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With the imminent return of the fall schedule, and an accompanying onslaught of promising pilots, it behooves the American TV-watching public to take a moment to mourn those beloved shows that fell behind. Gone but not forgotten, many of these fan-favourites will be dotting Netflix-instant queues across the nation for months to come. Here are three young, old and middle-aged (in that order) TV gems of 2011 worth remembering:
“GCB”: “GCB”, otherwise known as “Good Christian Belles”, other-other-wise known as “Good Christian Bitches,” was as difficult to understand as it apparently was to name. In bare bones format, “GCB” was a show about a former mean-girl, Amanda Vaughn (Leslie Bibb), who returns to her ultra-Christian, mega-wealthy Texas hometown after her embezzling, womanizer of a husband dies in a car-crash, leaving her and her children destitute and homeless. In returning to her old stomping ground, a now repentant Amanda also returns to the not-so-warm embrace of the community of women she once tortured in her misguided, Rachel McAdams-esque, youth. Hilarity ensues– well, yes and no and maybe. And therein lies the rub of GCB.
It is difficult to deny that “GCB” is a humorous show. Certainly, it has all the hallmarks of humour: there are jokes and everything! But the level of comedy behind the workings of “GCB” is very difficult to gauge. The writing so cheerfully and nonchalantly acknowledges the conservatism of society, in a world coloured by the liberal-tinged glasses of the east-coast media. You were tempted to watch the show as if it is a piece of absurdist satire. Indeed, though the rampant capitalist values and by-the-book devotion of some of the lesser characters are clearly hammed up and, thus mocked, by the creators of the show, the central character herself is a Good Girl who maintains an active involvement in church-life and can smoke a brisket with the best of the all-American carnivores.
Satire or no, though, there was something vivacious about “GCB” that could not be suppressed (until it was canceled, obviously.) Indeed, part of the irrepressible quality of the show no doubt owed itself to some memorably campy-beautiful performances by a great, well-seasoned cast; “JAG”‘s David James Elliott was a particular delight. One can only hope that he, and the other talented members of the “GCB” gang, will find themselves new roles on the TVs and in the hearts of the masses.
“House”: Though one of the most infuriatingly formulaic shows in, possibly, the history of TV, “House” was also the birthplace of one of the most beloved characters ever to have cherished a breathtakingly powerful cult of media personality: the eponymous Dr. Gregory House, a crotchety middle-aged Doctor chock-full of one-liners and prescription drugs.
Unlike in the case of “CSI: Miami”, a veteran TV series which also did not make it to 2012, “House” was successful because, not in spite, of its central dramatis personae. Hugh Laurie, assisted by a capable, and ever-changing cast of secondary characters (some highlights: Kal Penn, Omar Epps and Jesse Spencer), carried eight seasons (that’s 177 episodes!) of a show that invariably followed the same narrative pattern, and hinged on a last-minute medical twist that could only be comprehensible to someone who spent eight years in university earning the right to affix MD to the end of their surname. Thus, the only people who could truly understand the deus-ex-machinas of “House,” are also the people who are too busy actually saving lives to spend hours upon hours watching Hugh Laurie pretend to.
Regardless of these minor plot infringements, “House” deserves its place in the annals of pop-cultural history. To be sure, the current school of medical drama has been stripped of one of its best fictional doctors to ever wield a cane or berate someone named Thirteen.
“Chuck”: An adorable, Revenge-of-the-Nerds-type comedy, “Chuck” was a neatly-packaged show about a computer technician (Zachary Levi) who stumbled his way into the role of an International Superspy. What followed was five seasons of marshmallow goodness.
While not particularly distinguished in many ways, “Chuck” kept it light and fun — a welcome antidote to the button-pushing politics of “Girls” or “Louie” and the brash and in-your-face humour of Seth MacFarlane’s off-colour offspring. Indeed, if one was to praise “Chuck” for retaining any one quality, it would most likely be the show’s ability to remain blessedly innocuous from pilot to finale. Where “Psych,” which strikes much the same demographic chord as “Chuck,” is trite, smug and consequently grating, while “The Big Bang Theory” subtly insults the intelligence of its audience, “Chuck” is in no way painful to watch.
On the contrary, “Chuck” is the kind of show one could enjoy all in a single popcorn-fueled sitting and still remain relaxed and mentally at peace. To put it bluntly, “Chuck” is perfect Netflix-fodder. Perhaps, then, the show’s cancellation should not be mourned as the sad demise of a wholesome Fall stable, but, instead, it should be celebrated as a coming home (to DVD).