Funded by the collective prayers and wishes of the internet hive mind, with possibly some help from dubious business practices in Iraq1, Arrested Development will be brought back from the dead next early Sunday morning on Netflix. The critical and financial success of this unprecedented experiment in TV resurrection will decide if other shows will be able to continue to tell their stories long after a broadcast or cable network had canceled it, thereby cheating death, defying nature. To save Netflix, or Amazon Instant, or any current or future video streaming service the burden of thinking too much when they decide to play God, here are 12 comedies whose corpses should be dug up and brought back to life.
But first, the very necessary disclaimer: There are of course plenty of programs that most of the world would be happy to see continue to churn out original material, but there are a particular few that that were clearly cut off before their primes. Those comedies are the shows that are going to be highlighted. Also, any live action show that was axed before 2003 — the first year Arrested Development was on the air — were not considered, to maintain a probably naive sense of feasibility to this list of
Last seen: May 3, 2013 on ABC
It only took a few episodes for Happy Endings to escape from the prison that was the kind of hackneyed premise (Alex leaves Dave at the alter; they share four mutual friends; they both keep all of the friends; Chicago!) to become the comedy with the highest punchlines per minute average on television. And the gap between first and second in that category was as big as Max’s plans and execution for revenge against a friend who wronged him, or Mark Paul Gosselar’s plans and execution for revenge against Max. Three seasons on ABC, the last of which limply concluded with back-to-back episodes for a few Friday nights, is not nearly enough for the gang, and despite early rumors that USA is going to snatch them up, reports say that it isn’t looking good.
Last seen: March 3, 2013 on HBO
An introspective, rich, at times gorgeous, at other times incredibly uncomfortable show that both defined dramedy and proved how stupid and incomplete that term is, Enlightened was canned by HBO after an eight episode second season that was more focused and exciting than the first. Laura Dern’s season long attempt to bring down the company she worked for weirdly provided a cool heist element to the proceedings to go along with the profound and morally ambiguous stuff, and there was still time for an episode where Owen Wilson gets fucked up at rehab for half an hour. Creator and showrunner Mike White wasn’t surprised by the cancellation, and has said that season three would have dealt with Amy Jellicoe being sued by Abaddon Industries for all of the trouble she had given them, leading to characters past and present coming back to testify for or against her.
Last seen: September 4, 2005 on HBO
Yet another short-lived HBO series that wasn’t afraid to get uncomfortable, featured a female protagonist, and employed Bayne Gibby, was The Comeback. The 2005 mockumentary2 starred Lisa Kudrow as washed up sitcom actress Valerie Cherish, looking to get back into the spotlight by playing a wet blanket aunt on a lame network sitcom as a camera crew followed her every move, everywhere, all the time. All of the video seen by the audience is raw footage of the reality series The Comeback, making the show within the show’s subsequent edits and release to the world all the more horrifying to Cherish, and funnier to us. The as yet non-existent second season would have continued to explore Valerie’s compulsion to be a star outweighing her desire to have control over how her own reality is perceived, and presumably Laura Silverman’s passive dissatisfaction to it all. It was “ahead of its time” then, which would make it perfect for a revival now.
Last seen: June 25, 2010 on Starz
There are rumors of a Party Down movie in the works, but you can never believe that the supposed non-Kickstarter funding is going to come through until you see a trailer for a show that according to Adam Scott only had 16,000 people watch its series finale live. That is ridiculous, and makes it entirely possible that the number of people that would watch its return on Netflix at one time would be higher than the number of people that had seen it on an honest to goodness cable channel. Twenty episodes over two seasons just isn’t enough to tell the really funny story of Henry Ballard: Reluctant Talented Actor, and the rest of the Party Down catering company continuing to hilariously fail at becoming a successful writer or thespian in Los Angeles.
Bored to Death
Last seen: November 28, 2011 on HBO
Another show that is developing a movie to tie up all the loose ends, allegedly. For now though, Bored to Death stands as Jonathan Ames’ three season, thirty episode series that starred Jason Schwartzman as a struggling author who moonlights as an unlicensed, at times really shitty private investigator, aided by Ted Danson and Zach Galifianakis. Danson and Galifianakis’ characters fortunately grew acquainted to one another in the middle of season one, and from that point forward the show’s dark, fatalist tone was successfully balanced with immature, boys-being-boys, pot humor. And of course, there needs to be some kind of conclusion on Schwartzman’s version of Ames’ relationship with Isla Fisher.
The Life & Times of Tim
Last seen: February 17, 2012 on HBO
Steve Dildarian’s animated HBO series lasted three seasons, and throughout that time Tim managed to get himself in a lot of really funny and awkward situations. Tim had a Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm kind of effect on people, usually managing to find himself in an argument where he comes off as an asshole to the characters, even though he was usually he in the right to any sane person in the audience. He also was lazy and liked to lie. Tim was humorously unaided and hampered in life by his friendship to his stoner best friend and co-worker Stu, voiced by Nick Kroll. The best animated show in history to use a Hank Williams song as its theme song deserves to come back.
Better Off Ted
Last seen: January 26, 2010 on ABC
ABC never really knew what to do with Michael Fresco’s clever single-camera comedy that mocked corporate America, and canceled Better Off Ted after a total of twenty six episodes. Jay Harrington did a great job trading barbs with love interest Linda while talking directly to the camera to reveal his likable human side as he helped an evil, soulless conglomerate save face and earn more money. Lab scientists Philip and Lem were a much funnier Bert and Ernie, and Portia De Rossi nailed playing the rigid, usually no-nonsense, scary supervisor Veronica.
Andy Richter Controls the Universe
Last seen: June 14, 2004 on Fox
Fox never really knew what to do with Michael Fresco’s clever single-camera comedy, years before ABC would do the same thing. Out of all of Richter’s sitcom gigs during his time away from Conan O’Brien’s side, this show was the most inventive and funny, with its Walter Mitty-like3 visitations to Andy’s fantasy world, sometimes involving Andy’s never resolved crush on the cute receptionist, Wendy, making it some sort of Scrubs/The Office hybrid. As the series progressed in its second and final season, the show grew more comfortable with telling stories that stayed within the show’s status quo, with Wendy and Keith dating, and Andy pursuing other women. Richter is of course Coco’s sidekick again, but appearing on a nightly talk show doesn’t mean he’ll be too busy.
Stella/Michael & Michael Have Issues
Last seen: August 30, 2005 on Comedy Central/August 26, 2009 on Comedy Central
The fantastic Stella sadly only lasted for ten episodes before David Wain, Michael Showalter, and Michael Ian Black were asked to return their loaned suits back to the cleaners. Four years later, to make amends to the angry The State fan mob, Comedy Central green-lit Michael & Michael Have Issues, which found Ian Black and Showalter passive-aggressively trying to destroy each other and feed their brittle egos in fictitious4 versions of themselves, while they put together a sketch comedy show, bits of which were already pretty funny. Apparently it was too good, because MMHI - which co-starred Jessi Klein and Kumail Nanjiani - didn’t make it past their lone, seven episode season.
Will be last seen: September 4, 2013 on Comedy Central
Futurama has already lived and died, having been resurrected by Comedy Central in 2010 after Fox abandoned ship in 2003 and a four-part movie series did well in DVD sales. With the cable network deciding not to move forward with Matt Groening and David X. Cohen’s sci-fi animated series after the upcoming conclusion to their seventh season, the show’s future remains up in the air. Theoretically, Futurama can and should last through the year 3000, when it actually takes place, considering that its setting and premise provides the writers with an unlimited amount of story.
Last seen: May 21, 1995 on Fox/2001 on the internet
Oh, did you really think Netflix was the first to take a canceled TV series and bring it back to life on the internet? After both ABC and Fox aired a season of The Critic before canceling it in the mid 90s, atomfilms.com and shockwave.com ran new three to five minute installments of the show in 2000 and 2001. They were kind of disappointing, mostly focusing on Jay Sherman’s take on the latest movies, both the fake ones that played up the worst and focus group generated qualities of popular films, and the disturbingly real ones that did the same. In 2013, the most popular movies are even more unoriginal5 and set up for parody and barbed shots from a balding, diminutive, fat man in an argyle sweater vest. But it isn’t just the movie reviewing that needs to come back: initially Duke Phillips was obviously influenced by Ted Turner, but he definitely has got some Donald Trump in him too.
1 Tip: Be careful with the image search for “Arrested Development Iraq.”
2 The Comeback premiered two months after the American The Office made its debut. FWIW, Michael Schur wrote two episodes of The Comeback.
3 The daydream sequences are Walter Mitty influenced because Richter played a middle-aged man working as a technical manual writer, whereas Zach Braff on Scrubs was playing a youthful doctor that endangered lives daily with his bullshit.
4 Completely fictitious, I hope.
5 Back in my day…