It’s not as bad as the case of the old “Doctor Who” episodes that were intentionally destroyed after their broadcast, but in this age where it’s easy for a streaming service to make something available to its subscribers, there are still a lot of TV shows you simply can’t see.
Perhaps more so than any other TV show lost to history, “Young Americans” (2000, The WB) benefits from a rewatch. Although I watched the whole eight-episode run in the summer of 2000, I never embraced it.
After “Dawson’s Creek” and before his commercial resurgence with “The Vampire Diaries” and “The Following,” uber-producer Kevin Williamson stumbled through a few interesting failures. Among them was “Glory Days” (2002, WB), which lasted nine episodes before it was axed.
On somewhat of a “Batman” kick while enjoying the latest strong season of “Gotham,” I decided to explore some other corners of the Bat-verse. While “The Killing Joke” or the Nolan films or “Batman: The Animated Series” might’ve been wise choices, I’m apparently a glutton for punishment, because I selected “Birds of Prey” (2002-03, WB; now streaming on CW Seed) as my window into past lore. While the 13-episode series is fodder for plenty of talking points and trivia – for example, it’s the only live action Bat-verse TV series other than the 1960s “Batman” and “Gotham” – it’s not particularly enjoyable to watch.
“The Bedford Diaries” (2006, WB) is the answer to a fun trivia question: It was the last show to debut on The WB. The eight episodes aired in the spring of 2006, the last season before the network merged with UPN to become The CW. In another example of bad timing, viewers weren’t quite ready for “The Bedford Diaries” in 2006, but the similarly themed “Gossip Girl” launched a year later and became a big success.
Other than the animated “Ewoks” series, I haven’t encountered a more extreme example of a good show going bad in its sophomore year than “Summerland” Season 2 (2005, WB). Although the series is too scantly documented to know why this happened, one can surmise that there was no leadership in the writers’ room in Season 2; co-creator Stephen Tolkin departed, and there’s only one common scribe (Katie Botel) between the two seasons.
In the category of TV shows that were never made available for purchase after their original airing, it’s hard to find one more popular than “Summerland.” It lasted two seasons of 13 episodes, launched the careers of Jesse McCartney (in conjunction with his teen-heartthrob music persona), Zac Efron (who looks so gawky here that it’s hard to believe the current buff movie star is the same person) and Ryan Kwanten (later of “True Blood”). “Full House’s” Lori Loughlin and the Disney Channel’s Kay Panabaker also brought viewers. Of all the “TV Shows Lost to History” I’ve chronicled on my blog, “Summerland” is the one I feel most confident that people remember.
“Gilmore Girls” Season 6 (2005-06, The WB) is the season I remembered the least about. Even though I watched every episode when it aired, there were entire hours that felt new to me on this re-watching. While Season 6 is not as good as the glory years of Seasons 1-4, it marks a nice recovery from the over-the-top Season 5 and a respectable farewell for executive producers Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino, who would end up sitting out the seventh and final season.
In my head, I had subtitled “Gilmore Girls” Season 5 (2004-05, The WB) “The Destruction of Rory’s Character,” as it starts with her sleeping with married man Dean and ends with her stealing a yacht and dropping out of Yale. And I mentally blamed her new boyfriend Logan – whose primary crime is that he’s not Dean or Jess – for a lot of that. After this rewatching, though, I see that Season 5’s problems run deeper.
“Gilmore Girls” Season 4 (2003-04, The WB) was the best of seasons and the worst of seasons. Although the first half is wonderful, it ultimately ranks as the most flawed season up to this point, but not for the reason one might assume.