Ten Of the Greatest One Season Shows Of The Past Decade, Conclusion
Sweet/Vicious 2016–2017 (MTV)
MTV came up with some really ambitious young adult targeted series in their all-too brief dalliance with original programming and one of their last series — which debuted just days after the 2016 election — was maybe too daring even for them. Dealing with two victims of sexual assault on a college campus, British Actress Eliza Bennett (known for her work on Broadchurch)_ and Taylor Dearden (who’d already starred and written for an earlier series) took on roles as wannabe vigilantes. In some ways, they sucked at it (they accidentally killed their first target) and in some ways they were brilliant. This series took a hard look at how colleges have spent years covering up abuse (one of the features of the series was a wall where victims posted their traumas) and the fact that it could often be way too funny at times probably upset a lot of people. All that said, I’m not entirely political issues caused it too be canceled so much as the fact that at the time MTV was purging itself of every original scripting series on it’s roster. (Part of me’s still never forgiven them for cancelling Faking It.) But in a way, this series was just a few months ahead of its time. And frankly, after everything that the #MeToo movement hasn’t accomplished, I think the world could have used some protagonists like Jules and Olivia kicking ass, dealing with trauma, and going to college. I know TV could’ve
Dietland (2018) (AMC)
If anything, this series was more ahead of its time and in my opinion, far more entertaining than Handmaid’s Tale ever was. Dealing with Plum Kettle, an overweight ghostwriter for one of New York hottest fashion magazine, Plum finds herself in the middle of an uprising involving a female run terrorist group that is attacking the men in business and fashion that have been known for sexually assaulting women. Plum finds herself drawn into this by a group of highly-placed women who could be mentors but are far too flawed in their roles to really be the people she could look up to. Robin Weigert and Tamara Tunie did some of their best work in years and Juliana Margulies has never been funnier on screen. AMC really tried with this series — they promoted it like hell and even gave it an after-show program that they basically were only willing to give The Walking Dead. So why didn’t it last? Even now, I’m still not sure. Maybe it’s the fact that even in this era; no one wants to look that clearly at how women are treated as long as it’s clearly in a false future. Or maybe it’s the fact that no one can take their dystopia if it’s mixed too closely with comedy. Or maybe women viewers don’t like their antiheroines this obvious flawed. Whatever the reason, despite all the buzz, Dietland only lasted one year. Which really sucks. We kind of need groups like Joanna to keep us honest, and we need more series led by women like Joy Nash.
Life Sentence (CW) 2018
I had such high hopes for this series. Led by one of my all time favorite showrunners Bill Lawrence (just before he struck gold on Ted Lasso) Lucy Hale, fresh off Pretty Little Liars, played a twentyish woman dying of cancer whose preparing for her funeral in the Pilot… and then learns she’s going to live. While this should be good news, this reveals the cracks in every aspect of her life — her parent’s marriage is about to end, her brother has failed career-wise, she has no real job skills, and she’s now married to a man she doesn’t know. Trying to find a way to move forward is harder then is to actually beat cancer but she slowly starts to find a way forwards. I really found this series entertaining in its opening episodes. Apparently, I was alone in that, because the ratings were pathetic even by the standards of the CW. And because it wasn’t based on a comic book, the CW had no impulse to renew it. (Still glad they were willing to let Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend play out, though.) Maybe it was just too dark. Or maybe Lucy Hale just isn’t meant for the CW; two years later, she would play the lead role on Katey Keene, a Riverdale spinoff (that also nearly made this list) and it was cancelled too.
On Becoming A God in Central Florida (201 Showtime)
Some series just don’t have enough luck. This show was made by YouTube was dropped, picked up by AMC, was dropped, aired on Showtime and was actually renewed for a second season… and then the pandemic shut it down. Which is unfair, and yet somehow fitting, for a series that really seemed to demonstrate a level of foolishness and stupidity that somehow, we associate with Florida. Set around the workings of a pyramid scheme that ends with a man getting eaten by an alligator in the Pilot, the series focused on Krystal (one of Kirsten Dunst’s greatest accomplishments anywhere) the one woman who sees just how idiotic everybody who follows the Garbeau system truly is. It fit on Showtime better than it would anywhere else (though not even they could decide whether to list her in the Comedy or Drama category) and I’m sorry the series was a victim of the lockdown. Then again, considering the title….I’ll stop there.
Council of Dads (2020) (NBC)
I watched this series right after the Season 4 finale of This is Us and it really was a good fit. Based on the story of a very complicated family dealing with the patriarch’s remission from cancer (which ends up returning and killing him by the time the Pilot’s over), this was a very depressing series that simultaneously had the moments of cheerfulness that This is Us often lacked. Dealing with some issues that not even that show has really dealt with, it showed that the family you end up having isn’t necessarily the one you’re born into. I was particularly moved by the performance of Michael O’Neill, the ‘Dad’ who had lost his own family to alcoholism, fought hard for the one he was a part of, and in the final minutes was fighting with the urge for the bottle once again. This series wasn’t always fun to watch, but life isn’t always easy to get through. I really wished NBC had decided to stick with it another season instead of you know, creating another Law and Order spinoff.
And just in case:
Oh, I was livid when ABC announced little more than halfway through the season that they had decided they would decide they’d kill this Shonda Rhimes backed series. (Yes, I’m fighting for Shonda Rhimes. I contain multitudes.) This was one of the most engaging series I’ve seen so far in 2021. Katey Sagal tore into this Erin Brockovich inspired character with the relish I think she’s been waiting for her whole career. And that cast: John Corbett, Abigail Spencer, Andy Garcia alone was worth the series time. This was the kind of show that network TV needs. And ABC killed it. I was furious.
Then I heard that imdb.com, which has been dabbling in original series the last couple of years has bought the rights to this show and is considering doing a second season. I’ve never watched a show on imdb.com but I will now if they follow through. (They could’ve also, you know, bought Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, but one prematurely cancelled show at a time, I guess.)
I have no doubt they’ll be more series that will end up on this list. Executives are idiots after all, and they have a lousy track record. That said, God bless streaming. A lot of these shows are out there in some form, and frankly, you owe it to yourself to see them. Watch future stars, brilliant writing and innovative concepts and then wonder: “What were those morons thinking?”