I nearly forgot about putting together a list of “new” obscurities broadcast during 2009. I first did this last year, writing about scripted programs (meaning no reality or game shows) that ran for 13 episodes or less. That’s what I’ve done again here. It’s an interesting assortment of dramas and sitcoms, two of which were animated, that includes mid-season replacements, summer fare and several new programs for the 2009-2010 season. For some of these shows, obscurity in the United States doesn’t mean obscurity elsewhere. NBC’s Merlin, which was canceled after one season, has already had a second season shown in the United Kingdom.
Other potential new obscurities from the current 2009-2010 television season include NBC’s Trauma, which was sort of canceled and then sort of renewed (the network has ordered three additional episodes past the initial 13), ABC’s the forgotten, which is unlikely to return next season, and another NBC drama, Mercy, which has been given a full season order but will probably not be renewed. Two other ABC dramas, V and FlashForward, will no doubt finish out their seasons but depending on the ratings when they return in March may not come back next season, despite a lot of hype. As for NBC’s The Jay Leno Show, given the current controversy (the so-called “talk wars”) I don’t think it can or ever will be an obscurity.
Kings (NBC) – 13 Episodes
Premiered March 15th, 2009
Reportedly a very costly series, this drama bowed with a two-hour premiere that performed poorly for NBC. The network stuck with the show for a few weeks, then shifted it to Saturdays where, after one episode, it was pulled. The rest of the episodes were burned off during the summer. The series was released on DVD in September of 2009.
In the Motherhood (ABC) – 5 Episodes, 2 Unaired
Premiered March 26th, 2009
This sitcom was a spin-off of a web series based on stories taken from real women. The television version lasted for five weeks before ABC canned it, leaving two episodes unaired.
Cupid (ABC) – 7 Episodes
Premiered March 31st, 2009
The first incarnation of this series, starring Paula Marshall as a psychologist and Jeremy Piven as man who believes he’s Cupid, ran for 15 episodes on CBS during the 1998-1999 season. ABC’s remake, starring Sarah Paulson and Bobby Cannavale, lasted just seven episodes. Neither version has been released on DVD.
Surviving Suburbia (ABC) – 13 Episodes
Premiered April 6th, 2009
This sitcom, produced in 2008 for The CW, eventually made its debut on ABC to fairly high ratings. After four episodes were broadcast, however, the network shifted it to Fridays where it attracted few viewers.
The Unusuals (ABC) – 10 Episodes
Premiered April 8th, 2009
Ratings for this comedy/drama were middling at best but ABC stuck with it through for all ten episodes.
Southland (NBC) – 7 Episodes, 6 Unaired
Premiered April 9th, 2009
NBC aired seven episodes of this series and ordered another 13 for a second season. Shortly before it was to debut in October of 2009, however, the network suddenly canceled it, leaving six episodes completed. Cable channel TNT picked up the rights to all 13 episodes and has started airing them from the very beginning. An uncensored version of the first season (curses are bleeped out for broadcast) will be released on DVD later this month.
Harper’s Island (CBS) – 13 Episodes
Premiered April 9th, 2009
Perhaps my favorite of all the new obscurities listed here, this horror show — in which characters are horrifically killed off week after week — was an interesting experiment in that it was planned from the beginning to only last for thirteen episodes. Had it been successful, the format could have been replicated in other locations (perhaps on a cruise ship rather than an island). But after premiering to relatively high ratings, CBS shifted the series from Wednesdays to Saturdays after just three episodes. The final two episodes aired back-to-back in July. A DVD set was released in September of 2009.
Sit Down, Shut Up (FOX) – 4 Episodes, 9 Unaired
Premiered April 19th, 2009
I’m not quite sure whether or not to consider all 13 episodes of this animated sitcom as having been aired by FOX. Technically, the network did show them all and actually continues to air repeats. But after four episodes were broadcast on Sunday evenings, the network pulled the show in May of 2009. In September, FOX started airing new episodes at midnight on Saturdays, outside of prime time. So they were shown, but not in prime time, making this show a bit of an oddity.
Mental (FOX) – 13 Episodes
Premiered May 26th, 2009
This drama was produced by Fox Telecolombia and filmed in Colombia. FOX aired the first five episodes on Tuesdays before moving the series to Fridays, where the remaining episodes were burned off. The last two episodes aired back-to-back on August 14th. A DVD set was released in September of 2009.
The Goode Family (ABC) – 13 Episodes
Premiered May 27th, 2009
Another animated sitcom, this series was first seen on Wednesdays before shifting to Fridays, where almost nobody watched it. All 13 episodes were aired, however, and repeats begin airing on cable channel Comedy Central earlier this month. If they do well, new episodes may be ordered.
The Listener (NBC) – 7 Episodes, 6 Unaired
Premiered June 4th, 2009
Produced in Canada, NBC only aired seven episodes before pulling this drama, about a telepathic paramedic, although the remaining six were made available online. The entire season was broadcast in Canada and, apparently, a second season will be produced. If so, it remains to be seen if it will be aired in the United States. Doubtful.
Merlin (NBC) – 13 Episodes
Premiered June 21st, 2009
This BBC drama premiered in the United Kingdom in September of 2008, almost a year before it debuted on NBC. Although ratings here in the United States were disappointing, a second season has already been seen across the pond and a third will be produced.
The Philanthropist (NBC) – 8 Episodes
Premiered June 24th, 2009
Eight episodes were broadcast, ratings were abysmal and a DVD set was released earlier this month.
Defying Gravity (ABC) – 8 Episodes, 5 Unaired
Premiered August 2nd, 2009
A co-production between a slew of companies, almost no one tuned into the two-hour premiere of this science-fiction drama on ABC. As the weeks progressed ratings shrank even more and the network ultimately decided not to air the final five episodes. They have been shown in other countries, including Canada, and all 13 episodes will be released on DVD next week.
TBL: The Beautiful Life (The CW) – 2 Episodes, 3 Unaired
Premiered September 16th, 2009
The first cancellation of the 2009-2010 season, The CW canned this drama after just two episodes. The three unaired episodes later debuted on YouTube, however, for the few fans of the show to enjoy.
Eastwick (ABC) – 11 Episodes, 2 Unaired
Premiered September 23rd, 2009
This was the third attempt to bring John Updike’s 1984 novel, The Witches of Eastwick (which was turned into a movie in 1987), to television. Unsold pilots were produced in 1990 and and 2002 for NBC and FOX, respectively. NBC’s version was aired in 1992 while FOX’s pilot has never been aired. For some reason, ABC decided to air the 12th episode after the 10th, leaving the 11th and 13th episodes unaired. A DVD release seems likely.
Brothers (FOX) – 13 Episodes
Premiered September 25th, 2009
FOX premiered this sitcom on Fridays before shifting it to Sundays. Despite terrible ratings, the network aired all thirteen episodes were aired. Although a formal cancellation hasn’t taken place as far as I know, it seems highly unlikely that it will be renewed.
Hank (ABC) – 5 Episodes, 5 Unaired
Premiered September 30th, 2009
This is the second failed sitcom for Kelsey Grammer, following Back to You, which ran for 14 episodes on FOX during the 2007-2008 season (three others were never aired). Hank only lasted for five episodes before ABC gave up on it. Another five were never shown.
Three Rivers (CBS) – 8 Episodes, 5 Unaired
Premiered October 4th, 2009
A late season entry, this medical drama focused on transplantation. Eight episodes were aired over the course of two months to mediocre ratings before CBS pulled the plug. Five episodes were left unaired.