CANCELLED! The Best TV Shows That Were Gone Before Their Time

by GregFahlgren

Examining the very best Television programs that were ended to early, why they cancelled, and what their legacy is today.

Television is a funny business. One of the largest and most integral parts of the entertainment industry, TV is something we all consume each and every day, our favourite shows tiny escapes from the harsh realities of life. Let’s face it, we all have a list of favourite shows that mean something to us, that we can’t miss no matter what, and that we will watch over and over again no matter how many times our loved ones threaten to beat us to death if we force them to watch one more episode. But sometimes, the shows that we love end too early, leaving us wanting more or unsatisfied at the conclusion. There are a plethora of reasons this happens, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating when a show that you really enjoy is taken away from you too soon.

Today, I am going to look at a number of shows that were ended before their time. Some ran for only a season or less, others had long runs and were cut short in their prime. But all of them have one thing in common: they were taken off the air while they still had stories to tell, much to the disappointment of those of us that wanted to hear them.

Chokepoints

Realities of the Entertainment Industry

Okay, so why do shows get cancelled? That is a very good question, and one that is a little more complicated than it seems on the surface. To make things easy on everyone, I’m going to use a model that I found from pro wrestling’s mad scientist, Paul Heyman. Mr Heyman described the entertainment industry as a “funny commodity”, and that there are three “chokepoints” (ie, anything that can make the venture go off the rails) to any entertainment venture.

The first chokepoint is finances. If I were producing a TV Show, I need finances to pay my actors, rent a studio space, hire workman, etc. If I don’t have finances to pay for those things, I can’t do anything.  I could have the best scripts ever written, but if I have no money to produce it, I’m going nowhere.

The second chokepoint is content. I could have a billion dollars to produce a show, but if I don’t have quality scripts written, I have nothing. Content drives ratings, which in turn drive advertising sales (which help with finances). If I don’t have a program with content that will grab people and make them want to watch my show, then I can’t get anywhere with the project.

The third and final chokepoint is distribution. I could have the best scripts, and the money needed to produce the show, but if I don’t have a TV station or network to air my product then producing it is pointless. Content needs a platform to reach the consumer, and if I have no distribution for my content, then my product will never reach those consumers.

Any one or all of these chokepoints can lead to a TV show being cancelled. In some cases it is a strange circumstance that does it, but at the end of the day, it all results to the same end. Everyone understand? Okay, let’s move on.

Stark Raving Mad

First up is probably the best sitcom you’ve never heard of, and a show that I still to this day feel could have been something very special. Why? Let’s set the stage: Stark Raving Mad took Neil Patrick Harris, playing a neurotic romance novel editor, Tony Shalhoub, a mildly psychotic horror author, and put them together in a new, slightly off-key, version of The Odd Couple. What resulted is one of the funniest sitcoms I’ve ever watched.

Stark Raving Mad went on the air in 1999 as part of NBC’s Thursday night comedy block, appearing after Frasier, Jesse (which we’ll get to in a bit), and Friends. With such great company, the show received good ratings, and a positive critical response, two things that almost always guarantee getting picked up for a second season. The story of these two men trying to work together was truly hilarious, both lead actors showing their chops. It also featured a great window into the process of writing a novel, and having a lot of laughs along the way with fun stories, great characters, and a wonderful premise.

Why did it get cancelled? The chokepoint here was distribution. In simple terms, Stark Raving Mad fell through the cracks. At the time, NBC would air all their sitcoms on Tuesdays and Thursdays. With Jesse getting the axe after its second season (talk about that next), NBC execs wanted to move Will & Grace over to Thursday to air just after Friends to combat to the growing popularity of Survivor. However, the producers at Just Shoot Me, which aired just after Will & Grace, were terrified that they would lose much of their audience as a good portion of their ratings came from the spill over Will & Grace fans. Therefore, NBC moved both shows to Thursday night, airing at 9 PM, and moved Frasier over to Thursdays. In the shuffle, Stark Raving Mad was forgotten, and quietly cancelled during the summer. It’s a strange case of a well-received show with decent ratings getting the axe purely because of a scheduling issue that had NOTHING to do with the show itself.

The only good thing I can say about what happened to Stark Raving Mad, was that unlike other shows, it didn’t end on a cliff hanger in the season finale. The last episode ended with Shalhoub and Harris toasting to the publication of Shalhoub’s latest novel, declaring, “We did it!” to end the season. Not many shows have the good luck of ending on a good note when they get the axe so quickly, but Stark Raving Mad was thankfully one of the exceptions to the rule.

Jesse

Stark Raving Mad was an example of a good show getting cancelled for nothing to do with itself. Conversely, the other sitcom from NBC to be cancelled that year, Jesse, is a prime example of a show that get cancelled purely on its own decisions.

Billed as the return of Christina Applegate to TV, the first season got rave reviews as we follow Applegate’s portrayal as a single mother, working in her father’s bar to make ends meet. The supporting cast, including the lead character’s brothers, two best friends, father, and next door neighbour/boyfriend, were fantastic, coming together to make a smart, funny show that fit perfectly between ratings giants Friends and Frasier. The show was so well received that it was renewed for second season, and seemed poised to become a standout for NBC’s Thursday night comedy block.

Why did it get cancelled? The chokepoint in this case was content, and specifically, the content of the second season. The season began with only Jesse, her kids, the two best friends and her boyfriend being brought back, her brothers and father mysteriously vanishing from sight. The show’s setting changed from the local bar to a med-school, where two new characters were added as Jesse’s co-workers and teachers. The show was still funny, still well written, and the new guys fit in perfectly with the cast, but the sudden shift and the lack of explanation of her family disappearing was both jarring and confusing to many fans. This shift caused the ratings to plummet, and the show was soon in serious jeopardy of being cancelled. To make matters worse, the writers and producers didn’t seem to notice, writing the season finale as a cliff hanger which was never resolved as nearly the moment after the episode was produced the series was axed.

Jesse is a true case of a show trying to do too much too soon. The career shift and new supporting cast would have been fine, but the execution was just too sudden, the two seasons so distinguishable from each other that they almost felt like a different show. This is not uncommon in sitcoms, season to season things often change, but making that sudden a shift spelled doom for Jesse, and the only people the producers and writers have to blame are themselves. Hate to put it so harshly, but it is what it is.

Mortal Kombat Conquest

In the wake of the Mortal Kombat franchise exploding in popularity during the 1990s, it is no surprise that Hollywood wanted to get in on the MK phenomenon. After two movies (one pretty good, the other horrendously bad), many fans were eager for more. Thus, Mortal Kombat Conquest was born. Instead of continuing the story of the characters from the films, they decided to go back in time to the original Kung Lao, telling his story along with two new characters to help Lao fight against Shang Tsung, Shao Khan, and others.

The show was admittedly a little ridiculous, but it fit right in with the Mortal Kombat theme, every episode featuring great fights, bringing in MK characters from all over the place, and playing right into the mythology of the franchise. The end of the first season saw a incredible cliff hanger with one of the best best villain victory speeches I’ve ever heard. I look back on that speech with no short amount of sadness however, because there never was a second season.

Why did it get cancelled? Despite what some people say about the program’s content, the chokepoint in this case actually content. The content was aimed at a niche audience obviously, but it still had decent ratings, it’s placement alongside WCW Monday Nitro helping quite a bit. However, the production cost of the show went way higher than the producers had anticipated, and though the plan for the second season was to resolve the cliff hanger and wrap up the series to fit within the MK timeline, TNT didn’t see renewing the show for a second season as financially viable. Thus, it was cancelled after one season, and faded into obscurity. It is available on DVD, and I would recommend watching it if you’re a Mortal Kombat fan, but the cliff hanger left a bitter taste in my mouth, and is a prime example of a show spending itself into cancellation.

K-Ville

Back in 2007, New Orleans was still recovering the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the city and its people forever changed by the disaster. K-Ville was an attempt to produce a show in the beleaguered town, surrounding two police officers as they try to navigate the difficult territory that was New Orleans at that time. Starring Anthony Anderson in the lead role, and backed by a stellar supporting cast, the show had the potential to be something really special in the realm of procedural cop shows. Having watched the first few episodes, I will say that it had all the right elements to make a great show. Unfortunately, it didn’t last more than a year, and was quietly taken off the air in 2008.

Why did it get cancelled? The chokepoint that killed ­K-Ville was distribution. In 2008, there was a massive writer’s strike in Hollywood, many shows forced to go on hiatus until it was settled. Shows that had tenured runs were fairly safe, but new shows that were just getting started were in serious danger of cancellation, K-Ville being one of them. By the time the strike was settled, K-Ville had only produced ten episodes, airing less than that, and was not considered to be worth keeping after the strike, and was quietly cancelled before the strike ended. Anthony Anderson would make a move over to NBC for Law & Order, but I always felt disappointed that a show with so much potential got killed not because of its own failings, but because of labour dispute. Not blaming the writers, I don’t know enough about that situation to make a comment, but it was a shame that K-Ville didn’t get the chance it truly deserved.

Spider-Man: The Animated Series

The mere mention of this show will bring both smiles and frowns for anyone that grew up watching cartoons in the 90s. Driven by the success of X-Men: The Animated Series, Spider-Man was an outstanding achievement in animation. The show ran the gambit, having continuing episodes with massive stories pulled from all corners of the Marvel Universe and Spider-Man’s past. Running for five seasons, it was a one of the most popular animated shows of the decade, and seemed prime to continue on for as long as the fans would watch it.

Then, the unthinkable happened. After it’s last ten episodes or so, which adapted the mega-event Marvel crossover Secret Wars and even went a little beyond that, the final scene was Spidey and Madam Web going off to find Mary Jane and save her from whatever fate had befallen her. Fans EVERYWHERE expected another season to wrap the story up, and even go beyond that. But there was no sixth season, no straight-to-video release where we’d get an explanation, nothing. The show was just cancelled out of nowhere, leaving fans everywhere scratching their heads.

Why was it cancelled? No one seems to know. The numbers for the show were good, even after X-Men went off the air, and FOX KIDS was still going strong at that time. Frankly, I don’t think we’ll ever truly know why the show was pulled after such a successful run, but often with animated kids shows series get pulled or cancelled for the silliest of reasons, and Spider-Man was just another tragic example of that.

Two Guys and Girl

A sitcom from the late 90s, Two Guys and a Girl started out as Two Guys, a Girl, and Pizza Place, with the simple premise of three roommates who worked and hung out at a pizza place while trying to get through college. As the show went forward, old characters were shuffled aside, new ones brought in (including Nathan Fillion BTW), the Pizza Place eventually abandoned as the characters moved on with their lives.

The show was a hit at first, fans loving the cast (lead by a young Ryan Reynolds) as they navigated their hilarious misadventures, and the show easily became of a favourite among the ABC comedy line-up. The show was also known for having “special episodes”, specifically their Halloween efforts that I personally found absolutely hysterical. The fan following increased hugely every season, and the show was poised to have a good run of things, going for four seasons before being unceremoniously cancelled after a sort-of cliff hanger ending.

Why was it cancelled? The chokepoint with Two Guys and a Girl was distribution, more specifically bad distribution in its final season. The show garnered good numbers for the first three years of its existence, but then it was moved to form a new Thank Goodness Its Friday lineup for ABC. The show was then partnered with three new shows (none of which made it past one season), and was cancelled after lackluster ratings in their fourth year. The move to Fridays was considered the death knell for Two Guy and a Girl, a move that ABC would repeat a few more times with other shows, nearly always getting the same results. It’s a real shame because the show was genuinely funny, and had a lot of potential to be something really great. But that’s TV for you, where one scheduling decision can kill even the very best of shows.

Wolverine and the X-Men

Another animated show from comic book lore, Wolverine and the X-Men debuted on Disney/ABX in 2008 as a new show featuring everyone’s favourite comic book mutants, the X-Men. Captilizing on Wolverine’s increasing popularity, the story centres on Logan, and his struggle to lead the X-Men against their enemies while Professor Xavier lies in a coma. The show took an interesting approach to the stories, making Wolverine the leader instead of Cylcops, having Professor X speaking to them backwards through time from a future not unlike Days of Future Past, and weaving classic X-Men enemy’s such as Bolivar Trask, Magneto, and the Hellfire Club into the mix. The show was also unique in that it didn’t try to reinvent the wheel or start from scratch. The X-Men in this program were already well established, and their relationships were largely developed by the time the show began.

This formula made for a highly entertaining show, showcasing the X-Men as a weird, dysfunctional family fighting against all odds for each other and the rest of the world. The writers and producers drew stories from across the X-Men’s history, each one carefully crafted with loving detail. In the end, Wolverine and the X-Men became one of the best comic book cartoons in history, and a worthy successor to X-Men: The Animated Series from years past, which is why it is such a surprise that the program only lasted on season.

Why was it cancelled? That’s a good question, as with most animated shows there is no clear cut answer. The ratings were decent, and the show was gaining a fair following. The writers and producers had even released images for a planned Season 2, introducing classic X-Men such as Jubilee, Magick, and a host of others. ABC pulled the plug on the series in the off-season, leaving many to scratch our heads as to why. But, it is still a great show with a ton of potential, it’s just too bad never got fully realized.

Angel

A spin-off of the uber-popular Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel took the popular love interest for Buffy, played by David Boreanaz, and sent Angel to LA to fight demons and the like. Joined by an ever-changing and superb cast (filled with Buffy alumni), Angel was an instant hit and a great companion to everyone’s favourite show about slaying vampires. The show did have a bit of different tone, going further out there with storylines than Buffy did most times, but for the most part, the show was a major success, becoming one of the WB’s top rated dramas for several years. However, in a huge shock, it was cancelled after season 5 without much explanation, ending on a cliff hanger after the highest rated season in the show’s history.

Why did it get cancelled? The chokepoint for Angel was distribution. Simply put, the Head of Entertainment for WB, Jordan Levin, got angry that creator and show-runner Joss Whedon asked for an early renewal. I’m not joking, that is the reason. Head writer David Fury explained what happened some time later in an interview, “The only reason that Angel didn't come back... it's a very simple thing. Because our ratings were up, because of our critical attention, Joss specifically asked Jordan Levin, who was the head of The WB at the time, to give us an early pick-up because every year they would wait so long to give Angel a pick-up and a lot of us would turn down jobs hoping that Angel will continue – Joss didn't want that to happen. So, he was feeling very confident and Joss just asked Jordan, ‘Like, make your decision now whether you're going to pick us up or not,’ and Jordan, sort of with his hands tied, with his back up against the wall, called him the next day and said, "Okay, we're cancelling you." Jordan's no longer there and The WB has since recognized... I believe Garth Ancier at The WB said that it was a big mistake to cancel Angel. There was a power play that happened that just didn't fall out the way they wanted it to. We wanted to get an early pick-up, we didn't. In fact, we forced them to make a decision, and with his hand forced Levin made the decision to cancel us. I guarantee that, if we waited as we normally did, by the time May had come around they would have picked up Angel. I can guarantee that.”

Fans were outraged of course, the show being cancelled one of the single dumbest things that The WB ever did. I’m being a little biased here, but why wouldn’t a network want to renew one of its highest rated shows? Politics in these kind of situations are the worst, often responsible for decisions being made that is not in the best interested for the network. There was an attempt to get the show picked up by UPN (which had picked up Buffy a few years earlier), but it was to no avail. Joss Whedon would pen a follow up comic book series to finish the story, but it was a shame that the sixth season could never happen the way it was meant to.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Now, I will preface this by saying that I’ve only seen bits and pieces of this show, but I have several friends who were big fans and heard great things about it that I felt that I had to include it for this piece. The Sarah Connor Chronicles occurs after the second Terminator film, following Sarah Connor and her son John as they continue their fight against the Machines with the aid of another Terminator played by one of my favourite actresses, Summer Glau. The show had a great premise, was loyal to the mythology of the franchise, and had a great platform to go on. It was well received by fans and critics alike leading to decent ratings for the first season, giving for FOX to order a second season. However, it was cancelled after that season, disappointing a legion of Terminator fans.

Why was it cancelled? The chokepoint here again was distribution, mixed with a little bit of finances and content. Though the ratings for the first season were good, they couldn’t sustain those numbers in the second, and if the ratings aren’t there to satisfy the advertisers, a network can’t pay for the show. My opinion on why this happened is that despite the heavy marketing, many Terminator fans still had a pretty bad taste in their mouths from the third film, and didn’t check it out initially. Casual viewers weren’t really interested, and with major networks casual viewers are often the biggest part of their audience. Those fans that were watching tried to campaign to keep the show on the air, but in the end, the cost of the show was not worth what little return FOX was getting and they were forced to cancel it. Sad, but we have to remember that television can be a cutthroat, heartless business, and even the best shows fall victim to it more often than not.

 

Young Justice

Another classic comic book animated show, Young Justice is widely considered to be the best DC Animated program since Justice League Unlimited. Taking the sidekicks of the major DC heroes and throwing them together into a team, the show takes us on a series of adventures with the young heroes, full of secrets, intrigue, teenage romance, and no small amount of action. The show did an excellent job of representing these young heroes through the two seasons, showing their growth and evolution, as well as their relationships with their various mentors. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a DC cartoon more than Young Justice, the tone perfect for that universe, and creating amazingly loveable characters by just allowing them to speak for themselves. The second season was especially good, adding new members to the team which allowed the older ones to mature and reach their full potential, something that doesn’t happen enough with teen heroes. The second season ended with a huge reveal, gearing fans up for a third season that would have been bigger and more incredible than the last. Unfortunately, WB announced the show would be cancelled unexpectedly, leaving many fans in total shock and disgust.

Why did it get cancelled? The chokepoint here was financing, though that was not clear at first. For years there was speculation from fans about this move, some even suggesting that WB did not want the female audience the show had garnered. Show runner Greg Weisman however cleared things up in 2016, stating that a large part of the show’s funding came from a toy line by Mattel, and when Mattel cancelled that toy line, they also pulled their funding. Without that money, WB could not afford to continue to produce the show. There has been major talk about reviving the show on Netflix, and hopefully those rumours are true. Until then however, Young Justice will remain one of the best shows to be cancelled in the last ten years.

Constantine

In the wake of the success of shows like Arrow, Agents of SHIELD, Flash, and others, NBC decided the time was right to jump on the bandwagon, green lighting a new adaption for DC’s resident sarcastic magic user with a somewhat heart of silver, Constantine. The show’s premise was to take Constantine on a journey of redemption while exploring the magical side of DC that many heroes never go near. The show received a good critical response, lead actor Matt Ryan in particular praised for his portrayal of the cigarette smoking sorcerer. The ratings actually outperformed Flash, Arrow, and Agents of SHIELD on a consistent basis, and easily becoming a fan favourite among viewers. But, NBC didn’t like the numbers coming in having expected the show to do much better, and cancelled it at the end of the first season.

Why did it get cancelled? The chokepoint here was, big surprise, distribution. More specifically, Constantine was a victim of being on too large a distribution channel. I know that sounds strange, but allow me to explain. The show was consistently outperforming the other superhero shows at the time, but that was mainly due to the fact that it was on one of the major networks while the rest (save Agents of SHIELD), were on smaller distribution channels like the CW Network. Major networks have higher rating requirements to satisfy their advertisers, and the numbers for Constantine were just not as high as NBC felt they needed to be, and NBC cancelled the show. There was an attempt by the CW to purchase the rights, and a significant fan movement to get the show picked up by Netflix, but it was all for nought. The show-runner flat out said the show was over, and fans were left to scratch their heads as to why the producers would give up like that. Nevertheless, the show lives on spiritually, Matt Ryan even making an appearance on Arrow in its fourth season. Hopefully it will lead to revival, but until such time as something is announced, Constantine will continue to fade away.

The Lone Gunmen

The only true spin-off from The X-Files, The Lone Gunmen debuted in 2001 as a new series focusing on the trio of paranoid geeks that just happened to be Mulder’s best friends. The Gunmen, who were so paranoid they made Mulder look rational, were always on the lookout for new government conspiracies, uncovering or attempting to uncover whatever they could. The show was well-received, the writing superb and the characters easy to become invested in. Unfortunately, the show only lasted half a season, being cancelled only a year before The X-Files ended its nine year run.

Why was it cancelled? The chokepoint here was content. The Lone Gunmen was the right show with the right cast with the right writers, at the wrong time. The show debuted in March 2001 at a time when the citizens of the USA were beginning to turn away from conspiracy theories. Though the show had decent ratings, the reception was not a good as FOX had hoped, the changing attitude of society and the declining interest in The X-Files making many FOX execs feel that The Lone Gunmen was a waste of effort. After it was cancelled, the show’s story was concluded on an episode of The X-Files the next year, leaving no loose ends thankfully. The show had potential, no question there, but like I said, it was the right place at the wrong time, and timing is everything in entertainment 

The Adventures of Sinbad

In the 1990s, shows like Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess were extremely popular. Thus, it was no surprise that another classic mythical hero got adapted to the small screen soon after those shows came on the air, and with much fanfare, Sinbad came sailing onto the airwaves in classic style.

The show was essentially a retelling of the adventures of said hero from Arabian Nights, and was a near instant hit among younger fans. I personally watched it every Saturday loyally for two years, the characters and story telling the perfect thing for a young Greg Fahlgren to sink his teeth into. Even with the changes in the second season, replacing the show’s best character, Maeve (due to contract disputes with the actress), with another good (but not as good) sorceress Bryn, the show was still some of the most fun I had watching TV as a kid, and given the cult following the show still has to this day, I was not alone in that sentiment.

Why was it cancelled? Despite solid ratings and an incredibly positive response from fans and critics, the show fell into contract disputes with the network, which lead to the show not be renewed. This is a sad event, given how good the show was, but as I’ve said before, if you don’t have distribution, you’re out of business in the entertainment world. The third season had promised some important story reveals, possibly even a finale, but unfortunately those things never came to fruition, and the Adventures of Sinbad sailed quietly off into the night.

Stargate Franchise

If any of you are familiar with the Stargate franchise, you might be asking why I’ve included it on this list given that the franchise was at one point one of the most successful Sci-Fi franchises in history. Bearing that in mind, the franchise is pretty well dead these days, and there are a number of reasons why one of the best new franchises in the genre is nowhere to be found today.

You see, Stargate started in 1994 as a major motion picture. Released by MGM, the movie was a massive success, and there were talks of two more films to be released as part of a trilogy. However, MGM decided that the concept would work far better as a TV Show, calling the Stargate device itself the greatest plot device in Sci-Fi since the USS Enterprise. Thus, Stargate SG-1 was born, and went on to become one of the longest running Sci-Fi shows in history. It spawned a spin-off, Stargate Atlantis, that also ran for five years, and both shows established the Stargate franchise as one of the best and brightest in Sci-Fi.

However, in 2006, things went screwy. Stargate SG-1 had entered its tenth season, and was one of the highest rated shows on Sci-Fi. However, shortly after their 200th episode, it was announced that the show would not be renewed, and the writers were forced wrap things up. However, given the stories they had planned, such a thing was impossible, and thus two direct to DVD movies were produced to tie up loose ends. Both movies were successful, but fans everywhere questioned why Sci-Fi would want to give up such a profitable show. They still had Atlantis, but that situation was about to become very complicated.

With Atlantis, the show had become a success and despite some rough patches, had gained quite the following by itself, its third season alone running some of its highest rated episodes. However, with some questionable casting and creative changes at the end of that season, and again in season 4 and 5, the fan-base began to falter, ratings began to drop, and the show was cancelled at its 100th episode, the Wraith storyline nowhere near finished.

A third show, Stargate Universe, debuted the following year, but was poorly received by fans and critics alike, the show a stark departure from the rest of the franchise. To me, it seemed like they were trying to be Battlestar Galactica, which didn’t work because they weren’t Battlestar Galactica. The show only ran two seasons, and was mercifully cancelled, though the damage had already been done. After that, there was talk of having multiple direct-to-DVD films for all three series, possibly more, but with the financial difficulties MGM was suffering at the time those projects faded in obscurity.

Why did the Stargate franchise get cancelled? Each situation was a little different, so let me break down each show and then the franchise as a whole.

With SG-, the chokepoint was distribution. After their 200th episode, which was largely a comedy episode, Sci-Fi seemed to lose their taste for the show and announced its cancellation. I didn’t really like that episode myself (personal opinion), but in any event, I don’t know how much impact one episode would have. Executives within Sci-Fi and MGM claimed that they wanted to take the characters from SG-1 and incorporate them with Atlantis, but that doesn’t make much sense to me as the two shows were doing fine standing on their own. Production cost may have had something to do with it as well, the budget for SG-1 had never been big and the storylines were getting bigger every year, needing more complicated sets and special effects to make things work. Whatever the reasons, it shouldn’t have happened, and Sci-Fi made a very stupid decision in my eyes.

With Atlantis, the chokepoint was most definitely content. This is just my opinion, but I feel very strongly that the creative decisions made in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th seasons were the direct cause for fans turning away from the show. First if all, popular character Carson Beckett was killed off unexpectedly near the end of the 3rd season, for no other reason that the writers thought it would be a good story. Then, in the season 4 premiere, Doctor Elizabeth Weir, a character specifically created to lead the Atlantis program, was reduced to a recurring role, a decision that was literally sprung on actress Tori Higginson on her last day on set that year. Weir was replaced by Samantha Carter of SG-1, but the move was not met with a lot of enthusiasm by fans, many feeling they were just trying to boost ratings with a known character (ironic seeing as it had the opposite effect). Finally, Carter was replaced by Richard Woolsey, a very unpopular character among fans. Now, I maintain that Woolsey became a great addition to the show, but it would have worked better if he had been put in charge directly after Weir, the hot potato with the co-leading role hurting the show tremendously. Despite adding Jewel Staite as Jennifer Keller, and bringing back Dr Beckett at a later date, the show’s rating continued to drop, and as the fifth season was wrapping up, Sci-Fi decided to cancel the show. My opinion, the writers were trying to do too much too soon. These kinds of decisions would have been more acceptable years down the line, after an audience that would stick with them through the choices was already established. I also feel that they insulted the fans’ intelligence with some of these moves, thinking that the fans would understand what they were doing and be thrilled by it (killing off popular characters NEVER works by the way). This is why it is so important to get the right person in charge of a show, who can weigh the creative decisions properly and not just go for the “hey, that would interesting” hooks that the Atlantis writers seemed to love. In short, the writers and producers of Atlantis wrote themselves off the air, the fans by Season 5 having grown tired of their shotgun actions.

With Universe, the chokepoint was once again content. As I’ve already stated, the show was too much of a departure from what Stargate had been for thirteen years. They tried to go dark and emotional, butans of Stargate didn’t want that, and the show’s short run is all the evidence needed to prove that point. You can’t change the basic style of a franchise that drastically without losing a fair bit of fan base, and unless you gain new fans, you’re dead in the water.

As for the franchise as a whole, the chokepoint there was financing. MGM was having a lot of financial problems at that time, even declaring bankruptcy. Without the money to fund any new projects, the planned Stargate Direct-to-DVD films were effectively killed, and likely will never be revisited.

In case that was too much information for some of you, here's the bottom line: Stargate ended because of a series of occurrences where all three chokepoints came into play. First, their most popular and profitable commodity lost it's distribution, then the second commodity changed it's content too much for fans to stomach, the third project's content completely departed from what made the franchise successful sending even more fans away, and once those were gone the production company no longer had the financing to continue any further projects.

Since then, there have been some effort by former cast and crew to get the franchise going again, but I won’t speculate on whether or not that can happen. I hope it does, I loved this franchise to death, but things just don’t look promising right now. Looking at how this franchise rose and fell though is a perfect example of what happens when people try to mess with a good thing, it can and will blow up in their faces more often than not.

 

Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes

The greatest animated comic book show since X-Men: The Animated Series, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes debuted in 2010 with a series of short webisodes following the six major characters Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Ant-Man, Wasp and Captain America (as well as other key figures), setting up the debut story for the series premier. From there, the Avengers were assembled, and began their fight against those that would do harm to good old planet Earth.

Simply put, the show was amazing. It nailed the Avengers both individually and as a team, retelling some of the biggest stories in their history. The first season was a massive success, leading to a second where Avengers stand-outs Vision and Ms Marvel were added to the mix. The second season outdid the first in almost every way, taking us deep into the Avengers lives and trials, creating a truly wonderful experience for comic book fans everywhere. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled at the end of Season 2, its last episode a blow out, epic battle with Galactus. As great as it was, it always boggled my mind as to why such a great show was cut short.

Why was it cancelled? Strangely, none of our chokepoints came into play this time. Though the show was well received and ratings were great, but Marvel was switching animation companies, starting with Ultimate Spider-Man, which was being run by production company Man of Action. With this change, a new Avengers program, Avengers Assemble, was made to take the place of EMH, starring the film’s team along with newcomer Falcon. The show is great, don’t want to discount it, but I wish they had continued with EMH, the show’s storytelling too good to only allow it to last two seasons. I understand why Marvel did what they did, but it is a shame that EMH never got a third season.

Firefly

One of my all time favourite shows, Firefly is also the show that saddens me more than any other on this list. Created by Joss Whedon, the show featured a new universe, an amazing cast, some of the best writing in television history, and an absolutely fantastic setting. More than that, the show hit all the right cords for the characters and told incredible stories that were funny, sad, emotionally jarring, and just plain fun all at once. Unfortunately... it lasted half a season, Whedon getting the call the day of their Christmas party, which became their wrap party, that the show was cancelled. Due to strong DVD sales, FOX did commission a film to continue the story, Serenity, but a full time return was out of the question, no matter how much sense it may have made.

Why did Firefly get cancelled? The chokepoint here was distribution, but the blame was not on the creators at all. The blame for this, and I will go on the record to say this, rested solely on FOX Broadcasting. Simply put, FOX didn’t know what they had. Whedon had filmed a two-hour pilot that laid the characters, the premise, the universe, the antagonists, EVERYTHING on the table that would immediately hook the viewers into the universe and not let them go. However, FOX felt that the pilot didn’t have enough action in it and wouldn’t grab viewers. In response, Whedon filmed another episode (originally intended as the second episode), and FOX aired it instead. However, this episode (though it had the action FOX wanted), took place AFTER the pilot, which of course created the problem that NOTHING had been explained to the audience. Because of this lack of universe building, the audience had no idea who any of the characters were or why they were there and why they were doing what they were doing beyond what was said in that episode, which wasn’t much. Despite this, the show did gain a pretty loyal following, but not enough to get the ratings FOX wanted. Other factors were that the promotion for the show was pretty terrible, and was aired on weird nights (I remember watching the second episode on a Saturday), nights where they were up against stiff competition or where the audience couldn’t find the show even if they wanted to watch it. The ratings declined, and FOX cancelled, deeming the show a failure, but not once accepting the responsibility they bore in WHY it went down like that. FOX didn’t allow Whedon to do the show Firefly needed to be, and by messing with his formula, they killed the show before it even had a chance.

Personally, I will never forgive FOX for what they did to Firefly. They had a perfect show with the perfect cast with the perfect writer, and they blew it because they wanted more action in the pilot, thinking that that was what viewers wanted. There has been some effort every now and again to have the show revived on Netflix or a similar platform, but nothing has ever really come of it, and that is one of the saddest facts in television history.

Conclusion

Entertainment, especially television, is a strange commodity. The chokepoints we established at the beginning of this piece are a good model for explaining how these enterprises went the way they did, but in reality, shows are cancelled for any number of reasons. It could be ratings, it could be someone in the network not liking the program, it good be pulled funding, bad timing, bad decisions made by the writing staff or network execs, etc, etc. The fact is, that TV shows will always come and go, and the hope is that the good ones, the ones that mean something to someone, last a while, and when they have to end, bring some kind of satisfying conclusion to the story. When they don’t, it leaves a sour taste in the viewers’ mouth, having invested so much time and emotion into those programs.

Will any of these shows return? For the majority, likely not. But there will always be new shows to grab our attention, and hopefully as the viewers, we can learn our own lessons from the past, and make sure that we do our best to keep the shows we love alive.

Updated: 05/19/2016, GregFahlgren
 
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?
1

Comments


   Login
katiem2 on 09/06/2016

I ran across firefly on netflix, LOVE it. It is true many really good series are cancelled for political reason rather than the fan base and their desires

You might also like

ADHD and Classical Karate: A Match Made in a Public School Gym

My Story on How Karate helped me with being ADHD, and how it can help others.

All New Thor: A True Hero

Examining the Identity of the New Thor, her impact, and what it means going f...


Disclosure: This page generates income for authors based on affiliate relationships with our partners, including Amazon, Google and others.
Loading ...
Error!