TV: Netflix and One Season Wonders

There was a time, not too long ago, where a marginally-rated show would go off the air and never resurface. If you’d missed it, unless you knew someone who had taped it, it was gone. Even illegal pirates had a tough time, searching for months to find a show that would probably never surface. But maybe things are changing.

I’m not a regular Netflix user*, but I got a glimpse at my roommate’s account recently. In there, amongst long-running shows like Damages or Bones, are shows like The Unusuals, a one-season show from 2009, and The Black Donnellys, one from 2007. Unlike DVDs, which are expensive, new viewers intrigued by a show can check it out very easily. Shows that got critical interest but didn’t catch on with viewers, like 2009 drama Kings, can catch the eye of viewers who hadn’t heard of it the first time around.

* Note that I’m in Canada, so Netflix will likely have different offerings south of the border.

As a would-be TV writer, I love that. The idea that even if your show is one of the 2-out-of-every-3 that don’t make it out of season one alive, it doesn’t die. New people always have the chance to discover it, to have it recommended to them, to fall in love with it.

Here’s some notable one season wonders you might find on Netflix (Canada):

  • The Unusuals, a cop dramedy starring Amber Tamblyn, Jeremy Renner and Lost‘s Harold Perrineau. I wasn’t a huge fan of the show, but it’s quirky humour and talented cast meant it had plenty of fans.
  • Kings, a drama about a fantastical monarchy based loosely on the story of King David of the bible, starring Chris Egan and Ian McShane. Critics gave this show a warm welcome, but the difficult-to-market show didn’t grab enough of an audience to stay on the air.
  • Kidnapped, a 2006 drama starring Jeremy Sisto about the investigation of a kidnapping.
  • The Black Donnellys, a 2007 drama about a Black Irish family in Hell’s Kitchen, starring Jonathan Tucker and Olivia Wilde. I have been reviewing the show at The Signal.
  • Accidentally On Purpose, a 2009 sitcom about a career woman who gets pregnant by a younger man, starring Jenna Elfman and Jon Foster.
  • Running Wilde, a 2010 sitcom about a billionaire (Will Arnett) in love with an environmental activist (Keri Russell).
  • Bionic Woman, a 2007 reboot of the classic drama about a mechanically-enhanced woman, starring Michelle Ryan.
  • My Own Worst Enemy, a 2008 spy drama about a man (Christian Slater) with two personalities.
  • Surface, one of the wave of many post-Lost sci-fi dramas, starring Lake Bell as a woman investigating mysteries arising from the ocean.
  • The Beast, the A&E drama starring Patrick Swayze as an FBI antihero. It was Swayze’s last performance before he died, and he was heavily praised for it.
  • Cashmere Mafia, the 2008 dramedy about four ambitious women in New York, played by Lucy Liu, Frances O’Connor, Miranda Otto and Bonnie Somerville.
  • Knight Rider, the 2008 reboot of the 80’s series about a man who fights crime with his talking car.
  • Deadline, a 2000 drama about a journalist played by Oliver Platt.
  • The Good Guys, a 2010 action-comedy cop series starring Bradley Whitford and Colin Hanks.

There are plenty of others out there it doesn’t offer, but it’s nice to see all of these shows have a shot at attracting some new audiences.


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