The Comeback, HBO (2005)
Lisa Kudrow and Michael Patrick King cashed in their Friends and Sex and the City chips to create this brilliantly squirmy yet laugh-out-loud series about a faded sitcom star (Kudrow) whose try for one more hit show is documented by a reality TV crew. As Valerie Cherish, Kudrow was at once hilarious and heartbreaking. Thank goodness you can now check out repeats on the Sundance Channel.
Firefly, FOX (2002)
Joss Whedon’s grand folly: a Howard Hawks Western crossed with a George Lucas space opera. Filled with vivid characters led by Nathan Fillion’s hotshot captain, Firefly applied a Buffy irony to shoot-outs and intergalactic action-adventure. The mass audience Firefly needed to survive didn’t ”get” the show, but the cult fans did, latching onto it immediately.
Robbery Homicide Division, CBS (2002)
Only the most daring network cop show of the decade. This Michael Mann-produced stunner featured a terrific, pre-Celebrity Rehab Tom Sizemore leading cops through L.A. crime scenes. The show burst with terse, hard-boiled dialogue and visuals that glowed with eloquent menace.
Freaks and Geeks, NBC (1999-2000)
Arguably the most influential sitcom that barely lived, F&G was a smart disaffected-teen dramedy that gave us Seth Rogen, James Franco, Busy Philipps, Jason Segel, and more. Oh, and exec producer Judd Apatow went on to make a few movies, too.
The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., FOX (1993-94)
Burn Notice‘s Bruce Campbell, at that point known primarily for the Evil Dead movies, starred in a witty combination Western/sci-fi/steampunk drama. For all its old-fashioned action and laughs, the series was also ahead of its time; co-creator Carlton Cuse later helped run a little show called Lost.