Last week, Fox News abruptly canceled the rest of GOP Presidential Debates after its star decided to leave the show to focus on bigger projects.The 12-episode season ended on quite the cliffhanger, with antihero Donald Trump forebodingly asking his party to "be smart and unify," and left us with plenty of lingering questions: Will the underdog win in the end? Will Trump and Ted Cruz finally get together? Is Paul Ryan really going to have a cameo in the finale? Did Bibi ever call Carly Fiorina back? What happens to Ben Carson when he drinks Red Bull? We might never know the answer; it seems unlikely that fans will clamor for Netflix or Hulu to save the show, given that it was getting repetitive and much of the cast has already moved on.
But in the grand tradition of other television programs that have run out of original content, it’s time for a clip show! While we ponder what might have been in store for us during Monday night’s debate, let’s look back at some of the season’s most memorable moments.
Best Recurring Character
Every single time the Debates cast visited CNN, one person stole the show. Actually, it was an inanimate object. And it wasn’t even onstage.
We are, of course, referring to Hugh Hewitt’s gleaming silver hair.
If the candidates’ mastery of policy seemed to desert them during these CNN episodes, it was only because they lost themselves staring at the conservative radio host’s mane, trying to figure out what it reminded them of. Was it the exact hue of a unicorn in love? The precise shade of your high school crush’s class ring? The color of the moon on the summer solstice? If Montague Jetson weren’t a cartoon, would his hair look the same? Did doctors tell the candidates to put on sunscreen before basking in its rays for two hours? When Richard Gere goes to his hairdresser, does he pull out the first Google Images result for Hugh Hewitt and say, "I’ll have what he’s having?"
Every good TV show leaves unanswered questions for you to ponder. Debates might have been saving the answer to this question for the finale, which is unlikely to ever air now.
Speaking of unanswered questions, did we ever figure out what that weird white dot on Ted Cruz’s lip was?
Besides serving as one of the most perplexing mysteries of the season, this was also one of the show's most stressfully action-packed moments. Where did it come from? Oh god, now it’s on his lower lip! It’s still there! Is anyone going to stop it?? AHHH, HE ATE IT.
As one of the most shocking turns of the season, it wouldn’t be surprising if future debate spin-offs started to introduce similar plot twists.
Runner-up: What was Carly Fiorina planning to do on her second day in office? Why didn’t Rick Santorum wear sweater vests this year? Why didn’t wardrobe buy any ties that weren’t red or blue? Where did the Debates’ sarcastic teenage next-door neighbor, Rand Paul, disappear to in the middle of the season? Did his parents send him to private school?
Best Character Flashback
In the penultimate episode, the season entered a rare pensive moment when it dwelled on the characters’ pasts rather than letting them imagine the future. Nearly all of the flashbacks were devoted to the show’s star, Donald Trump, and they revealed, shockingly, that he was a completely different person before the season began — something Ben Carson later seconded when endorsing the front-runner: "There are two different Donald Trumps."
Least Believable Moment
Like most TV programming that tries to capture D.C. politics, Debates was pretty unrealistic. None of the presidential candidates looked or acted like people running for president in the real world, and the dialogue was cheesy — talking about dicks and telling other candidates to shut up? Definitely overkill. But the show became particularly unbelievable when it turned into science fiction, revealing that Marco Rubio is, in fact, a robot.
Sorry, Anderson Cooper and Hugh Hewitt’s gleaming silver hair 'shippers — this one goes to Cruz and Trump; type the two candidates’ names, plus bromance, in Google, and you will be rewarded with 105,000 results. Alas, the Cronald — cloyingly sweet on the outside, flaky on the inside — was never destined to last. In early September, the man who plays Donald Trump on TV tried to analyze his character relationship with Ted. "Well, it is a little bit of a romance," he said. "I like him. He likes me."
But after a brief holiday hiatus, Debates came back in early 2016, and it was clear that jealousy had torn the pair apart. Both quickly found a new love. Unfortunately, it was the same one: Iowa. "I guess the bromance is over," Trump said. By the end of the season, Cruz and Trump had both gotten over Iowa and had professed their adoration for dozens of other states. At the time of the last Debates episode that aired, Trump was dating Florida — "Florida loves Trump, and I love Florida."
Who knows what was supposed to happen next. Although it seemed like Cruz and Trump’s relationship was ruined, Cruz sometimes accidentally let slip how much he still cared; at one point in one of the last episodes, Trump was clearly getting upset. Cruz was the one who calmed him down. "Breathe, breathe, breathe," he said. "You can do it. You can breathe. I know it's hard." The "everything is going to be OK" was silent, but we all heard it.
Most Forgettable Recurring Character
Wolf Blitzer. Whenever he asked a question, you knew it was time for a snack break.
Most Memorable Cameo
Ronald Reagan’s plane. Stole the show.
Most Forgettable Cameo
Jim Gilmore. (Who? Exactly.)
Runner-up: Scott Walker. Even though everyone assumed he was going to be the star of Debates, he was only in two episodes.
Most Annoying Product Placement
Did the characters really need to end every episode by mentioning their websites? I know they were probably desperate to sell their merchandise — especially since much of the cast knew their time on TV would be short-lived — but it would have been nice to go ONE NIGHT without being subjected to Jeb(!) peddling guac bowls.
Best Recurring Gag
Didn’t everyone laugh so hard when Ben Carson complained in every single episode about how he never got to talk — and then never got to do anything but complain because his time would be used up because he talks so slowly? Killed every time! The gag reached its climax when Carson begged, "Can somebody attack me, please?" and everyone laughed, probably to keep from sobbing as they realized that this show was a tragedy, not a comedy.
Worst Recurring Gag
Every time Chris Christie interrupted the bickering politicians onstage so he could break the fourth wall and stare directly at the camera to deliver a monologue criticizing other candidates for talking about policy particulars when they could instead be focusing on scaring voters by talking about how bad things are while making vague promises to fix said horrors. We couldn’t even escape this gag when Christie got booted from the show; he later proved that he didn’t care at all about policy by endorsing Donald Trump during a reunion special.
Most Cringe-worthy Moment
Too many to count, but we managed to narrow it down to the top two: Whenever we imagined what Marco Rubio was thinking while he was being referred to as "little Marco," and that time when Jeb Bush tried to tell a joke.
Oh, and that time when Jeb Bush did manage to tell a joke and was overly excited about it.
Oh, Jeb. You were GOP Presidential Debates’ Ziggy Sobotka.
Best Signature Facial Expression
Character We Miss Most
Lindsey Graham only ever made it on to Debates pre-show discussion, a charity event where the networks let people who will never be president get a taste of what it might feel like to be on the show. Even so, the South Carolina senator was the breakout star. When it felt like the other characters were all saying the same exact thing, Graham had less-predictable lines, like "As for women, if you want to kill terrorists — I'm your guy"; "I'm not afraid of a guy running around on a horse without a shirt"; and who could forget "They're ready to die. Bring on the virgins"?
Some good news — it looks like C-SPAN is considering picking up a new pilot that is like 300, except it is just Lindsey Graham talking about killing ISIS militants on the Senate floor.
Sadly, GOP Presidential Debates mostly relied on aggravating Everybody Loves Raymond meets Judd Apatow–style potty humor. The single most hilarious sequence in the entire season, however, was pure slapstick:
The moment worked as a beautiful allegory for the entire show’s themes, and was far more intelligent and illuminating than any of the didactic exposition the show ploddingly used to get its points across.
No one on this show has any idea what they are doing. The people trying to direct them have no idea what they are doing. The whole thing is a train wreck waiting to happen.
When Rick Santorum got really close to the microphone and yelled "FIGHT!" We definitely didn’t expect that!
Most Controversial Moment
We know what you’re thinking, but everyone alludes to how big their penis is on sitcoms. It could have been the times when Donald Trump talked about how Planned Parenthood is great but that he would take away its funding, or the time when Donald Trump said that flip-flopping was OK, or basically anytime Trump opened his mouth. In reality, however, there probably were no controversial moments in this season of GOP Presidential Debates. If anything, this show has ensured that Americans may not be shocked by anything again.