Sometimes TV shows drag their unfunny, uninteresting, yet highly rated feet across our living rooms for years. “Who let this happen?” we ponder as our foreheads turn red from frequent smacks. Other times, the powers that be get things right. That’s where “Brilliantly Canceled” comes in, looking at the shows that didn’t make it past their first season and saved us all a ton of grief.
Remember that episode of The Cosby Show when Cosby entered his home with a new accessory: a pipe, which was through his head after a nail gun incident? And greeting him was his lovely wife Clair, but she unable to actually utter an actual greeting so much as growl because she was suddenly a werewolf? And Vanessa was dispatched to go to the local store to get something to cure her mother’s malady but she refused to venture outdoors because, you know: teenagers, and also that whole “beard of bees” incident has made her the mockery of the neighborhood and school? And Theo was still grounded for letting the dummy that came to life commit identity theft and leave them homeless?
If you said yes, congratulations: you are delusional and/or a crazy person. The good news is there was a show once that took the piss out of the conventional family sitcom and had its characters suffer traumas due to events that defied any sense of logic, just like that psychotic fantasy of yours. (I guess another bad piece of news is you now know that you’re not nearly as original as you thought you were. Sorry.)
The Pitts was created by former The Simpsons writer/showrunner, Everybody Loves Raymond co-executive producer, and Parks and Recreation consulting producer Mike Scully* and his wife, former Simpsons writer Julie Thatcher. Scully and Thatcher set out to create a seemingly cookie cutter multi-camera sitcom centered around an incredibly generic and boring looking family, with the twist that they would have to constantly deal with being the most unlucky group of related human beings on Earth. The lengths to which the universe would go out of its way to maim and mess with Bob, his wife Liz, teenage daughter Faith and son Petey were staggering, as if all of the most creative scenarios internet commenters have ever wished would happen to a celebrity to cause their lives to end abruptly were collected by a vengeful higher being and unleashed solely on one (seemingly) completely innocent group of people.
* Mike Scully’s first non Yakov Smirnoff related TV writing gig was on Out of This World, which as you may know had one of the greatest theme songs of all-time.
For example, usually when a teenage daughter gets her first car, the car does not turn out to be in love with her, concuss the boy she likes, lock her in a car and drive her to Vegas to get married at the Bride and Vroom.
Parents usually don’t turn into werewolves, leaving their children to execute a daring escape plan from the animal shelter, and feeding them an entire cow to keep them from causing any trouble every full moon while they throw a house party.
And your father probably did not keep his sentient ventriloquist dummy from his childhood in the basement, nor did it end up managing to taking all of your money and getting his name on the deed of your house.
And you never joined a square dancing club that is secretly full of satanists that need your body to store the Devil’s heart. (Spoiler: Silver Linings Playbook shamelessly ripped this off.)
And you didn’t try to make money off of your sister having a pipe stuck in her head by charging friends money to see her, and she didn’t eventually come up with the idea to join a local Freak Show as a result.
And your sister was probably not Lizzy Caplan.
It turns out that after guest starring on Freaks and Geeks, and before Bachlorette, Party Down, Hot Tub Time Machine, Mean Girls and even The Class, Lizzy Caplan was earning her thespian stripes pretending to be tranquilized and tasered while serving as human shields for rioting prisoners and sleeping in the same room as a haunted cello.
Even though those were all original and fun things that occurred on the show, and a future star was in the cast, it never found an audience on the Fox network in March and April of 2003 and was cancelled after five episodes. Or more likely, it didn’t find an audience exactly because of its ridiculousness. The absurdities of the plots were not able to be concealed to originality haters by the familiar family sitcom, single storyline format. Scully, Thatcher and the writing staff - which included veteran Seinfeld writers Tom Gammill & Max Pross - seemed to go out of their way to let the episode’s plot be exclusively wacky, leaving the dialogue to rely on its wittiness to be funny instead of any quirkiness, and its characters to not change and remain two dimensional to preserve the straight satire of the Situational Comedy. At times, the dialogue would be too familiar and over reliant on the context to make it funny. Especially in later episodes, an occasional WTF line of dialogue or moment would seep through, like a bank President insisting the Pitt family not enjoy the Hawaiian shirts on his tellers, or a judge with the name Judge Anus, or absurd memorials to a victim of a beaver attack.
Even Petey was revealed to be a lover of anything “hobo style,” which explained his knowledge of beaver dams and caves in the neighborhood in a different episode. But for the most part, The Pitts seemed destined to be ephemeral experiment with its format; it alienated those looking for the type of show they were satirizing and some of those that seek out the unique.
The brevity of the series probably doesn’t bother Mike Scully, who signed a seven-figure development deal and is currently the co-executive producer of The New Normal. Upcoming Oscar host Seth MacFarlane, who served as a consulting producer while Family Guy was canceled, probably doesn’t care that much either. Or Lizzy Caplan, because you know who she is.