Brilliant But Cancelled TV Shows
It seems we live in a day and age when a TV series comes to an end if it has enough of a cult following it can usually find a home elsewhere. But that was not always the case and some shows are taken from us far before their time we are left to wonder where they were headed.
Firefly: If there is a patron saint of shows cancelled far too early it is this Joss Whedon created sci-fi/western. Following an intergalactic civil war, Captain Mal Reynolds recruits an eccentric crew for his Firelfy-class ship Serenity. Already on the outskirts of civilization, Mal unknowingly picks up a doctor and his troubled sister River Tam who are being pursued by the authorities. Using their wits and dumb luck, those onboard Serenity have to find ways to protect the girl while still staying in the air. A brilliant show which continues to influence science fiction to this day, Firefly was never given a fighting chance. Being placed in a bad time slot combined episodes being shown out of order proved the Fox network had no faith in the show.
Hannibal: Taking inspiration from the novels of Thomas Harris, producer Bryan Fuller created one of the greatest horror shows of all-time. Troubled FBI profiler Will Graham is reluctantly recruited to hunt down terrifying serial killers including the elusive Chesapeake Ripper. This line of work puts him in contact with the brilliant serial killer Hannibal Lecter who takes on a fascination with Graham. For three short seasons these two play an enthralling game of cat and mouse. Along the way Hannibal was showered with critical praise and awards, but this does not equal ratings. Despite a devoted fanbase the series ended after its adaptation of Red Dragon. Recently the show was released on Netflix giving it a second life and reigniting the hopes of a revival.
Pushing Daisies: It is fitting we follow one Bryan Fuller created show with another. Produced in a fun whimsical style, a pie maker named Ned has the ability to bring the dead back to life. But after a short amount of time he must either retouch them to kill them permanently or someone else has to drop dead in order to balance things out. Smooth PI Emerson Cod uses the unassuming pie makers skills to help in his line of work, but on one particular case Ned permanently restores life to his childhood sweetheart Charlotte AKA Chuck. Together they solve crimes while Ned has to avoid making physical contact with the love of his life lest she die permanently. An delightfully quirky show with a healthy dose of dark humor and a scene-stealing performance from Kristin Chenoweth. But as with other Bryan Fuller created shows critical praise did not draw enough viewers and Pushing Daisies died from the screen.
Forever Knight: The supernatural detective and remorseful vampire are now narrative staples of genre TV. But this show did it before it was cool. After 800 years in the shadows, Nick Knight is seeking a cure for his vampirism. As his friend Natalie works to restore his humanity through science, Nick tries to atone for his bloody past by working as a detective for the Toronto PD. Alongside his partner Schanke, Knight secretly uses his vampire powers to fight crime. He frequently receives begrudging help from his companion Janette while the vampire who sired them both Lucien LaCroix tries to bring Nick back into darkness. A brilliant show which suffered from being ahead of it’s time, Forever Knight still maintains a solid cult fanbase.
Brimstone: After killing the man who he believed attacked his wife decorated NYPD detective Zeke Stone ends up in Hell. When 113 of the worst souls in Hell escape, the Devil sends Stone back to earth with the purpose of bringing them back. If he is successful, the detective will be given a second chance at life. Armed with his pistol and supernatural powers he hunts down these lost souls and destroys their eyes (eyes being the window to the soul) thus sending them back to their eternal punishment. With a moody gothic style and John Glover perfectly cast as the Devil, Brimstone deserves far more love than it’s 13 episode run received.
Police Squad!: Movie fans easily recognize the Naked Gun as one of the funniest movies of all-time. Which makes it a shame that it’s televised source material only lasted six freakin episodes! Fresh from the success of Airplane! the legendary trio of David Zucker, Jim Abrams, and Jerry Zucker reteamed with the brilliant Leslie Nielsen for a satirical cop show featuring the character Lt. Frank Drebin. This 1982 series had no shortage of talent behind it, and according to ABC they had too much talent as the humor was too smart and demanded too much from it’s audience. It was cancelled in quick order, but considering the success of the Naked Gun films it seems as though the network did not get the last laugh.
FreakyLinks: Produced in a time when the internet was solidly cementing itself into the mainstream, this Fox series introduced viewers to a mystery which was never solved. After the death of his brother, Derek takes over the paranormal web site freakylinks.com. During the course of researching the unexplained and terrifying he discovers camera footage of his brother still alive. Along with his friends and his brother’s ex-girlfriend, Derek delves deeper into the supernatural, sometimes with the help of a mysterious man who warns him about a larger conspiracy at play. FreakyLinks brilliantly combined a monster-of-the-week format with a long term narrative, unfortunately the hype for the show did not bring in ratings.
Constantine: The TV-sphere is filled with successful comic adaptations from the Flash to Umbrella Academy to Daredevil to the Boys. But when NBC brought DC Comics/Vertigo’s greatest magic-practicing, chain-smoking, demon-slaying antihero to life it only lasted a single season. Matt Ryan brings John Constantine to life with smarmy perfection as he is trying to redeem himself after an exorcism gone wrong. Drawing story inspiration from the best selling Hellblazer comics, John Constantine and his crew battled a host of supernatural evils. With the final episode of the season, viewers were left with a jaw-dropping cliffhanger involving an angel and longtime foe Papa Midnight. Hype for the second season was high….until NBC unceremoniously cancelled it. Luckily the other DC-based shows brought Matt Ryan over to continue playing John Constantine.
Freddy’s Nightmares: The world Wes Craven created for the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise is one filled with a plethora of stories which can be told. In a stroke of brilliance producers brought in Robert Englund to don his trademark razor glove and sweater to host a horror anthology series based on the NOES series. With a debut episode which served as a prequel to the classic film, this series hit the ground running. With talent behind the camera like: Tobe Hooper, Mick Garris, and Tom DeSimone, this was a nightmare come true for horror fans. Each week Freddy introduced us to a different story set in the town of Springwood, Ohio. Naturally a show such as this was going to feature no shortage of violence, sex, the occult, and other elements which horrified good decent people. In order to appease the more conservative markets, many Freddy’s Nightmares episodes had to be heavily edited. In the end this was too much effort for a syndicated show and it ended. Years later shows like Tales from the Crypt proved there was an audience for adult-oriented horror anthologies unfortunately Freddy’s Nightmares was unable to do the same.
Reaper: On the surface Sam Oliver was just an ordinary slacker, and until his 21st birthday he was. It was then that he learned years before his parents promised their firstborn (him) to the Devil who had come to collect. Sam is forced to serve as the Devil’s bounty hunter or Reaper, and with his friends Sock and Ben he collects the souls who have tried to escape Hell and delivers them back via the portal at the local DMV. Reaper premiered to a host of positive buzz and a pilot directed by Kevin Smith and a charming cast including: Bret Harrison, Tyler Labine, Missy Peregrym, and Ray Wise perfectly cast as the Devil. Unfortunately a strike in the Writer’s Guild hit right as the show was establishing itself and Reaper sadly never recovered.