I want to talk about something that has been bothering me for a couple weeks. So, back in early May, in a needing-something-new-to-watch crisis, I checked out season one and two of The Breakout Kings. The Breakout Kings is a crime-drama show on A&E where a team of prisoners is formed by the US Marshalls to help them catch escaped convicts. I liked it. It wasn’t too deep, its characters were a bit on the generic side but I was looking forward to more and to seeing how the internal dramas would be played out. A couple days later, when Googling to find when Season 3 would start, I find out it had just been cancelled.
Sigh. Again. Now, I can’t compare it to other’s I’ve kissed goodbye. I watched Firefly when it aired originally (wiping obligatory tear). But I was enjoying BK and since I had just spent several hours watching every single episode, it was fresh on my mind and I began to miss the characters. Why cancel this show and not so many others?
Where do I think it went wrong? It broke the ensemble/team cast rule of “Don’t let one character become the main focus of an entire season”. I think this applies to book series and TV. In Breakout Kings, the character of Dr. Lloyd Lowery, a prodigy doctor and behaviorist turned inmate becomes the breakout character. The writers gave him all the interesting quirks. They gave him the most interesting story line and he was also the comic relief. The other characters, though good actors, were not written with as much depth and were not given the time to show their back story enough for viewers to care about them. They were boring next to the uber-quirky Lowery who was showing hero potential with his growing romantic feelings toward Julianne, the analyst/logistical whiz with deep issues of her own.
Some excellent examples from my favorites list of how to make an ensemble cast work- Leverage on TNT, Burn Notice on USA, and the often-mentioned Whedons – Buffy, Angel, and Firefly of course. Who hasn’t seen The Avengers?
Each character plays a part in every episode (except the brief time when the actress who plays Sophie on Leverage was “away” hiding a pregnancy -but she was still in the show via phone calls and short cut scenes.) The difference? Each character had/has time to show their personality, their back-story and their growth, their own quirks that make you care for them individually and they show they are a needed part of the team. Breakout Kings missed on this, but I was willing to give it another season to work out the kinks.
So, I’ll continue to search for interesting shows to watch and mourn the one’s I fall for just to have them leave me when my interest is fresh and tender.
What television show snagged your interest just to be cancelled too soon? What’s your favorite ensemble show and what makes it interesting? Maybe a recommendation for something that’s already a few seasons in…