During a recent wine-flushed flight (thank you Delta Comfort+), I learned you can watch live TV on an airplane. It was through this discovery that my fingers, grasping forward to tip the screen forged into the back of the seat head in front me, found a magnificent spectacle known as The Comedy Central Roast of Rob Lowe.
Sitting through more commercials than I have in ages, I engaged in a can’t-be-missed roast featuring surprise thrills from Jewel, Karate Kid’s Ralph Macchio, and the constant berating of Ann Coulter. But I digress (as did the entire cast to throw extra shots at Ann. If you haven’t already, definitely check it out).
But the efforts of David Spade, Peyton Manning, and a bunch of other people whose names I don’t know to find ways to make Rob Lowe laugh with shame came with a constant reminder of something I had only recently learned about: the cancellation of Rob Lowe’s Fox sitcom endeavor, The Grinder.
As any TV enthusiast knows, even a show that is “so good” can get the ax. Dogged actors and dedicated TV viewers alike must find ways to deal if they hope to get back on the horse, audition, or couch. And like a real loss, saying goodbye to a show you “can’t believe they cancelled” happens in 5 stages.
Stage 1: Denial
There are several ways you might learn a show’s been cancelled. You hear it from the media, a suspicious amount of time passes before a new episode premieres, you spot an actor taking on an entirely new role, or a pal breaks the news.
But in stage 1, you’ve yet to accept this. Someone must have gotten their facts wrong. The media is merely speculating.
So you hit the web. A Google search for the “the grinder” brings up “the grinder season 2” as the third suggestion. That’s a good sign!
But then the headlines hit you. And they’re legitimate sources. Boy are they legitimate.
— Rob Lowe (@RobLowe) May 12, 2016
From the The Grinder’s mouth himself. Damn.
Step 2: Anger
As you search for answers, you place blame. Maybe you blame the ratings system (how accurate can it be?). Perhaps the actors are at fault (oh Lowe, how could you fail us so!). You can even point fingers at the network (those suits!).
Either way, you search for proof someone made a bad move. And if you’re lucky, you find it.
In this case, it’s reports people in power knew the show was good but cut it anyway.
And Deadline made similar claims.
“… it looked like Fox may renew one of its freshman starring vehicles, Grandfathered, which was a little stronger in the ratings, or The Grinder, which had some of the strongest reviews for a new series this season. For awhile, it looked like a horse race, with The Grinder, fully owned by Fox, and Grandfathered, a co-production with ABC Studios, alternating in taking the lead. But, after evaluating the two shows’ performance and hearing the producers’ ideas for Season 2 while also viewing its pilots for next season, the network brass started leaning toward pulling the plug on both shows in the last few weeks,” Deadline reported.
And what were these pilots?
Well, one was a live-action family/workplace sitcom starring an animated character that looks like He-Man (Son of Zorn).
Stage 3: Bargaining
These days, bargaining for a cancelled show’s encore is easier than ever. Especially for a Fox show.
With Family Guy, Futurama, Arrested Development, and The Mindy Project having paved the way, it’s nothing new for a Fox show to go from dropped to dropping a new season. And Family Guy proves Fox isn’t too proud to reboot a show it’s already given the boot to.
Plus, with TV streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and a few others I’ve yet to try (Vudu sesh, anyone?) expanding the realms of TV distribution, bargaining for a show to make a triumphant return on its original network, a new network, or online is not only doable, it can be realistic.
Meanwhile, some may try a petition. And by some, I mean thousands. Here’s one Grinder renewal petition, and another, another one, an additional one, and one more, that have a combined total of 6,043 signatures.
Step 4: Depression
But news of renewal can take years (it took Arrested Development 7 to return), and it can be hard to keep calm.
There’s a lot to be sad for when it comes to a cancelled show. Think of all the actors who spent years of their life auditioning for pilots. And all those actors who actually made it onto a pilot, only to see it fail to reach the air. And then consider all thespians whose pilot did make the air only to be cancelled prematurely or even, such as in The Grinder’s case, after Season 1.
Indeed, there’s much to mourn, and that’s only considering those we see on screen. Writers, directors, producers, and plenty more all poured earnest creativity into the show, and it was still ultimately rejected by their peers and/or target audience.
If depression hits bad enough, you may not be able to stomach reruns of the pulled program.
Step 5: Acceptance
Luckily that brings us to our final stage: acceptance. And, also luckily, when it comes to TV woes, the cure is more TV.
If you’ve been too sad to watch reruns of your cancelled show, you’ve hopefully been searching for a new show to fill the void.
While I grieved the The Grinder, my solace came from Netflix’s Lady Dynamite. Although none of its lead actors bring the same nostalgic feels as the actor formerly known as The Wonder Year’s Kevin Arnold, Fred Savage, does in The Grinder, it succeeds in evoking memories of another beloved show, Arrested Development, thanks to star Maria Bamford, who was far from an Invisible Woman in Netflix’s Season 4, but rather a saving grace.
Lady Dynamite contrasts the realism The Grinder showed with its family-oriented nature and believable characters like Claire (Natalie Morales), while simultaneously offering the same self-referential humor and digs into Hollywood business as The Grinder.
If that’s not enough, Netflix’s Santa Clarita Diet has recently rushed to the rescue. While it doesn’t fully have the sarcastic It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia-like charm that coated The Grinder, it features many of The Grinder actors we mourned (bonus points for one of them also being on It’s Always Sunny). The most obvious ones are Morales, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, and Timothy Olyphant, but according to IMDb, there are also smaller overlaps you may never have noticed, such as Scott Beehner and Thomas Crawford.
No, you can’t trick yourself into thinking you’re watching The Wonder Years through Fred Savage’s slightly matured voice continuing to complain about his older brother in middle age. But when it’s time to accept the end of The Grinder, Drew Barrymore can bring up good memories too, and the show’s got like 3 of the same actors. Compromise.
I leave you with the comforting words of Rob Lowe.
Follow me on Twitter: @ScharHar