Film & TV

Shows Cancelled Before Their Time

The cast of the short lived, much loved Firefly (Fox)

Nothing lasts forever.

Throughout the calendar year, we see countless shows that fall under the axe of TV networks. If, like me, the debris of multiple mid-season finales over the last few months are still causing you to squeal and throw your fists in a sea of raging tantrums, then this can only be seen as a good thing for your favourite shows; it at least means that people are tuning in to keep the show on the air to create big twists.

When you take a step back from the shows that continue to break the airwaves while you look for something else to sink your teeth in to, you come to realise some of the drivel that is on TV. With an array of unfunny shows and an over-abundance of talentless reality shows and fake, monotonous talent shows – wait, do I have that the right way round? – it’s no wonder why these shows failed to garner a gathering, what, being so nauseatingly awful.

Utopia (Fox)
Utopia (Fox)

This year saw shows like Utopia on FOX (a social experiment where random people were placed in a ‘utopic’ space to see how they’d get along with each other) or Karen Gillan in ABC’s Selfie (a rom-com series about… well… let’s just say it fell flat on its face before getting cancelled). Because who thought that these were good ideas for TV shows?!

But there are times when these “all-knowing” TV networks get it completely wrong and cancel a show that is, in fact, perfect; a show that has every aspect crafted perfectly with a meticulous attention to detail.

Sometimes, they’ll blame budget cuts, forcing the show off the air. Others, they just don’t like and don’t care enough about it; they then take this show and air it either out of order, or at irregular timeslots, or they just stop airing it altogether!

Sometimes the Network Gods really know how to push my buttons… But just humour me and read on, I’ll show you, on numerous occasions, where these “omnipotent” network executives have gotten it oh so very wrong.

Almost Human (Fox)
Almost Human (Fox)

Let’s start with FOX… So many things can be said about the handling of their programming and their incompetence in managing a network, but I digress. Last year – you may have missed it – thanks to their complete disregard for the show Almost Human.

Set in 2048, Almost Human starred Dredd actor Karl Urban as police officer John Kennex, who wakes up from a 17-month coma without his girlfriend, his partner and without one of his legs. Surviving a catastrophic attack on the police department and now outfitted with a highly sophisticated synthetic appendage – along with depression, trauma on-set OCD and PTSD – Kennex is persuaded to come back to work. As all cops are required to work with a robot, Kennex must overcome his aversion to androids and get accustomed to his new partner: a discontinued android with unexpected emotional responses.

What set this show apart from the other mundane police procedurals that clog our justice system of television were the outstanding special effects, perhaps thanks to producer J.J.Abrams, and the on-screen chemistry between Urban and Michael Ealy, who plays Kennex’s new robot partner. The storylines of the episodes were well-crafted and meticulously planned, as well as believable, given it was set in the future. The downfall of this show however was that FOX had failed to air the episodes in order; not to mention taking long and frequent breaks from airing each episode.

But they didn’t stop there. A short-lived summer comedy by the name of Surviving Jack aired last year that. Set with a nostalgic 90’s vibe, Surviving Jack follows Jack Dunlevy, an ex-military man and a no-nonsense guy who becomes a full-time parent when his wife decides to go to law school. He takes an unorthodox approach to keeping his teenagers, Frankie and Rachel, in line.

Any kid born in the nineties would not only adore this show for its visual appreciation but the humour of the show is something that is hard to come by; the jokes were well-timed, witty and well delivered by each of its actors. But because of irregular time slots, and not even airing the final episode, FOX pulled the plug on another great show.

The cast of the short lived, much loved Firefly (Fox)
The cast of the short lived, much loved Firefly (Fox)

Yet this wasn’t the first time that they had thrown away something so precious. I’m sure you’ve heard of Firefly. Oh you haven’t? THAT’S BECAUSE FOX CANCELLED IT!

Another short-lived cult phenomenon that, set in the future, explores the lives of a group of people who fought on the losing side of a civil war and others, who now make a living on the fringe of society, as part of the pioneer culture that now exists within their star system. A show that had everything; suspense, drama, romance, action, special effects the lot.

So let’s move away from the abysmal decision-making and the past blunders of FOX to a more reputable network. Let’s go with HBO; the home of The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, True Detective and Game of Thrones. Surely a pedigree network such as this could not have made mistakes like that of *eurgh* FOX?

Before the days of Spartacus and Game of Thrones, HBO had another hit show called Rome. But Rome’s demise was in fact its own success. Because of the complex expense of the production, HBO was forced to make a decision to renew it for the second and third season at the same time. HBO ordered a second and declined a third – a decision they must have regretted when season two debuted to a better reception than the first (with a few Emmy nominations as well). By the time the network realized its mistake it was too late; they had already released the actors, who had moved on to other things. Still, Rome was a real game-changer that helped pave the way for shows like Game of Thrones, Spartacus, The Borgias and The Tudors to name a few.

A much loved film staple, TV just wasn't ready for this western. Deadwood (HBO)
A much loved film staple, TV just wasn’t ready for this western. Deadwood (HBO)

But this was not the first thread to be cut short by HBO; Deadwood, a drama about wrangling the West into shape included a cast as big as a small, uncivilized frontier town. But Deadwood ended before the West was truly won, and even creator David Milch’s empty promise of a series of TV movies to accompany the show was not enough to stop the cancellation of the nostalgia-hitting phenomenon.

CBS’s Jericho is yet another show, which helped pave the way for the hit series’ we know and love today. The apocalypse wasn’t nearly as hot in 2006 as it is today in shows like AMC’s The Walking Dead and (the now cancelled) NBC show Revolution. A fervent fan-base saved Jericho from becoming a one-season wonder by mailing CBS executives 20 tonnes of nuts (a nod to a quote on the show by Skeet Ulrich’s Jake Green), but consistent lacklustre ratings in season 2 forced the “all-seeing” Eye (get it, because CBS’s logo is an eye…forget it) to pull the plug after seven episodes. But that didn’t stop Lennie James from playing a string of mysterious characters in post-apocalyptic shows, first in Jericho and now portraying the mysterious Morgan Jones in The Walking Dead.

Now, before I bore you to death with too much pessimism and over-the-top-pent-up anger issues with certain television networks, let me tell you about the “home of comedy” that is NBC.

Before the turn of the century, back in 1999, NBC had a revolutionary show in Judd Apatow’s Dramedy Freaks & Geeks. The show that starred James Franco, Seth Rogen, Linda Cardellini and Jason Segel would have been an instantaneous hit today with names like that attached.

Even the good things come to an end; After 5 seasons Community is off the air. (NBC)
Even the good things come to an end; after 5 seasons Community is off the air. (NBC)

But this was unfortunately not the case. Freaks & Geeks emphasized the everyday struggles of teenagers as it followed the lives of Lindsay Weir (Cardellini) and her younger brother Sam. Freaks & Geeks highlighted their relationships with their new friends, as well as the friction that was sparked between them and their parents. One central strand of the show is Lindsay’s change in her self-image from the star academic to a troubled slacker; the other follows Sam and his group of geeky friends as they navigate a different part of the social universe.

The inconvenient truth of this is that they pulled the plug on a show that was so hard-hitting, and undercut expertly by well-timed comedy, it had the potential to set NBC apart from the rest… As did Community.

Community is an American sitcom that follows a group of students at a community college in the fictional and dysfunctional locale of Greendale. The series heavily uses meta-humour and popular culture references, often parodying other films and television clichés and tropes. The show also holds many familiar and famous faces within its main cast, along the likes of Ken Jeong, Alison Brie, Chevvy Chase, Johnathan Banks, Joel McHale and Donald Glover.

But this summer, NBC decided to pull the plug after five illustrious seasons, even with a cult following bigger than Firefly; the tagline fans had adopted – “Six Seasons and a Movie” – was just not what NBC wanted for some reason…

May all is not lost, and the online streaming sites can bring back the shows for a much needed second outing... Arrested Development (Netflix)
All is not lost, and the online streaming sites can bring back the shows for a much needed second outing… like Arrested Development (Netflix)

But before things slip into the “darkest timeline”, there is always that beacon of light. And much like the Beacons of Gondor, the Beacons of Television have been lit to tell television networks that something big is coming; online subscription services. Yahoo!, keen to get their online service up and running revived the innovative show that is Community for another season. Let’s hope the season pays off and the movie shortly follows!

But this is not the first time that ground-breaking shows have been saved by the internet. Arrested Development, which had its plug pulled by FOX – why even bother with this network – will be seeing a revival on the online conglomerate that is Netflix.

So, while we’ve seen the demise of some exceptionally great shows, the constant growth of online networks means that it is quite possible that some shows will start to make the jump and move with the times… especially with television networks continually making blunders like the ones above, the world of online television looks to become the safe haven for a number of shows.

…No real surprise there though, is there?