I was thinking about cancelled tv shows the other day, and it occurred to me that there are a handful of them that I loved when they came on, but just didn’t grab the audience they needed to survive. All of these either had 1 or 2 seasons, and while there are plenty of shows that maybe only got 3 seasons (Veronica Mars – I’m looking at you!), at least they got 3 seasons.
Also, I’m not going to put Firefly on this list, but only because it is a no brainer, and probably the biggest tragedy when it comes to cancelled shows. That said, so many other people have written that article/blog, that I’m just not sure what I could really say. Yes ,it was awesome. Yes, I thought so from the very first episode. And yes, I wish they’d do more episodes at some point down the road (why not an animated show? Then the cast only needs to show up for the voice work!).
So here are 3 shows that were ended too soon:
Nowhere Man (1995-1996) UPN – I wasn’t actually watching a lot of tv during this phase of life. I was entering my second year at Georgia Tech, but somehow I saw an ad for this show about a man who has his entire life erased (because of a photo he took years earlier). That woman who was his wife no longer recognizes him, none of his accounts work, and there seems to be someone trying to kill/get him. Each episode followed him as he tried to figure out who was behind ruining his life and why. He’d travel from town to town, mailing the negatives to himself over and over (so he wouldn’t have them on him if he got captured). And each episode he’d learn a little more about the organization behind ruining his life.
Paranoia was the largest piece of this show. Our hero trying to figure out who it was that was ruining him, while at the same time trying to stay a few steps ahead of them when he could. But more than anything, I love the idea that everything we have could be stripped away from us at a moment’s notice. That if we aren’t careful about creating and maintaining real relationships out in the world… well, who will be there to vouch for us when it all goes sideways.
In the days before DVRs, I made sure to either record it or probably watched it live most of the time. And when it got cancelled I was scouring the fledgling internet for any news I could find on it from fan sites and the few interviews the creator (Lawrence Hertzog, RIP). Sadly, I actually never got the see the series finale (and it only just now occurs to me that I might be able to watch it out in the internet jungle… hold on… yep. Well, I know what I’m going to be watching sometime this weekend!).
Brimstone (1998-1999) Fox – It is a deal with the Devil story!
I don’t think you heard me. It is a Deal with the Devil STORY!
The basic gist is that this cop’s wife is raped and the rapist manages to get away with it. So, our hero (Zeke), ends up tracking the guy down and murders him. Sadly, it is not that long afterwards that his own life expires and without additional time to get his good/evil scale back on the side of angels he ends up in Hell.
Flash forward about 18 years and there is a prison breakout of Hell. 113 souls have escaped back to earth. So the Devil makes Zeke an offer: track down these errant souls and at the end he’ll get a second chance at life.
All that would be enough, but then add John Glover as the Devil and you have a masterpiece. No, seriously. His portrayal of the master of darkness was such that whenever he came on the screen he took total control of the scene. Whether it was simply “annoying” Zeke with cryptic words or tying a sleeping bum’s shoelaces together for a laugh, he nailed the role.
This show had the misfortune to come onto Fox during a time when they were blind to anything that didn’t do X-Files type ratings on Friday night. Of course, they forgot that X-Files wasn’t a juggernaut immediately and was allowed to become the top-notch show.
Do I think that Brimstone was ever going to be the end all be all for Fox? No, I think, at best, it would have maybe gotten 2-3 seasons and the fans would have been happy with it. As it is we got 13 episodes that, to these eyes, only got better and better as time went on.
Oh, and Peter Horton (Zeke) always gets extra point from me by appearing in the greatest Volleyball film of all time: Side Out (look it up, you won’t be disappointed… well, you might be disappointed, but not this guy).
Werewolf the Series (1987-1988) Fox – A show that owes as much to the Incredible Hulk as it does American Werewolf in London, Werewolf was one of those shows that I remember being excited about seeing, even if I never knew exactly when it was coming on. The thing is, I’m not sure it does much reinventing of the genre or anything. At its core it was a very standard werewolf story. Guy gets bit, guy tries to fight the urge to change, and then guy doesn’t know whether he’ll be able to live with this curse.
Except this had special effects that rivaled the Howling and American Werewolf in London. And they did give Eric Cord a goal with one twist on the legend: if you kill the head of your bloodline then you will be human once more. So much like the Fugitive, he’s tracking down his maker while avoiding his own pursuer, a bounty hunter named Alamo Joe (much cooler than it sounds).
I must confess that I’m not 100% on how well this one might hold up to today’s standards… I haven’t really sat down with it in a long while. But I remember watching as a 12-13 year old and thinking that it might be the coolest show I’d ever seen. It probably (most likely) is the reason I love werewolf fiction.
Honorable Mentions: Roar, Sports Night, Journeyman, Friday the 13th the Series. Rome, Deadwood, Awake, and many, many others.
John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program. He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.