Every year there are good television series that come to an end either by choice or by cancellation. This year was particularly hard as some truly great series (some of them among the best on TV) saw their final episode air. Here are the top 5 series that ended in 2011 and one more that will take its bow within the first month or so of the New Year.
5. “The Defenders” (CBS)
“The Defenders” was a nice little buddy legal drama starring Jim Belushi and Jerry O’Connell on CBS that was canceled after its first season. The series actually didn’t draw bad ratings, but CBS is America’s most watched network and thus they expect higher ratings. This meant “The Defenders” was on the short end of the stick. The storylines on the series weren’t among the best on TV and the supporting cast and even O’Connell were just average, to be honest. However, the thing that really made the series stand out, believe it or not, was Belushi’s performance as Attorney Nick Morelli who Belushi gracefully made genuinely passionate about his profession. It’s really Belushi’s character that we find ourselves missing.
4. “Prime Suspect” (NBC)
Honestly, “Prime Suspect,” starring the very talented Maria Bello as Det. Jane Timoney, was just as good or better than the two “NCIS” series, the “CSI” trilogy, “Hawaii Five-O,” “Blue Bloods,” “Criminal Minds” and “The Mentalist,” all of which garner big, some even huge ratings on CBS. If “Prime Suspect” had been a CBS series, I have zero doubt in my mind that it wouldn’t have been an immediate success. For some reason though the series just didn’t gain a following on NBC, but really what is as the network is mired in last place among the big four networks. It really isn’t that they have bad programming, in fact, NBC probably has more good shows than any of the networks, it’s more that the network programming is unfortunately above the tastes of most of America. It’s a shame, but true and because of that “Prime Suspect” along with its great lead and supporting cast became the most heartbreaking casualty of the 2011 fall season.
3. “Memphis Beat” (TNT)
TNT’s police drama “Memphis Beat,” starring Jason Lee as a smart Memphis detective with a love of Elvis music, was actually an anomaly for me. I watched the first season of the series and honestly wasn’t all that intrigued and didn’t get hooked. For some reason, I still tuned in at the beginning of season two and was so glad that I did. The show made a complete 180 as it went from rather uninteresting to very interesting. The show’s plots and writing got better, and the performances from Lee and Alfre Woodard were particularly great. The setting mixed with the cities great music tradition made the series one of the more interesting and entertaining cop shows on television, but unfortunately not enough people tuned in and the show was canceled after only two seasons. TNT probably played a good role in getting this series canned as they spread the rather short seasons out too far apart, allowing many to forget about it. The network, unfortunately and even more egregiously, did the same thing with the very next series on this list.
2. “Men of a Certain Age” (TNT)
Plain and simple “Men of a Certain Age” was one of the five best drama series on television and it was very likely TV’s most realistic drama. Realistic fictional programming, however, doesn’t ever seem to be something that the majority of Americans want to watch, despite the fact that it leads to many of the best series on TV (“Friday Night Lights” and “Parenthood” are among the other wonderful realistic dramas that have failed to gain a large audience). “Men of a Certain Age” followed the lives of three middle aged men and starred the amazingly talented Ray Romano (who stunned many in such a great dramatic role), Andre Braugher (who was nominated in both seasons for an Emmy) and Scott Bakula. Just knowing I’ll never see these three incredible actors together again in these roles is enough to bring a tear to my eye. The day that TNT announced the cancellation of “Men of a Certain Age” was also the same day that the number one series on this list ended its five-year run, and that means that day was the worst day ever for me as a television lover.
1. “Friday Night Lights” (NBC)
I’m not over exaggerating one bit when I say that “Friday Night Lights” is one of the five greatest dramas that I’ve ever had the honor of seeing. The series followed the amazingly realistic and almost religious scene of high school football in the fictional Texas town of Dillon. The series focused on Kyle Chandler’s Coach Eric Taylor and his wife, Tami, played by Connie Britton, and the members of the Dillon Panthers and later East Dillon Lions football teams. Every single performance on the series was pitch perfect and the storylines mimicked that perfectness, as well. The highlight of the series, in my opinion, was Chandler’s portrayal of Coach Taylor, which thankfully earned him an Emmy Award earlier this year for the show’s final season. Chandler receiving that Emmy was actually my favorite TV moment of the entire year. Chandler and Britton formed what many people agree is the most realistic married couple in TV history. It was really sad to see “Friday Night Lights” turn out the lights after five seasons, but the series definitely left us fans with a touchdown.
Soon to Be Joining These Great Shows in TV Heaven: “Chuck”
NBC’s great spy dramedy “Chuck” has unfortunately never received the due respect it deserves from both viewers and critics. It’s easily been one of the 10 best, and maybe as good as five best, shows of the last five years, but it kind of does skew itself toward a more younger, pop culture oriented audience and thus really isn’t to the majority’s tastes (have I mentioned yet though that the majority has bad tastes). The show’s fifth and final season debuted in October and is quickly winding down. The final episode will air sometime within the first two months of 2012 and this quirky series will surely be missed.