2 posts

Canceled! Ten Television Shows that Needed Another Season

Inevitably in your television viewing life you’ll come across a show that’s so totally engrossing and so addictively good that you’d sell your left liver lobe to see the complete ending. But of course like the trolling execution horde that it is, network television can snatch the show right out of your grasp after weeks of sucking you in until you’re firmly committed. And then that’s it. It’s over. No explanation. No nothing. Your new favorite show is canceled. Crap.

Here are a few that had many of us screaming at the heavens, and wishing for just one more season.

Commander in Chief

What Made it Great: Geena Davis and Donald Sutherland. Watching these two play cat and mouse was exhilarating. Davis’ sharp edges and disarming charm together with Sutherland’s smooth but lethal cunning made a match in television series heaven. This was the sort of drama that worked hard to create some semblance of reality like its predecessor the West Wing. Of course when we looked at Mackenzie Allen, played by Davis, most of us saw Hilary Clinton, despite fervent denials by the show’s producers. And since this was the absolute first time a woman helmed the White House on a scripted series, the stakes seemed to run high. The stellar depiction did win Davis a Golden Globe for her portrayal of the no-nonsense leader. So then, what went wrong? It seemed like the show was riding high.

Why it Failed: American Idol. Yep, that little show starring Ryan Seacrest’s shoe lifts was the demise of this great show. Due to getting its ass kicked in the ratings, a lot of rejiggering happened behind the scenes. Creator Rod Lurie was fired and in came Steven Bochco who succeeded in making the show a sudsy soap opera in attempts to make the show less abrasive, smart, and interesting thereby dulling it down into chewable pieces young people could relate to. What to do with grandma? Move her into the White House! Hey, the Chief-of-Staff is kind of evil. What do we do? Make him a loveable taskmaster! The First Gentleman has no real purpose. How do we fix it? Let’s make him an advisor! Hey, we don’t have a smarmy guy. What makes sense? Mark Paul Gosselaar! See?

What took its place?
The Good Wife.


What Made it Great: Suspense, suspense, and ever growing tension. These are usually markers for the start of really great dramas, especially sci-fi dramas. The premise was intriguing — a hurricane, people lost for hours, and something, no one is sure what, has happened in the midst of that storm. The show led by hunky Eddie Cibrian certainly had great build-up, and the performances of the cast were very good. From the intersecting lives of the characters to the calamity of what nature wrought, it all made for the perfect environment for an Invasion of the Body Snatchers type show. The set up was there. You were never really sure who was other and who wasn’t.

Why it failed: Pacing, and timing. It was really no match for its lead-in show, Lost, if you can believe it. I would think the behemoth that became Lost just swallowed up all the mystery suspense in the room leaving little left over for Invasion. Watching this little show, extremely developed and detailed (perhaps overly so), was like watching a tortoise slowly stick its head out of its shell. And sadly by the time the show really started to get going, it was all over, and people were clicking away after Lost finished…probably because they were exhausted by the layers upon layers Lost heaped on your plate.

What took its place?
Lost…a no brainer. And now V, urgh, whatever.

The Class

What Made it Great: In those confusing years after Friends went off the air, we were all scrambling to find the next twenty-something friend sitcom. In walked The Class. It depicted the lives of several former third-grade classmates as they tried to navigate life, love, relationships, and each other. It was an honest little show helmed by up and coming talent, many of whom have gone on to other, better, shows. Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who played Richie, is now Mitchell on Modern Family; Jon Bernthal, cast as Duncan on the show, is deputy cop wolf-face on The Walking Dead; Lizzy Caplan, who played Kat, went on to play Casey on Party Down; and Jason Ritter, who played Ethan, was last seen doing double duty on NBC running around on The Event and Parenthood. The Class was awkward and fun, silly and lovable, and cut too short for many of us to fall totally in love with it. But it had potential.

Why it failed: Laugh track. Yes, yes, I know, CBS thoroughly enjoys a laugh track. It was also set right in-between How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men. So it was veritable sitcom-chum in the midst of those CBS whales. Your twenty-something thing is covered with HIMYM, and your uncomfortable realizations and comic situations all wrapped in the mind of a twelve year-old are more than covered with Two and a Half Charlie Sheen Speedballs. Disastrous.

What took its place?
NPH in his charmeuse suit pajamas. Not sure anything else tops that.

Once and Again

What Made it Great: Sela Ward and Billy Campbell. If you were a little too young to really get Thirty-Something, than this was a great new entry in that same vein. The show explored the intimate elements of divorce, the family dynamic, and what it meant to fall in love again. It wasn’t anything like the light-hearted Brady Bunch. No, this show had deep, poignant moments played expertly by Ward and Campbell. Even younger cast members Shane West and ingénue Evan Rachel Wood’s heartbroken, tender, misunderstood moments were compelling to watch. Definitely an introduction to what would come later from the young actress. The black and white vignette confessionals where the characters spoke about their feelings was a new twist and complimented the show’s finer moments.

Why it failed: Despite a Golden Globe and Emmy win for Ward the show still garnered low ratings. Like other beloved shows, news of its cancellation resulted in a battle cry from viewers. The actors and viewers all pleaded with the network for another season to allow the show to meet its mark. It didn’t happen.

What took its place?
The show that probably comes closest to the heart of Once and Again is another ABC family drama, Brothers & Sisters.

Wolf Lake

What Made it Great: The show was an updated take on a horror genre long left dormant. It was slick and stylized and there was a good mix of werewolf lore (Native American skinwalkers) and the assimilation of modern day shape-shifters into today’s society. At the heart of the show was a mystery. The viewer wasn’t sure who was a wolf and who wasn’t. It starred Lou Diamond Phillips as the dogged investigator and Tim Matheson as the sheriff with a family secret. The early 2000’s marked the continuing trend of movie stars transitioning into television actors. Given the cast, expectations were high that the show would be a success. Short of Oz from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, werewolves on television hadn’t been readily shown since 1987’s Werewolf series starring Eric Cord. This comeback so to speak was unexpected and interesting.

Why it Failed: Theorists say that the show was really before its time. Remember when vampires and werewolves weren’t synonymous with the quintessential teen movie? Well, that’s when Wolf Lake aired. It aired in a time that really didn’t have a place for a niche program that spoke to such a young demographic, one that clearly didn’t exist on CBS at the time. As the show began airing in September of 2001, some believe 9/11 also impacted ratings, understandably so.

What took its place?
The Vampire Diaries and the short lived ABC drama, The Gates.


What Made it Great: Joss Whedon does a space western. Well, that’s certainly an endorsement of greatness. A finely nuanced, smart, witty, dynamic, expertly done science fiction. It’s mentioned in the same breath as the big greats, Star Trek and Star Wars. The characters are all uniquely different, all quirky and lovable, even hard-assed Jayne. There was really nothing else like this show, not before or after. I’ve extolled Firefly‘s virtues ad nauseum. No need to continue more of it here. You guys get it.

Why it Failed: Because Fox is insane. Well, we know Fox is insane, but it was really bonkers for taking this show off the air. This isn’t just my opinion — this is collective fact. The show got poor ratings, but also Fox aired episodes out of order like maniacs…so, uh, yeah. Can’t really blame Whedon for that. Despite all the follies of the network, the show lives on for forever. The original series has aired on the Sy-Fy network and is now shown on the Science Channel. There was a theatrical release, which catapulted the series into further cult status. The actors would all love to come back and strap on their thigh-guns. This browncoat has firm belief it will happen.

What took its place?
Nothing. Nothing, at all.

Kindred: the Embraced

What Made it Great: It was a sprawling vampire drama based on the role-playing game called Vampire: The Masquerade. Some may have referred to it as the vampire version of The Godfather meets Melrose Place. Aside from that paltry description, it was more about the vampire bond, family, and the masquerade of blending successfully into human society. The show revolved around Julian Luna, the Prince of the City, and the various vampire families he controlled. Essentially if you broke vampire law by killing innocents or turning them against their will, you were marked for “final death.” Creepy. It was a cool look at the genre. Sure, Dark Shadows was the traditional gothic soap opera. Kindred: the Embraced had the potential to join its ranks with its swirling story, nefarious creatures, and addictive presence. With only eight aired episodes it was cut far too short.

Why it failed: The untimely death of Mark Frankel who played Julian Luna. The show was already slated for cancellation before Frankel’s death, however. The Showtime movie network was in talks to revive the short-lived series, but didn’t move forward after Frankel’s passing. He really was the best thing about the show. Not that there couldn’t have been someone else who could fill his shoes in the last fifteen years. I’m still waiting.

What took its place?
See everything hence that involves Vampires.

Misfits of Science

What Made it Great: It was pure fantasy superhero geeked out awesomeness. We’ve all wondered what you would do if you had superpowers, what kind of person you would be. Would you save the world, fight for justice and so on. Well, in 1985 with the rise of The Greatest American Hero and Manimal, crime fighting reluctant heroes were all the rage. This is where we were first introduced to Courtney Cox, well, as an actress. (The spastic movement muscle shirt and jeans thing she did with Bruce Springsteen is a story for another day.) Any kid that was captivated by science-fiction (Hello, me) watched this show mostly for the moments when they all had to use their powers to defeat a foe. It was really sort of like the first foray into live action X-Men.

Why it failed: Aside from general cheesiness…yes, I admit it. There weren’t enough Misfits. Not saying that a group with a laundry list of powers that you can’t keep straight was the solution. Nobody wants to see Shrimp Man or Dust Buster Molly, but you need more than just lightening bolts, telekinesis and a shrinking giant. Nonetheless, this was a different type of sci-fi show, which is why most of us loved it. It just wasn’t one man or woman who had abilities, it was several, and that left the door open for many possibilities. The show was also up against Dallas, and well, there was no stopping Dallas.

What took its place?
NBC tried again twenty-years later with Heroes to marginal success.


What Made it Great: Before Ryan Murphy saw the light of musical genius and created Glee, there was Popular. It was the precursor to Mean Girls, and it also had some elements of Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, with its heart and quirk. The show did deal with some real issues like popularity, surviving high school and discovering who your real friends and enemies are, with a recurring theme that most kids share some if not all of the same basic fears deep down. It was a well done show. Funny, poignant, unexpected, and smart.

Why it failed: A cliff-hanger ending that never gets a conclusion…urgh, bad move, Network. This isn’t usually done today. It seems when a network knows a show is destined for the chopping block the writers are at least given the chance to wrap it up, thankfully. This show just ended after the second season with its main character in a hospital bed. Bad form. WB is basically the culprit. The show was moved to Fridays, therefore no one watched, and it was canceled, just like that. Murphy was promised another season and the network reneged, and then the Network became the CW, just like that.

What took its place?
What? Oh, of course. Glee.


What Made it Great: Joss Whedon. He’s spectacular at this genre. And I don’t give this praise lightly. Angel was a delightfully compelling spin-off from the Buffy flagship. We watched the tortured vampire with a soul investigate supernatural crimes and attempt to right his wrongs — one saved innocent at a time. Oh, it was glorious. Brooding David Boreanaz, beguiling Charisma Carpenter, and the never more brilliant Julie Benz, who played Angel’s sire, Darla. In my opinion it was Buffy, but kicked up a notch. The story, which kind of started as a supernatural procedural cop drama, turned into something more with heart and soul with the addition of a son and an increased number of romantic relationships on the show. The heroes were great heroes and similarly the villains were insanely evil and dastardly. A great mix.

Why it failed: Some wonky writing (Joss can get trapped a bit in his own head) caused the ratings to slip slightly, but the show was still a strong WB powerhouse. In a totally unexpected move, after a long drawn out fight that had everyone from the viewers to Joss Whedon and the actors themselves pleading to stay on air, the WB canceled Angel. Many suspect to make way for a new vampire series (rumored to be an updated Dark Shadows). Petitions ensued to bring it back, a whole online movement happened that had viewers blitzing the Warner Bro. offices with pleas for a sixth and final season or minimally a miniseries to wrap up the beloved series. It was a no go, and then the WB became the CW, just like that.

What took its place?
See everything hence that involves Vampires.

Do you agree? You’d be crazy not to. If not, tell us in the comments, and while you’re at it, share your all-time favorite shows that were canceled before their time.

Take My Love, Take My Land: Firefly Will Always Stand

So I got excited this morning when a friend texted a headline from Entertainment Weekly that said, Firefly Returning to Cable.” Seriously my heart started to flutter, and I couldn’t log on fast enough to see what the deal was. I’m not saying that this is my most fervent entertainment wish, but it would come damn close to the most exciting television news I’ve heard in nearly a decade.

So imagine my disappointment upon reading that Entertainment Weekly‘s breaking news was that the original fourteen episode series is slated to air on the Science Channel. The science channel? Of course there’s a science channel. But what is their interest in Firefly? Well, the channel has acquired the rights and will show the episodes interspersed with segments from renowned physicist, Dr. Michio Kaku, who will talk about the “theoretical science behind the show’s concepts.” Right. What, just what? Now, I’m all for discussing this great, ground-breaking series in almost any means, but to lure us dedicated fans in with a misleading headline that caused a collective gasp across all of nerddom, and not deliver news of some sort of revived series…well, that’s just harsh EW.

Or is it?

Well, if you think about it, any PR for the show is still fantastic! And the fact that the show is still in the hearts and minds of fans, television networks, and even the science community, speaks volumes for its appeal and relevancy. And a kudos from the scientific community isn’t a bad way to keep the dialogue going.

I recently watched a documentary that discussed the making of Star Wars and the lofty ideas of a young George Lucas who was looking to bring something to the screen that had never been seen before scientifically. Many thought that this odd space odyssey would never amount to much, that it would be a box office failure, and Lucas’ audience “just wouldn’t get it.” Well, we know how that turned out. Firefly has often proven itself to be the little show that could do amazing things post-screen. Despite a less than stellar turnout in ratings, and at the box office, there has always been something about Firefly that has drawn more and more fans year after year.  It’s the elaborate world in which it exists. It’s yes, the nostalgic essence of Star Wars and Star Trek, but it is also the original and complex characters and all their complicated, misfit-like, family ties and morals. To say nothing of the inventive dialogue and fun, unpredictable banter. It transcends simple cult classic, it’s more of a cult movement. It’s great that the show is still recognized on such a large scale, and each new iteration on the small screen breathes new life into a once expected to be walking dead series. And in the highest endorsement, after nearly a decade, the main star still feels the same way, and that will always lend itself to never saying never about a revisit to a live action production.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was the part about playing the character?
NATHAN FILLION: It was my favorite job ever. What wasn’t great about it? I got to wear a low-slung holster. I got to ride horses. I got to have a spaceship. I got to act mean and curmudgeonly. [Creator Joss Whedon] is really good at kicking characters in the nuts so the other characters would have laughs at my expense and that was great too.

If Castle had its series finale tomorrow and Fox said to you and Joss: “We screwed up, let’s try doing Firefly again.” Would you do it?
Yes. Yes. I would examine very closely Fox’s reasoning — I’m a little gun-shy. If I got $300 million from the California Lottery, the first thing I would do is buy the rights to Firefly, make it on my own, and distribute it on the Internet.

And, yeah, just because Fillion would strap on the thigh-guns once again if a network came calling doesn’t mean that he has no interest in the business side of things, if we’re to give credence to his off-the-cuff remarks here. The series could do a lot worse than to be captained by, well, the captain. There’s an online effort going on to secure him the rights, right now! As sci-fi site io9 has reported, fans have gathered to try and make sure those rights land in captain Mal’s capable hands website, facebook.

Conversely, some feel that the show is perfect as is, and that a short-lived beloved series and movie is the best way to go out in a blaze of glory, and that actually tinkering with a sequel or new series could sully the original and somehow reduce the goodwill the show has stored. I believe there is a very real fear out there that the show has reached such iconic status that anything following would not do it justice. But since this is Joss Whedon’s world, I think there’s not much in the universe that would make him sell this series short, and if given the chance, he could create an undeniable testament to the original and possibly surpass it in an opus not seen since the release of The Empire Strikes Back, which many believe is the trilogy’s crowning jewel. And what do the networks and movie studios have to lose? It’s not as if there has been a deluge of great sci-fi, especially not on the small screen. Need anyone remind them of what ABC and NBC have offered to the genre? And Hollywood is indeed suffering from “original idea” anemia. (Right now, if Firefly was a successful series in the UK and on the BBC network, the U.S. powers-that-be probably couldn’t wait to adapt it here.)

I’d place my bets on Whedon.

Given the momentum of the series on the small screen, I hope some studio feels the same, because there’s more story to tell, and I am anxiously awaiting its return to the ‘verse.

Update: Commenter BankerHardcore has found out that some very cool Browncoats who work for the California Lottery have sent Nathan Fillion a complimentary $1 free play Mega Millions ticket which he posted on his Twitter account. Awesome! Browncoats unite! Thanks for the tip!