Currently I don't subscribe to DirecTV, but I keep getting closer and closer to making a switch. Somebody at DirecTV appears to like the shows I like.
My enthusiasm for DircTV, which took a beating when they tried to keep me from getting my MLB Extra Innings package, changed direction when they offered new life to "Friday Night Lights," which never would have stood a chance of getting a third season if it were left up to NBC. While I've found the show's third season to be a bit up-and-down, episodes like "Hello, Goodbye," "New York, New York" and last week's "The Giving Tree" have been standouts and we have DirecTV to thank.
Then DirecTV's 101 Network brought new eyes to "Wonderland," another series from "FNL" developer Peter Berg. While I was never a fan of "Wonderland," I respected that its aspirations were ahead-of-the-curve and I'd probably have tuned in if I had the service.
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All three shows featured star-studded casts, cinematic visual styles and serialized plotlines that apparently alienated enough mainstream network viewers that they were cancelled after airing three ("Smith"), nine ("The Nine") and five ("Eyes") episodes respectively.
"Fans were extremely disappointed when Smith, The Nine and Eyes were taken off the air, just as they were becoming involved in these shows," says Patty Ishimoto, general manager of The 101 Network, in a DirecTV statement. "Building on the success of Season 3 of 'Friday Night Lights' and 'Wonderland,' we're adding three more shows that further build our portfolio of quality television you can't see anywhere else."
Produced by John Wells, the series focused on a career criminal (Liotta) and the team he assembled to pull off a regular series of robberies and heists, while trying to convince his long-suffering wife (Madsen) that he'd gone straight. The pilot was thoughtful and mature, while also twisty and thrilling. Liotta was a strong lead and was well-matched with Madsen, fresh off her Oscar nomination for "Sideways." Baker, between "The Guardian" and "The Mentalist," was tremendously entertaining as a true psychopath. Smart was sexy and entertaining.
"Smith" delivered so-so premiere numbers and the audience vanished by the second episode, which also happened to be a rather dull disappointment. The third episode was back to the quality of the pilot, but it was too late. CBS pulled "Smith" and rushed "3 Lbs." to the air. Without promotional time, "3 Lbs." tanked after only four episodes.
DirecTV will premiere "Smith" on Wednesday, April 8 at 10 p.m., airing the first three episodes, as well as four never-before-seen episodes.
"The Nine" will start its Wednesday run on May 27, airing the nine episodes which aired, as well as four episodes that ever never broadcast.
Created by Hank Steinberg & K.J. Steinberg, "The Nine" told the story of a group of people who forged a bond after suffering through a 52-hour hostage standoff at a bank. The cast included Lourdes Benedicto, John Billingsley, Jessica Collins, Tim Daly, Dana Davis, Camille Guaty, Chi McBride, Kim Raver, Scott Wolf and Owain Yeoman.
"The Nine" was one of those shows that was never really able to live up to the promise of its pilot, directed by Alex Graves. The pressure of providing week-to-week details about the hostage drama, while also progressing the characters through the new soap operas of their lives never quite took.
Despite dwindling ratings, ABC was relatively patient with the series when it premiered in the fall of 2006. The patience ran out after seven episodes and ABC scheduled the series for a summer 2007 burnoff, but the first two episodes did so poorly that the network just threw the remaining episodes up online.
Interestingly, the last of the three shows, ABC's "Eyes," may have been my favorite. DirecTV will air the 12-episode run of "Eyes" at 9 p.m. on Wednesdays starting in July.
Tim Daly, apparently the patron saint of DirecTV's Brilliant But Cancelled campaign, starred as Harland Judd, owner of Judd Risk Management. I never exactly got the whole "risk management" thing. Judd and his team were just high-tech private eyes, working with very little respect for the legal system. ABC subsequently used "Eyes" as a feeding trough, plucking Eric Mabius for "Ugly Betty," Natalie Zea for "Dirty Sexy Money" and eventually relocating Daly to "Private Practice."
The series also starred Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon, A.J. Langer, Laura Leighton and Rick Worthy.
How do you not remember the show? Well, ABC premiered it in late March and never knew how to promote the series. Daly's character was as sarcastic, biting and disconnected a hero as you'll find this side of Dr. Gregory House. It was like the embodiment of ever snarky, devilish character Daly has played before or since, brilliant, cutting and amoral. But ABC didn't have a "House" to use as a lead-in. Created and executive produced by John McNamara, "Eyes" was just slick, biting fun.
While I might recommend that DirecTV's next move, since they're so clearly programming toward me, should be to pick up the truncated runs of shows like "Wonderfalls" or "Greg the Bunny," both of those Fox failures were eventually released on DVD with all episodes intact.
"Eyes," "Smith" and "The Nine" don't appear to have ever received an America DVD run, so it'll be good to let viewers get another chance to discover these three ambitious, swiftly-cancelled favorites. It won't suddenly get those shows a new lease on life, but still...
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