Roundtable: Cancellations That Killed Us

Over the summer, we’ve talked a lot about series: when we’ve had to jump ship or when finales have totally fallen flat. One roundtable has inevitably led to the other, which brings us to one of the most natural topics of all.

Cancellations That Killed Us

The most obvious culprit, naturally, is television, but book series start and never continue. Comic book series get halted in the middle of their run. And sometimes gaming franchises don’t make it. So I asked the contributors of Speculative Chic to share with me the cancellations that absolutely killed them, with a specific caveat: it had to be a true cancellation that didn’t get a bow in the end. For example: fans didn’t know Penny Dreadful was in its last season until it was over, but that didn’t mean it was canceled. And then there’s Alias, which was canceled halfway through its final season, but still had plenty of time to wrap up the series. And for those of you still lamenting Firefly, at this point, remember: you got a movie.

Needless to say, those of us at Speculative Chic feel very strongly about the stuff we’ve lost. Some of us are so angry we couldn’t just pick one thing! So settle back and check out what Lane, Nicole, Merrin, Nancy, J.L Gribble, Nu, Ronya, and Shara are still bitter over losing.


Lane: I am a terrible TV watcher these days. I tend to start a show, then wander off. I rarely get through a whole season, and even more rarely a second. I blame… cancellations. I grew up in the 80s and genre shows were both plentiful and likely to get the axe just when they started to hit their groove.  It was a never-ending series of stories interruptus. So, I went into most shows knowing they’d be ripped away from me. Were any of those shows actually good? Probably not. Did most of them deserve cancellation? Absolutely. Still, I’m bitter.

But a few shows nag at me — the story lines too interesting and their truncation so extreme that I can’t even really tell myself how I think it would have ended. One of those shows was a 90s show called Strange Luck. No one watched this show. I know this, because out of all my genre-friendly friends, I’ve only run into 1 other person who even knew what I was talking about. There’s this guy, you see, who survived an airplane crash, and now he’s lucky. Not like rabbit foot lucky, but like probabilities go gonzo around him, and he… solves crime sort of, and there’s an awesome waitress, and… I can’t explain it. It was fun; it made a great double billing with Due South.

Did I mention his name was Chance? Because of course it was. The thing is, from what I recall — it was smartly acted, decently scripted, and entertaining. Of course, there was the overarching quest to deal with too. Chance looking for his lost brother. Which, I will never know how it came out. Ever. Ever. Last I knew, Chance Harper had been given the name of a man in the government who might be able to help him: Fox Mulder. Hey, the end, we’re done now. It’s pretty much been erased. Which is kind of nuts because the actors are still names. Not big names, but names.

And then there’s Miracleswhich you can at least get on disc. But really, is that any better? 13 episodes of vaguely ominous, vaguely Christian apocalyptic scenes where Paul wanders around investigating “miracles” and just as a larger, world-expanding climactic moment happens… the cancellation stick came down. It makes me want to swear, it really does.

So really, the TV execs have only themselves to blame for my new habits of waiting until a series is complete before watching it.


Nicole: Lifetime was never really the channel for me. But one night while surfing I landed on a woman talking to man and trying to figure out just what he was telling her. He was Henry Fitzroy, illegitimate son of King Henry of England — and he was a vampire? Normally I’m not all that into vampire stuff, but the guy was attractive and the woman was a cop. Color me intrigued.

Enter Blood Ties, a show based on the Blood Books series by Tanya Huff. As it turns out, the woman was Vicki Nelson, former cop turned PI, Henry was indeed a vampire, and of course there’s a bit of a love triangle when we throw in Detective Mike Celluci (who is basically the Scully of the group — disbelieving everything despite seeing half the stuff with his own eyes), Vicki’s on-again, off-again lover and former partner.

So yes, it’s that kind of show — cops with a supernatural liaison solving supernatural crimes. But this was long before shows like Grimm and Lucifer. I hadn’t really seen anything like it, and I really enjoyed the dynamic between Vicki, Henry, and Mike. Vicki didn’t take anyone’s crap and did her own thing. That was nice to see for a change, especially when the actress brings in her A-game.

I was having a grand time with this show and was super upset when I discovered it wasn’t coming back after two seasons. Viewers implored Lifetime to pick it back up, but Lifetime seemed bent on having nothing but domestic abuse movies in their lineup (yes, this was during that phase of Lifetime — I have no idea what their focus is now). So the writers turned to channels like Syfy instead, but they didn’t help either (this was when they were still SciFi but starting to go downhill). Eventually Blood Ties was left to its fate, and at the most, I really hoped to see the actress who played Vicki, Christina Cox, in future projects. All I ended up with was a rather xenomorph-styled Stargate Atlantis episode featuring an all-female SG team, and then later a merc in Chronicles of Riddick. Hey, at least in those she was still a badass.

It’s a damn shame Blood Ties didn’t get more notice. I blame Lifetime’s lack of effort to get more eyes on it. I think fans that grew up watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer would have had fun watching this show.


Merrin: My freshman year of college, I moved several states away to live with my grandparents while I attended community college and tried desperately to sort out what I wanted out of life. I spent a lot of time that year waiting tables, going to classes, and watching NBC’s nightly lineup. My parents hadn’t allowed us to watch TV on the weeknights for basically my entire life, so I admit I went a little overboard. Saturday night’s show was a short-lived series called The Others.

I had been in love with The X-Files since catching an episode at a friend’s house in 1994, and The Others was very much of the same paranormal/spooky variety. A group of psychics calling themselves “The Others” gather weekly to discuss the paranormal happenings in their lives and sometimes team up like the Scoobies and help the living and the dead with their various problems. We’re introduced to the world through the eyes of Marian Kitt, a college junior who just transferred into the local college and starts having visions of the girl who died in her dorm room the year before.

Found families are my favorite types of stories, and I always loved that this show was multi-generational. Elmer Greentree was one of the founding members of the group from the 1920s and at 83 he’s very much the grandfather figure in the show. The others range in age from late 60s down to Marian, the college junior. The group watches out for each other, even when they’re mad at each other, because they know they’re the only ones that really understand.

An overarching plot developed right from the first episode, regarding some evil threat called the Unnamed that was targeting the group, but unfortunately, NBC pulled the plug after only 13 episodes and there wasn’t much resolution for that plot line. We also never got any resolution to the burgeoning love triangle between Marian and Satori, a psychic, with first-year resident Doctor Mark Gabriel (played by a young and beautiful Gabriel Macht) stuck in the middle.

You can tell a studio has given up on a show before they even give it a chance when they don’t bother airing the episodes they have in order. Marian moves into a new apartment and decides to officially join the group in the second episode, “Luciferous,” but this episode was aired 6th, when there’d already been four episodes previous (not counting the pilot, when she lived in the dorm) where she’s already in the apartment and fully part of the group. It also made interpersonal relationships seem really out of whack. And, if you watch the episodes in story order, the series ends on the worst of all cliffhangers, where literally everyone is dead. But this episode was aired second to last when originally aired, and nothing made sense.

Unlike Firefly, which also only had 13 episodes and aired out of order, no one came along to rescue The Others from the obscurity of NBC’s vaults, and the only way you can even watch this show anymore (they never even released it on DVD) is by finding it on youtube.


Nancy: I am well aware that the world doesn’t need another Wonder Woman origin story, having received several versions in just the past couple of years (including Jill Thompson’s Wonder Woman: The True Amazon, Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman: Year One, Marguerite Bennett’s DC Bombshells, and the Wonder Woman movie), but out of all of these retellings of Diana’s roots, the one that sticks out to the most to me is The Legend of Wonder Woman by Renea de Liz.

Originally a digital short series, The Legend of Wonder Woman covers all the touchstones of Wonder Woman’s beginnings, from her birth in Themyscira among the Amazons to the arrival of Steve Trevor and Diana’s departure to man’s world. This familiar story is told in a thoroughly engaging manner by Renea de Liz, but what really pushes things over the top is her artwork. From her character designs (which don’t stoop to overly sexualizing its female characters) to her gorgeous depictions of Themyscira (vibrantly colored by Ray Dillon), every page appears lush and beautiful.

Unfortunately, despite an Eisner nomination, The Legend of Wonder Woman was cancelled in late 2016 (this may have been due to some comments made by the creators on Twitter. Instead of speaking with them about it, DC just decided to dump the project). This cancellation becomes doubly painful when you realize that The Legend of Wonder Woman is pretty much the perfect version of Diana’s origin story to hand to fans of the recent movie (it covers pretty similar territory, just switch out World War II for World War I). Fortunately, the hardcover collection of the first and only volume of The Legend of Wonder Woman can stand well enough on its own, but it’s hard not to ponder over the great stories that we will never get to read.


Screencap taken from gateworld.net

J.L.: I’m following the spirit of the topic, if not the letter of the law, with my submission. Because even though Stargate Atlantis got an “ending,” what I got was a stab in the heart in terms of what I knew about the philosophy of the show. Though the cancellation was advertised well ahead of time, with everyone knowing that season 5 would be the last, it seemed that the creative team behind the show never quite got the memo of what a satisfying ending to the show might be.

Massive, massive Atlantis-sized spoilers ahead.

Stargate Atlantis ends with a very scenic shot of the show’s main characters standing on a city balcony, overlooking the horizon of San Francisco. Yes, San Francisco. Because in the grand finale of the show, they literally fly the city to another galaxy in order to beat the Wraith there and defend Earth from being eaten from the show’s Big Bad. Good news: They defeat the Wraith and save Earth.

Bad news: Because the Atlantis personnel were responsible for waking the Wraith in the Pegasus galaxy to begin with, they were the front-line of defense against everyone in the Pegasus galaxy from being eaten. And they just took the best part of the defensive line and took it home to benefit Earth, instead.

I was FURIOUS.

As much as I love Stargate, sometimes their treatment of indigenous populations echoes issues that have been experienced on Earth. While this becomes an effective social commentary on human culture and history, it’s also frustrating to see the same mistakes presented in popular media. Knowing that not all of the Wraith got destroyed in the Milky Way Galaxy, that some of them were still happily preying on the vulnerable and unprepared societies back in Pegasus, was incredibly frustrating as a viewer. It made the heroic “happy ending” presented in the show hollow and tragic.

Better news! A series of media tie-in novels continues the stories of John Sheppard, Rodney McKay, Teyla Emmagen, and Ronan Dex in a sort of “sixth season” to the show. And one of the first decisions in the first novel of the collection of books is to send Atlantis home. While the decision is based on very Earth-centric policies, support comes from surprising corners. The books are currently still ongoing, which means that the adventures are not over. And that’s the best ending I could possibly hope for.


Nu: The first cancellation that came to my mind was Wonderfalls. The television series aired on Fox in 2004, and it was canceled after airing only four episodes (all 13 episodes of the first and only season are available on DVD). Wonderfalls centered on 24-year-old Jaye Tyler, a discontent college graduate living at home and working at a Niagara Falls gift shop, who can suddenly communicate with various muses in the form of animal objects, such as a wax lion, brass monkey, and stuffed bear. These muses instruct Jaye to help people in need. At the time it aired, I very much connected with Jaye. I had just graduated from college and was wondering what my purpose in life was too. I liked watching Jaye find her purpose (with the help of the animal figurines). I also enjoyed her family, especially her older brother Aaron (played by Lee Pace). The cast was great, so it’s not surprising that creator Bryan Fuller ended up casting Pace and Caroline Dhavernas, who played Jaye, in other projects (Pushing Daisies and Hannibal, respectively). Perhaps audiences in 2004 weren’t ready for Fuller’s brand of quirky comedy/drama/fantasy. Fuller later went on to create another beloved “canceled too soon” television show, Pushing Daisies, and these days, he’s busy with American Gods on Showtime. Since Wonderfalls aired, there are now loyal audience members who follow Fuller and his projects and understand his brand, so maybe Wonderfalls was just one of those shows that was too early for its time.

The second cancellation is the BloodAngel dark fantasy novel series by Justine Musk. The first book, BloodAngel, came out 2005 and the second book, Lord of Bones, came out three years later. The two books focus on three characters: Jess, a painter; Ramsey; a young orphan, and Lucas, a rock star, who are all connected through their dreams about demons. I remember getting immersed in Musk’s writing and characters, and at the time, I was writing my own dark fantasy book. When I read Musk’s books, I thought, “I want to write like that.” Unfortunately, Musk only released two books in the series. She wrote one stand-alone book called Uninvited in 2007, but she has not released another genre book since Lord of Bones came out in 2008. At the time, I did not know she was married to tech billionaire Elon Musk, and they went through a divorce in 2008, so I have no idea if they affected her writing plans or if it was just the nature of the publishing industry that ended the series. I believe Musk said there were no plans to write more BloodAngel books, and that’s too bad because I want to visit that world again. I owe a lot to her for inspiring me when I was first starting out as genre writer.

Ronya: Fifteen years ago there was a blip on the comics industry radar called CrossGen Comics. CrossGen boasted a number of professionals — Barbara Kesel, Mark Waid, Tony Bedard, Laura Dupuy Martin, Greg Land, Jim Cheung. The company conceived a swath of titles ranging from magical fantasy to horror to military science fiction, all in a shared universe, with the intent of weaving all the storylines together in the ultimate crossover comic. Sojourn, Meridian, Mystic, and Route 666 starred female leads; Meridian and another comic, Sigil, were written by Barbara Kesel. Alas, CrossGen expanded too far, too fast, and its artists jumped ship when they realized they had been working for free. The company ended up filing bankruptcy.

I was a faithful buyer of Ruse, Sojourn, andSigil. But my ultimate, most favorite comic ever, is Route 666.

Route 666 is the reason I have trust issues with comics. These days I prefer independent stories or limited series rather than continuous or rebooted comics, and it all has to do with CrossGen.

Route 666 was lauded by everyone from Publisher’s Weekly to Cinescape. Written by Tony Bedard, drawn by Karl Moline, and inked by Nick Dell, it was set on the planet Erebus, in a country that mirrored our 1950s U.S., right down to Cold War paranoia and a cross-dressing Bureau director. It featured an unholy blend of luscious art, howlingly gory puns and “gotcha” art panels, juxtaposed with tenderness and empathy, all while tackling horror sub-subgenres: religious cults, circuses, Lovecraftian horror, and Communist paranoia.

College gymnast Cassie Starkweather accidentally caused the horrific death of her roommate and best friend. But Cassie can still see and talk to her — which lands Cassie in an insane asylum. Cassie has always been able to see dead people; she just suppressed it. Until, one night in the hospital, Cassie sees demonic henchmen from Perdition stealing people’s souls. Unfortunately the demons realize Cassie can see them, and so she becomes the next target of The Adversary, the ruler of Perdition, who frames her for the deaths of her parents and her roommate. Cassie goes on the run with a disowned sheriff, Cisco Vargas, who’d rather see Cassie dead for the accidental death of his son, Miguel. Their uneasy alliance becomes a partnership as Tanner the Demon chases them from the Southwest to “New England” to Communist-occupied Rodinia (aka Russia & China). When they learn the Bureau of Investigation is in league with the Adversary, Cisco charges himself with protecting Cassie, who is still discovering the extent of her abilities. Cassie finally finds the gateway to Perdition, and then — bankruptcy! Twenty-two issues of crazy horror and gory puns came to a jarring stop. And there was nothing to do about it! Not only had my favorite series ended, there was zero chance of revival.

It hurt for months! Right down to the quick. I’ve always wondered what happened next.

The only way I can find out is to write my own Route 666 fanfiction.


Shara: If you know me at all, you would take one look at the topic of “Cancellations that Killed You,” roll your eyes, and say, “She’s going to go on and on and ON about Hannibal.”

NOPE! Because I got three glorious seasons, spent EVERY SEASON assuming it would be cancelled (and eventually, I was right), and I still hold out hope that Bryan Fuller and Company can come back and give us a fourth season on some other platform.

So instead, the cancellation that killed me, ironically, made room in NBC’s schedule to actually GIVE me Hannibal, and that is a little one-season wonder called Awake.

Awake was a 2012 police procedural with a unique and thought-provoking premise. After a horrific car crash with his family, Detective Michael Britten (who is played by the amazing Jason Isaacs) has to to bury his wife and son. Wait, scratch that.

In one world, he buries his wife, but he and his son survive. But when he goes to sleep, he wakes up in a world where he buried his son instead, and he and his wife survived.

One man, two realities, and he’s struggling to keep up with both. He’s grieving for his lost wife and son, but yet he isn’t, because between the two realities, he’s got them both. He just doesn’t have them together, so in each reality, he’s helping the surviving member of his family deal with the loss of the other, all while trying to get back into the swing of things on the police force (same police captain in both realities, but different partners, interestingly enough). Because of his traumatic experience in both realities, he’s forced to see a psychiatrist, so we get different psychiatrists as well. Britten tells each one the honest-to-god truth about his situation, so each one is trying to prove to him that THEIR reality is real and the other is fake.

Which one is real? Which one is fake? How do we as the audience know the difference?

It’s a wonderfully written, acted, directed, and filmed show. One way we as the audience tell the worlds apart (aside from Britten’s obvious interactions with his wife OR his son), is how he does: he wears a green or red rubber bracelet to help him keep the worlds separate, and thus definitely the Green or Red Reality. Reinforcing our notions of these realities is the filters through which the scenes are shot: the Green Reality tends to be bluer and has cooler tones, whereas the Red Reality has warmer and brighter tones.

And there’re very, very stark differences between these realities: I mentioned before that Britten has different partners at the precinct in each one, as well as different psychiatrists. But the cases in each episode, while sometimes seemingly unrelated, often have a connecting factor between the two realities, allowing Britten to solve things that would otherwise be unsolvable.

It was an amazing show. Totally thought-provoking. And while I call these parallel realities (my science-fictional brain wouldn’t accept the fan theories of “This is all a dream, and he’s in a coma!” nonsense), nothing was ever confirmed as to what specifically was going on. After all, the show WAS cancelled, and television is all the poorer for it. Especially when we got to the final episode and the final scene, which, holy shit, opened the door to yet even more possibilities that I still — even five years later — want the answers to.

Awake is available on Netflix, and I highly encourage everyone to watch it and weep with me. Believe me, the pain of its loss is worth it. And then you can do what I did after writing this: read great stuff from Tor.com talking about how awesome the show is or this interview from EW.com with the show’s creator, Kyle Killen, answering peoples’ burning questions about the show’s finale (which I’m still in denial about). Head’s up, major spoilers in both!

8 Comments

  • Nancy O'Toole Meservier August 11, 2017 at 8:36 am

    I remember Strange Luck! AND The Others.

    Reply
    • Merrin August 11, 2017 at 2:41 pm

      You are one of two other people I know now that actually watched The Others!

      Reply
  • Lane Robins August 11, 2017 at 10:54 am

    Oh good, I’m not the only one who immediately thought of Stargate Atlantis. That ending! It just felt like they needed to say screw the earth and go back to Pegasus. Or at least make sure someone went there to help. I read Blood Angel, but didn’t know there was a sequel… or that it stayed incomplete. And I’m sad (I think?) that I missed The Others. Though if I’d watched it, I’d be sad that it got canceled, so….

    Reply
  • ntaft01 August 11, 2017 at 2:54 pm

    I always wanted to watch Awake when I saw the trailers for it. Then I was annoyed when it was gone because I thought, “You know, I’ll bet it was a good show, too.” Good to hear it’s on Netflix though.

    I, too, agree about Atlantis. I started to get disinterested near the end, and then I heard that happened and thought, “Well….that’s kind of stupid.”

    And there was another series I found around the same time as Blood Ties that also got canceled that was a shame because it was fun – Forever Knight. The guy was a cop vampire and he was pretty cool. Guess Lifetime just missed the boat on all those shows. Such a shame.

    Reply
    • Shara White August 11, 2017 at 9:44 pm

      You should totally watch Awake. I want to re-watch it.

      Reply
  • Shara White August 11, 2017 at 9:46 pm

    I’m still freaking out that they were trying to tie Strange Luck into The X-Files. It’s kind of amazing.

    Reply
  • Christina August 12, 2017 at 12:07 am

    I watched Strange Luck!! Mostly because at the time I was VERY into DB Sweeney. I had seen The Cutting Edge and my interest in his career followed that film. Plus, I had been into the X-Files, so anything that could tether into that show was a plus for me.

    I enjoyed Awake, too! I wasn’t as upset that it was cancelled, because it was during a time where I never seemed to have enough time for the TV that was getting renewed, but I know that I have had it on my list to rewatch late nights when nothing else interests me on Netflix.

    As for Crossgen and Route 666, I was heavily involved in the comics industry during the heyday of Crossgen and I supported countless titles that they carried. I was glad that friends of mine could have a “steady” job and I thought the business model for Crossgen was an interesting one for the comics industry. Having everyone work regular hours however didn’t seem to gel for actual productivity. With Route 666 I was glad that Karl had a new line to work with and I actually own several pages from the series. I don’t think any of them have Cassie in them, but I still like having them.

    For SG:A – I never even made that connection that they were abandoning others! That’s really interesting to think about now. At the time I was mostly just glad that they didn’t kill anyone I really liked and that there was an actual ending to it. Looking back, I’ll definitely take that into consideration during any rewatches.

    My own personal list is pretty long, but the top of it contains Touching Evil (US), Galavant, No Tomorrow (which they “added” an ending to it, but it was a cheap option when I wanted another season), Dominion, and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

    Reply
    • Shara White August 12, 2017 at 10:51 am

      I’m okay with Galavant, because we got a better ending than if it’d gotten canceled after the first season (that would’ve been a slap in the face!). But Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles was next on my list. I didn’t write about it because there’s a lot about the show I’ve forgotten, but it was so, so good, and I remember the ending so well, and I SO WANTED TO SEE where the hell the show was going to go from there. I’m pretty sure that show as a victim of the writer’s strike, wasn’t it? God knows that show was better than any of the Terminator movies we’ve gotten since T2 (though I will always and forever covet the red leather outfit from Terminator 3).

      I know Pushing Daisies was DEFINITELY a victim of the writer’s strike, which would technically count for this column, but Bryan Fuller & Company managed to slap together a bow on the final episode to give the series closure, but oh…. that was SUCH a WONDERFUL and ORIGINAL show. I hated seeing it go.

      Reply

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