Cancelled Too Soon: The Outer Limits (1963)

By | February 4, 2016

Our ongoing look back at sci fi / fantasy TV shows that were cancelled way too soon or pilots that never made it to series.

TheOuterLimitsThe original Outer Limits series from the 1960’s is ranked as a classic among sci fi shows and is revered for pushing the boundaries and helping the genre to mature on television.  But did you know that it actually ran for only one and a half seasons and suffered from cancellation in its second year? This series is actually a classic example of the disrespect the networks have shown toward sci fi and also of a promising show killed by poor scheduling. It pulled decent ratings during its first year when it aired on Monday nights, but in its second season ABC decided to shift it to a different timeslot in favor of new entry Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.  Outer Limits was shuffled to Saturday nights (back when the networks still programmed new eps on that night) to compete with the popular Jackie Gleason Show. Obviously, the ratings for The Outer Limits took a nose dive, and instead of rescheduling the show to a better timeslot, ABC just decided to cancel it at midseason, truncating its episode run at 49. It still managed to live on in syndication despite a less than ideal episode count, but had ABC made any attempt to keep it alive, its classic run could have been extended even further.  Three decades later, the show would get a second chance when Showtime brought it back for a revival run.  The second series lasted much longer at seven seasons (the last two on The Sci Fi Channel) and 154 episodes, though it never quite matched the reputation of the original.  The Outer Limits stands next to shows like The Twilight Zone and Star Trek as the pinnacle of the genre in the 1960’s (what I consider to be the Golden Age of sci fi television), but wouldn’t it have been nice to have at least one more season worth of episodes from its classic run?  If only the control voice could have convinced ABC not to ax the show: “There is nothing wrong with your ratings results. Do not attempt to adjust the schedule or cancel the show. We are now in control of the transmissions . . .

Aired: ABC, 1963-65, 2 Seasons Totaling 49 Episodes

Created By: Leslie Stevens

Announcer: Vic Perrin

Notable Guest Stars: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Martin Landau, David McCallum

Buy The Outer Limits on DVD from Amazon.com:

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