Discontinued Sci-fi and Fantasy TV Shows: What’s Your Pick From the Graveyard?

Have you ever watched a TV show that got cancelled before reaching its final season, or even after its first season? If you enjoyed a show like this you might look back on it with frustration, disappointment or just a vague sense of something left unfinished.

For me, there are four discontinued shows that stick out in my memory. I’m not distraught that I didn’t see them reach an ending – there are enough other great television series out there to console me. Still, whenever I think of them I wonder how they might have ended had they continued and I feel this urge to discuss them with other people: Do you remember that one? Did anyone else watch and enjoy that? 

So I thought I’d give one last tribute to these four fantasy and science fiction shows slain before their time:

Now and Again

Image: Now and Again PosterSUMMARY: Family man Michael Wiseman (John Goodman) gets hit by a train and killed. His brain is transplanted into the body of a genetically-engineered soldier (Eric Close), the idea being the government hasn’t yet worked out how to engineer brains. He’s not allowed to have contact with his wife and kids (this is top secret stuff! He’s government property!) and has to train for combat, but he finds it hard to disconnect from his loved ones and old life.

Anyone remember this one? It came out in 1999. I was very young when I watched it so my memories of it are sketchy at best, and I can’t attest to its quality from an adult perspective. However, there is one thing I do remember – at the time it was screening, I was addicted. I loved this show. I watched it every week.

The first season ended on somewhat of a cliffhanger, with the main character fleeing the government and going on the run with his family. In a sense, it still provided some sort of a resolution, which is why I didn’t mind so much that they didn’t continue the show… but I still never got to see what happened after that, or to see him reveal his true identity to his family, so I felt a little cheated.

Apparently, the show just wasn’t popular enough, and too expensive to make. CBS cancelled it after the first season.

Terra Nova

Image: Terra Nova PosterSUMMARY: In a dystopian future, humans have polluted and screwed up the world, but they’ve found a temporal rift that allows them to send people back to the Earth’s Cretaceous Period (dinosaurs!). Now they are sending colonisers through to make a new clean utopian home for humanity. Of course, all is not as it seems in this utopian ‘fresh start’. Think Jurassic Park meets Avatar, but as a family-friendly TV series with less horror.

This one is from 2011, produced by Steven Spielberg. It was also cancelled after the first season by Fox, and in this case, yes, I can see the show had its flaws. At he beginning it centred around a family of characters that were a little too sickeningly perfect and happy (I think the show was trying to be an all-round family show like Merlin, but included content a bit beyond young kids, as well as content too kiddy for adults). It also had a little too much happy-happy dinosaur gazing in the first episodes.

Despite initial thoughts of giving up, I stuck with it, and as it progressed the show got a lot more interesting, dark, and charged with conflict. Unfortunately by then I think it was too late. It hadn’t garnered and kept that initial audience it needed to justify the massive cost of making it. It’s a real shame because the concept was really intriguing and it had a good team and lot of money behind it, so it could have been great.

Carnivàle

Image: Carnivale PosterSUMMARY: Carnivàle is set in the Depression-era 1930s Dustbowl (USA) and centres around a man with mysterious healing powers who joins a traveling carnival troupe. A truly creepy demonic priest (brilliantly played by Clancy Brown) appears to be the antagonist. With a cast of weird and wonderful Carnie characters, semi-religious magic and mythology, the story was full of mystery and intrigue.

I think this is a show that suffered not so much because of a lack of audience but because of the expense of making it. Each episode purportedly cost about $4 million to make, and as ratings dipped for the 2nd season, HBO chose to cancel it rather than making a 3rd season. Rumour has it that they would have continued if the producers had been willing to lower costs to $2 million an episode, but that it just wasn’t feasible (which you can understand when you see the large cast, the sets and the period costumes).

I found this show quirky and disturbing and a little confusing, but still intriguing, with an amazing visual aesthetic and sense of era and place. I think the saddest thing about the cancellation is that so many strings were left untied, so I still don’t really know what it was all about and most of my questions weren’t answered. I wouldn’t count myself a major fan (it was a little too abstract and creepy to be 100% to my taste) but I enjoyed it, and I would have liked to see how it ended.

V (2009)

Image: V 2009 TV Series PosterSUMMARY: A technologically superior alien race has arrived on earth and made peaceful contact with humans. Their highly composed, ultra-calm Queen Anna (played by Morena Baccarin), makes a show of sharing alien technologies with the human race and healing the sick. However, FBI counter-terrorism agent Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell) and several other humans suspect that these “Visitors”, and their Queen, have much more sinister motives.

This show only ran for two seasons, and was based on a 1983 TV miniseries of the same name. Of all my picks from the TV show graveyard, I think ‘V’ is the one whose cancellation disappointed me the most. The alien Queen was so wonderfully sinister with her sickly-sweet façade, and the secret plans and projects of the aliens were delightfully disturbing. Furthermore, the fact that the few humans who saw through the grand lie needed to feign ignorance or risk becoming targets meant the show was full of tension. And while it had its flaws, it was still a highly suspenseful, classic and well-made sci-fi thriller.

I think it was discontinued by ABC due to a drop in ratings, and although some fans petitioned for it to continue, it never saw a 3rd season. A shame, because the end of the 2nd season was incredibly dramatic and I would have loved to see how the story continued.

____

So those are my four top picks for enjoyable sci-fi and fantasy TV series that didn’t make it to a final season. Does anyone else have series they were sad to see cancelled? Or conversely, ones they thought were rightfully canned?

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28 thoughts on “Discontinued Sci-fi and Fantasy TV Shows: What’s Your Pick From the Graveyard?

  1. I was a huge fan of Carnivàle! Glad to know I wasn’t the only one left waiting for episodes that never came, even if it wasn’t quite to your taste. It reminded me of a combination of Ray Bradbury and Clive Barker.

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    • Yes it was such an intriguing, clever and well-made show. I think the only reason I wasn’t as much of a fan as other people I know is because I’m not generally into horror and it did have that menacing, dark horror-ish feel to it at points. But I still really liked it and wanted to know what happened next. I definitely would have continued watching if I could have!

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  2. I watched Terra Nova, and yes, a pity. V I could not get into.. I can think of a lot of truly missed show. The whole Stargate saga (sg1, although they had a 10 year run). But SG Universe was canceled after 2 seasons, and too bad. Once upon a time I was a huge fan of Sliders, my life was never the same when they rushed and screwed up the end 🙂 Thanks for the post!

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  3. Almost Human. The episodes were aired out of order and disturbed what could have been interesting world building and character growth. Instead, relationships seemed and out of place and pertinent information about the setting was revealed too late or too early. It could have been so interesting!

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      • If I remember correctly they changed the order to have more compelling one-off stories at the beginning of the series, then have the larger plot arc later. I noticed it when two of the main characters were suddenly much better friends than made any sort of sense, only to find out that it was a late season episode aired early.

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  4. I tend to completely stop watching a show when its cancelled, not sure what it is but I tend to want to watch “live” shows not dead ones. As a result there are a quite a few where I never reached the last episodes. Terra Nova is one you mentioned. The big one for me and mentioned here in the comments was Stargate Universe. It was great show, much in the vein of Battlestar Galatica in its character conflict, but I understand that it may have been a bit too intense for its core audience. Afterall the rest of Stargate franchises were pretty fluffy in comparison (although I enjoyed them just as much). Firefly was another, I didn’t know it was cancelled before I started watching it. Star Trek Enterprise too, though I wasn’t all enamoured with that, it was entertaining. It seems to me that recently tv shows aren’t given a chance to develop as they use to. Star Trek The Next Generation was shocking in the first couple of seasons. It would have been cancelled mid way through season one if released today, and see how good that became.

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    • Yes true I think the bar is so high now that if the first season or even the first few episodes fall flat it’s likely to just get cancelled. But I guess with so many shows out there are amazing from the get-go they have to compete… Unfortunate for any slow-burning shows though, I’ve known quite a few of them.

      Ones I also find interesting though are the opposite kinds of shows – where they start out strong and then deteriorate. For example, Flash Forward had a killer first episode and seemed set to be the next big thing, but throughout the season it just got odd and confusing and lost all that suspense and drama. I gave up on it and wasn’t that surprised when I heard it was cancelled.

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      • Yeah and then there are shows that have good first seasons, show plenty of promise then sort of belly flop. Defiance was one of those, cancelled after season three. It must be a bit sad for the actors and crew of such shows. You’d have been with each other for long enough at that point to develope some good relationships.

        Lately I haven’t been a big watcher of tv, but I’ve attached myself to two shows, The Expanse and Dark Matter, both scifi, both have been renewed for second seasons. Here’s hoping they have long and fruitful lives! I really don’t want to hear their dying echoes across the internet (the bring back stargate universe facebook page) any time soon! Needless to say I recommend both, but you might want to wait a while before you take a chance 😉

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  5. These sound great- I hate when programmes end before their time. Personally, I know it was a ridiculous programme but I loved Legend of the Seeker. And I also enjoyed Witches of East End. But the biggest blow for me was when Merlin ended- because that was actually a good show. I know it technically finished, but the ending felt so rushed because they had planned to go on. And I don’t think I’ll ever get over that finishing 😥

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      • I had the same reaction when I watched it with my sister- I just went “noooooooo! they can’t end it like that!!” Because it is crazy that they left it at that :/ I also really wanted to see Merlin and Arthur’s relationship develop after arthur found out about his powers- which we didn’t really get 😦

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        • I’m glad to hear it wasn’t just me that was annoyed. Arthur finally found out about Merlin’s powers and we only had one episode to see it!! And I know how the traditional Arthurian legend ends but surely they could have made an exception for this adaptation… Or at least not done it so soon – I was shocked. It just completely didn’t fit with the tone of the show. I liked other things about the episode but as an ending it sucked. I’m still wondering if they’re going to make a modern day version because of that flash forward thing they did but perhaps that is just wishful thinking… And even if they did it probably wouldn’t be the same… Sigh!

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        • Exactly!! I don’t know why they didn’t just tell him sooner if they knew it was gonna be cancelled- then we could’ve actually seen that play out! Yeah it doesn’t work for adaptations, cos it’s too corny and, you’re right, it didn’t fit with the tone of the show at all. They could’ve come up with something different.
          I really hoped they would, but it doesn’t look like that’s ever gonna happen 😦 yeah I know- such a shame! It would’ve been cool to have all the characters in modern day as well (in a way)

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