With so many television series out there, it’s no surprise that a few of them slip through the cracks.
These are five shows that did just that – maybe they were on at the wrong time, aired on the wrong network, or for whatever reason, they’ve never achieved the level of respect that they should have. We hope it will inspire you to check them out, because they certainly deserve it.
The Divide (WEtv, 2014)
WEtv’s first original series The Divide was one of the best new shows to happen in years. Scandal‘s Tony Goldwyn and Oscar nominee Richard LaGravenese created a program that turned the crime drama genre on its head, while Damon Gupton (Suits, pictured above) and Marin Ireland (Homeland) gave masterful performances as the District Attorney and the law student caught on opposite sides of a re-opened Philadelphia murder case. With thought-provoking scripts, sharp direction, and a cast that was able to dig fully into all the complexities and nuances, The Divide was a program any network would’ve been lucky to have.
Unfortunately, it probably ended up on the wrong one. Originally pitched to AMC, the series was shuffled over to sister channel WEtv, which focuses on reality shows like Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars, Kendra on Top and the US version of Sex Box. A hard-hitting, sometimes dark scripted drama just doesn’t mesh with dating shows and brightly colored, happy promos. It wasn’t a surprise when WEtv axed The Divide, but it deserved to live on – and to find a much bigger audience than it did.
Brotherhood (Showtime, 2006-2008)Photo: Showtime
These days everyone raves about Showtime’s great original series, but nobody seems to recall Brotherhood. It came after Queer as Folk and The L Word and just months ahead of Dexter, and it was as good, if not better, as all three of those shows. Jason Clarke (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the upcoming Terminator Genesys) and Jason Isaacs (DIG, the Harry Potter films) both did some of their best work as Tommy and Michael Caffee, brothers who couldn’t be farther apart – one was a politican and the other a criminal. They were surrounded by a stellar supporting cast; you’ll never think of either Annabeth Gish or Ethan Embry the same way again after you watch this show.
So how did Brotherhood never get the widespread love of its Showtime successors? We have no idea. Maybe if it had hit the airwaves a year or two later, the outcome might have been different. At least it ran for three wonderful seasons and earned a well-deserved Peabody Award for Blake Masters, Henry Bromell and the rest of a talented writing staff. But it always makes us shake our heads when we count how many people have never heard of it.
Transporter: The Series (TNT, 2014-present)
Blink and you probably missed Transporter: The Series, which was imported to TNT last fall with the network burning through two whole seasons in about four months. That’s a crying shame, because Chris Vance (Burn Notice, Prison Break) gave the performance of his career taking over for Jason Statham in the role of Frank Martin. He was admirably tough, really funny, and gave the action hero type serious depth. Add in some fantastic interplay with supporting actors Andrea Osvart, Charly Hubner and Francois Berleand, and the high-stakes car stunts and fight sequences were actually the second best thing about this show.
Unfortunately, it didn’t become the hit it deserved to be. TNT advertised Transporter constantly, but it might have built a larger audience if the episodes hadn’t gone by so fast. The show also faced an uphill battle airing on Saturday nights – when many folks are not in front of the TV – with an erratic rerun schedule. We don’t know yet if the series will return for a third season or if TNT will broadcast it for US audiences if it does, but Transporter definitely was a show that got very little love and earned a lot.
Strike Back (Cinemax, 2011-present)Photo: Cinemax
What more does Strike Back have to do to get some respect? Cinemax jumped in to co-produce this action drama with British broadcaster Sky One after its first season, and turned it into one of the best shows on television. Leading men Philip Winchester and Sullivan Stapleton aren’t just two of TV’s biggest badasses, they’re also two tremendous actors. This series proves that just because a show is action-oriented doesn’t mean that it can’t be as well-acted, written and directed as a straightforward drama. Strike Back will have you biting your nails and un-twisting your stomach as much as you’ll be enjoying the gun battles, explosions and beautiful women.
There’s an understandable belief that this genre can’t reach the same
heights of other dramas; how many shows and movies have you seen that are basically an hour and a half of action without any serious plot or meaning? But series like Strike Back – and for that matter, Transporter too – are changing that. Strike Back is as much a quality program as anything else on the airwaves, and as we wait for its final season to hit sometime this summer, we’re just crossing our fingers that it finally wakes critics and audiences up to what a gem they’ve been missing all these years.
MI-5 (A&E/BBC America, 2002-2006)Photo: A&E
When MI-5 (or Spooks, if you remember it from the UK) started broadcasting in the US, it was a heck of a show with a cast that had yet to become the stars they would be. There was Matthew MacFadyen (Ripper Street) alongside Golden Globe nominee David Oyelowo (Selma), Keeley Hawes (Doctor Who) and Peter Firth (um, seemingly everything), and they were all wonderful to watch. On top of that, the writing never failed to drive you crazy, because you never knew what would happen next – it was never certain if the good guys would win or if somebody would end up in a deep fat fryer. While it flagged in its final years, for a long time Spooks was the best spy drama out there.
It was also a victim of schedule hijinks. A&E had it initially but once the channel began its shift toward reality programming like Storage Wars, it yanked MI-5 off the schedule without a word. Then it dumped the entirety of the fourth season as a one-day, barely announced marathon in 2006. BBC America and PBS also aired the show, but both only ran the first series, leaving US fans of the show to have to buy the DVDs to see anything from seasons five through ten. The silver lining is that the franchise is being continued on with a feature film. Spooks: The Greater Good will be released on May 8.
All of these shows did all that can be asked of a TV series – to deliver a quality product – but never found huge audiences and took home very little awards. There are many people who’ve never heard of any of them. It just goes to show you how hard it is to have a successful project; some go on to become universally beloved and others never get even a quarter of that love, but that doesn’t mean they’re not just as good. It just means they haven’t gotten enough respect – yet.