Gone Before Their Time: 7 TV shows that shouldn't have been canceled

We've all been there. You're in the middle of a great new show, or one you've watched since the first season began, and then suddenly, out of nowhere, it gets canceled. Culture writer Alex Wainer recently published an article explaining the phenomenon and why some shows were likely to fail. A few, like Futurama, sometimes manage to come back from the brink with help from a rabid fan base, but most, like the FOX drama, The Chicago Code, just fade to black.

So, in honor of those series that never made it back, TheFish has assembled a list of the best TV shows that got the axe. Let's bow our heads and remember these seven series that ended before their time.     

7.) The Cape  

Aired: 2010 - 2011 on NBC
Starred: David Lyons, Keith David, Summer Glau, James Frain, Jennifer Ferrin, Ryan Wynott, Dorian Missick, Martin Klebba,  

Kicking off our list is the brief NBC superhero drama, The Cape. After being framed for crimes he didn't commit, police detective Vince Faraday (David Lyons) takes the guise of his son's favorite superhero, "The Cape", and begins a one man war against crime in Palm City. Helping him in his quest for justice are Orwell (Summer Glau), a high tech blogger with a mysterious past, and Max Malini (Keith David), a smooth-talking magician who leads a gang of criminals known as "The Carnival of Crime". The show ran like an old fashioned comic book, and was pleasantly cheesy with an odd-ball assortment of villains like Scales, an Australian gangster with green skin. For those who enjoyed it, The Cape was a new spin on the old superhero classic.   

Audiences however, seemingly found it difficult to embrace the corniness of the show with its villain-of-the-week performance and leisurely pacing. The Cape also faced stiff competition from another superhero drama called No Ordinary Family which premiered on ABC and featured well-known actors like Michael Chiklis, Julie Benz, and Lucy Lawless. The combination sunk The Cape in low ratings, and the series was canceled with its final episode airing online.  

 

  

6.) Firefly  

Aired: 2002 on FOX
Starred: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Summer Glau, Ron Glass,  

The Patron Saint of sci-fi geeks everywhere, Joss Whedon's Firefly was a perfect blend of Star Wars and the Wild West. Nathan Fillion headed the cast as Malcolm Reynolds, a former Independent Sergeant who captained the spaceship "Serenity". After losing a war against a corrupt empire, Malcolm and his band of noble outlaws set out to the fringe worlds, hoping to make their fortune by doing odd-jobs for shifty people. Their lives get complicated however, with the appearance of Simon and River Tam, a brother and sister who join their crew while on the run from imperial agents. With a nice mix of action and comedy, Firefly managed to garner a large fan base in its short lifespan.  

Unfortunately, the show gathered problems just as quickly. The FOX network, feeling the pilot episode was too weak to hook viewers, ended up airing the episodes out of order. Furthermore, the network clashed repeatedly with Whedon on the show's direction. Firefly's ratings took a nose dive as a result, and the series was canceled before it had finished its first season. Loyal fans were eventually given some closure in the feature film Serenity, which continued the story where the series left off, but Firefly has been grounded ever since.

 

 

5.) Dead Like Me  

Aired: 2003 - 2004 on Showtime
Starred:
Ellen Muth, Mandy Patinkin, Callum Blue, Jasmine Guy, Laura Harris, Britt McKillip, Cynthia Stevenson, 

The concept of death has haunted mankind since time immemorial, and in 2003 Bryan Fuller gave audiences a new spin on the afterlife with Dead Like Me. The show followed eighteen-year-old Georgia "George" Lass, whose bored and underperforming life is suddenly snuffed out after she's hit by a falling toilet seat. Instead of passing on however, George is drafted into the ranks of the undead as a "Grim Reaper".  A Reaper's job is to remove human souls, preferably before they die, and escort them into the afterlife, meaning George is now stuck in limbo until she reaches her vaguely established quota of human souls.      

With the help of a group of misfit Reapers, led by the sagely Rube (Mandy Patinkin), George slowly begins to understand the meaning of life, and how to treasure every moment of it. The show featured an excellent cast, and delivered a hilarious spread of dark comedy delivered with solid irony and Muth's emotionless narration. Despite this, the show faced internal problems. One of the lead actresses, Rebecca Gayheart, left the show due to "artistic differences", and Bryan Fuller departed as well after several disagreements over the main script. This ultimately doomed the show to cancelation. Like Firefly, Dead Like Me was given its own movie to tie up loose ends, but even this could not resurrect the series from the grave.           

4.) Wonderfalls  

Aired: 2004 on FOX
Starred: Carolin Dhavernas, Katie Finneran, Tyron Leitso, Lee Pace, William Sadler, Diana Scarwid, Tracie Thomas,  

Wonderfalls has a lot in common with Dead Like Me. Both were created by Bryan Fuller, both centered on the adventures of a young female protagonist, and both had elements of the supernatural (plus, both got canceled.) Unlike its dower sibling however, Wonderfalls showed the lighter side of life and destiny. The show told the story of Jaye Tyler (Caroline Dhavernas), a recent college grad working a dead-end job at a Niagara Falls gift shop. Jaye's normal life is unexpectedly turned upside-down when the shop's various animal figurines begin talking to her. Reluctantly following the instructions of wax lions, brass monkeys, and mounted fish, Jaye sets out to perform various tasks that end up improving the lives of those around her.  

With great characters, smart humor, and plenty of charm, there was a lot to like about the show. Unfortunately, few people got the chance to enjoy it. Wonderfalls was originally planned to air on FOX in the fall of 2004 but was ultimately delayed. Due to its late release the series had trouble attracting viewers, and was bounced to several nighttime slots before it was canceled. Still, the show managed some small fame during its time, and also acted as a springboard for Lee Pace's career.                  

3.) Kings  

Aired: 2009 on NBC
Starred: Christopher Egan, Ian McShane, Susanna Thompson, Mllison Miller, Sebastian Stan, Eamonn Walker, Dylan Baker, Wes Studi, Sarita Choudhury,  

Any TV show based on religion is bound to attract hard criticism, and Kings was unfortunately no exception. The NBC drama retold the biblical story of King David, but was set in a kingdom that mirrored the modern age both culturally and technologically. The story opens with a young soldier named David Shepard (Christopher Egan) single-handedly rescuing captive soldiers from behind enemy lines, and destroying a "Goliath" tank in the process. David's heroism makes him an instant star in the national media, and earns him the gratitude of King Silas (Ian McShane).   

Silas brings David to the capital city of Shiloh, where he is immediately swept into the politics and secrecy of the royal family. Yet despite these plots, David remains loyal to his ideals and his people, earning him the fabled "Butterfly Crown" of the future king. Early critics praised the series, calling it "bold", and "engrossing" with a look and feel that surpassed most of what you see on TV. Ian McShane in particular was noted for his performance as Silas, but Kings' strong start didn't last long.         

Religious audiences felt the show did not follow the original story close enough, while secular viewers argued that Kings needed to break away from its biblical context to become more original. The show also drew criticism for portraying the character of Prince Jack (the biblical equivalent of Jonathan) as a closeted homosexual. Unable to satisfy either side, Kings fell in the ratings and was eventually grounded.  

2.) Pushing Daisies  

Aired: 2007 - 2009 on ABC
Starred: Lee Pace, Anna Friel, Ellen Greene, Swoosie Kurtz, Kristin Chenoweth, Chi McBride, Jim Dale,  

Dubbed a "forensic fairy tale", Pushing Daisies was an instant hit with its colorful style, quirky characters, and fast-paced dialogue. The main character, Ned (Lee Pace), is a nervous pie-maker with the mysterious ability to bring back the dead. This gift comes with some conditions though: if something is brought back for more than one minute, something else must die in its place. Furthermore, if Ned touches the revived thing a second time it dies again-this time permanently. The only person who knows about Ned's talent is Emerson Cod (Chi McBride), a crafty PI who uses Ned's talent to solve murders mysteries. In one such case, Ned ends up resurrecting his childhood sweetheart, Charlotte "Chuck" Charles (Anna Friel), and can't bring himself to touch her again.  

Thus began the oddball adventures of the three private detectives, and an awkward romance between the pie-maker and the girl named Chuck. With numerous fans and high ratings, Pushing Daisies seemed like a shoe-in for years of comedy gold, and then the Writer's Strike happened. With no way to continue the story, Pushing Daisies was brought to rather unceremonious end. However, recent rumors have surfaced that a mini-series may be in the works to help wrap up the show properly. We can only cross our fingers and hope for the best.

                

 

1.) Arrested Development  

Aired: 2003 - 2006 on FOX
Starred: Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Jeffrey Tambor, Jessica Walter, Tony Hale, Portia de Rossi, David Cross, Will Arnett, Alia Shawkat, Ron Howard,  

This is the story of a wealthy family who lost everything, and the millions of fans who enjoyed every minute of it. After his father is arrested for embezzlement, Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) has no choice but to step in and keep the family together. This means dealing with his infantile brothers (Tony Hale and Will Arnett), his shallow sister and her delusional husband (Portia de Rossi and David Cross), and manipulative mother (Jessica Walter), while keeping the family's failing company afloat.  

Arrested Development takes the number one spot on our list for a couple of reasons. For starters, the series lasted longer than all the others on this list (a whopping three seasons), yet most would agree the show had only begun to scratch the surface of its potential. The misadventures of the dysfunctional Bluth family has included rampant arson, unintentional adoption, and treacherous deals with Saddam Hussein, but the series still felt like it was just getting started. The show ended when it failed to grow in ratings, but death seems only to have made it stronger.      

Secondly, even after its cancelation the show has retained an army of followers. DVDs of Arrested Development are still being sold at most retail stores, and Hulu recently folded the show into its Hulu plus package, forcing viewers into monthly payments if they want to watch episodes online.  

Finally, as we approach the six-year anniversary of its cancelation, fans are still whispering about the promised "movie" mentioned in the series' finale. Cast members have confirmed that a movie is indeed the making, though no release date has been set. With all this going for it, most would agree that despite its untimely cancelation, Arrested Development is still alive and well.      


Honorable Mentions
 
 

*Freaks and Geeks
*Better off Ted
*Heroes
*
The Chicago Code
*Veronica Mars
*Sports Night

* This article first published 8/12/2011