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WHY DO THEY AXE the GOOD SHOWS?

My wife has become besotted with a man called Michael. He's all the things I'm not: tall, handsome, dashing and wealthy. And did I forget to mention he sees dead people? Well, one dead person, his late wife. If I'm being honest, I'm not too put out by all this. I know it's going to be a fleeting assignation, because Michael is not much longer for this world.

Michael, by the way, is the protagonist of A Gifted Man (Watch, Tuesday). Played by Patrick Wilson, he's a brilliant surgeon who, following the death of his wife Anna (Jennifer Ehle), becomes gloomily self-absorbed, burying his emotions beneath his joyless work at an exclusive New York City clinic that caters for rich clients.

But then Anna appears to him as a ghost and persuades him to carry on the work she'd been doing at a walk-in clinic for the needy. Sadly, not everyone was as keen on A Gifted Man as the current Mrs Stacey; it was cancelled by CBS after just one series even before Watch bought it in.



handful

The fate of A Gifted Man is nothing unusual. It's estimated that of the hundreds of ideas pitched to American networks each year, about 20 per network will result in pilot episodes and only a handful of these will spawn a series.

Of those that do, it's pretty much a lottery as to which of them will be picked up for a second season. Some, like last year's much-derided The Playboy Club, will even be yanked off air before all the episodes have been screened.

The list of series cancelled after one season is vast. Some of the time the axing is justified, as in the case of FlashForward, which was a one-idea concept with nowhere to go.

The same goes for the trolley-dolly romp Pan-Am, a vapid attempt to shamelessly ride the Sixties' nostalgia wave whipped up by the classy Mad Men. But there are far too many times when the networks get it stunningly wrong.

The cancellation of much-loved, glowingly reviewed series such as Firefly, Freaks and Geeks, Arrested Development and the more recent Awake, starring the excellent Jason Isaacs as a cop who finds he's living in two separate realities after a car crash, show that ratings still rule in the ruthless world of US television.

But if there's one thing worse than a great series being unfairly cancelled, it's a series that's allowed to run on long after the ideas well has run dry. Few would argue that for a long time now the only reason for watching CSI: Miami, which started its 10th and final series on RTE2 this week, has been the gloriously eccentric performance of David Caruso as Horatio Caine.

Law & Order: SVU continues to stutter on despite the departure of its most charismatic character, Det Elliot Stabler, played by Christopher Meloni, whose departure to vampire drama True Blood has left a massive hole in the show.

It was announced this week that Channel 4's Shameless, which became a tedious parody of itself years ago, is finally being put to sleep -- but not until after an unnecessary 11th series next year.

I'd be stunned, though, if anything ever outlasts Last of the Summer Wine, which ran for 31 soul-dehydrating series. Only God in his TV Heaven knows what mankind did to deserve that.

> spooky

There has been much comment on how BBC1's daft new thriller series Hunted, starring Melissa George, is virtually a retread and the now defunct spy drama Spooks. Not surprising, really, since both are made by the same production team.

It's been said there are only seven original stories in fiction. Perhaps it's time someone informed the BBC drama department about the other six.

> slimy The avalanche of accusations concerning sexual predator Sir Jimmy Savile, OBE, KCSG and FKR (a new honour I've decided to posthumously bestow) suggests there was a culture within sections of the BBC of turning a blind eye to his nauseating behaviour.

But the revelation that a Channel 4 art director working on the controversial Big Fat Gypsy Wedding posters requested aphotographer to arrange images of "a very young girl dressed as a bride" and "a dirty kiss between a couple, with tongue" suggests the Beeb is not the only broadcaster with slimeballs.

> creepy Children's television has been in the doldrums for a long time, so it's great to hear that Russell T Davies, who revitalised Doctor Who, has made a big-budget new BBC series called Wizards vs. Aliens. Davies is 49, just a few months younger than me. Here's hoping he can recapture the thrill of great children's sci-fi/fantasy series from our era, like The Tomorrow People and the superbly creepy Children of the Stones.


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