On May 10th, Fox cancelled Brooklyn 99.
On May 11th, following a digital outpouring of mortified fans with too much time on their hands, Brooklyn 99 was picked up by NBC. Such is the power of social media. And greed.
Now, I’m not saying that Brooklyn 99 shouldn’t have been saved – far from it! I enjoy the loveable antics of Jake Perolta and gang as much as the next person, particularly the impassive Captain Holt, who’s one liners are drier than a dry Martini that’s been shaken and stirred with a soldering iron.
No, what I’m really saying is, with that strong show of solidarity from all those outraged fans, skiving off from work and instead signing online petitions to save flatlining shows, it begs the question – what other shows cancelled before their time might have been saved?
In the era of Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, YouTube TV, et al, there are a lot of new players in the TV world that have the power to revive classic shows and prevent others from prematurely going six feet under.
Here’s some of the shows that would have been nice to see more of.
Freaks and Geeks
Exploring the perils of high school through the eyes of outsiders, Freaks and Geeks was one of the first collaborations between Paul Feig and Judd Apatow, and the first appearance of future A-Listers the likes of Seth Rogan, Jason Segal and James Franco.
It got canned after only one season, but it certainly left behind a firm legacy. Just look – it’s practically on every list that’s ever been written on great shows that were cancelled prematurely.
Westerns have been enjoying somewhat of a renaissance in the last couple of years and Deadwood must take a lot of that credit. Ian McShane gives a tour de force performance as Al Swearengen, perhaps one of the dastardliest villains in TV history.
But it wasn’t all about gun slinging and brothels with this one. No sir, Deadwood contained some of the sharpest and thought-provoking dialogue since the West Wing, claiming eight Emmys and one Golden Globe. With a lot of potential plot lines and unanswered questions to explore at the close of season three, it was a real shame to see it end when it did.
The modernised Battlestar Galactica was a true sci fi phenomenon, reigniting the series with a gritty space soap opera that brought endless hours of joy, not to mention Dr Gaius Baltar – one of the most blissfully snaky characters ever conceived for television.
It could be argued that the four seasons we were given were pretty damn good and that it reached its natural end, with most of the show’s conflicts being resolved in its final season. Ultimately though, the show wasn’t getting the numbers needed to justify a large TV Network in order to continue. So instead of leaving cliff hangers and a fleet of disappointed fans, Exec Producers Ronald D. Moore and David Eick decided to finish it in fast-paced and (relatively) satisfying style. So not all bad, but we could have got a lot more from this fabulous show.
Party Down was a brilliant comedy series about a group of down on their luck ‘caterers’ trying to make it big in Hollywood, one that had a stand-out cast, including Adam Scott, Lizzy Caplan, Ken Marino, Jane Lynch and Freaks and Geeks alumni Martin Star.
Unfortunately, despite having so much going for it, the show just didn’t find an audience – largely due to the fact that it aired on Starz, which didn’t have the network credentials to promote it properly. After the departure of Scott, this ship sunk faster than the Titanic. A great shame!
Laura Dern won a Golden Globe for her turn as the self-destructive Amy Jellicoe, a woman who experiences a spiritual enlightenment following the breakdown of her professional career.
The Golden Globe is enough to show how critically acclaimed the show was and it was for good reason. Enlightened was dark, funny and intellectually challenging, but like many shows with this kind of introspective curiosity, it just didn’t find a solid audience. Some called it the best show of 2013, but that didn’t save it from being cancelled.
Flash Forward followed the lives of several people as a mysterious event causes almost everyone to blackout for several minutes, during which they have a vision of their future selves six months down the line.
It wasn’t perfect, but it had an amazing cast, including the likes of Joseph Fiennes, John Cho, and Dominic Monaghan, a talented creator and writer in David S. Goyer, and a genuinely exciting premise, with a narrative containing more twists and turns than the Grand Prix in Monaco.
Alas, it aired on Channel 5 in the UK, meaning that about five people in Britain actually watched it. The ratings were similarly poor in the US, the show airing at an unconventional time, before going on a bizarrely long mid-season break that caused a considerable number of its viewers to give up. It wasn’t perfect, but Flash Forward had potential, and its ultimate demise is unquestionably the result of poor scheduling, marketing and planning.
Despite the less than cheery synopsis, about a man (Lee Pace) with the power to decide if someone should live or die, Pushing Daisies was actually quite light hearted and amusing. Bryan Fuller injected some real quirk to this unique fantasy drama, both visually and comedically, but it proved to be too experimental for the common viewer’s taste.
The audience wasn’t the show’s biggest issue, however. The production was unfortunately hit by the now infamous writer’s strike, which pushed this daisy underground after just two seasons.
Happy Endings was yet another of those shows about a group of mid-20 to 30 somethings living together in a big city (this time Chicago), which – in large part – was one reason people were put off.
But they were wrong to! Happy Endings came out of the gates a little slow but it very quickly became one of the funniest things on TV, tapping into popular culture and popping quick-fire gags that went beyond many of its competitors the likes of New Girl and The Big Bang Theory. It may have seemed like just another one of those young people in the city shows, but it was so much more. It was canned after just three seasons.
Jos Whedon’s space Western follows the renegade crew of the Serenity, as they boldly travel to new parts of the galaxy yet unexplored by man and friendly alien. Hmm, sounds familiar!
Despite enjoying only one season, Firefly continues to have an avid fan-base and Nathan Fillion will remain a cult favourite among sci fi geeks across the globe. And in fact, the demand for the show after its cancellation was so high that a movie adaptation, Serenity, was created a few short years later in 2005. Alas, the film didn’t set the box office on fire, and the screen series died. But it’s not all bad news sci fi fans, since Joss Whedon eventually continued the story in comic-book form.
Anyone read it? Yeah, me neither.
There are a lot of quality shows on this list, but this one is my favourite.
Set in the United States during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl (or Dirty Thirties), Carnivàle traces the lives of a travelling circus and two disparate groups of people, one half on the side of good and other on the side of evil.
It’s truly one of the most mind boggling and intriguing shows ever created by HBO, one that poses deep philosophical questions about free will and determinism, with inspiration take from Christian theology, Gnosticism and Masonic lore.
With stellar performances from the whole cast and unique storylines and characters that are quite simply unmatched by anything that has come before or after, Carnivàle is a true masterpiece. Unfortunately, it was a bit too bizarre to pick up a mainstream audience. It also cost $2m an episode.
It lasted just two seasons but they were truly incredible seasons. And fittingly, in the words of P.T Barnum, the best show’s in the world ‘always leave them wanting more’. That is the beautiful legacy of Carnivàle.