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Favorite premium cable TV shows from the past include 'The Paper Chase,' 'Bizarre'

Vinny, Turtle, Drama and the rest of the Entourage gang finish up Season 7 on Sunday night on HBO, and if you haven't been following along as closely, here's what you've missed:

Not a whole heck of a lot.

That's why HBO is retiring Entourage after a shortened Season 8 next summer and then letting the Hollywood scenesters and actor-wannabees try their luck on the big screen. After all, it worked wonders for Sex in the City.

But for every success such as Sex in the City, Dexter, Weeds, The Sopranos and True Blood, there are dozens of other equally clever pay-to-play series that never really got the credit or the exposure they deserved.

Here are some of our favorite series from the past that once graced the premium cable channels. Look for them on a DVD shelf near you.

THE PAPER CHASE (1978-1986, CBS/Showtime): CBS aired one season about life at Harvard Law School before Showtime picked it up, rechristening it "too good for commercial television." John Houseman reigned over the entire cast as the tyrannical professor Kingsfield.

BIZARRE (1980-1985, Showtime): John Byner hosted this comedy sketch show that aired simultaneously on Showtime (which included the adult language and nudity) and on Canadian TV (which bleeped or blurred out the mature content). It's best remembered for its regular daredevil spoofs by "Super Dave Osborne," played by Bob Einstein.

KIDS IN THE HALL (1989-1995, CBS/HBO): Like Bizarre, this was Canadian sketch comedy at its finest (without the nudity and profanity). Instead we got cross-dressing cast members, a character called "Headcrusher" and skits with titles such as "Love and Sausages." Though the comedy troupe reunites often for tours, Dave Foley also found success on TV's NewsRadio.

DREAM ON (1990-1996, HBO): Brian Benben played a New York City book editor coping with modern problems by replaying scenes from classic TV shows inside his head. Sounds silly, but the brilliance was in the clever editing. Co-star Wendie Malick later found success on Just Shoot Me! and Hot In Cleveland.

THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW (1992-1998, HBO): Garry Shandling starred as vain talk show host Larry Sanders, as cameras followed him on and off stage. It was the perfect comedy vehicle for Shandling, who had to compete for laughs with co-stars Rip Torn, Jeffrey Tambor, Janeane Garofalo, Jeremy Piven and dozens of real-life stars in cameos.

THE L WORD (2004-2009, Showtime): Technically, the L stood for "lesbian," though "love" or "life" would also fit in this story about lesbian friends in Los Angeles. (Hey, another L word!) After it went off the air, fans were buzzing with rumors of a potential spinoff show or big-screen movie. So far, all we've seen is The Real L Word, which just wrapped its first season on Showtime.



Favorite premium cable TV shows from the past include 'The Paper Chase,' 'Bizarre' 09/09/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 9:14pm]
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