If you've been reading me in The Star-Ledger long enough, you may know of my deep affection for Summer Burn-Off Theatre, that increasingly rare practice wherein networks run unaired episodes of canceled shows in the summer to help recoup their costs. Burn-Off Theatre is how I originally saw the "Freaks and Geeks" finale, how season two of "The Loop" wound up airing, and how I got to see one of the worst teen dramas ever made in the WB's "Young Americans." As a student of TV, I enjoy the bad burn-off shows almost as much as the good ones, because they prove instructive in demonstrating how something could be appealing enough to be ordered and then bad enough to get dumped into the July or August schedule.
The networks do less and less of this stuff with each passing year, because the amount they recoup on the initial investment isn't worth the potential lost ad revenue, or the amount of money that would be needed to promote a project with no future. In recent years, shows that were canceled in mid-season only get one or two shots in the summer before being pulled again, or just don't get shown at all. Sometimes a network will sit on an entire season of a show until summer and then pretend it's a big event instead of a burn-off (see also NBC's "Windfall" or the CW's "Hidden Palms"), but even that's getting rarer.
So it's an odd but pleasant surprise to see USA devoting one of the last (and least-watched) nights of 2008 to digging up the pilot for "To Love & Die," which was produced more than two years ago and ordered to series a year and a half ago, then never mentioned again. (Like Dan Fienberg, I remember seeing clips at the July '07 press tour and being intrigued.) It's got an interesting, USA-appropriate premise (directionless young woman meets the father she never knew, finds out he's an assassin, and decides to join the family business) and has the always-watchable Tim Matheson as the dad (plus the iffier Shiri Appleby, pictured above, as the daughter).
If I wasn't so swamped with press tour and January premiere screeners, I'd be all over the premiere tonight, if only to try to figure out why USA wound up passing on it. As it is, I'll record it to the DVR and try to find some time for it after I put a serious dent into the DVD pile. But for those of you who don't have several dozen hours of screeners to get through, it might be worth a look tonight at 8.