Is it going too far to say that ABC’s cancellation of My So-Called Life amounts to a cultural crime? I think not. The most adventurous new series of the 1994-95 season — the best-acted, best-written — recently completed a run on MTV that only served to expand its core audience of intelligent teens and grateful adults who locked in on MSCL’s depiction of adolescent anguish, confusion, and joy. There was nothing else like this on the air last season — no show at once so serious and so entertaining, so insightful yet so much fun. Had the series continued for another season, who knows what sort of dramatic miracles lead actress Claire Danes might have performed as Angela, what twists there might have been in the marriage between Patty and Graham (Bess Armstrong and Tom Irwin), what furrowed-brow funks hunk Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto) might have fallen into? In its place, ABC has scheduled Charlie Grace, a private-eye yarn starring the adorable Mark Harmon. One would, of course, never presume to judge a show before it’s been seen, but, if out of nothing but loyalty to MSCL, one cannot help but say, Aw, phooey!
Less appalling but no less annoying is the same network’s cancellation of Me and the Boys, one of the few family sitcoms that could actually be enjoyed by the entire family. Stand-up comic Steve Harvey made the transition to TV actor with smooth wit, and his way with a passel of kid performers was warm without being treacly. Harvey deserves another sitcom project as soon as possible.
Although I understand why NBC deep-sixed Earth 2 — its mediocre ratings didn’t yield even the cult following necessary to keep a major network interested in this sort of sci-fi franchise — its disappearance is still a disappointment. The writers were doing interesting things with the series’ hardy-band-of-pioneers concept; unlike so much science fiction, there was actually a lot of character development going on. I liked the way even the protagonists who were supposed to be the heroes were prey to doubt, error, and occasional venality. But now we’ll never find out whether Debrah Farentino’s ailing character, Devon, will ever emerge from the suspended animation of her ”cold sleep.”
There were also, to be sure, a batch of shows whose cancellation can only be met with satisfaction, if not glee. Any season that saw the booting of these shows is a season to feel kindly toward: CBS’ Love & War (otherwise known as Why the Hell Am I Mad About You?); NBC’s The Mommies (the definitive prime-time argument for state-sponsored orphanages); and ABC’s Thunder Alley (starring Ed Asner, the only actor we’d encourage to talk about politics, if it would keep him occupied and off bad shows).
And finally, what a relief it is that we will not have to sit through a self-consciously fey, very special farewell episode of Northern Exposure. This once beguiling series spent its sixth season turning beguilement into cutesiness while trying to recover from the loss of Rob Morrow — which, given Morrow’s monochromatic, let-me-outta-here acting during his final months on the show, didn’t seem like that much of a loss. Still, hiring Paul Provenza as Morrow’s young-male-lead replacement was a baffling botch — the only character who displayed less emotional range in the history of Exposure was the late moose, Morty.
Better luck in the fall, CBS. (You’d better give Bonnie Hunt’s new sitcom a fair shake.) Best wishes, ABC. (When do I get my congratulatory note for helping to convince you to save The Marshal?) And keep on your toes, NBC. (Hey, love that Friends, but if I hear the Rembrandts’ single of the theme song one more time, I’ll scream: Why not hire Lou Reed to write a new one?)