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Gone too soon: TV shows we wish were still around

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If you were to write a rigorous, matter-of-fact, nailed down, thoroughly researched article on which TV shows ended at exactly the right time, you’d still be wrong.

Television is not an exact science. Shows evolve, spawning new, weird and wonderful idiosyncrasies. They’re complex beasts and probably more than any list of favourite films, a list of TV shows are revelatory as to a person’s interests.

We all have the guilty pleasures, I’m sure – I’m currently hooked on a certain Netflix hunting show (Meat Eater). Those poor, beautiful, delicious animals.

We watch dross because it passes the time and now that streaming services are omnipresent it’s easy to tune in and zone out without any effort. But what about the television we love? The shows we’re devoted to, the series we worship. It’s always sad to see one finish. However, it’s rare that popular (classy, non-animal murder) shows end neatly and with a unanimous consensus agreeing that it was a fitting exit.

Six Feet Under, The Sopranos and The Wire (all HBO interestingly) would be my strongest picks for this category. Other shows go and are brought back, recent history has seen Family Guy, Arrested Development and Futurama all prove a series can return from the cancellation morgue. They’ve also shown, to varying degrees, that it isn’t always for the best.

Some run too long – many, in fact. Oz went on way past its barbarous best, but I know people who still want more of it. Sadists. Each to their own I guess, but I was tired of that hot candle wax on my delicate nips way before it continued to drip ever downward.

The longer a show goes on, the more likely it is to run out of ideas and here’s where my argument lies. If running out of ideas is what kills a show, does this mean shows which never exhibited a paucity of ideas still have something to offer fans?

So here’s my list of great television that had more to give – I’ll build up to the ones I would gladly offer my own limbs in sacrifice for the resurrection of.

Utopia

While probably the show with the least left to give on this list, Utopia had a fresh visual style and engaging, challenging plot which while dwindling, could have still filled a third series easily.

There was also great humour, gore and Neil Maskell being terrifying (again). The second season felt a little bit like a contrived remake of the first – but I still wanted to see where the conspiracy thriller, about a graphic novel predicting a cull of human life on a global scale went. Who wouldn’t?

Father Ted

Although the horribly early death of Dermot Morgan coincided with a rather fitting final episode of Father Ted, it was, and still is, a show with much to say.

A story about three Catholic priests on a small island off the west coast of Ireland was somehow hilarious and still managed to touch on religion and humanity as a whole – at times, with a surreal edge. Having been off the air for almost twenty years and with two main cast members deceased, I know it won’t come back. This is my fantasy pick.

And no, the Father Ted musical does nothing for me.

Max & Paddy’s Road to Nowhere

If, like me, you absolutely loved Phoenix Nights (which could also be on this list, having only the two series), I’d guess you also enjoyed Peter Kay and Paddy McGuinness’s road trip spin-off.

With just six, very funny episodes, it was criminally denied a second season – Kay stated he even had plans to cast Terry Wogan as a baddie in a future episode. As time goes on, this one looks ever less likely to return and that makes me a sad panda.

Dead Set

This British zombie show set in and around the Big Brother house was written by the brilliant Charlie Brooker, the man responsible for Black Mirror, of course.

It was funny, gory and had a brilliant cast – Andy Nyman being a favourite of mine in particular. Not to mention it was also incredibly believable, ok maybe not the zombie part so much, but the way the outbreak went down in the Big Brother house was like a funnier 28 Days Later.

I know it was only supposed to have one, five-episode run, but I could have easily lapped up more of it.

Rome

This BBC and HBO joint venture was set in ancient Rome and had all the political feuding, violence and nudity associated with a certain other, dragon-featuring show these days.

The similarities don’t end there, as several cast members appear in both, too. Originally Rome was supposed to run for five seasons, but due to big budgets and it not finding the right audience (ahead of its time!) meant season two had the remaining twenty years of narrative squeezed into a bonkers, breakneck final few episodes.

Had Rome been allowed to breathe, it had the legs to offer substantially more than it did. I would love to see it return in some form, specifically sometime in late 2019 to give me some hope while I’m mourning the loss of the Game of Thrones.

Deadwood

Oh Deadwood, how I miss thee.

Foul-mouthed yet poetic, brutal and beautiful and so utterly ensconcing that three, twelve episode seasons weren’t enough. There was nothing bad about it and it had characters who inspired die hard devotion in the viewer.

Much like The Wire, the lines between good and bad were blurred. Al Swearengen, Seth Bullock, Doc Cochran, Trixie, Calamity Jane et al were complex characters, rousingly portrayed.

What was unique about the wild west show was that it was so cleverly stylised as to be covering well-trodden ground in a completely new and refreshing way. This created another world, one which was so believable, “You cunt” became as synonymous with the west as “Arrr!” is with Pirates.

The style of speech is close to Shakespearean, in my opinion, requiring some adjusting to, but adding to the brilliance of the character interaction. A return to the screen is often mooted but sadly, I’ll only believe it when I see it.

In the Flesh

This one is very personal to me.

I accept that In the Flesh won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s the most cruelly cut short show on this list. It was a complex drama about both death and loss – a zombie thriller British anthesis of The Walking Dead (yet another show which has run on far too long).

It’s set in a small northern town, the dead have returned from the grave, “cured” and reintroduced to a society afraid and distrusting of them. The “rotters”, attempt to resume normal existence in the face of prejudice and families who have mourned their loss already.

In The Flesh was allegorical, like all good zombie stories, but also cleverly readjusted the norms, building layers of intrigue within the world it was set.

If you haven’t seen In the Flesh, you like zombies and a very British feel, I urge you to see it. Just two seasons in, it was just getting going and perhaps the reason I’m so obsessed with its continuation is the fact that I’ll never know if it was going to be good or terrible.

Good. It was going to be good. Great, even. Given that I’m dealing in the theoretical here, it was the best damn show never made. If you’re making stuff up, make it great.

Repeated fan calls for In the Flesh to be picked up, possibly by Netflix or Amazon have fallen flat so far and at this point it looks likely that this undead entertainment has finally bit the dust. I cradle my Blu-ray copy of it and bid it goodbye, rocking back and forth, sobbing gently.

 

Do you have a TV you wish would make a return? I’d love to know – whether it’s doable or completely unrealistic! Comment below or chat on Twitter.

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