I’ve read a couple reviews of the new season of Arrested Development, and they often say the original show was “cancelled too soon” or mention “the all too-brief original run” and I wonder about people’s expectations with TV shows. Because Arrested Development ran for 3 seasons on Fox, a total of 53 episodes. That’s not insubstantial. That’s more than 19 hours of Arrested Development, more than the run-time of all the Marx Brothers movies combined. It told many complete stories and had a full arc, not ending with any substantial cliffhangers or unresolved issues that I recall. And while it hadn’t gotten bad yet, it was at the point where the balance between new jokes and calling back old jokes was tipping dangerously towards the latter. I always thought, even in the immediate wake of people claiming they’d boycott Fox for cancelling it, that Arrested Development had a very satisfying run.
When I think about shows I do think were cancelled too soon, I think of shows that have awkward rushed finales (Freaks & Geeks) or non-serialized comedies that were still getting better and better (Difficult People). But I honestly can’t think of many examples because for me, shows that were cancelled too late are far more prominent. I think about the flabby aimlessness of The Soprano’s last few years or about the slow death of the X-Files. The fantasy of a hundred hours of amazing content is tantalizing but the reality seems to me that most television has a sweet spot of about 3 seasons at best and the shows that can identify that and move on are the ones I remember fondest.
What are some shows that were cancelled too soon? What did you want from them that you didn’t get? When you commit to a TV show, what are your expectations?
Bring! Back! Terriers!!!
But in all honesty I feel like a TV show ends too soon when its obvious that it hasn’t reached the full potential of its premise or based on the pedigree of talent involved. That means it can be a great short run (like Terriers) but that it’s missing the total sense of completeness that comes with a longer running program.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is legit one of the better entries in the franchise, and just as it was getting great in season 2 (with Shirley Manson as a motherfucking terminator!) the show gets cancelled on a massive cliff-hanger. I doubt it’ll ever come back, but what if?!
The ‘crowdfunded’ movie was way, way better and more evolved than I expected, and proved that Rob Thomas & Co. have always known (and still know) exactly where to take these characters and what to do with them. I would have really loved to see a season 4, ugh it breaks my fuckin heart that we won’t get to see high school Veronica’s and her single father Keith’s brilliant dynamic anymore! The chemistry is still fantastic between these actors, but the youth angle was really something. And there’s something to be said about how aggressively VM used light and shadow. If you like Riverdale, VM is, stylistically, the model on which the CW’s YA shows of its ilk are founded.
oh right, Rob Thomas, which reminds me:
I’m not in a spot right now to wax on about what makes Party Down so FUCKING good but it is so FUCKING good and its cast (Adam Scott, Lizzy Caplan, Ryan Hansen [of Veronica Mars!], Martin Starr, and Ken Marino) is juuuust stellar. It’s a show about a small events company in Los Angeles, lead by Ken Marino’s Ron Donald, and staffed by a bunch of people trying to make it in Hollywood who largely view this job as a side gig.
It operates a lot like Curb Your Enthusiasm, where the setup for each episode typically just fucking explodes by the time the credits roll, but where CYE is driven by Larry’s relentless self-righteousness, Party Down’s farces are pushed forward by the protagonists’ desperation to not have this fucking job anymore. It’s extremely relatable and palpably sad, but it doesn’t dwell. You just notice the sadness at the exact same moment that the gag hits. It’s brilliant, I love it, I could watch it endlessly (and have seen it all the way through three or four times already). The high school reunion episode’s ending is honestly one of the most pitch-perfect strokes of comedy genius I’ve ever seen
I’ve got a few shows that I feel ended too soon, but in recent memory Almost Human, Forever, Limitless, and possibly Timeless stand out for me.
Almost Human had episodes aired out of order and was on Fox so it was almost doomed from the start. Still I watched and the relationship between Michael Ealy and Karl Urban was great to see develop just in the few episodes we had. The world they were creating was interesting and they hinted at enough that it felt like things could get really amazing given time. We got 13 episodes. It honestly still hurts to think about this show.
Forever was a simple show. From what I understand it was basically a remake of a show called New Amsterdam, I think, but I’m not sure if I’m remembering that correctly. Anyway, it was a case of the week thing and the male lead just happened to be unable to stay dead. I liked it, it wasn’t overly complicated, but it had just enough of an over arching story to keep me invested. It set up a lot and didn’t answer much before it was canceled after 22 episodes.
I’ve never seen the movie Limitless was based off of and I know the science behind the premise was wrong, but it didn’t matter. Jake McDorman was great to watch, his character was fun. Again it was mainly a case of the week with a slight over arching story, but it was super entertaining. The ending mostly works, it did set up for more to happen, but it didn’t hurt as bad as other shows (Sarah Connor Chronicles). 22 episodes.
Timeless was miraculously saved last year from cancelation and this season they embraced it and there were some really great episodes. I love time travel so I’ll try most anything with it, but this show managed to have a serious plot but not get too depressing. The ending of the second season makes me desperately want more but so far there’s been no word from NBC and since I’m probably one of only twelve people that watches it probably won’t happen.
Off the top of my heads those are the big ones that went before their time.
Sweet/Vicious, the one season MTV show and a weed dealer beating up college. I grew so attached to those characters in just 10 episodes and it breaks my heart that I can’t see them grow for 5 seasons as originally planned. Interviews have discussed covering more nuance of the issue like how it effects people of color and LGBTQ+ people which could’ve been great.
Oh! I forgot about Sense 8. They’d planned a few seasons and it was Netflix, they hadn’t yet really started to cancel stuff, and then they did. It was awful. I actually canceled my Netflix sub after years of membership. We’re getting the movie this month, which is nice, but I still think the show was canceled before it’s time.
Terriers! If you haven’t seen it, watch it and then be gut punched once you finish and realize that there is no more Terriers. Last Man On Earth just ended with a pretty giant cliff hanger right after getting canceled. Enlightened on HBO was fantastic for its only season. The Critic could have been a bit longer. Clarence and Chowder were both hilarious and could have easily sustained another season or two, but I don’t feel cheated by how and when they ended.
Do I get points for bringing up Firefly?
I had an unreasonable amount of love for a really old show called Sports Night. That show was about running an ESPN-like sports broadcast. There were really bitter meta overtones the last season where the episodes started being about how the network was threatening to cancel the show and trying to scum for ratings. The finale ended on a cliffhanger with the staff gathering around to see if the show was going to survive. Evidently not.
Sports Night is “really old”?! It ran in 1998—oh my god. Okay, it’s a few years old, but it’s not, like, mesozoic. It was good, too.
Plus one for everybody plugging Terriers. I really liked that show. It’s a shame it hasn’t been caught up in the Amazon/Hulu/Netflix content revival fever.
There was a spy/espionage dramedy called CHAOS that briefly aired back when I was in high school (the internet is telling me it was spring 2011) that I remember very much enjoying, and very much being sad about when it was canceled after 13 episodes.
That said, it’s been a while, and it might still be great or it might actually be a pile of crap, and I will probably never be able to find out which because it does not seem to be available on any streaming service whatsoever.
I really do not see what Firefly fans see in that show. I’m actually not sure if I can think of anything I want brought back that isn’t anime that has manga still ongoing cough hunter cough hunter. Like a lot of shows I would want to revisit for nostalgia are such a product of it’s time or like my age. For example, I’m not sure if I want a new Invader Zim. On the other hand, Twin Peaks worked but it did cut away the parts that were associated with the early 90’s like the soap opera bullshit.
I actually can’t think of many shows I feel ended too soon. Perhaps Pushing Daisies? It was a weird show about a dude who has the power to reanimate dead people, which he uses to revive his recently deceased childhood crush. If you listen to Idle Weekend you’ll have heard Rob mention it, probably. (unless it’s me misremembering)
I know, it’s a weird premise. But the show had a quirky charm that you might describe now as “twee”, but before that word really came into the common lexicon. It exists adjacent to Amelie and Harold and Maude in my mind. I never finished the relatively short run but I remember it being alright.
(The) 4400. I don’t know if it is particularly well known, but I really enjoyed that series. Scifi show where 4400 people that vanished without a trace suddenly show up. The premise seemed new to me at least at the time, but I imagine the characters and scifi tropes are likely from all sorts of previous fiction. Really did like it though.
Searching now, it looks like there are books that continue the story.
Anyone else enjoy taking up books where this happens? I remember reading some post Star Trek Voyager books a good while ago that were alright.
I’ve read some post ST Voyager books as well. Plus, picked up the Buffy comics, Charmed comics, and Charmed books. I may have trouble letting go of things I love lol
I’ve gotten myself very excited about X-Files comics more than once before realizing they could never capture what I like about the show. There was a point in time when I didn’t have cable but thought Daria was the coolest thing I’d ever seen and I’d read every Daria related thing on Fanfiction.net as a substitute.
it’s very good and the amelie adjacency is apt and yeah it needed at least another season (the last couple of episodes very much hastily scramble to tie up loose ends)
TERRIERS SHOULD HAVE GOTTEN AT LEAST TWO FULL SEASONS.
I am still really mad about this and I am glad someone else really liked this really underrated noir. Like actual proper noir.
I second Almost Human and Pushing Daisies. They were both really good. But the one show that gets me more than any other is In the Flesh. It was a fascinating show about a small town recovering post-zombie apocalypse and struggling with the social impact of the zombies they fought being returned as rehabilitated civilians. Also it had queer people. Probably the worst part is that it got cancelled just when it was ramping up to reveal how the zombie rising had happened in the first place. So many questions left unanswered.