Is it worth watching a cancelled TV show?

Feature Louisa Mellor 16 May 2014 - 07:00

Should an early cancellation put you off watching a TV show in the first place?

Floating in on the yearly tide of TV renewals is the yearly disappointment of cancellation. However many fingers are crossed or hashtagged prayers are sent, network television’s quest to conquer ever more viewers and awards inevitably has its casualties. Too expensive to make? Not enough viewers? Lukewarm reception from critics? Then sayonara, promising new sci-fi. We hardly knew you.

Almost Human is one such show. A future-set sci-fi take on the buddy cop genre, it received a thirteen-episode season one order from Fox in 2013 and a shed load of pricy promotion for its November the 4th premiere. And then? At the eleventh hour, the premiere was pushed back a fortnight, co-showrunner Naren Shankar left citing “creative differences”, and only four of its thirteen episodes were aired in the intended running order.

Despite some great world-building, two talented leads in Karl Urban and Michael Ealy, and a strong supporting cast, Almost Human started on the back foot and stayed there. Though it attracted what seemed like decent viewing figures (starting strong with over 12 million in the US, then dropping to an average of roughly 9 million), last month Fox broke the bad news: its newest sci-fi series would not be coming back for season two.

The blow was all the worse for being unexpected. The largely procedural show had introduced an overarching mystery in its pilot episode that was unresolved by episode thirteen and will now remain so. Painfully ironic for fans was also the season one finale plot thread (no spoilers here) that mirrored the ‘has it made the cut?’ evaluation process going on outside the show. Almost Human’s creators evidently hoped to tie an in-episode ‘yes’ to an out-of-episode one from the network. It wasn’t to be.

The cancellation announcement was made the week before Almost Human’s UK premiere, prompting some over here to walk away before it even began. You can understand their position – why invest time in something the network has given up on? Why start something you won’t be able to finish? We geeks have been hurt before. Specifically, by Fox.

The Murdoch network’s track record with promising US genre shows explains why the news of Almost Human’s cancellation was met with such a fuming, hands-on-hips-head-shaking “Typical!” around these parts. Fox hadn’t just snatched away this year’s fun new toy; they’d been doing it for years. Firefly, Alcatraz, Terra Nova, Tru Calling, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles… all the way back to Alien Nation (to which Almost Human can, incidentally, be favourably compared), Fox has been slashing and burning its way through its expensive sci-fi and fantasy shows. The X-Files and Fringe apart - neither an insignificant contribution of course - the network has sometimes been stony ground for geek seeds.

That question though - why start something you won’t be able to finish? - deserves pondering. Just as you wouldn’t choose to start a book that’d had the last 100 pages torn out, or see a film you knew was going to stop three quarters of the way through (unless said film was A Good Day To Die Hard), why watch a TV series that you know won’t be able to finish its story?

Perhaps because a TV series isn’t a book, nor is it a film. Excluding the present trend for ‘one-off event’ TV series (that, the minute execs smell a ratings hit, suddenly spawn second and third ‘one-off event’ seasons), TV shows don’t tell one big story but lots of little ones.

It depends on the genre of course. A crime mystery that doesn’t ultimately reveal the identity of the killer is no good to anyone. The same goes for a conspiracy thriller. Sci-fi series Alphas is just one show to have ended on a frustrating cliff-hanger (so frustrating in fact, it inspired an entire episode of The Big Bang Theory as Sheldon doggedly pursued writer Bruce Miller to resolve the plot point).

Procedurals made up of case-of-the-week episodes though, are designed to be dipped into, not to be watched slavishly. If one of those is cancelled prematurely, there’s still entertainment to be had by watching it. Because as frustrating as it is to know that a series has met a premature end, the existing episodes still have something to offer.

Take Firefly, the poster child of early cancellation geek complaints. While I’d prefer to see a fat five-season box-set rather than a solitary one sat in its space on my DVD shelf, better that than nothing at all. Not having caught its initial run, I knew that fourteen episodes was my lot of Firefly before I started to watch, and frustrating though that was, it made it all the more precious, a rarer commodity, if you like.

The same goes for Almost Human. I’d much rather have just thirteen episodes of Karl Urban’s sardonic cop and Michael Ealy singing Elton John in falsetto than none at all. Not watching something you’re going to love because there isn’t enough of it is feels too much like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Of course, geeks are a proud people. We want a decent seat at the table, not to be sat underneath it and told to be grateful for scraps. Taking what we can though, and making the best of a bad job is something of a geek speciality.

Necessity being the mother of invention and all that, there’s nothing like a premature end to spark fan activity. I don’t just mean campaigns and petitions (which we’ll come to in a bit), but genuine acts of creativity - fiction, artwork, music, comics, trailers, films - all fan-made and inspired by the injustice of an early cancellation. As Steven Moffat is fond of reminding us, the fandom was where he and Mark Gatiss started out, so why wouldn’t the Doctor Who and Sherlock fans creating work now be the showrunners and writers of the future? Inspiration-wise, there’s something to be said for a series making an impression and then leaving a hole behind. If you stop yourself from watching it in the first place, then you can’t participate.

There’s another argument too (one that applies less to Almost Human or Firefly as both series were stopped in their tracks without the chance to explain their overarching mysteries) that smaller is better. In some cases at least.

Freaks And Geeks and My So-Called Life are both coming-of-age shows about a particular time in the lives of two teenage girls: Angela Chase (Claire Danes) and Lindsay Weir (Linda Cardellini). Nineteen episodes were made of the former, and eighteen of the latter. Deservedly loved as both shows are, multiple seasons might have bloated them. Had they been kept on the schedule treadmill for years, their casts would have aged (Cardellini was already in her mid-twenties playing high school junior Lindsay), and splintered (how many Hollywood careers have both shows launched? It was only a matter of time before Jared Leto or James Franco left for the movies). Did we really want to see Angela Chase at college? We’ve already seen what happened when Judd Apatow took his gang to college in 2001’s Undeclared, a comedy that paled in comparison to its predecessor. Had Angela emerged from her awkward, plaid-shirted teen chrysalis a butterfly, chances are we might not remember her, or the series, quite as fondly.

Then comes the question of how long is long enough? Jericho, Terriers, The Fades, Pushing Daisies, Wonderfalls… They, and the shows already mentioned, ended before their time, but would fans ever have been happy to call it a day? As seen with this year’s Being Human US, Warehouse 13, and Psych endings, viewers are still capable of complaining about a show finishing after four, five, even eight seasons. When Supernatural, about to start its tenth run, is finally brought to an end, you can bet that at least some people won’t be happy about it.

Ultimately, though it’s an understandable position, waiting until a show we want to watch has already received a second season renewal before we tune in makes us part of the problem. New shows need our ratings support from day one if they’re to survive the annual network cull. And even if they don’t survive it, our support is still useful.

Here’s the call to arms bit, so look away now if you’re easily embarrassed by those pre-battle rallying speeches men on horseback with long hair and cloaks are always making in films: when a beloved show is cancelled, fans need to make a fuss. If you've avoided becoming a fan for fear of future frustration, you can't be part of the process. Be vocal, spread the word, sign petitions, all that jazz. Because, as we discovered in the case of the BBC’s Ripper Street, even if fan support for a cancelled show doesn’t necessarily change the network’s mind, it can keep the creators motivated to continue the fight. And, like Joss Whedon’s Serenity, or the Veronica Mars movie, keep them motivated to find new ways of bringing it back.

Now more than ever, cancelled shows have a shot at a second life. Streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video have already revived Arrested Development, The Killing US and Ripper Street. Kickstarter recently brought us the return of Kristen Bell as Veronica Mars. What else might we be able to bring back if we watch it, love it, and refuse to shut up about it?

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I still often wonder today what would've happened next in the series Invasion...

I'm a weirdo, in that I will not watch a new series on TV. Besides the
ad breaks, and waiting a week for the next episode, nowadays you're just
never certain if there's gonna be another season. So I usually wait
until a series has reached 3 seasons before I start binge-watching. And
this is how I've come to only begin watching Boardwalk Empire, The
Walking Dead, Game Of Thrones now in 2014!

This leaves me at a disadvantage when it comes to sites like this, so I
always avoid "recap" forums and episode reviews. And I prefer it like
this. Better to watch a few seasons in one go. This is the way I enjoyed
The Closer, Dexter, Lost, Prison Break, The Wire. And it's how I will
continue to watch series. I have seen the first episode of House Of
Cards and The Americans, just to gauge if I'd enjoy it, and now I'll
have to wait a couple years before I can continue with those shows.

It sucks to wait, but going with this method, I certainly have loads of
some completed major series I am YET to start: Breaking Bad, The Shield,
Weeds, Fringe. So I gave enough to keep me busy ;-)

Same for me. I rarely watch season 1 as it is on TV in case it gets cancelled.

By the same token I can't bring myself to watch cancelled shows. Firefly and Deadwood are supposed to be great, but without a resolution, what's the point?

that was a great series. there are so many series that have that question. T:TSCC, SGU and Earth 2 are the ones where I would love to know what happens next. I would have added Jericho but we have a comic series now for that one.

I watched Firefly to see if the hype was justified...it was. But I tend to shy away from cancelled shows. You invest in the characters and it hurts/annoys when there is no pay off. I sent a peanut to save Jericho which was another great show finished by suits. I do my homework on the net when I see something that catches my eye I research it to see if it gets renewed/cancelled. Harder now with almost simultaneous broadcast. My bugbear now is the season breaks, I understand why the studio's do have breaks its just annoying that my Sky+ doesn't save my series link. So Sleepy Hollow and SHIELD all restarted without me knowing...b'stards!

No, I really agree with you and do the same. And in a couple cases, managed to avoid shows where it fell off a cliff in the second season and left everyone disappointed.

In the case of Firefly, because it's near perfect television - and that it gained a resolution through Serenity. Worth watching, dude!

I was looking forward to Almost Human, then a week before it finally aired here it was cancelled. And my attitude was just "Well, no point to that then."

Watching and contributing to the viewing figures at risk of a premature cancellation only works if you live in the US .

You've piqued my interest. So Serenity is a follow-on from Firefly which completes the story? I hadn't realised that.

Sure is! Almost as if Whedon crammed an entire multi-season story arc wrap-up into one movie - very satisfying!

the reason I watch cancelled shows (apart from those listed above) is that if the writers know their business, they know how many episodes they are definitely getting (even if it is not a full season) and they write an ending that can be both a series ending or a season ending. Sometimes they have the opportunity to push it to one or the other with re-shoots too. So a show like Stargate Universe (which was criminally under appreciated and cancelled on twitter - that is how the show runners cast and crew found out months after they had shot the season 2 finale) still manages to have an "ending" that can be a final end or can leave the door open for a return on another network or format.

Ah okay then. I'm in there. Heard great things about Firefly for a few years so hopefully it will live up.

Thanks pal!

While showrunners do know how many episodes are ordered.. be that a short run first season (like Battlestar Galactica) or a full season order.. that's no guarantee those episodes will be aired. Shows can get pulled halfway though if the suits feel like it.

I think it's rare that shows like Dollhouse.. another one ended too soon.. at least got to wrap it up it's storyline in a meaninful way. It's not that common. SGU handled it as well as could be expected but that's vision on part of the storytellers. Struggling shows don't have the support or cash to shoot alternate endings in case they're canned

I watched Firefly (in it's intended correct order, not the order the network aired the episodes) and then followed it up with Serenity - it's worth doing.

It's a rubbish system in the US but that is the best approach for anyone making a TV show there.

It's on Netflix, which I assume has them in the order they were aired.

How do I find out the order they were intended to be in?

This is exactly my viewpoint too. Whilst it's UNBEARABLY frustrating when something good gets cancelled. I'd much rather watch 13 great episodes of something wonderful... than decide not to at all.

Agreed about SGU. One of the best shows in recent times and criminally compared as SG1's 'poor spin off' when it was MUCH better. (and i loved SG1)

Serenity (parts 1 & 2)
The Train Job
Bushwhacked
Shindig
Safe
Our Mrs. Reynolds
Jaynestown
Out of Gas
Ariel
War Stories
Trash
The Message
Heart of Gold
Objects in Space

Serenity (The Movie)

If I was a studio executive I would allow all shows to have a 3 Season contract, which would be reviewed at the end of Season 2 to allow the creators room to breath. If I were to cancel a show at least the creators can make season 3 to conclude plot lines or to make sure they go out with a bang. Shows like Firefly for example would have benefited from this. Whilst I was glad we got Serenity to wrap up some story threads I would have gladly traded it in for 2 more seasons of Firefly.

I know some shows outstay their welcome but for me 3-5 seasons is enough for most.

If it's quality, yes :) Many a TV show isn't exactly brimming with quality - although British television does tend to better then most.

I did it the other way around - stumbled across Serenity, loved it to bits and was happy to find there were another 14 little glimpses into that universe. It really does deserve another shot sometime in the future. I imagine a middle-aged Mal sitting in a bar on an obscure planet being tempted by a middle-aged Jayne trying to get him to fly on 'one last job' and then being able to find out what happened after Serenity through flashbacks. One day.

They were aired out of order I think but it's 1-14 and then the film

I had the exact same problem with Sleepy Hollow and Shield - so frustrating! Especially in the case of Sleepy Hollow when the second "half" of the season was only 3 episodes long!

Yep, same here.

I can't wait a whole week anymore! I know it's bad that as a society we have to have things NOW, but I love binge watching a series.

I honestly think I went through the first 3 series of Breaking Bad in about a week.

But then when I finished, and realised I had to then wait a week for each episode like everyone else, I felt sad and depressed.

Great, thanks for you help dude. Much appreciated.

Never say never, browncoat!

If a show is entertaining then surely it must be worth seeing.

Hope you enjoy! Now to try introducing people to another fave of mine.... Have you ever thought of watching 'The Venture Bros'...?

Anyone remember :
Space above and beyond that never got wrapped up after 1 season
Heroes - still waiting
Journey man - cancelled at the mid season 1 break

With all the awards and critical acclaim won by Breaking Bad, I'm eagerly looking forward to start watching it! Next couple months gonna be busy busy with series and the World Cup! Cant wait :-)

Whoa whoa whoa...

You get to watch the World Cup AND watch Breaking Bad for the very first time!?

Sir, I envy you.

There's ups and downs of watching cancelled shows. On one hand, you can buy the boxsets, watch the show and not have to worry about spending money on more boxsets as the series goes on. Also, you can watch the show as and when you like without the frustration of having to wait a week to see the outcome of any particular cliffhanger. The downside will always be not being able to look forward to more episodes. There are three Eric Close series which I loved but were cancelled before their time: Dark Skies, Now & Again and Chaos. Maybe there's something about Eric Close's face that people don't like but, whatever the reasoning, the studio execs are damned fools.
When people watched a cancelled TV show called Star trek, it kind of worked out for it.

I'm in this camp. I was looking forward to Almost Human but the timing of the announcement before the uk launch killed it for me.

To me, this is the problem with delayed broadcasting. Perhaps if the show had been just 2-3 weeks behind the US then the suits would have had a wider picture of its possible market.

In this case though I suspect it had nothing to do with ratings as the almost instant cancellation seems to suggest they couldn't secure Urban for future seasons.

I usually give shows a turn on their first season, such as believe, and am much more likely to continue watching it after I know its been cancelled if I've already invested something in it.

Perhaps it's the uk channels who need to improve their scheduling to maximise their viewership before culling time begins.

After being bitten by this issue before, my wife & I are twice shy about new shows & don't watched cancelled shows unless there is a resolution to the story, or they are all standalone episodes. For example we didn't watch Firefly until Serenity came out. Can't see the point. Its like reading a book where the final chapters are missing. At least this way the broadcast lag between the US & UK plays in our favour.

Don't really like the example of a book that the writer gives...while its true that I wouldn't want to read something with the last 100 pages ripped out I would quite happily read a complete book that ends with "to be continued". It does depend on how it ends though..if it has every character in peril and nothing resolved at all that would get annoying. I've watched both Tomorrow People and Star Crossed..although I'd already watched most of the episodes before they were cancelled. Both shows leave things open but there's a reasonable amount of closure of the story lines that ran through the whole series. Now Alphas on the other hand..@@*****!!!!!!! - is a good example of how NOT to end a show.

Awake was pretty decent little show, which had a good ending considering the cancellation.

Still waiting for an end to The Event. One series I don't think you mentioned.

Haha I've never heard of it. What's it about?

Since the actors aged visibly but their voices haven't, I would like an adult cartoon series with the original cast as voice actors - and a lot of them already have voice-acting experience.

Coincidence. I was thinking last night whether to bother watching Almost Human as it's been cancelled. I didn't bother in the end (it did look good) but i don't see the point investing in something that will never be resolved.

I've just watched 4 seasons of GoT in the space of 3 weeks and binged on it. Definately the best way to watch. I'm just starting on Breaking Bad now.

One could also argue that Star Trek: Enterprise had been put out prematurely. Yes the show got four seasons, but a typical Star Trek show was bound for seven. Also, as from season 5 Enterprise would show us the Earth-Romulan war and some of the origins of the Borg (queen).

That's definitely the way to go it seems nowadays. And you guys wont believe, but I still have to start The Sopranos! I love mafia stories, so looking forward to it!

I was so psyched to watch The Event and Flash Forward, but once they got canned, lost all interest!

Never got why SyFy didn't go with what I call "the X-Files solution" in which Millennium and The Lone Gunmen got a conclusion in The X-Files. Alphas was part of, with lack of a better word, SyFyverse consisting of Eureka, Warehouse 13 and Alphas. Eureka en Warehouse 13 where still running when Alphas got axed. Both shows could have presented a way to conclude Alphas in a good way. It is also pretty weird that the cliffhanger never got any mention in the Eureka or Warehouse 13. A small sentence like 'hey, we send *name(s)* to solve the New York City incident and it went like this and that' would have given us some sort of closure.

As much as I love binge-watching a series only after a few seasons have
already been made, it does leave us with a DILEMMA: If more and more
people approach this way of watching series, then it stands to reason I
suppose that ratings will drop when series initially air on TV. Which
would lead to series getting cancelled. It's like a lose/lose situation
for those in the USA I'm sure. Since I live in South Africa, I probably
have zero effect on the situation. But if I was in America, I'd hate to
get stuck in the routine of watching an episode on week on TV. Any solutions for producers? The House Of Cards/Netflix route?

Watched FlashForward but hated The Event. However shows like these should get one additional episode to conclude the story.

One of the things I don't get with Fox - when there's a running order, why not just broadcast in order? It's like some exec WANTS to screw the series out of the box.

I was really excited to watch Intelligence and Almost Human, but unless I hear from someone that their stories are resolved, I will not be watching either of them.

I completely understand where Louise is coming from – a sci-fi TV show can be be enjoyed just episodically, that is self contained stories week to week.
However, there are some shows that take a while to get into their stride and become much much better over time. On top of that, the universe that is built can be just as enjoyable as the singular plot itself, if not more so.

I found this with Stargate Atlantis and Universe. Many would argue they weren't as good as SG-1, but I enjoyed the Stargate universe (little 'L') so much that I was willing to invest a lot more of my time into the spin-offs.

As to 'I don't watch first seasons' or 'I don't watch it until I can binge'- I think I feel the same way about those as Sam Axe feels about spies.

I don't see why anyone would back off of getting into a show that's been cancelled. You're still getting hours of enjoyment out of it. A movie is two hours long... you still flock to movies despite there being no guarantee that it's going to be the first of a trilogy.

Almost Human was cancelled. Yes. At thirteen episodes it's still about ten hours of time with some characters that are a lot of fun to spend time with. Whether there's resolution or not, you've still gotten five movies worth of time out of it... which is about equal to the screentime available of Pirates of the Caribbean, which already has people crying out - "no more!"

Yes, TV shows are not movies. They're shallower experiences per episode than a movie is, designed to unfold its rich experience over a larger span of time... but still. Hour per hour, you're still getting more enjoyment time out of a thirteen episode cancelled series than a trio of movies... and certainly one movie.

Supernatural ending? HOW CAN YOU SAY SUCH A THING?!?!? *sob*

//I HATE YOU AND YOU'RE NOT MY REAL MOM!

Urban being secured for further seasons was not the problem. The official Karl Urban site announced the cancellation with a heavy heart, and he himself hoped it would get renewed until the end.

But it's not really the amount of time you spend watching it that's important. It's whether or not it's telling a complete story. Something like Freaks & Geeks is still great to watch, even though it's only 1 season, because it doesn't have a long-term story that ends without a payoff. Whereas other shows - especially sci-fi shows - spend a lot of time building up a long term mystery that is never resolved, and that can be incredibly frustrating. So it may be the same screentime as POTC, but at least the pirates films had an ending. If they'd just stopped after the second one (the only one that ended on a cliffhanger) there'd still be plenty of people calling for another - if only for closure.
That's not the best example, because the third one was a turd, but no-one argues that the franchise should have ended after the second film. It should have stopped at the one that told a complete story, with an ending.

Kind of, but not really, off topic - it's interesting how many people are saying they much prefer bingewatching shows on dvd & netflix, and hate watching things week by week. I've bingewatched a good few shows - including most of Lost, most of Breaking Bad, most of Dexter and others - but if a show I like is being shown currently on TV I would never wait until the end so I can watch it over a weekend. I kind of like only having one a week, and it sometimes feels a shame to get it all over with really quickly. Especially with very in-depth programmes like Breaking Bad, Mad Men and Hannibal, it's great to have a chance to dissect each episode at a time, and have an entire week to focus and read and discuss online what just happened, and what's going to happen in the future. It was one of the things I missed when the newest Arrested Development came out - there wasn't the opportunity for a blow by blow review and discussion of each episode, only the full season. With all the episode reviews of various shows on this site alone I know I can't be the only one who enjoys this aspect of watching.

“Well, unfortunately, Lois, there’s just no more room on the schedule.
We’ve just got to accept the fact that Fox has to make room for terrific
shows like: Dark Angel, Titus, Undeclared, Action, That ’80s
Show, Wonderfalls, Fastlane, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, Skin,
Girls Club, Cracking Up, The Pitts, Firefly, Get Real, Freakylinks,
Wanda at Large, Costello, The Lone Gunmen, A Minute With Stan Hooper,
Normal Ohio, Pasadena, Harsh Realm, Keen Eddie, The $treet, American
Embassy, Cedric the Entertainer, The Tick, Louie and Greg the Bunny.”

Let us not forget Star Trek: The Original Series. Due for cancellation, THIS was the poster child for fandom to revive a series.

I just don't have the energy or the time to put my precious little free time into something that isn't going to be even finished. If the execs decide its not worth making anymore, why expect me to start watching it? This is why TV is dying. Netflix and Amazon should buy up these shows and fund further seasons, that will get them a huge following!

I don't think Serenity follows on from Firefly, the first half of the film is a condensed retelling of several episodes, focusing mainly on the escape of River Tam. Still both are awesome and Serenity at least gives you a resolution.

I would say 'Almost Human' is still worth tuning in for. Just for the pleasure of watching Karl Urban kicking ass and taking names, just like Adam Baldwin in 'Firefly'.

I don't need to read the article, the answer is yes. One thousand times yes. I will never understand those who wouldn't watch a great show because it was cancelled, and I don't want to.

Really enjoyed the first two episodes of Almost Human, gutted that it has been cancelled, but I shall still enjoy Karl Urban doing his thing in an awesome sci-fi series.

For me, Firefly was the series to resulted in my not watching any series that gets cancelled. It's just too disappointing and eternal cliffhangers aren't fun. I hate just half a story, so if it's cancelled, I don't bother.

I'm still surprised they didn't bring Firefly back though. Considering the amount of vitriol Fox still get from the public about it so many years afterwards, you'd have thought it would have a decent viewership. Sci-Fi rarely gets the numbers you'd associate with sit-coms etc. but it should be enough.

There is also something to be said for airing series at the same time, or making decisions based on foreign markets. 24, for instance, was doing pretty badly in the USA; it wasn't until it had resounding success in the UK that they decided to give it a 2nd chance with a new series, and that worked out pretty well.

Studios always expect immediate success, or they pull the plug. Nothing is ever given a chance to breathe. It Star Trek: TNG was broadcast today as it was in the 80s, it would probably have been cancelled just after the "Code of Honour" - look what we'd have missed out on then.

Well, I wouldn't say 'completes' the story line if I'm honest. It gives it 'a' resolution, but there was quite a bit more planned - released in comics now, and there was a hope the film would bring the series back, or at least another couple of films. But it does give it an ending, though somewhat open.

Yeah, giving constant easter eggs to a middle aged writer come investigator.

It was really good, but they failed to capitalise on the bulk of the SG1 fandom. There was no tongue in cheek humour, it was much darker and a great deal more serious - more a drama. This wasn't a turn off for me, but it was a turn off for a lot of people, and as it had the Stargate name attached, it automatically turned off people that didn't like the previous series. Sucks, but there you are.

True, but imagine reading your favourite book series, say Lord of the Rings (and imagine that he wrote and published each novel independently rather than in one shot). Tolkein dies after Two Towers. Or even after Fellowship. Do you continue to read it?

Some people would, some people wouldn't. But not having a resolution is a big put off. There is something of a covenant between audience and author/studio that once you get invested in something, it should be finished. So many programs in the states (and the UK sometimes - damn you Fades!!!) are breaking that.

I asked Watch if they were showing it in US order or the order the producers intended it to be shown. The reply came back that the episode order would match the US broadcast. Decided to wait for the DVD. Then I heard it was cancelled and decided not to bother at all. Just don't have the time to invest. I rarely watch a sci fi show know unless it has at least a second season order and is more likely to get a chance to wrap up should cancellation then happen.

Almost Human cancelled! Damn it! You've just made me check, and I've now found out that five other shows I followed have been cancelled. TV networks are brutal!

I wonder if Netfix and Amazon funded shows are the future? Would they give shows at least three seasons?

Don't forget about Cougar Town when ABC cancelled it, TBS picked it up.

No group is more vocal than BBC America's prematurely cancelled Copper, which ended season 2 with a major cliffhanger and a season 3 already penned by Tom Fontana and his team. There is still hopes of a movie, but for some reason, legal battles are preventing the amazing cast and their faithful fans from reuniting. Networks are too quick to the cut and don't give audiences enough time to grow to love their shows or for the characters on these shows to form into keepers. Shame on them.

You are probably so smart to take this approach. I also liked Intelligence and can't understand why CBS didn't give it a 2nd season after only a few episodes this season.

Absolutely. The Original Series of Star Trek is the perfect example of stupid network execs basing a fandom on how many boxes of soap their advertisers sell based on ratings. Who was the fool who thought the show wouldn't be successful. 47 years later and still going.

This is aptly timed. I won't link since that's Internet-douchey, but I just started a podcast about shows that lasted one season or less. With obvious exceptions like Firefly and Journeyman, a lot of a great little hidden gems exist that people just ignore because they never got off the ground. If anything, I enjoy being able to soak up an entire universe in 23 episodes or less.

For example, our first episode was on Heat Vision and Jack, which is an unaired pilot for a show that would have been amazing. It's pretty popular compared what we'll be discussing down the road, but I know plenty of people won't bother watching it because nothing ever came of it. That's a shame, because it represents a TV reality that, while short, was a great experience that I'll never forget — and all for just 20 minutes of my time.

The short answer I would give is: no. The somewhat more nuanced answer would be: if you have enough time on your hands, then yes. When deciding to pick up an older tv show the first thing I check is whether it has an ending or at least a good chance of reaching one. This is because simply put watching a show that has no ending sucks in every possible way and in some times even hurts like the ending of Rome which made me feel like Julius Ceasar on the Ides of March. On the other hand going into a show knowing it has no end does help. I recently watched Deadwood and even though it still sucks it has no end I did really enjoy watching it. I would say there are some shows that were cancelled too soon that are still relevant to the genre and therefor worth watching. I'm talking about shows like Deadwood, Rome, Carnivale etc... You could also easilly watch a prematurely cancelled tv show if it continues in some other form. For instance I frequently recommend Wire in the Blood to people because the show was cancelled but the books still continue. So for those kind of shows yes they are worth watching as long as you know what you're going into. But I wouldn't watch some mediocre show if it had no ending.

Given that I love cartoons, it is not really surprising that one cancelled TV show comes to my mind: Genndy Tartakovsky's Samurai Jack (2001-2004).

For years, there are rumors of a proposed theatrical big screen cinematic Samurai Jack feature film project that might properly conclude the Samurai Jack TV cartoon show itself, but now, that project might seem seemed doomed never to happen presumably in the lifetime of Genndy Tartakovsky himself, because here's possibly why:

First of all, there was the advent of 3D CGI animation following the releases of The Abyss (1989), Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) and finally Jurassic Park (1993), and there was also 2D hand drawn animation falling out of favor and being dismissed as an unconventional and outdated relic of another century (or more than another century, for that matter).

Second of all, There was the death of Aku’s voice actor, Mako (aka Mako Iwamatsu), from cancer in 2006.

Third, the Samurai Jack show was already abruptly cancelled in September 2004 before Samurai Jack ever received a proper ending.

And finally, and last but not least, there was Cartoon Network’s changing attitude when it started to lose momentum with 2002’s The Powerpuff Girls movie (and completely capsized under Stuart Snyder’s regime until his recent departure from Cartoon Network in March 2014, three years after Genndy finally flamed out of the television landscape after a falling out with both Stuart Snyder and Cartoon Network over the cancellation of Sym-Bionic Titan (itself caused by the failure of a merchandising deal with a toy company).).

But thankfully, my love and fascination with the Samurai Jack cartoon show itself have never really diminished for 10 years since that show was abruptly cancelled, and possibly never will be in my life.

And I'm asking you this:

Why is Hollywood still breaking out in hives at the thought of making a theatrical big screen Samurai Jack cinematic feature film?

Sill furious about The Fades

When I saw the trailer for Almost Human I thought it looked good, Alien Nation with a touch of I, Robot. But when I saw that FOX was broadcasting it my first thoughts were "How long before they screw up and cancel the show?" What is with FOX and their on-again/off-again relationship with sci-fi TV?

i wouldnt say that was true at all. it picks up some time after the show and tells a few plot points in flashback and expands upon them. It's misleading to say it doesnt follow after firefly. even episodes dont pick up where the last scene on the last episode was

The Venture Bro is not cancelled

How can you possibly know if the stories were resolved without watching? I think the problem is people equating cancelled with not getting answers or fulfillment from what your watching. I see Alphas as having a somewhat sad resolution. SPOILERS >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Everyone but Gary died on that platform.

I also know a few shows, outside of the previously mentioned procedurals, that are great to watch cancelled. I think there is a premise that shows will need a resolution. I'm watching Mortal Kombaty Legacy. Tacheareon-whatever is no longer attached to any possible movie and the web series isnt continuing....still great. Superhero shows/cartoons included(Avengers EMH) work stand alone episode by episode. The Tick)live action) was canceled but is a good watch. Movies leave unresolved threads all the time and open endings

Firefly is worth watching cause the movie serenity continues the story in a satisfying way

loved SG1 and SGA, but SGU was just people in dark coridoors shouting at each other

Never really understood this obsession with missing out on series that have been cancelled. I know Almost Human is the latest casualty but the more important question is whether the episodes available to watch are any good. If so, watch them.

Everything ends and some things don't get a resolution.

So some people don't bother with AH because it only got one season. What if it got two but no more? And still left lots of unresolved questions. Or three, etc, etc.

Even those that finish can cause massive ire if the ending isn't satisfying enough.

My attitude is watch, enjoy, move on. I've never become totally invested in any TV series or film as I see around me these days. Is it an age or internet age thing?

The book analogy is a good one and works both ways.

I finished the last GoT novel early last year after reading all of them one after the other over the space of three months. The ending to the last, same as all of them, is so frustrating as there are lots of unresolved threads (won't go into them here, learned that lesson on FB at the time).

Does this mean I should not have bothered reading them in the first place or I would advise others not to bother? After all, we have no idea if we're even going to get a new novel...

Trouble is, shows with a larger story arc that get cancelled are pointless. It doesn't matter how wonderful they look, or how good the acting is. If they end and you're left hanging, you've essentially wasted some of your life watching something with no conclusion. Seriously, what's the point in that? The analogy about a book with missing pages is spot on!

I never said it was - just that I like it and that I'd recommend it :)

Feel the same but have heart... Sam J continues in comic form and he is still bad ass and funny :-). go buy before they cancel due to low sales!!!

I can understand why people don't want to invest their time and emotions into a series only to get burned with an unresolved cliffhanger. Stargate Universe was the worst offender of recent times for me, I loved that show and followed it avidly.

I have watched Almost Human, and it wasn't bad, certainly deserving of a second season, and there was just enough resolution to make it worth watching now.

Of all the cancelled-after-one-season shows from this year it's better than most, although of recent years I'd give Last Resort the award for best reaction to cancellation - snappy ending, everything resolved and a storyline that felt meaty enough with just one season.

I will give shows a chance especially the geek ones for a minimum of 3 episodes. Usually I know by then based on acting and story if it will be canned and i have gotten very good at that with Revolution and tomorrow people being the latest. However with the changing landscape of how ppl watch TV - specifically binge watching, networks need to change as well. I have bee leaning more to British series of late because 1. Very short. 2. Mostly well done. 3. They mostly end properly in one season. Then next year or later i have a new universe to explore. I much prefer a short and sweet well done properly concluded series to a abrupt cancelled show any day. Think about what Almost Human could accomplish with a decided one season exisitence? Yeah, we.migjt have wanted it to go on but at least you would have been satisfied knowing all the plots are tied up.

Knowing the American public, I an going to say it now, Extant will be cancelled if it tries for more than a season. Hopefully the finale is somewhat conclusive.

It kinda, almost worked for Star Trek.

Over the last few years so many shows I have watched have been cancelled after only one or two seasons. Some of them did fall off badly in the second season and I understand them being cancelled. Whilst others take time to develop the characters and story but are never given the chance. Recently I have started to watched more series on dvd/bluray as its very frustrating getting into a series and it being cancelled. Also some writers will add an extra episode onto the end of s eries if they know its been cancelled to clear everything up. ie Dollhouse. I am currently watching Believe and now just realised it has been cancelled so frustrating. I think in future I will wait to see if a series gets a 2nd before watching it. Some of the big names ie JJ throws his name behind so many series all at once it would be better concentrating on one and doing it well. Glad Agents of Shield has got a 2nd series it was slow to get going but has improved a lot as the series went on.

Resolution. That's all it's about. No matter if there are great episodes, if there isn't a satisfying finale then for me it just isn't something I want to dive into without a good reason. Whether that finale is a final season, or a big budget film, or a tv movie, or one last episode, or even, when it comes down to it, a hastily shot 5 minute tag at the end of the final episode, as long as it has a finale? I'll watch it. But in all seriousness, that's what keeps me from watching cancelled shows, if I'm going to invest my time in a beginning and a middle, you better damn sure give me an end. Even if I don't like the end, I'd rather I had it. Think of Chuck without season 5, Firefly without 'Serenity', Farscape without 'The Peacekeeper Wars', Eureka without 'Just Another Day' or Pushing Daisies without that final few fleeting moments of 'Kerplunk'. And it just gets sadder for those shows.

When it comes to a new series though, I generally just hope for the best... Which hasn't went well so far. Think of Flashforward, Almost Human, Revolution, Alcatraz, Bored To Death, Caprica, Community, Happy Endings, Human Target, My Name is Earl, Party Down, Rubicon, Terriers, Stargate Universe, Terra Nova. Each and every single one of those stings more because they didn't get an ending. Even if they weren't as good as other shows, they'll always sting more. If every cancelled show was given a final episode, a tv movie or a final season, I couldn't care less that they were cancelled. Because then they'd have ended things at least partially on their own terms, and given fans some closure, while also making a fully rounded show to sell off to other territories. Surely, it's harder to sell a season with no ending, right?

Some of my favourite shows are 1 season cancellations. They have this rare quality (especially if you know in hindsight it's just one season) as it's fun to spot where and how it was due to develop. I'd have loved to see second seasons of Rubicon, John from Cincinnati, Luck and Journeyman. I'd recommend all of them, on the flip side there's probably a bunch of geek shows best enjoyed up to a point and then no further like Fringe, Alias and Lost. Sometimes not having a resolution can be a pluspoint.

Edit: and CARNIVALE! Can't believe I missed it out. Probably the best example of a cancelled show definitely worth watching, even if it did get 2 seasons

I think part of the problem, at least as far as Almost Human, or Firefly is the way the show was treated by the network (in both cases, Fox)

I do exactly the same thing.

I've always thought that kind of approach could actually work in the case of Firefly. It's essentially a western at heart, westerns are full of the whole 'one last job'/'ageing outlaws' thing, I'd love to catch up with older versions of the characters.

I just did both seasons of House of Cards in 3 days...its the way forward for sure.

I always wished Wonderfalls had gotten a second season, the first season isn't perfect but it had so many ideas and so much energy that I'd have loved to have seen a more refined and balanced follow up.

When it comes to how much is enough, I'm usually happy if a series is given time to finish it's story. In the case of Supernatural, which I love, I would have been ok with it finishing after the initial 5 season arc, in fact there's a argument to be made that it should have!

American Gothic was amazing back in the early/mid 90s(and still holds up to repeat viewings today) that was also cancelled after one seaseon and had its episodes bizarrely shuffled/butchered up out of the intended order, by the network.

Terra Nova killed it for me, it takes me ages to get into something then to see it cancelled is so irritating. Now I wait until it's a few seasons in before giving it a go.

Every time I see somebody say "well I won't bother if it's been cancelled" it depresses me. The implication that you can only invest in a show if it last several years is so utterly irritating to me and seeing how many genre shows decline in later years, it seems illogical.

Almost human may be cancelled, but to skip it is missing out on a treat. Same is true of so many other shows.

But that's just me.

The reason Dollhouse worked is that Whedon made it absolutely axe-proof, what with the final episode of each season. It's almost like the guy is paranoid Fox would cancel his show before its time. Wonder why that is... ;-)

So, I was the only person who didn't know 'Alphas' was cancelled. Great, just great.

And why watch something before they cancel it - in case they cancel it?
Seriously,barring the occasional exception, I only watch a new show after a second season renewal.

I wish it wasn't an option and I could watch everything as it aired then be disappointed when it gets cancelled, but I just dont get the time to watch TV as much as I used to so whilst I record EVERYTHING that I think I might like, there are very few shows that I get round to watching until months after they finish airing, and if I find out it has been cancelled I just delete them. Its a shame as I was really looking forward to Almost Human and Intelligence, but now I know thee wont be any more, I don't see the point of watching them and would rather start watching something that has got a future or is established.

Just finished Dracula, I have to say i was impressed, a must for all, o no wait they canned it, will he get his revenge? NO!!!!!!! shame :(

No mention of 4400 - four series that ended on a cliffhanger that's never been resolved. It was everything Heroes should have been.

I agree! I watched SG1 and SGA for the adventure and science element on the show. SGU traded that in for a lot of Battlestar Galactica kind of stuff. It was too big a break with the previous shows. Also, fans where angry because SGA didn't get a good ending. The final episode was very good, but it wasn't a good series finale.
Thinking about that, I still wonder why the SGC didn't cought up with Destiny with the wormholedrive or that they "stoned" people who know their stuff to Destiny, like McKay, Zalenka or Carter.

The Event was awesome, I remain perplexed as to why it was so unpopular

No, but thus far George hasn't stated that he's discontinuing the series, and as far as I know he's in good health, so there is presently no reason believe we won't get resolutions to those untied threads (though I do wish he'd pick it up a bit - 5/6 years between books is ridiculous). This is a series in progress like any series that hasn't been cancelled. You'll always get cliffhangers as you get from a to un-produced b.

However, if GoT got cancelled (or George died), I'd understand you if you said you didn't want to continue anymore. It's less the sense of frustration you get from a cliffhanger, and more the sense of frustration when you realise that you aren't going to get a resolution to that cliffhanger... ever.

I won't watch this and I just know I will love it. But the article says it's cos Geeks won't watch cos there's not enough. Of course it's not that. Awake was only 13 eps but managed to make itself feel contained. I won't watch it cos nothing is wrapped up and never will be. And that makes it a waste of time. Which is exactly what happened to me with JJ's last show Alcatraz. Left hanging with no explanations. And that's that makes it a waste of our time.

Good Tv is good Tv and not watching shows because they have been cancelled seems to make no sense to me. I've been watching sci-fi for over 30 years and if there's one thing I know it's that if I like a show generally it will be cancelled and I won't get a conclusion to it. This however has never stopped me from enjoying the ride, even if you have to get off half way through.

Would you not read a standalone novel then, because it's not projected to be part of a longer series (as much as I love long series). Or a movie because there's no planned sequels?

I will agree with all those who say the first series of anything I guess should always be self-contained... just to be on the safe side. A proper arc, a real ending. Once it's in the can, things can always be edited later if it gets that second chance.

These things live or die by their ratings and that's something they can never predict until they've had a bunch of episodes broadcast. Otherwise I guess shows would be bought for 3-5 series right off the bat. No magical formula I'm afraid. And it would be a boring world if no-one took chances.

But surely the series ratings are just a small part of the whole profit/loss cycle? What about overseas rights, DVD boxsets, and the rest? Is it a problem that the shows are so expensive to make? Would a show that could be made to a budget be more likely to survive with merely average ratings - they'd still be schedule fillers.

As you can tell I've no idea of the economics of a successful show. But when stuff like CSI or NCIS can run forever it must just be a curse of the genre show. Just not enough viewers to warrant the effort :-( Do they have profit targets?

But don't worry too much. Enjoy those single season runs. Some of them turn into properly planned runs, others return in some form or another, and with all those networks out there there's got to be something to fill the time.

Battlestar Galactica, Heroes (coming back!), Babylon 5, Doctor Who (loooong gap) - there's many ways a franchise can come and go.

Sorry, you misinterpreted my point. Actually if we never get another novel, then I'll just have been happy to have read the previous ones, regardless of all the outstanding plot lines. That doesn't bother me and never will.

It's the journey that interests me more than the resolution, much like life really. Some lives have a natural resolution, but too many are cut short in mid-flow.

I used to think like that, then had to deal with 'Copper' being cancelled at the end of Season 2, on a pretty major unresolved plot point. Somehow, it felt MUCH worse than dealing with a Season 1 cancellation :-)

God, I forgot all about Awake! That was another interesting sci-fi series that I was getting into when it got cancelled. Add it to the list with Journeyman, Flash Forward, The Event, Space : Above and Beyond, Firefly etc.

Again. It's not that it has to last several years. Awake was brilliant. Provided some form of resolution and was only 13 eps. It's when it stops with no resolution. Just stops. What on earth is the point when absolutely none of your questions will be answered. Alcatraz was the last straw.

I'd say yes it's still worth it, watched Awake not all too long ago and still got a hell of a lot of enjoyment out it.

Oh I agree with the last point, but that isn't something we see a great deal in entertainment. Maybe it's a social issue, maybe it's just something we do for our comfort, but everything has been to resolved, wrapped up in a pretty bow, and people don't know how to deal when that doesn't happen.

Bereavement is a signature of this - obviously on a completely different scale to a cancelled TV show or an unfinished book series, but the principle is the same.

I, personally, am not sure if I would re-read the Game of Thrones series, or any other book series, if that resolution wasn't forthcoming. I had a similar dilemma with Wheel of Time when RJ died, before Sanderson picked it up. It's also pretty interesting that Sanderson was chosen to be involved at all. The series could have been left as one of those events that are cut short in mid-flow, but the decision was made to carry it on with a different author.

Earth 2!!! Damn, forgot that existed and I watched it religiously when it first came out. Genius show that was.

It already worked in the 60s. The name of the show? Star Trek!
Anything is possible, I guess. Great article! Count me in.
Having said that: six seasons a movie! This can't be the darkest timeline...
Keep it up!

Earth 2 was especially painful because back then sci-fi was a rarity on television. Or any geeky type genre. And it had such an impressive world and premise. At an age when my peer group and I didn't watch tv pretty much at all, earth 2 was event tv inhat ae would get together for and make an evening of.

Because its the norm now for shows to have overarching plots and mythologies you cant blame people for being wary. Shows like Fringe, wRehouse 13 and eureka gain popularity partly for their fluffy entertainment value but also because bigger stories are in the background to satisfying self contained episodes. The same can be said for the procedural nature of x-files(on rewatch, the conspiracy episodes are dull and the freak of the week are fun), the adventure of the stargates(they blew the formula in the third and went for intriguing sci-fi and more weighty characters, significantly shortening the life span), the scooby doo spookiness of Supernatural, the irreverence of of buffy/angel and the morality plays ofthe star treks.

Shows like sarah Connors or dollhouse are driven by their long story and between the audience that doesnt want that level of investment and the jaded by past cancellation folk, these shows whither on the vine.

Its why shows like lost and babylon five are such aberrations--they managed the tightrope.

Deadwood was brilliant and dosent require a resolution, should you ever want to check it out

Yup. Ties everything up nicely and makes a great standalone film at the same time.

That's how star trek got its first resuscitation on air! Though that may have been driven by combiningc book synergy too

SU being cancelled really bugged me. I was so taken with the more weighty sci-fi feel. I never cared much for the uber light military adventuring of the first two stargate shows but I assumed from their enormous popularity that SU was a sure bet. But nope, as popular as geeky stuff is, it tends to be stuff that doesn't stray too far from humour, procedural and light feel good.

Get a good taste of sci-fi meat and generally, larger audiences spit it out.

My understanding is that it had poor ratings. Add to that it's anti-war/diplomacy ideals in a country conducting an invasive war and its not surprising. It came back to life during America's vietnam hangover when there was a strong need for hope and idealism, not to mention escape from the realities of economic retraction.

Its no coincidence that genre tv is so overwhelmingly popular in recent years in a nation in the midst of financial collapse and deep unpopularity due to its foreign policy.

i think 4 4400 novels were published, but yeah, that was a frustrating cancellation

Dear sci-fi shows: If you're going to be on Fox, make your first season self-contained. Because you won't be getting another. And tell me upfront that it's self contained.

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