It feels weird to be sad about losing some good television shows in a year when so much went wrong, but screw it, we’re going to do it anyway. The human mind is a powerful thing, capable of processing many different thoughts and feelings at one time. You can be worried about the state of the world and also very sad that, like, a show about lady wrestlers won’t be on anymore. It’s doable. You can do it. We’re doing it right now.
But not every ending is a sad one. Some shows came to more organic conclusions, wrapping things up on their own terms instead of getting yoinked away abruptly. This is a rarity in recent years. You should take note of it when it happens and be happy about it. So we’re doing that, too. Here is our little tribute to some of the very good television shows we said goodbye to this year, for whatever reason. It’s part funeral, part celebration… like all good goodbyes.
The Good Place
It’s going to take everything I have to not write “The Good Place was more like The Great Place” somewhere in this blurb. There are two primary reasons for this: One, my brain is a mangled collection of sticks and dirt; two, the show was incredible. Really, it was. Think about the ground it covered. It was a network sitcom that tackled the afterlife and ethics and went deep on philosophical principles that rarely get discussed outside a college classroom, and it was also legitimately funny, all the time. Find me another show that can name-check utilitarianism and also have a running gag about a restaurant called Stupid Nick’s Wing Dump. And when you can’t do that, think about this: In the middle of all this deep philosophy talk and stupid food puns, there was a show about friendship and found families and flawed people trying to make themselves a little better every day. There was heart in there, a lot of it, which should not be possible with everything else the show had going on. By the end of its run, I cared more about Jason Mendoza, doofus Florida breakdancer who loved video games and the Jacksonville Jaguars, than I did about some real people I know. That’s some kind of accomplishment. I guess when you think about it, The Good Place was… more like… (I’m sorry)… (I can’t help myself)… The Great Place. — Brian Grubb
Through and through, the cancellation news on this one really hurt for a few reasons. First, it truly stung to see the very good, smart “lady wrestler” show (which I will add showcased wonderful, realistic emotional and professional dynamics) get canceled when fluff like Emily In Paris nabs a renewal like it ain’t no thing. Don’t tell me that, during our Covid-19 times, it will be super easy to shoot a touristy show in comparison to an ensemble show where a core cast can be sequestered for wrestling scenes, ya dig? Second, I was slightly surprised by the initial Season 4 announcement because it felt like last year’s run was designed as a last hurrah, but then we saw a renewal, only to have it snatched away because (by Netflix’s reasoning) it was deemed unsafe to film those wrestling scenes (with huffing and puffing) in close quarters. Yet Space Force is somehow markedly different, even though Steve Carell did plenty of huffing and puffing, too, all over a close-quarters ensemble cast. (I’m being silly about the huffing, but don’t yank my lady show away without expecting me to be ornery about it.)
What I’m saying is this: I expected a cancellation, got a renewal, and then a cancellation with a loosey-goosey explanation. Not cool! And yes, I would have liked to know whether Ruth and Sam would get it together, and whether Ruth and Debbie would get it together, and whether Ruth would get it together with herself. Call me, Ruth. We need to chat. — Kimberly Ricci
We have mixed feelings about the final season of Schitt’s Creek. On the one hand, the show’s creator Dan Levy was able to go out on his terms, giving us a handful of episodes that neatly wrapped up the storylines of characters we’ve grown to love for the past six seasons – and treated us to Moira Rose in full Pope-couture for that long-awaited wedding. On the other hand, it’s 2020, a year when we’re desperately clinging to the things that bring us joy. To lose a show as funny and heartfelt and inventive as this Canadian-comedy about a removed-from-reality family of elites forced to slum it with townies and earn their own way in life for once? Well, that just feels unnecessarily cruel. This year might’ve felt like a never-ending spin on Satan’s merry-go-round but we’ll remember Schitt’s Creek a much-needed beacon of what good comedy about good people looks like.– Jessica Toomer
Where to even begin? BoJack Horseman was my favorite show of the 2010s, and although it only aired for a half-season in 2020, it will probably still rank among my favorite shows in the 2020s, too. It’s my second favorite show ever, after The Simpsons (I have a type), and I even transcribed the “it does get easier” line on a rubber bracelet that I would wear during important life events, like running marathons. The first time I had it on while wheezing my way through 26.2 miles of misery, I set a personal record and cried tears of happiness. The second time, I wasn’t able to finish the marathon and ripped it off in anger and sadness. “Happiness.” “Anger.” “Sadness.” These are all words I would use to describe BoJack Horseman (also: puns), and just like that rubber bracelet, I miss it all the time. But I miss you most of all, Todd. Life hasn’t been the same without your crazy shenanigans in it. — Josh Kurp
I didn’t watch much of Supernatural (missed it at the start, too many episodes to catch up on), mostly catching a half episode here and there as my wife watched religiously. But I’m so glad the show existed for all that it meant to its fans. Now, sure, people love the pop culture they consume. These things entertain, they captivate, and they are there as a distraction and a salve. But some shows just seem to create a community where that affection burns a little brighter and where it feels more symbiotic. Supernatural had that and so, especially this year, it deserves a little shout out and a nod of respect for carrying on for so long with charm, humor, brotherly bonding, and ridiculous demon and monster slaying. And the car. That was a cool f*cking car. — Jason Tabrys
It’s weird that Homeland was still on in 2020. Doesn’t it seem like a show that should have ended in, like, 2015? Definitely before the Trump administration. Modern Family, too. They were once both Emmy titans, but unlike Modern Family, Homeland ended with a strong season. In other words, it did not — to coin a term inspired by another Showtime drama — pull a Dexter. It was oddly comforting to know that for 12 weekends a year, Claire Danes was still playing Carrie Mathison, and Mandy Patinkin was still playing Saul Berenson, and Timothée Chalamet was mercifully no longer still playing the worst character on the show (yes, Finn Walden was worse than Dana Brody). Homeland had a good run, but I’m glad it’s over. All that free time allows Patinkin to follow his true passion: making extremely delightful videos on Twitter with his wife. — Josh Kurp
Maybe we’re just suckers for original comedy sketch shows that combine worrisome amounts of alcohol with surprisingly insightful history lessons, but 2020 feels like the absolute wrong time to be doing away with a show that makes us laugh and teaches us something about our shared past. I don’t know what will be missed more: watching host Derek Waters play babysitter to famous comedians so sloshed, they throw-up off-camera and pass out on their living room floors, or delighting in guest stars like Laura Dern mouthing drunken dialogue that has her barking like a madwoman while telling the story of the first woman to infiltrate a mental asylum undercover. And don’t even get me started on that Lin-Manuel Miranda show-tunes singing Hamilton re-telling. This is truly a heavy loss for niche comedy on TV. — Jessica Toomer
Good news and bad news. Good first: High Fidelity was a blast. The television reimagining of the 2000 John Cusack film was better than it had any conceivable right to be. A lot of the credit goes to Zoe Kravitz, who carried the show with charm and vulnerability, which is kind of a requirement when your main character spends a chunk of every episode talking straight into the camera. But the supporting cast was really good too, more than just branches off of the trunk of her tree. They were a whole little garden, friends who cared about each other while trying to navigate a tricky stage of life. That’s all the show was. It didn’t tackle huge issues, no one was trying to save the world. It was just a good show about people. You could do a lot worse.
This brings us to the bad news: Hulu canceled the show after one season. One season! I don’t usually get mad about cancellations anymore, but this one stung. I hate it. — Brian Grubb
When former The Daily Show Hasan Minhaj first strode onstage and declared, “We did it, baby,” I was thrilled to see him begin to deliver stories that felt both urgent and timeless, but I also sensed that the show faced an uphill battle. A little under two years later, the cancellation news arrived when we need the show most, and I gotta imagine that has everything to do with streaming-only talk shows struggling to find their feet in a crowded late night-esque landscape. In particular, Netflix hasn’t hesitated to cancel Michelle Wolf and Joel McHale’s well-received shows when they couldn’t maintain eyeballs, but I sure did root for Patriot Act in a time when we’re already littered with The Daily Show imitators. Unquestionably, Minhaj felt passionate about his chosen subject matter, and he (not unlike John Oliver) infused his subjects with dark humor while maintaining an appropriate tone. It’s a tough tightrope along which to maneuver, but in the end, the show simply was too deep-divey to be bingeable, and it’s really, really hard to get people to tuck into streaming, politically-oriented talk without a built-in audience for the host. I imagine Jon Stewart will eventually have better luck at HBO Max (and one can only hope that’s the case). — Kimberly Ricci
I checked out on Empire around season 3. I don’t remember what happened. I think we just lost touch. It couldn’t have been a jump the shark moment because the show jumped sharks all the time. It was part of its charm. Like, acknowledge that Empire was Succession before Succession but every episode was Boar On The Floor. Do it. Acknowledge the electricity of Cookie and how Taraji P. Henson breathed life into one of those rare characters that you track whenever they’re on-screen even if they don’t have the ball. Because you know, at any point, fireworks. Or the petty and style and ferocity of Lucious Lyon and all Terrence Howard brought to the role. I don’t really have much more to say. This is one where larger than life characters linger in the memory more than specific plot points and stories. It just seemed like someone should mark the occasion of its exit since, for a bright shining moment, we were all about it in a way that feels near impossible with a broadcast show now. — Jason Tabrys
Historically, most sitcoms have flat out sucked at portraying marriage. The husband is a buffoon, the wife is a cold know it all. They never have sex, they stay together for the kids. Generations of TV writers have brought their shit to work with them, codifying into a genre that is as depressing as it is boring. Or lazy. That’s probably a better term. Like, marriage can be cool. Why writers run from and not towards that fact is a mystery to me. But I’m Sorry did the opposite. Andrea Savage (who created the show) and Tom Everett Scott’s pairing oozed chemistry and a kind of on-screen shorthand that made you feel like these characters genuinely liked each other. That they were excited to navigate the weirdness of parenthood and this world together. It’s something I honestly haven’t seen since Mad About You, which is the gold standard when it comes to sitcom marriage goals. TruTV clearly agreed even though the show didn’t have the following it deserved. Then COVID hit and, to my memory, I’m Sorry was the first of many (GLOW, Stumptown) to get whacked after securing a renewal, owing to a changing economic climate and complexities of filming in this era. And so here we are, eulogizing the show after two really strong, silly, and smart seasons. It’s not a lot of time to build a legacy, but one does exist, showing the way for others that try to portray the complexities and charms of marriage in a comedy. — Jason Tabrys
You either love or hate teen dramas but you can’t deny The Society gave us something different when it came to the genre. Sure, there were hormonal young adults running around, screwing anything that moved and stirring up a real sh*tshow with their childish drama, but there were also moments of real promise. The series’ plot for one, which imagined a community of kids left to fend for themselves after all of their parents mysteriously disappear. By the end of the season, we’re not sure if this is the result of some strange social experiment or an alien invasion or some kind of weird plague. But the why matters less than the consequences of this phenomenon because the show’s strongest moments focus on how these teens rebuild some semblance of society without adult oversight. There’s tension, betrayal, surprising choices in leadership, and of course, toxic romantic entanglements, but it was all watchable as hell and carried by a talented young cast. It’s a shame we’ll never know how this modernized “Lord of the Flies” saga really ends. — Jessica Toomer