of Sight" in this stylish, cool and sexy crime drama about a loner US Marshal and her tough but supportive dad (Robert Forster).

"The Middleman" (ABC Family): Proudly retro, uncannily funny comic book adaptation about a struggling artist (Natalie Morales) going to work for a temp agency that regularly saves the world, alongside a square-jawed, milk-drinking, non-cussing, ass-kicking ex-Navy SEAL (Matt Keeslar).