You ever hear the expression “Too many cooks in the kitchen will spoil the soup?” Well, there’s a similar turn of phrase in television “Too much tinkering will ruin a television show” and that’s exactly what happened with the CBS crime series The Handler. Starring Joe Pantoliano (two notable roles include Cypher in The Matrix and Ralph Cifaretto in The Sopranos) and created by Canadian writer-producer Chris Haddock, the series followed FBI agent Joe Renato (Pantoliano), whose job is to train and “handle” young undercover FBI agents (hence the title “The Handler.”) Co-stars included: Hill Harper as Darnell; Anna Belknap as Lily; Lola Glaudini as Heather and Tanya Wright as Marcy.
The show followed a format similar to most crime shows: in each episode the team must use their skills as undercover agents to stop a particular criminal or gang by the end of the episode (including jewel thieves; bank robbers; white collar crime and “black widow” schemes among others).
The show debuted on September 26th, 2003 to tremendous ratings, prompting CBS to order a full 22 episodes for the show’s first season. But then…things turned sideways. After initially scoring high ratings, the numbers began to go down as the season went on. Suddenly the promise of 22 episodes contracted to 16. As show creator Chris Haddock tells it, by this point there were so many people with their own ideas as to where the show should go that the ratings only dropped further and the show was abruptly dropped after episode 14 (episodes 15 and 16 were never aired, even though a preview for episode 15 was shown on TV).
I was so disappointed to see this show disappear from television. Pantoliano did an amazing job in the role of Joe Renato (not to be too cliche but there was never a dull moment when he was onscreen). Unfortunately, to my knowledge, these episodes have never been released on DVD nor are they currently available for streaming (if anyone has information to the contrary please let me know because I would love to watch this show again).
And there’s my look at The Handler, another television show with a good concept that was cancelled too soon. If you saw this show during its brief life, did you like it? Do you think it was a mistake for the show to be cancelled? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below 🙂
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