Thursday, 29 December 2011

Top Ten TV Shows Cancelled Before Their Time

As the year comes to an end and the continuation of several TV shows I followed is questionable, I thought it seemed appropriate to reflect on ten TV shows that were all cancelled before their time. For some inexplicable reason I watched American sci-fi Terra Nova right to the excruciating end of its embarrassing and somewhat predictable first season finale. Almost every episode was full of vomit-inducing saccharine family bonding and the final episode could have easily been second-guessed without ever having watched any previous ones. Whether there will be a second season shall be decided sometime this year and to be honest I'm not bothered whether I ever see the Shannon family again or not.

In the past however, I have been genuinely gutted to see the departure of well-written cult shows with plots left dangling. TV bosses decide to cancel shows for a number of reasons (ratings and money obviously being the primary motivation) but never consider how annoying it is for the fans who're left with an unfillable gap, hungry for more and missing characters they've followed for so long they seem almost real. The following list comes in no particular order and is by no means exhaustive but is tellingly reflective of my eclectic ever-changing tastes:

1. Tripods

I vaguely remember this BBC series as a child and The Boy and I decided to re-watch it a few years ago - we were rather disappointed when it came to a sudden end with an unresolved story. Series one of The Tripods was broadcast in 1984 and covered the first John Christopher book, The White Mountains while series two (1985) used his follow-up novel, The City of Gold and Lead as its source material. A television script for the third series based on Christopher's novel The Pool Of Fire was written but sadly the third instalment was never produced.

2. My So Called Life

I loved this show as a teen and while going through a particularly nostalgic phase purchased the box set. The cliffhanger ending resulting from the show's unexpected cancellation in May 1995 was and is absolutely devastating. At the time I had no idea but it appears the lead (Claire Danes) had had enough of the show and wanted to go elsewhere with her career so was not too keen to sign up for a second series playing Angela Chase. We can blame an adolescent Danes for mid-90s teenage misery suffered across the land but then again perhaps TV bosses shouldn't end each season on a cliffhanger unless its return is set in stone – discuss...

Final episode: In Dreams Begins Responsibilities

3. E Street

Australian TV soap, E Street ran from 1989 until 1993 and had some pretty wacky plot lines. It won the "Most Popular Serial" in the 1992 Australian Logies and actors Bruce Samazan and Simon Baker both won additional awards in their respective categories in 1992 and 1993. Despite its success, the show was cancelled in May 1993. In this instance, it seems “creative differences” and the “direction” Network 10 wanted to take the show were to blame. In addition high-profile cast departures damaged the show's reputation, despite consistently high viewing figures. In the final episodes (403 and 404), the remaining cast were placed in life-threatening situations and a final 10-minute montage of E Street's greatest moments accompanied the closing credits.

4. American Gothic

Executive produced by Sam Raimi, American Gothic, is yet another series I watched religiously at the time and have since purchased on DVD. The show is just as compelling over fifteen years on and re-watching it was made all the more irritating by bizarre box set episode ordering. Its cancellation after one season on July 11 1996 left fans hungry for more and keen for a resolution to the final episode, Requiem.

5. Sugar Rush

Channel 4 series, Sugar Rush ran for two short seasons and ended on an unwelcome cliff-hanger. The stars of the show, Olivia Hallinan and Lenora Crichlow later confirmed its 2006 cancellation was "a last minute thing - especially the way we leave series two [i.e. with Sugar moving in with Kim and Saint and Stella's pregnancy], it sets things up for series three." Despite its popularity with viewers and critics alike, the show was reportedly cancelled due to a lack of suitable scheduling slot and because of the requirements for Big Brother 8. It's also rumoured a third series was never planned.

6. Deadwood

American Western-based drama, Deadwood, took a little getting into but once I was in the zone, there was no going back. Set in 1870s, South Dakota, before and after the area's annexation by the Dakota Territory, the series follows Deadwood's growth from camp to town, featuring many historical figures (Calamity Jane, Wyatt Earp...). Although after three 12 episode seasons, the show is technically not cancelled, the likelihood of it returning with its original cast and crew is slim. Creator David Milch agreed with HBO back in 2006 after season three to make two two-hour television films in place of a fourth season and in doing so give fans a neater ending but we're still waiting...

7. Prison Break

Sure Prison Break became more and more ludicrous with each season but despite this, it somehow remained unfortunately addictive. After its fourth season fans were once again left wanting but kindly studio bosses later decided to release an additional two episodes entitled The Old Ball and Chain and Free, intended to wrap-up unfinished plot lines. Both were later transformed into a standalone feature called The Final Break.

8. Heroes

Tim Kring's sci-fi series appeared on NBC for four seasons from September 25, 2006 through to February 8, 2010. Tapping into a sudden renewed interest in comic book heroes, the series told the story of ordinary people who all mysteriously discover they have a variety of superhuman abilities. Despite millions of faithful viewers and a number of awards and nominations the show received (Primetime Emmy Awards, Golden Globes, People's Choice Awards and British Academy Television Awards), the cancellation of the show was announced on May 14, 2010. The network considered making a television special to conclude the series but this never materialised. Thankfully, unlike many cancelled shows, the fourth season at least ends reasonably neatly.

9. Flashforward

FlashForward revolves around the lives of several people as a mysterious event causes nearly everyone on the planet to simultaneously lose consciousness and have visions of their future lives. Based upon Canadian science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer's novel of the same name, it aired for merely one season on ABC from September 24, 2009. For some inexplicable reason, it was announced in May 2010 that ABC would not be renewing FlashForward for a second season, leaving viewers perpetually in the dark about the cause of the blackouts. The first season's final episode, Future Shock, ends on a highly dramatic cliff-hanger with Mark (Joseph Fiennes) trapped inside the FBI headquarters.

10. United States of Tara

I've already moaned about the cancellation of this most addictive Diablo Cody (Juno, Jennifer's Body) series and its ever-excellent lead (Toni Collette) AND have even uncharacteristically joined a Facebook page in a futile attempt to save it so for comments please visit:

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