8 One-Season TV Wonders To Binge On A Snowy Weekend

The forecast is dire. Schools are closing early. Target is out of everything. Your boss even told you to bring your laptop home, just in case you can’t make it in Monday.

This can only mean one thing: A blizzard’s a brewin’, and you’re gonna be snowed in all weekend.

Your ancestors would have played board games. Or card games. Or watched a VHS tape. OR EVEN TALKED TO YOUR FAMILY. Fortunately you live in the age of streaming and none of this awfulness will befall you. You got options.

When a winter storm threatens to keep you curled up inside for days with nothing but streaming to do, here are great one-season TV shows to keep you entertained.

Last Resort

If you like military-government conspiracy stories with a dash of romance and a whole lot of Andre Braugher (Brooklyn Nine Nine) you will eat up all 13 episodes of Last Resort. The story kicks off with Braugher, as commander of a nuclear submarine, refusing to obey an order to fire a nuclear strike at Pakistan. Braugher’s character has doubts about the legitimacy of the order and, as we see, there’s good reason to.

The story unfolds in the close quarters of the submarine, the French island it seeks refuge on and in Washington, D.C. You never know who to truly believe, who is on which side or which side is the good side. Last Resort includes a guest appearance from Ernie Hudson (Oz, Ghostbusters) that may have been the most dramatic moment in the short-lived series.

There are too many finer points of the story to give a more thorough overview of how Last Resort unfolds, but I’ll stake my claim that it’s among the most intense, heart-stopping episodes of any series I’ve ever seen.

If it’s so great, why’d it get cancelled?
Conventional wisdom chalks it up to an ultra-competitive time slot and a failure to attract female viewers. The premiere earned 9.3 million viewers, but it lost more than one-third of them by the time ABC gave it the ax in November.

Does it get resolved?
Yes! ABC cancelled the show with enough time for the producers to re-tool the 13 episode into a series finale. It ended in January 2013 and there’s no chance anyone will revive it.

The Last Tycoon

The pilot episode for Amazon’s The Last Tycoon drips classic Hollywood. The women have elaborate hair and vivid lipstick, the men wear sharp suits and speak with deep voices. The characters even move as if they could slide right into a classic Hollywood song and dance – and they do halfway through the first episode.

I watched the pilot on a stationary bike at the gym. Like the same for This Is Us, it was so arresting I found myself blowing past my 30-minute goal and watching the entire episode. Amazon released the rest of the season a full year later, but it was worth the wait. I’ll caution that the story does wander a little from the early episodes – don’t get too invested in the Nazi angle. The primary focus is wunderkind producer Monroe Stahr (Matt Bomer) and his tight-fisted studio head, Pat Brady (Kelsey Grammer).

The key to enjoying The Last Tycoon is to remember that, like Lost, the show is about the relationship between the characters and not the events around them. And simply enjoying the look and feel what we all imagine Hollywood must look like on its best day. A spiff for studio buffs: It’s produced by Sony but you’ll recognize it as being shot on the Paramount Lot.

If it’s so great, why’d it get cancelled?
Amazon Studios purged several expensive shows in September (Z: The Beginning of Everything being the biggest name). The Hollywood Reporter cited mixed reviews but you could also assume it was too expensive to continue as Amazon reportedly searches for it’s own Game of Thrones. Good luck with that.

Does it get resolved?
The main storylines from season one come to a satisfying enough conclusion before a cliffhanger in the final scene. That comes with the territory for these one-season wonders. It’s unlikely to get picked up.

Awake

I called Awake “intriguing” when it premiered in 2012 and claimed “This show is so good and so superbly done that it will be on the air for a long, long time.” Well oops about that. But it is phenomenally great. Go through to read my two-paragraph synopsis of the pilot to see how much I loved it.

Lots of shows go heavy with characters; lots of shows go heavy with mystery. Awake went heavy on both and intertwined them in a way that required them to give viewers an answer to both. Unfortunately, audiences weren’t buying and it never got that far.

If it’s so great, why’d it get cancelled?
MetaCritic users rated Awake their second-favourite new show of the season behind Revenge. Given how rapidly that show declined, I would love to go back in time and swap their fates. Awake premiered to 6.24 million viewers, nearly two-thirds of which bailed by the finale.

Does it get resolved?
Unlike Last Resort, Awake was in the can when it got canned. It’s not giving anything away to say the big mystery here is which reality was real. But remember: Characters.

Fortitude

I’m breaking the rules here. Fortitude got a second season, but the first could stand on its own. It’s so damned good and perfect for a snowed-in weekend because it’s set above the Arctic Circle in the fictional town of Fortitude. Everyone there is cold and resigned to the fact that there will never, ever be a time without snow and ice. Just like you are when you look out the window.

The idyllic yet insular setting gives Fortitude the perfect foundation to tell a slow mystery with a hint of darkness lurking at the edges. This story couldn’t take place anywhere but the most northerly settlement on Earth. If you had to categorize it, you’d draw a triangle with character-drive, sci-fi and psychological thriller at each corner.

This is a European show, and even thought it’s in English the American audiences might need subtitles for the accents and you should be aware that there’s levels of penis only seen stateside on HBO. Speaking of HBO, Richard Dormer plays the main male supporting role. Game of Thrones fans will recognize him as Beric Dondarrion.

Barely Honourable Mentions

The Event, NBC. This show tried, but it just didn’t work. It would have been better as a movie. Like, a Michael Chrichton movie. The government was hiding some aliens, some of the government was aliens. The Event premiered post-Lost and thought it could get away with the same flashbacks Lost used to perfection. It couldn’t and just confused people. NBC gave it huge hype and it premiered strong, then lost half its audience and died.

Flash Forward, ABC. Flash Forward premiered near the end of Lost, and there’s no doubt ABC had hopes it would bring many of us over. As I wrote at the time, the premiere covered a lot of ground quickly, which Lost fans would have loved. It brought a lot of mystery, much of which I enjoyed. Few others did. Go read the book.

Terra Nova, FOX. One of the things I loved about Lost was the way it started with a very small setting that expanded over time. First there was the wreckage on the beach. Then came the camp and the caves. We discovered the island with the characters as they ventured during season one before blowing things wide open starting with The Swan in season two. By the end of the series, the beach had a nostalgic “Oh yeah, remember when Lost was just the beach?” place in fans’ hearts. Terra Nova could have had that, but it sucked.

Tell Me You Love Me, HBO. So remember when I warned you about the penis in Fortitude. It’s nothing compared to HBO’s study of the sex lives of three couples who see the same therapist. The “Did You Know?” feature on Tell Me’s IMDB page actually has to disclaim that the sex scenes were simulated, even though no one would forgive you for thinking you were watching straight up porn. It somehow got renewed, but the second season never aired because there wasn’t anything in the first worth continuing.

Stay warm.

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Spring 2012 TV review

Using one word to sum up the shows I watched this television season.

Terra Nova: Failed.

Terra Nova could have been outstanding, instead it’s off the air. That is disappointing but not surprising. Even thought it was ridiculously expensive, FOX said it made money off the show internationally and hinted it would try to sell the show to a different network or possibly Netflix. Netflix however announced it would not buy the show. Still, FOX is reportedly keeping everyone under contract in case the show does find a second life. Should that happen, the show needs a ton of work to become anything remotely worth anyone’s time.

Alcatraz: Lame.

Jorge Garcia is, like, adorable on television, dude. But Alcatraz sucked. Bad. The main character, a female cop lured into investigating the sudden reappearance of Alcatraz prisoners, was horribly miscast. Do real cops show that much cleavage or just TV cops? She was not believable for even one second. Sam Neil’s character was kinda interesting, but not nearly interesting enough to keep the show afloat. There was some interesting stuff here, though. Sam Neil’s character being a guard at the prison when whatever happened to it happened served as a nice tie-in to the story’s two time periods. His Richard Alpert-esque kinda-sorta love interest who was brutally shot and laid in a coma also set the groundwork for something that could have been very compelling. But on an episode-by-episode basis the show seemed to forget all of that.

BUT…I like to Google shows while I’m writing about them. In so doing I read about what happened in the season finale and I have to say I’m stunned. Stunned to the point where I might have to go back and pick up where I left off to see how it all turned out.

Revenge: Unexpected.

Just as Revenge was heating up, ABC inexplicably put it on one of its moronic hiatuses, although at only six weeks this one is shorter than the break that did in Flash Forward. The storyline had finally come back to the engagement party it started with in the pilot. I felt it was a little cheap, but still pretty good. It will have to transition from the summer-in-the-Hamptons setting that it used to augment the soap opera feeling, but I’m looking forward to what it has in store for when ABC eventually lets it back on the air.

Once Upon a Time: Disappointing.

The first two episodes of Once Upon a Time were really neat. Then it kinda wandered. The premise of an evil fantasy witch trapping real-life versions of fairytale characters in an idyllic seaside town is creative and fun. But then it seemed the show wasn’t even about that anymore. The first few episodes had clear connections between what happened in fantasy land and what happened in Storybrooke. After that it flattened out. It is so uninteresting now that I wonder why I even continue to watch it. Adam Horowitz and Mankato native Edward Kitsis earned a lot of loyalty from their work on Lost, but even that is slowly running out. This show needs to pick it up, fast, or else it’s off the list.

Awake: Intriguing.

I hadn’t even heard about this NBC show (maybe because it is on NBC) until Damon Lindelof tweeted about how much he liked the pilot. So I checked it out and damn if it ain’t really well done and really intriguing. The premise is this: An LA cop is in a car crash with his wife and teenage son. He wakes up to find his wife survived but his son died. But then he goes to sleep and wakes up in a completely different timeline where his wife died but his son survived. This is intriguing enough, but the way they weave together the cases he works on in both realities adds a second layer of interest that is really cool. On top of that they add two psychiatrists – one in each reality – who each try to convince him that what he experiences is the other reality is not, in fact, reality at all.

Awake has “it.” It is the rare show that takes a good story and makes it even better through perfect storytelling. Which reality is real? Both? Neither? What’s the deal with his wife-reality boss hinting that the accident wasn’t an accident at all? If there’s a mention of that in his son-reality timeline, I missed it. Does that mean it is the fake one? This show is so good and so superbly done that it will be on the air for a long, long time.

American Horror Story: Compelling.

Person of Interest: Exceeding.

The River: Stupid.