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
SUMMARY: 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.
SUMMARY: 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.
SUMMARY: 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.
SUMMARY: 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?