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October 6, 2015

My Top 10 list is better than Sci Fi Wire's

by Jason Hughes, posted Aug 8th 2008 11:04AM
Earth 2Let's face it, science fiction on television is always a challenge, and more often than not, these series fail to find a big enough audience to stick around. That's why the year after Lost hit it big on just minor sci-fi elements, we had three ratings flops at once with Invasion, Threshold and Surface. And all three were good, for different reasons. So my question is why did none of them make Sci Fi Wire's list of the top 10 sci fi shows canceled too soon? Because Sci-Fi Wire liked Eerie, Indiana better!

Seriously though, while there were some good elements in their list, and I absolutely agree with their number one choice, there were some real problems and omissions as well. Wonderfalls ranked way too high and Homeboys in Outer Space didn't even make the list? Outrageous! So I've taken it upon myself to make my own list of The Top 10 Sci Fi Short-Lived Sci-Fi Shows That Weren't Pulitzer Worthy But Went Great With Popcorn. And I intentionally didn't include any of the shows on their list, because I'm acting like a spoiled brat and I don't want to play with their toys.


10. The Visitor (1997-1998) 13 episodes
Playing around with some of the ideas that were put to much better use on The 4400, this series focused on a guy (John Corbett) who came back to earth unchanged after 50 years missing. He'd been abducted by aliens and they'd opened his mind, granting him amazing and wonderful new abilities. Sound familiar? But here we simply got a vagabond feel good show following him around as he helped people with his newfound abilities. Kind of like The Incredible Hulk with less destruction.

9. Misfits of Science (1985-1986) 16 episodes
This was the Heroes of the '80s, only not nearly as well done. Special effects being what they were, it was still a great deal of fun seeing "live action" powers like the ability to shrink (where's that Kring?). There weren't that many super-powered characters, and the plotlines were just adventure fun. And that Kring fellow -- you know, the guy behind Heroes? He was a writer on this show, so I wonder if it inspired in any way his latest epic.

8. Welcome to Paradox (1998) 13 episodes
I was wrapping up college and fresh into cable when I discovered this show. As a sci-fi junky, any new sci-fi programming is always worthy of checking out, and this unique twist on the anthology series was great fun. While the stories featured different actors and storylines, it was all set in the same futuristic city: Betaville. I thought it was slickly produced, though I haven't seen it in ten years so can't speak to how well it may have aged, but I guess it never found a wider audience.

7. The Tick (2001) 9 episodes
If ever there was more perfect casting than Patrick Warburton as The Tick, I've yet to see it. I'm a huge fan of the original 12-issue comic book run by creator Ben Edlund, as well as the three-season animated series. And while the tone and characters had to change for this series, the absurdist tone of it was still just perfect. Sure, I knew from the announcement that The Tick was being made that it would be canceled immediately, but it sure was fun while it lasted. "SPOON!"

6. The Charmings (1987-1988) 21 episodes
This show managed to charm enough of an audience in its first six episode season to eke out another fifteen episodes, but somehow I guess the "joke" wore thin. That and the recasting of Snow White herself between seasons did a lot to dissuade me from sticking around. Not that Carol Huston was particularly bad in the role, but that it was a jarring transition. Still, I loved the "fish out of water" elements to it, including the wicked stepmother, the one dwarf caught in her spell that put them to sleep for a thousand years, and the wisecracking magic mirror (Paul Winfield).

5. War of the Worlds (1988-1990) 43 episodes
Honestly, this show probably shouldn't even be here, because it managed a full first and second season. But, as it was syndicated and while setting ratings records for Paramount in its first season, I'm still not sure how much that's saying. That and nobody seems to remember it, though it was a huge favorite of mine. I loved the original novel and virtually all continuations of the story, and this was a particularly clever one. The big problem is that the show changed completely in its second season and became almost unrecognizable from the plots and stories that drove the first. So let's call it a one season series and be done with it, okay?

4. The Flash (1990-1991) 22 episodes
This series was so much fun, Luke Skywalker had to get in on it! John Wesley Shipp, who isn't the dad on Kyle XY but looks like him enough to have fooled me, put on the spandex of DC Comics' scarlet speedster in this rather faithful adaptation. Unfortunately, they were also inspired by the popular Michael Keaton Batman movie and put Shipp in a suit with built in padded muscles. Incredibly impractical for a hero with powers based on agility and speed. And they tried to be grim and gritty, as Batman had been, which didn't really work as well. Things improved on the show, but not enough in time to save the ratings versus episode cost ratio.

3. Invasion (2005-2006) 22 episodes
Another done-in-one, this was one of the trinity of failed sci-fi series this year, and ultimately I think it wound up as the best one (your mileage may vary). A large part of that had to do with the brilliant portrayal of Sheriff Underlay by William Fichtner (Prison Break). This show also introduced me to Tyler Labine who rocks as Sock on Reaper. There was a great building "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" alien mystery building here, and it's one of too many serialized stories we never got a satisfying ending for. But we sure had fun as far as we went.

2. Earth 2 (1994-1995) 22 episodes
This show may have been ahead of its time. Like Lost, it was more subtle in its use of sci-fi elements, and like that show it featured a cast of regular people on a world inhabited by strange otherworldly beings and mysterious elements and dangers all around them. I thought they did an awesome job of establishing a new sci-fi world and backstory, and there was some brilliant casting throughout. The filming on location outside made it something different in the Star Trek era of TV sci-fi. Today, it would fit in perfectly with the likes of Battlestar Galactica.

1. Woops! (1992) 13 episodes
That's right. I put it at number one! This show was an albatross around my neck for years. Before Wikipedia and the explosion of the internet, when I would mention this bizarre little show I remembered from the early days of FOX, people would look at me like I was on crack. Then when I would describe it to them, they would try and prescribe medication. The premise was ridiculous (six people survive the nuclear holocaust and try to kick start civilization living in a farmhouse and the episodes were equally ridiculous. The show jumped the shark (if it hadn't already just by being made) when a giant mutated turkey spotlighted the Thanksgiving episode and Santa himself appeared in the Christmas one. I don't know what more to say about it except that somebody needs to release it on DVD before the world ends for real!

Shows that almost made the cut included Invasion's seasonal sister shows Threshold and Surface. Personally, I enjoyed all three, though Threshold lost my interest first while Invasion kept getting stronger and stronger as it progressed. Then there's shows like Max Headroom and The Wizard (the David Rappaport series in '86/'87). These shows are a part of my childhood and got so ingrained in my head, I still get random scenes from them flashing through my subconscious while I'm trying to concentrate on beating Super Mario Galaxy.

And sorry kids, this list is only for shows I've seen so no My Mother the Car. Oh, and Jericho, Moonlight and New Amsterdam are way too high profile to make a list like this. I mean, come on, nobody sent irradiated chickens into FOX to get Woops! renewed. And Flash Gordon? Yes, I know it didn't get renewed. But it was also terrible. Really terrible. Painfully terrible. And opposite that, Carnivalé was just too damned good. In fact, it should have been on Sci Fi Wire's list. Shame on them!

Future contenders for this list include the brilliantly off-beat The Middleman and the likes of strike-shortened sophomore shows like Reaper and Chuck. If these shows don't find an audience, they might find their lives cut way too short as well. And that would be a damned shame as there's not enough real personality on the airwaves in my opinion.

So what were your favorite quirky shows that were just gone too soon? Not the kind of show that you'd want to start an intellectual discussion group about, but the kind that you curled up in front of in your bathrobe and maybe found while flipping the channel and stayed on it because it was just too damned fun to flip. And then you found yourself tuning in the next week.

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My personal fav which i was devastated was i heard cancelled was the 4400. I watched from the beginning. I think it went downhill when they grew Isabelle up overnight and killed off Lilly but I loved the possibilites of it being a reality.

August 11 2008 at 2:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm surprised no one has mentioned this show "Strange Luck". Can't remember which year it was but it was in the early 90s. I thought the show had a very original and unique concept. The show kept me absorbed until the end. I have been waiting for this to come out on DVD!

I used to watch "Misfits of Science" when I was a kid. Definitely hight time for this show to be released on DVD too!

August 10 2008 at 10:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have to agree with Sci-Fi about Space: Above and Beyond and American Gothic. I also definitely agree that Earth 2 was cancelled way too soon. I preferred Threshold to Invasion, but Invasion was pretty good.

August 10 2008 at 2:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Their list has Jake 2.0 love, and I think your list should have two. Fits right into the fun fare category. It's great that we have Chuck now, but man, Jake was great, too. I'm pretty sure Jake 2.0 is one of the reasons I like Ugly Betty so much... I want to see Christopher Gorham succeed!

You know what? Somebody bring on Jake 2.0 comics, with the creators behind them! I actually had that idea a few years before the whole Buffy continuation explosion...

August 10 2008 at 11:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think SciFi genre doesn't get enough respect. So because of that, there's always going to be different top 10 list out there every 6 months.

I could rattle off 10 shows now and next season I could have a totally different list. I believe SciFi shows need to change the way they are formatted. Another words, I think Invasion should have had a more conclusive ending than what was shown. Basically I think SciFi shows need to be mini-series.

August 09 2008 at 12:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Vincent J. Murphy

I miss Covington Cross: more fantasy than Sci-Fi, but with The Charmings on the list, I think I'm safe.

August 08 2008 at 8:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Daniel Whitcomb

Neither list included Joan of Arcadia. That and Nowhere Man are the two whose cancellations still bug me to this day.

August 08 2008 at 4:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Earth 2 was an awesome show with a very high 'babe-quotient'. The way it ended just sucked.

The Flash was good popcorn fun, but they didn't know how to handle their own show.

the best of this bunch is War of the Worlds. The first season was as good as any episode show I've ever seen. The second season was so totally different that it was almost unrecognizable. Sad.

August 08 2008 at 3:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I totally agree on Misfits...loved that show for all its awfulness. It was also the true first appearance of Courtney Cox!

A show I would add to the list is one that was deliciously awful but hard not to watch. That show was Automan! It even had Desi Arnez's kid in it!

August 08 2008 at 3:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'd also add Earth:Final Conflict. After a great first season full of plot arcs and character development the producers decided to fire the lead actor and replace him a model who's character back story made almost no sense. Basically abandoning the original show.

It got worse as time went on but that first season was some of the best sci-fi I've ever seen on TV.

August 08 2008 at 3:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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