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Published on August 5th, 2009 | by Sinéad

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Why So Series? One Season Wonders Part 1

Veering slightly away from the concept of cheap and cheerful TV boxsets, but if you have a multi-region DVD player or download your TV shows (either from iTunes etc.) then you might be interested in these “One Season Wonders”.

There are a huge number of TV shows that have gone under the radar because they’ve only survived one season in the US, thus never surviving long enough to be syndicated here. Usually when a TV show gets cancelled it’s justified, but there are quite a number of gems in the rough out there.

One of my biggest “secret shame” genres of TV/film is the American teen or college dramas and they don’t come any better than the likes of Freaks & Geeks or My So Called Life.

My So Called Life

I can remember watching this show as a teenager and completely and utterly swooning over Jared Leto, much in the same way girls continue to do today. But this was the show that launched Claire Danes‘ career, even securing her a Golden Globe despite the fact that the show was prematurely cancelled.

Back in 1994 this show was without doubt ahead of it’s time. Though set in high-school and revolving around the “dramatic” lives of 15 year olds it brimmed with maturity in the writing, acting, style and soundtrack. It introduced me to Sonic Youth and featured the first reappearing gay character I’d ever seen on television before. This is not a show about cheerleaders or jocks.

Every teen show that came after it has attempted to recapture the essence of this show, but minus the dark and broody undertones that made My So Called Life wonderfully angst ridden and far more realistic than the thesaurus-mouthed Dawson’s Creek or affluent O.C. Also, Claire Danes really was a 15 year old actress playing a 15 year old character. How refreshing!

It is 19 episodes of fantastic teen drama – but if you’re not a fan of the perpetual cliffhanger, don’t watch it.

Freaks and Geeks
After writing the first part of this post I’ve realised both of these shows have something (other than the genre of course) peculiar in common – it’s all about the outcasts, the underdogs, and the weird kids. If you’ve ever related far more to the unpopular crowd, then both My So Called Life and Freak & Geeks are for you.

Freaks & Geeks is again set in high school, but deals mainly with the issues of identity and the transitions between childhood and adulthood. It follows two groups of teenagers and the very different lives they lead, but that end up criss-crossing over one another – often with quite humorous results. Unfortunately this show has been branded as a comedy-drama series (though it’s more drama than anything else), but there was a genuine depth to it, especially because the characters were so believable and lovable too.

Freaks & Geeks has something uniquely special about it too – it was aired in 1999 but was set at the start of the 1980’s (and has an exceptionally authentic late 70’s/ early 80’s rock soundtrack), it was also the brainchild of Judd Apathow and stared Jason Segel, Seth Rogan and James Franco to name but a few. The cast and Apathow bonded so much over this short lived series that many of them have either stared in or had cameo appearances in many of his recent hit movies – Knocked Up, Pineapple Express etc.

This is 18 episodes of early 80’s, alternative American pie. The series doesn’t get wrapped up neatly, nor does it end on a cliffhanger, but it’s somewhere in-between instead. A superb show and a must for any fan of Judd Apathow’s work.

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9 Responses to Why So Series? One Season Wonders Part 1

  1. Conor says:

    Love this piece.
    One season wonders are such a heartbreaker though. you get so attached then.. goodbye.
    Undeclared (in the same vein as Freaks and Geeks), The Comeback, Firefly and Life As We Know It are all good examples.

  2. Sinéad says:

    Ah I’ve had my heartbroken by quite a few.

    I resisted writing about Undeclared because it didn’t even HAVE a whole season. A fantastic show too.

  3. Allan says:

    I think you can track the current propensity to add like to every sentence to, like, My So Called Life.

  4. Darren Byrne says:

    Great post, Sinead. Probably the greatest one season wonders I’ve seen is Studio 60. I just didn’t understand why it was cancelled. I was genuinely upset to see it go. Firefly – awesome.

  5. Sinéad says:

    @Allan A tad more realistic than like Dawson’s Creek or something.

    @Darren Have you been peaking at my drafts? 😛

  6. Lottie says:

    Oh the first boy I ever loved was Jordan Catalano. How I loved him.

    It sounds silly but MSCL had such a huge influence on me. It caused my to dye my hair red for the first time. It’s weird that it is only 19 episodes.

    I must the series on DVD.

  7. Niamh says:

    Oh I loved My So Called Life so, so much! And like Lottie (we may have had this conversation ebfore elsewhere!) I loved Jordan Catalano *swoon*

    Not so mad about him now to be honest, I’d love to rewatch the whole series, it was great!

  8. Freaks and Geeks is one of the best shows ever. Undeclared did have a whole season! I don’t think they aired it all but then due to high demand the DVD was released with all the unaired episodes.

  9. Sinéad says:

    @Liz – It made me want Doc Martins. BAD.

    @Niamh – You should definitely rewatch it. A great trip down memory lane.

    @Jentertainment – Did I only watch half the season then? Must sort that out.

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