Monday, August 11, 2008

Great Article About Brilliant but Cancelled Sci Fi Shows

I'm only including the shows I personally enjoyed very much. They WERE great, and cancelled well before their time. Especially Nowhere Man... Click to read entire article.

Wire's Top 10 Brilliant But Canceled

It's the sad fate of every science fiction fan to fall in love with amazing, creative television shows only to see them struggle in the ratings and eventually disappear into the land of repeats and DVD box sets ("Own the complete series for just $24.95!").

It happened just this spring for Jericho fans, who got a mini-reprieve of seven episodes thanks to a whole lot of nuts (the kind you eat, not the fans themselves), but they too would eventually see their show ride off into the sunset like so many others before it. For too many of these on-the-bubble shows, the bubble popped before the rest of the world caught on to the genius that went into them. Fortunately, they live on in the memories of fans, including those of us here at SCI FI Wire.

We now present a list of the top 10 brilliant-but-canceled SF&F shows, as determined by SCI FI Wire's news editor and contributors. For the purposes of this list, the selections were made based on quality network shows that were not renewed after their first season. Bonus fan points (and sympathy hugs) if you remember them all.

4. Alien Nation, created by Kenneth Johnson. Fox. Original run: September 1989 to May 1990. Number of episodes: 22

The not-so-subtle pun in the title gives some indication of the allegorical themes at work in this series, based on the film of the same name. Picking up where the film left off, the show is set in a world where an alien slave ship has crashed on Earth and left its passengers stranded. F

orced to assimilate into human society, they encounter the same kinds of struggles as any every other immigrant group throughout history. Except that they get drunk on sour milk and require three partners to procreate. Through the mixed-species partnership of a pair of police detectives--one human, one alien--the show explored issues of immigration, racism and cultural identity. Although it was canceled after one season due to budgetary pressures, Fox did bring it back in a series of five television movies.

5. Space: Above and Beyond, created by Glen Morgan and James Wong. Fox. Original run: September 1995 to June 1996. Number of episodes: 24

This futuristic war drama followed a squadron of marines known as the Wildcards aboard the USS Saratoga, the space-faring equivalent of an aircraft carrier. In addition to an alien threat and rebel AI mercenaries, the soldiers also faced conflicts closer to home, with the introduction of artificially bred humans and a potential government conspiracy. The show's dark tone, desaturated look, military backdrop and exploration of complex topics such as the moral ambiguity of war make this a predecessor of sorts to the more successful Battlestar Galactica. But back in 1995, the public wasn't quite ready for this kind of series, and the show failed to attract an audience wide enough to justify renewal.

6. The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., created by Jeffrey Boam and Carlton Cuse. Fox. Original run: August 1993 to May 1994. Number of episodes: 27

Clever writing, great production values and a brilliant turn in the title role by the one and only Bruce Campbell made this genre-bending SF-western-comedy a pleasure for those who were hip to its self-referential humor, witty dialogue and memorable performances. Unfortunately, that didn't include most of the viewing audience. Fox scheduled the show on Friday nights, a timeslot notorious for low ratings, with the exception of The X-Files, which just happened to premiere the same year. Seems that the network could only afford to take a chance on one low-rated show, and we all know how that turned out, so they're probably not regretting their decision (though they may be regretting that second movie right about now).

7. American Gothic, created by Shaun Cassidy. CBS. Original run: September 1995 to July 1996. Number of episodes: 22

Moody, atmospheric and sinister, this show from creator Cassidy and executive producer Sam Raimi was the epitome of subtle, character-driven horror. Featuring career-making performances by Gary Cole and Lucas Black, the series centered on a boy (Black) whose soul is desperately sought by the competing forces of good--represented by a small-town doctor and the ghost of the boy's dead sister--and evil--represented by Cole as the demonic Sheriff Buck. Notable veterans of this promising, terminated-before-its-time show also include Battlestar Galactica's David Eick and Oscar winner Stephen Gaghan (Traffic).

9. Nowhere Man, created by Lawrence Hertzog. UPN. Original run: August 1995 to May 1996. Number of episodes: 25

One of the most frustrating things that can happen when a show is yanked before its time is a denial of answers to a big, overarching mystery. That's what happened in the case of Nowhere Man, about a photographer (played by Bruce Greenwood) who takes a controversial picture in a South American war zone and suddenly finds his identity erased by a covert, possibly governmental, organization. Nowhere Man incorporated elements of The Fugitive and The Prisoner, but unlike those shows, it never got an epic final episode, leaving fans (dozens of them) to wonder forever (or for a few weeks, at least) about the significance of that fateful photograph.
Alien Nation? GREAT show. Hilarious, men being pregnant, great puns.

Space Above and Beyond? Pretty gritty, really good science fiction. As the article mentions, the world just wasn't quite ready for what Battlestar Galactica would do a decade or so later.

The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.? You've got to just watch it. It was absolutely brilliant and the perfect role for Bruce Campbell.

American Gothic? Pure evil. Awesome to watch.

Nowhere Man? Breath-holder. Also sucked that it got cancelled well before its time.

Some of these shows can be seen at Hulu,com.

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