Weekend Roundtable: TV Shows Canceled Too Soon

With the start of any new TV season comes the sad inevitability that some shows, even good shows, won’t survive long-term. In this week’s Roundtable, we look back at a few past series that were cut short before we were ready to let them go.

Shannon Nutt

Even after 25 years, I’m still ticked off that fans never got a more satisfying ending to ‘Twin Peaks‘, whose last episode ended with a huge cliffhanger and whose theatrical prequel failed to provide any resolution to what came before. What really bothers me about this is that more ‘Twin Peaks probably could have (and would have) been made… maybe not immediately, but certainly a few years separated from cancelation, as the show developed a strong cult following and many new fans over the subsequent years.

The problem is David Lynch, who refuses to do any type of sequel, despite the fact that he continues to claim that ‘Twin Peaks’ is one of his favorite creations. A number of years back, when the “Definitive Gold Box” edition of ‘Twin Peaks’ hit DVD, there was an attempt to do a continuation of the show via a comic book that would be packaged in the box set. Lynch nixed the idea. Recently (thanks in large part to the new Blu-ray release) there was talk of reviving the show, but Lynch once again shot down any hopes. Sadly, I think we’re going to have to live with the material we have now, but part of me still holds out a small hope that we’ll someday return to the small Northwestern town where the birds sing a pretty song and there’s always music in the air.

Chris Boylan (Big Picture Big Sound)

In recent memory, the one show I really dug and looked forward to watching in a second season was ‘Journeyman‘. This NBC series from 2007 followed a newspaper journalist named Dan Vasser who, as an adult, suddenly starts jumping back in time. Although the time travel at first appears random, it becomes apparent that each jump is meant for Dan to alter the destiny of a particular individual by intervening in his or her life. One neat twist had Dan jumping back to see an ex-girlfriend whom he believed had died, shortly before her demise. It turns out she hadn’t died, but she was a fellow time traveler who had unwillingly (but luckily) jumped out of a plane shortly before it crashed, and back to her own native time in the 1940s.

As with any movie or show that relies on the time travel trope, this one had paradoxes aplenty. But I liked the way the series pulled Dan into time travel unwillingly, with virtually no warning, left to explain his strange disappearances to a sometimes disbelieving family. Things were getting interesting toward the end of the first short season (13 episodes), but alas, low ratings and the writers’ strike of that year sealed its fate. Perhaps in an alternate timeline, the series is actually still on the air.

Tom Landy

When I received this week’s Roundtable topic, my first thought was Joss Whedon’s ‘Firefly‘. However, the short-lived and highly engaging space opera – which was certainly well ahead of its time – just seems like an obvious choice to me, so I decided to go with something a little less popular.

Remember ‘Brimstone‘? Probably not. It was a Fox series about a disgraced deceased cop named Ezekiel Stone (Peter Horton) who returns to Earth from Hell to round up a bunch of escaped demons the Devil, played expertly by John Glover, kinda wants back. I may not feel the same way today if I watched it now, but back in 1998 I really couldn’t understand why the show was canceled after only 13 episodes. Maybe it was the villain-of-the-week repetitiveness or just that the topic was too out-there for most viewers, but I wish this one had a longer lifespan.

M. Enois Duarte

The one cancellation I continue to fume over is the awesome ‘Deadwood‘. I loved that show and all the characters, no matter how minor, from the very first episode. I wanted to live in that town, so incredibly detailed and immersive it was. I could be in the presence of Al Swearengen the rest of my days and be the happiest cowpoke ever.

Granted, the third (which eventually became the final) season was losing a bit of steam, but to finish the series on a cliffhanger like it did is incredibly frustrating. Why didn’t HBO at least give loyal fans the intended two-part film to wrap up the loose ends? By this point, it might be too late, but I still keep hoping that maybe it will happen someday.

Luke Hickman

I hate to repeat the same series that I used as an answer a few weeks ago, but I feel that the ‘Scrubs‘ spin-off ninth season was canceled prematurely. Of course, it wasn’t as good as the original Zach Braff/Donald Faison/Sarah Chalke/Judy Reyes seasons, but it certainly wasn’t bad. In the beginning of the ninth season, as we were introduced to our three new leading characters – played by Dave Franco, Kerry Biche and Michael Mosley (Eliza Coupe’s character was brought in during season eight) – the original cast mates returned from time to time to keep us original fans content, which was much-needed due to the season’s rocky start. Unfortunately, although the new season found its footing around episode seven, the series was canceled after its 13 episodes aired. I would have followed the new cast, but ABC put an end to it. This season is when I was first introduced to and fell in love with the comedic acting of James Franco’s younger brother, Dave.

Josh Zyber

Producer Bryan Fuller has had a lot of trouble keeping good TV series on the air. His Showtime comedy ‘Dead Like Me’ was canned after two seasons. (In fact, Fuller himself was forced out by the network during the first season.) He then went to Fox and created the whimsical ‘Wonderfalls’, which was yanked after just half a season. I would have continued to watch both of those had they gone on longer.

However, the untimely death of ‘Pushing Daisies‘ still hurts the most. The sublimely quirky tale of a pie maker with the power to bring the dead back to life, on the condition that he can never touch the person again, was actually a pretty big hit in its first season. Unfortunately, audiences drifted away and ABC canceled the show after its second season. Although Fuller tacked on a short and hastily-produced epilogue scene to the end of the final episode in an attempt to provide some form of closure, it was unsatisfying. As far as I’m concerned, this show still needs a proper ending.

To be honest, I’m amazed that NBC has kept Fuller’s ‘Hannibal’ on the air for two full seasons now with a third officially in the works. With every episode, I fear that the network will pull the plug with the show’s tightly-scripted narrative left uncompleted.

What canceled TV series do you still pine for? Tell us in the Comments.

62 comments

  1. Every single year, pick any show at random on any network. Chances are very high it will not be renewed for a 2nd season and there will be many things left unanswered. This if anything is the primary reason so many people opt to not watch any new shows at all. It’s a vicious cycle that has now doomed anything new.

    Imagine if Star Trek (Original Series) was a new show today. We would have never gotten 3 seasons out of it or the countless successful spinoffs.

    • Some specific shows I wish went on a little bit further;

      -Law & Order Criminal Intent (with Goren and Eames)
      -Walker: Texas Ranger – at least to see what happened after the Trial By Fire movie
      -CSI: New York – Show still had most of its major players and was going strong.
      -CSI: Miami – Still had all of its core cast and going strong. Making room for CSI: Cyber. Really? Fail.
      -Medical Investigation (NBC Show that ran in a similar style of a CSI show) – Great howdunnit (yes, I said HOW) with many climactic surprise endings

  2. Ein Lee

    Tron: Uprising
    Young Justice

    Two awesome cartoons tragically cut short because they were not reaching the ‘right’ audience.

  3. Bryan

    Without a doubt – Profit. Such a bizarre premise, that was so well executed. I would love to have seen where they could have taken it with more episodes

    More recently, I’d have to go with Almost Human. If they hadn’t messed up the order of episodes, maybe the story would have made more sense to the general audience. Oh well …

  4. Scott H

    Terminator the Sarah Conner Chronicles was a great show cancelled too soon. They ended season 2 in the future and then cancelled it and left us hanging.

  5. BSTNFAN

    Many of mine have already been mentioned, so I will just add a couple that still bother me: Nowhere Man and Odyssey 5.

  6. Angel
    Firefly
    Tru Calling
    Sarah Connor Chronicles
    Dollhouse
    Torchwood
    Party Down

    Not so much canceled as short-lived but I would kill for more Bottom and Spaced.

    So so stoked about the Twin Peaks announcement! Thank god it’s not a reboot, they better do this right!

  7. Jared Chamberlain

    The show I miss more than any other is the American version of Touching Evil. Jeffery Donovan, Vera Farmiga, produced by Bruce Willis and the Hughes Brothers. Impossibly good show. I’ve been waiting for a dvd release since it ended, and no such luck, which is sad because it reviewed really well. Unfortunately, like Firefly, it’s time slot was shifted repeatedly and no one knew when the damn thing was on…

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