After the breakout success of Lost in 2004, the following year saw three big-budget attempts at science fiction series with dense continuity. Unfortunately, it also saw those three series ultimately fail to hang on to their viewers, through internal problems or network mismanagement, and fans were left with three frustrating cliffhangers.
While they were allowed to complete more episodes than many series that followed them, I suspect this trinity of cancellations is a big reason current TV viewers are nervous about jumping on board complex shows with intricate continuity and details.
I watched Surface, Threshold and Invasion that season, but always found myself much more involved with the stories and drama unfolding on the latter of the three. Despite Katrina-related sensitivity due to its hurricane-themed opening, Invasion did an amazing job of building tension during a possible alien infiltration. V could learn a thing or two from this show.
Whedon's bad luck continues with the recent announcement that Fox is pulling the plug on 'Dollhouse,' a series that had enough of a following -- and potential -- to warrant another season. Would 'Dollhouse' have really hit its stride further down the road? We'll never know. Here are some other sci-fi television series that met their makers too soon.
Over at Entertainment Weekly, they've chosen the 25 great TV shows that got a quick hook, the shows that got canceled (way) before their time (we're talking really short runs, so Arrested Development and Sports Night aren't on the list). There are several shows on the list that you would expect to see (Freaks and Geeks, My So-Called Life, Firefly), some surprise entries that made me happy to see on there (The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr, Frank's Place, Karen Sisco, Now & Again), and a few head-scratchers (Malibu Road? Really?). It's slightly heavy on the current side, with Journeyman and Life on Mars on the list. I mean, Life on Mars is still running new episodes.
But that announcement got me thinking about all those sci fi and fantasy shows that never finish on television. It's a phenomenon us long-time science fiction/fantasy fans have learned to live with. We jump on any new genre show on television hoping against hope that the ratings will be strong enough that we'll get the whole story. Alas, we know that more often than not the plug will be pulled mid-stream and we'll be left wanting. And for every Joss Whedon who continues Buffy and Angel in comics, there are tons more who don't.
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.
Along with Surface, Invasion was one of my favorite new shows that season, with each episode getting better and better. By the series finale, I was hooked. I'm still miffed that ABC didn't give it more time to flesh out the story and characters.
Incorporating a sci-fi-alien mystery, a government conspiracy, and plenty of family drama, Invasion had a built-in audience because it aired directly after another sci-fi mystery, Lost. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to keep the series on the air.
It would appear that the adaptation of UK sit-com The IT Crowd might need more than Roy's famous reboot fix. According to reports, NBC is set to pull the plug on the midseason comedy. If you haven't been playing along at home, the show is to be a joint production between Universal Media Studios and Freemantle Media. It's an ensemble comedy, set in an IT department, starring Joel McHale (The Soup) and Rocky Carroll (Invasion).
*Spoilers ahead for future 24 episodes. Fair warning.*
Stargate: SG-1 star Michael Shanks, who's going to be featured in a 24 multi-episode arc, has not only been busy filming hot and heavy scenes with the Invasion mom (Kari Matchett) who plays the vice president's assistant, but he's been blabbing about his character's story.
According to Zap2it, Shanks will play Washington lobbyist Mark Bishop who is the "love interest" for VP aide Lisa Williams . . . the one who was getting her hand and face caressed by the creepy vice president, Noah Daniels, in hour 18. Shanks, who said he just started watching Jack Bauer & Co. this season, said he and Matchett have filmed "sexy stuff" that is "unusual for 24."
Great. Another love triangle. Just what 24 is famous for, right? First there was Chloe-Morris-Milo. Then Jack-Graem-Marilyn. Followed by Doyle-Nadia-Milo. And now the love triangle disease is going to spread to D.C. with Daniels-Williams-Bishop? What's next, Buchanan-Hayes-Lennox and other law firm sounding combos?
[Via the Arizona Republic.]
I think this has to signal a change at the networks. The big serial drama experiment is now officially a failure. With Surface and Invasion failing to get a second season, and now Smith, Kidnapped, The Nine, Six Degrees, and Day Break all failing to finish one, I think we can look for the networks to try something different next season. And hey, if Diggs really wants to be on a hit show, they're still casting for the next Dancing with the Stars, right?... Too soon?
Either way, it's not working. Rather, it's really not working. Day Break premiered with a somewhat disappointing 11 million viewers, despite having the Dancing with the Stars finale drop 27 million sets of eyeballs on their doorstep. But 11 million sounds just grand compared to this week. With the dancing shoes stowed away for the foreseeable future, Captain Kirk's Show Me The Money is delivering just under 8 million viewers as the lead in. And Wednesday, Day Break only managed to hang on to 5.12 million of them. 5 million? The worst repeat of Lost would never approach 5 million viewers.
I know that we already have a 'Ask TV Squad' category to answer questions from our beautiful and intelligent readers, but that is usually meant for one question at a time. In this episode of 'The Five' I'd like to reply to a number of questions that have come to us over the last few weeks. So, without further ado . . .
1. Steph writes 'Please help! Is Psych canceled? I just discovered it and I've only seen reruns.'
Fear not, dear Steph. Psych is just taking a mid-season break, which is normal for cable shows to do. The USA Network comedy, which stars James Roday, Dule Hill and Corbin Bernsen, returns with new episodes in January of 2007.
- The Bill Cosby Show - Season One
- A Bit of Fry and Laurie - Season One and Season Two
- Blue Thunder - Complete Series
- Conviction - Complete Series
- House - Season Two
- Invasion - Complete Series
- Threshold - Complete Series
- Veronica Mars - Second Season
In other news, fans of Invasion were heard whimpering tiny little cries of despair. I started to anyway, but then I got over it. As if fans of ABC's now canceled Invasion hadn't been dragged around enough about the status of the show's future, this definitely counts as the final nail in the coffin.
Yesterday, Kristin over at E! reported that William Fichtner has been cast in FOX's second season of Prison Break as the federal marshal tasked to hunt down Michael, Lincoln, Abruzzi, and the rest of their merry gang of fugitives. I have to say that I'm actually pretty pleased about this. I think Fichtner is a great actor and he'll fit in fine with the rest of the cast down in Dallas.
Of course, this officially means that we'll never find out what happened to Larkin after Tom threw her in the water during the Invasion
season series finale. Boo to that.
I came home this weekend to see my folks for Memorial Day (which coincidentally means that I've eaten an unhealthy amount of food and it's only Sunday afternoon) and we got into a pretty interesting conversation about TV. For starters, neither of them knew what "the upfronts" were and I suppose it makes sense. If I didn't follow television as much as I do, I probably wouldn't know what the upfronts were either. Moreover, I would most likely have had the same question my mother had: "Why do they call it the upfronts?" I'm not 100% sure, but I think it has something to do with the fact that ad-space is being presented to advertisers "up front" and if they sit on it, they may not be able to get the spots they want at a later date.
But it's just about over. Even as it is, I feel like I'm coming down from the high. Why? Because the upfronts are over; all five networks have given us a look at their fall schedules, and we finally get to find out what's in and what's out (good news for Veronica Mars fans, bad news for Invasion fans). So right now I'm just feeling a bit spent. And completely uncreative. I couldn't think of one thing to write today because of it. If anyone has any ideas for me to get my mojo back, let me know in the comments.
(By the way, the picture is of Count Blah from Greg The Bunny. Best way I could represent the concept of blah. Blah.)
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