It’s the holiday season and plenty of people are in the gift-giving mood this time of year, but the network executives have their Scrooge hats on as NBC just cancelled Midnight, Texas and Syfy has just cancelled Z Nation.
So we decided to take this opportunity to look back at some previous times when the networks gave a lump of coal to fan-favorite sci fi TV shows (though not necessarily at Christmas time) and sent them to the Network Executioner. Here are several from the past twenty years or so that were cancelled too soon because their networks decided to “Bah Humbug!” to the fans.
Farscape (1999-2003, Cancelled by The Sci Fi Channel after four seasons): This space opera series definitely had its ups and downs during it four year run, but fans were not ready for it to end after its fourth season, especially considering the final episode delivered a huge cliffhanger. The ratings were still decent for a cable series at that time, but the cost of production made it too expensive for Sci Fi. A massive write-in campaign followed the cancellation announcement and that convinced European backers to step in and fund the Peacekeeper Wars mini-series. That resolved many of the show’s storylines, but there were still plenty of Farscape fans who would have preferred to see the show remain on the air a few more years.
Firefly (2002, Cancelled by FOX after one season): This is of course one of the most infamous cancellations in sci fi TV history and fans still hold a grudge against FOX for truncating this promising series. The network didn’t quite know what it had on its hands with this quirky space-western, leading them to promote it poorly and play episodes out of order. The ratings were low for the show, but the buzz was very good, and if the social networks were more advanced at that time it might have been saved. Fans did try a write-in campaign, but FOX was not interested in giving the show a second season to build its audience. The DVD release of the series the following year was a big hit (proving that the show did have a strong following) which led to Firefly jumping to the big screen for one film. But we would have been much better off if FOX had stood by the show as it would have almost certainly become the next big sci fi franchise.
Jericho (2006-08, Cancelled by CBS after one season, then again after its second season): This post-apocalyptic show rode the Lost wave that brought several new sci fi shows to the broadcast networks and actually pulled very good ratings during the first half of its first season. Those dropped later in the year, though CBS can be faulted for the long delay between the first and second halves of the season. But the ratings were still decent, and the producers expected the show to come back for a second season. Sadly though, the network (which has a longstanding aversion to genre shows) decided to cancel it. A massive fan campaign convinced the network to change its mind and bring it back for a second season. But CBS only committed to seven more episodes and it failed to promote those when the show returned the next year. A second cancellation followed which truncated this promising series just as it was hitting its stride.
Moonlight (2007-08, Cancelled by CBS after one season): This vampire drama was another CBS casualty, truncated by a network that does not seem to understand sci fi and fantasy shows. It debuted to decent numbers and looked like it was off to a promising start in the Fall of 2017. But then the writer’s strike hit, and this, along with all other scripted shows, disappeared for several months. When the strike was settled and the show returned, its numbers were down a bit, but it was still performing decent for a Friday night entry. But the network decided to put a stake in the show which led to a a blood-drive campaign (!) to convince CBS that plenty of people were following the series. Network execs could not be swayed and CBS actually struggled to fill the show’s timeslot with a better performing series for several years after the cancellation.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008-09, Cancelled by FOX after two seasons): This continuation from the Terminator movies proved quite successful in its first season and FOX was happy to bring it back for a second year. But it started off in the Fall of 2008 with declining ratings and the network made things worse by moving the show to low-viewership Friday nights. The ratings there were worse and FOX ended up cancelling this one at the end of the season. There was a massive outpouring of support from fans that including funding billboards and other advertising spots to convince another network to pick up the show. But nothing came of that and fans were left with a show that ended far too soon to resolve all its storylines.
Stargate: Universe (2009-11, Cancelled by Syfy after two seasons): This was the third live-action Stargate series produced by The Sci Fi Channel (by this point rebranded to Syfy), and it diverged notably from the look and feel of Stargate: SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis. The network took this show in a darker direction, apparently trying to replicate the success of its Battlestar: Galactica reboot. But existing Stargate fans were less than enthused at first and the show had some difficulties attracting new viewers. By the end of the show’s second season, it was starting to get some good buzz around the sci fi community, and one more season might have given it a chance to turn things around. But Syfy was well into its new image, and this show did not fit very well with that. The network cancelled it, leaving it on a cliffhanger ending. Fans lobbied for the show and the producers have talked about revisiting it from time to time, but a continuation in comic book form is the best fans have at this point.
Siberia (2013, Cancelled by NBC after one season): Throwing in a somewhat obscure entry, this little-watched mock-reality / horror series appeared on NBC’s schedule in Summer 2013 without much promotion. Not surprisingly, it failed to find much of an audience and the network cancelled it after its first season. But the show was pre-funded by its production company and was profitable for the NBC in advance. If they had put out just a little bit of effort to promote it, perhaps it could have pulled in better viewership. The first season aired internationally over the next year and slowly started to build up a global following. There were talks of a second season that might air on another network, but unfortunately that never happened. Thus, NBC threw away a profitable show and left the viewers on a huge cliffhanger.
Constantine (2014-15, Cancelled by NBC after one season): This supernatural series based on the DC Hellblazer comic found itself on the wrong network. Its dark tone and rather intense storylines were just not a good fit for one of the broadcast nets. NBC did try and pair it up with its successful supernatural drama Grimm, but that show’s numbers were already on the decline, and it failed to give much of a boost to Constantine. The network cut the first season short at thirteen episodes, but it did give producers an opportunity to pitch a second year. The network execs were likely just going through the motions, though, and the show was cancelled at season end. There was an attempt to shop it around to other venues, but nothing came of that. Fortunately, though, the character shifted over to The CW’s Arrow-verse shows and is currently a regular on Legends of Tomorrow plus has starred in a short animated series.
Forever (2014-15, Cancelled by ABC after one season): This quirky procedural about a medical examiner who has lived for 200 years was never a ratings success, but it performed well enough for ABC in the Tuesday 10 PM EST hour where the network had regularly struggled. It also saw notable gains in delayed viewing at a time that the networks claimed they were watching those numbers. But ABC still cancelled the show which lead to a fan campaign that tried to convince the network to change its mind or another network to pick it up. That was not successful, and ABC continues to struggle with filling that timeslot up to the current season.
Limitless (2015-16, Cancelled by CBS after one season): This series was based on the sci fi film of the same name that starred Bradly Cooper (and he had recurring guest spots in the show), and it looked to be a promising addition to the CBS schedule. Like Forever (see above), this one aired in the Tuesday 10 PM EST timeslot, an hour that CBS had also struggled with. And like that other cancelled show, its ratings weren’t great (but they weren’t terrible) and it saw very good gains from delayed viewing. But the network’s aversion to sci fi emerged once again when it decided to cancel the show at the end of the season. The show’s studio tried to shop it around, but had no interested buyers. Fans also made a strong showing of support, but CBS could not be persuaded to bring Limitless back for a second season.
Dark Matter (2015-17, Cancelled by Syfy after three seasons): This series was one of the shows that kicked off Syfy’s return to space-based drama and it developed a pretty strong following over its three seasons. Unfortunately, the same day ratings for the show were never great and trended down each year. Syfy had a partnership with the Space channel up in Canada with that network sharing some of the costs and that kept the show going through its three seasons. But since Syfy did not have an ownership stake in the show, the network had to make money on advertising revenue and that is driven by those same day ratings results. After its third season, the show was cancelled which led to a huge outpouring of support from the fans. But Syfy could not be convinced to roll back the cancellation and no other venue stepped up to save the show. Co-creator Joseph Mallozi is still keeping the flame going, though, and hopes to bring it back at some point.
Daredevil (2015-18, Cancelled by Netflix after three seasons): A recent cancellation, this one came as somewhat of a surprise. When Daredevil kicked off the Marvel superhero shows on Netflix (which included Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and spin-off The Punisher), it seemed set for a long run on the streaming service. And it was still one of Netflix’s more popular shows when it was cancelled. But apparently Netflix and Marvel / Disney had some disagreements about the future of these shows (possibly relating to Disney starting up its own streaming service), and that led to behind the scenes conflicts the truncated the show after three seasons. Fans are still lobbying for it (as well as cancelled Luke Cage and Iron Fist), and there is a hope that the upcoming Disney streaming service will pick it up. Stay tuned for more developments on all of the Netflix Marvel shows.