Lunchtable TV Talk: Animal Kingdom

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I keep wanting to call this “Animal Experimentation” for some unknown reason. I just cannot keep “Animal Kingdom” as a title in my brain for more than one second. I suppose it’s that I associate the word “animal” with the dismally bad Zoo, and it stars James Wolk (there was a time that I would watch anything just because of him; even he is not enough of a draw to maintain Zoo). Wolk starred in a good but short-lived show called Political Animals, and somehow all these animals-in-titles and animals run amok (in Zoo) has my “animals” confused.

Animal Kingdom was something I started watching almost by accident and find that it is like a combination of the gone-but-not-forgotten Sons of Anarchy or The Shield (i.e., gangs of pseudo or actual criminals pulling off nefarious “jobs” but always digging a bigger and bigger hole for themselves the more they try to fix the first botch job) and the short-lived Gang Related (in which a detective must play both sides – his loyalty to his gang family and to the law).

I watched the first season and enjoyed it – I find that Ellen Barkin, like a lot of women, is a heck of a lot more interesting now than she ever was when she was young. Barkin plays the family matriarch who is nothing if not a master manipulator. Everything else essentially revolves around her and the things she sets into motion. I’d say watch it or read about it to find out about the plot, but Barkin is the real reason to watch.

Lunchtable TV Talk: Premature cancellation

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Do shows fail to find an audience because of (lack of or bad) marketing? Because today there is too much to choose from or just because the masses have questionable taste? (I know this to be true, and this is why I don’t much buy into the “wisdom of the crowd” or focus groups or anything that relies on tipping point-pleasing everyone logic. I, and most of my friends, are not the mass in the middle that wants to see lame singing contests on TV every night of the week or who once wanted more and more stuff like Fear Factor or Survivor or Big Brother. We’re not the ones who thought the title/concept of Big Brother was conceived with the reality show debacle that reality show “moment” spawned. We know exactly where Big Brother came from – and we know that Big Brother like tactics are exactly what are used to inform network decisions on TV cancellation.

So yeah… what about all those pleasant and sometimes fantastic shows that never found their audience, despite finding a voice?

I am sure there is a long list of television shows that I have loved – that you have loved – that saw a premature end. Then there are shows aplenty that started but could not end soon enough because they sucked that much.

Quite a few shows from past seasons were cancelled but were lovely: The Bridge, Better Off Ted, Lone Star, Party Down, Terriers. I still miss them sometimes when I think of them. And then there are some, like the hilarious The Brink on HBO. It was renewed during the first season’s run and sometime before the second season would have happened… HBO pulled the plug! I am miffed about that one and may yet be for a good while.

Somewhere in the middle were shows that were average and entertaining without being must-see. Or shows that glimmered with flashes of promise. And some things were just steadily decent.

I lament the loss of some of these – Gang Related had people like Cliff Curtis (a veteran of film of TV, who is currently a lead in Fear the Walking Dead); Terry O’Quinn (who will always make a sandwich of the bread-and-butter law enforcement style roles he commands); Jay Karnes (who is just the coolest guy in usually uncool roles). Most of these people will work no matter what. But it’s a shame when a cast comes together and works well but does not get a chance to see where it might go.

About a Boy is another similar show. Minnie Driver was sweet. Al Madrigal was silly. And overall it might have been a little mushy, but it was a mush not unlike a slightly sweet applesauce – easy to swallow and pleasant. Yes, I know – I seriously compared a TV show to applesauce.

And then I reflect on other show that I don’t miss but am not sure they would not have turned out okay – Monday Mornings, Taxi Brooklyn?

And then some, like Happy Endings, was vocally mourned by a lot of critics, who felt it was underrated – but I found it only rarely funny, often irritating and a lot less clever, funny or endearing than the aforementioned About a Boy. But still, it too might have been cancelled too soon.

But most of the actors involved in these undertakings landed on their feet elsewhere or already had well-established bearings.

Do we lose out on some of these things because we’ve hit peak TV? There’s too much to choose from or we have slow and poor attention spans? If that were true, the losses of some of these things would not still linger so many months and years after their demise.