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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Finding their way after Lost

Not leaving, no. Moving on.

Where are we going?

Let’s go find out.

It’s been three years since Lost went off the air. It came along at the same time social media gave us a way to interact across the globe in real time and gave rise to what we now call second screening. The show’s sprawling mysteries and rich character development fed perfectly into these new platforms. Fans took online communities to more engaged levels than any show previously, debating theories and sharing background information on things mentioned in the latest episodes. In that way Lost was probably the first truly social television show. Its serendipitous timing helped it create some amazing bonds with its viewers.

That worked out marvelously for ABC and the show itself while it was on the air. How has it worked out for the show’s stars since May 23, 2010? Have their careers continued to grow or have they sunk like poor Michael’s raft? The answer is mixed.

Some found new lives with new characters. Michael Emerson is killing it as secretive computer genius Harold Finch on Person of Interest; Daniel Dae Kim is doing just fine on CBS’s remake of Hawaii Five-0. Emilie de Ravin floated for a while before landing on Once Upon a Time, which is led by former Lost writers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis. Everyone’s favorite Scot, Henry Ian Cusick, found parts on Scandal, Fringe, The Mentalist and ABC’s recently canceled Body of Proof. Ian Somerhalder didn’t even make it to Exodus but will always be Boone, even though his star has risen on The Vampire Diaries.

Others (no pun intended) have roles in the works that could put them back on TV’s map. Naveen Andrews and Josh Holloway will be on CBS this fall. Holloway sans locks (again, no pun intended) as some kind of cyber cop in Intelligence, and Andrews opposite Stephen Lang in Reckless. Holloway improved as much as any of the actors who stayed with the show from start to finish so hopefully CBS is giving him something to work with. Andrews also has a huge role opposite Naomi Watts as Princess Diana’s lover, Dr. Hasnat Khan, in Diana, which will be released later this year.

Yunjin Kim, who doesn’t do much American work, co-stars with Alyssa Milano in ABC’s upcoming summer drama Mistresses. It’s hard to come to any conclusions about her post-Lost career because I simply don’t pay much attention to Korean entertainment.

A couple fan favorites landed roles on new shows that never made it beyond infancy. Jorge Garcia had a role in FOX’s Alcatraz in addition to three appearances on a Matthew Perry show you’ve never heard of. Terry O’Quinn starred in the short-lived 666 Park Avenue after appearing in 11 episodes of Hawaii Five-0 with Daniel Dae Kim. Elizabeth Mitchell did V and now co-stars in Revolution. Dominic Monaghan’s post-Lost career still hasn’t taken off after Flash Forward was unfairly canceled.

Matthew Fox tried his hand at a movie before Lost was even over. Since The End his most notable work has been the freakish way he transformed his body for the Alex Cross movie, not his role opposite Tommy Lee Jones in some World War II movie. He’s also in World War Z, a zombie movie. Yikes.

Evangeline Lilly is a face for L’Oreal Paris but her only acting work has been in The Hobbit, which she began just three months after giving birth.

This is surprising and probably disappointing to a lot of us who still want to see our favorite stars every week. I think the way we expect actors to move from one successful show right into another ignores how difficult it is to find success in Hollywood. Networks just finished announcing their fall lineups full of new shows that will most likely fail or sputter for a season or two before being put to sleep. Few will make it beyond that and fewer still will become legitimate hits. To expect this handful of actors to be in those few shows is asking lightning to strike twice.

I also have to wonder how much their strong identification with one character might hurt them. O’Quinn did well on 666 Park but will we ever see him as anyone other than John Locke? To his credit, Michael Emerson plays his character so well on Person of Interest that I rarely think of Ben Linus. (Much of that is probably due to his character’s limp.) It’s a sort of catastrophic success unique to Hollywood: Being so good at your job that no one can forget it. Time will tell if Josh Holloway can make us forget Sawyer or if Evangeline Lilly’s freckles will always make us think of Kate.

As Lost’s stars find new roles, on television or the big screen, they will find a dedicated portion of their new viewers who look quite familiar, thinking back and smiling at the show they shared together, with a simple message:

We’ve been waiting for you.

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.

It’s Complicated

Let’s talk about relationships.

I inadvertently created quite a stir the other day when I set my Facebook relationship status as single.  Readers bombarded me with questions, but there’s no story to tell.  I was going through the profile settings, setting my hometown, adding siblings, etc and the relationship status was there, too, so I set it to what it is, which is single.  Simple as that.  Everybody just calm down.

But I am coming off a long relationship. Six years, in fact.  Great years.  Its end is still fresh, and I don’t know when I’ll be able to make that level of a commitment again, if ever.

I’m referring to TV, of course.  This isn’t the time or place to rehash my feelings about the way Lost ended.  But the end of one relationship naturally leads to thoughts about the next one, so the question is posed: Will I ever be as into another television show as I was into Lost?

I got to thinking about this when a co-worker sent me a link to the trailer for one of NBC’s new fall dramas titled “The Event.”  It is a great preview, but my first reaction was, “Maybe if it were a movie I’d watch. I don’t know if I want to be strung along for another six years again.”  I tried starting a new TV relationship even before Lost went off the air. (That’s okay to do in television show relationships because TV shows aren’t people who have feelings.) I became a fan of ABC’s Flash Forward, but the network yanked it away after its only season.  Really, I’m pretty much over that.  Fox has J.J. Abrams’s Fringe trying to reel me in, but it has been too up and down to want to give it any serious commitment of time and thought.  In Fringe’s case, we stick together because it can be fun sometimes, but if the show and I are honest with each other, neither of us is really excited about us being together.

Critics and people who get to see TV shows before the rest of us gave (cursed?) both of these shows – along with V and maybe one or two others – the tag of being a possible successor to Lost before they ever went on the air. None of them have been able to live up to it, but a classic relationship line may apply: It’s not you, it’s me.

Their failure may be the fault of viewers like me who aren’t ready to make a multi-season investment in a new TV show.  I’ll tell any network execs reading this that I am not in a place to watch one episode of a show and not learn what it was really about until four years later, as was sometimes the case with Lost.  I don’t expect “the event” to be revealed in the fifth episode of “The Event,” but I do expect to be told what the hell is going on in an upfront and honest way.  If the writers try to pull the same shady trickeries that Damon and Carlton did, I’m changing the channel before you can say women can’t have babies on the island.  Lost was that one that may only come along once in a lifetime.  As a viewer you recognize that and you commit to going that extra mile to stick with it.  Barely one month removed from its end, it’s hard to picture myself being willing to do that again.

All of that assumes that I even want a new long-term TV relationship.  Maybe I just want something nice, light and simple.  I watched an episode of Criminal Minds last week and you know what? I liked it. It entertained me. I might even watch it again, and if I still like it, I’ll watch it some more.  How do you like that?

Maybe Facebook is onto something when it lets you set your relationship status to “It’s complicated.”

The Flash Door Map

Lost was a lot of work to watch, no doubt about it.  Being a dedicated Lost fan was tough because you knew you were in it for the long haul.

I don’t care what the show is about, how it is structured or who is in it. I just want a good relationship.

It’s this commitment that has to be there for a show to ascend to carry the mantle of “the next Lost.”  TV watchers talk about the structure of the drama, the complexity of the plot and the chemistry among the characters, but a show with all of those things won’t reach Lost-like heights if viewers aren’t ready to commit.  The harder a show makes it to be a fan, the harder it will be for us to commit.

If ABC wants freshman dramas Flash Forward and V to fill the gap about to be left by the end of Lost, it has a funny way of showing it.  Both shows were put on a three-month hiatus after Thanksgiving, allowing budding fans to virtually forget about the show and, perhaps more importantly, missing out on great promo opportunities in the run up to the February 2 premier of Lost.  (ABC’s horrid V promo notwithstanding.)

Now, both shows are back in full swing but only one is likely to make a second season.  The going money appears to be on V, but I’ve never watched one second of an episode so I can’t say whether or not it deserves to come back.  I have, however, watched every episode of Flash Forward from before and after the break.  With that experience, I can unequivocally say that it absolutely deserves a second season.

The true mythology of Lost began to unfold in season two as characters discovered clues in the hatch indicating that there was more to the island than rumbles in the jungle would indicate.  The biggest clue came when Locke saw the blast door map during a lockdown.  Flash Forward got its blast door map last week when Dyson Frost built a massive maze of the futures he saw in his hundreds of flash forwards, all of which lead to one date: December 12, 2016. The end.

We saw the map wash away after Mark saved Dimitri from the elaborate set up Frost created to bring about the future in which Dimitri dies and Frost lives.  This isn’t that different from what happened with the blast door map, as we only saw that once as well.  But what is important to the show’s long-term success is that Frost’s futures map gives us something to latch on to and debate about.

Unfortunately I’m not finding any screen caps of it anywhere, including ABC’s official website, which is indicative of the show’s general lack of passionate support.  ABC needs to get this image up on its site so that fans can engage and start talking about it.

Through what I feel has been a largely disappointing final season, I’ve come to realize that it was not the characters that drew me into Lost – it was the mystery.  Characters of course have their own mysteries, but it’s the larger mysteries of the island and Dharma that I found most intriguing.

Flash Forward has its mysteries, too, and it is setting them up and knocking them down light years faster than Lost ever has.  The pilot and the second-half premier contained more plot revelations and progress than an entire season of the senior megadrama. I like that, and I’m betting the primetime TV audience will, too.