In the past fifteen years there have been a lot of attempts at Science Fiction Programs. Some, successful (BSG, Smallville, Star Gate, etc), others, far less so. I’d just like to take some time to recognize all those failed attempts at bringing sci-fi to our living rooms.
The Cape (2010-2011): This show is the reason I made this list (thus the name). Honestly, I don’t think I would have ever seen a single episode if not for Community. My dad tried to get me to watch it when it was on. When I brought it up a few months ago, he had forgotten the show entirely. I think that sums it up fairly well.
The Schtick: A framed cop fights his corrupt previous employers under the guise of his son’s favorite superhero, the generically named “The Cape”. He uses a mixture of traditional martial arts, police work, and circus magic to fight these battles.
Why it should have worked: 2010! That’s like the epicenter of the superhero craze! We had seen the Iron Man movies, Thor, Spider-Man, The Dark Knight, we were eagerly awaiting third end of the Batman trilogy and The Avengers. Smallville had ended, and the time was ripe, ripe I say! for a superhero show! Plus, the lead looked exactly like a combination of Jensen Ackles and Matthew Morrison.
Why it was worth keeping on: Because it was fun. It involved a cop using circus magic. C’mon. The acting was actually good, especially James Frain (and we share a last name, more or less). And Summer Glau was in it! Everyone loves Summer!
Why it was cancelled: It was about a cop using circus magic and working with a group of circus bankrobbers to fight the police. With a magic cape. The pilot was terrible. And it never escaped the realm of camp.
Birds of Prey (2002): I couldn’t get through a single episode of this ridiculous mess of a show.
The Schtick: The team behind the rather successful superhero venture Smallville decided to make a show about Batman and Catwoman’s daughter, who teams up with a psychic girl and a paralyzed Bat-Girl (Oracle) to fight crime.
Why it Should Have Worked: Smallville, though often derided and reviled, was a pretty successful show, running for a solid decade. A hot batman clone with a sexy crew fighting crime by the same team? Pure TV gold, right?
Why it was worth keeping on: I can honestly think of no reason why this show would have been worth keeping on TV
Why it was cancelled: Because it was horrible. Absolutely awful writing, terrible writing, embarrassing special effects and choreography. They could neither bring in mainstream audiences, or the nerd center they needed to make it successful. It might have something to do with the fact that they made Batman and Catwoman into something called meta-humans?! I don’t know, maybe fucking with the core Batman mythos in the stupidest fucking way possible!? God what a stupid show!
Pushing Daisies (2007-2009): If the last entry made me foam at the mouth in rage, this one is going to make me weep openly over my keyboard. If you asked me to renew one show, Firefly or Pushing Daisies, I’m not sure which one I would pick. Okay, probably Firefly, but this would be a very close second.
The schtick: A pie-maker named Ned can touch any dead body and bring them back to life for one minute. If he touches them again, they die, permanently. And if he doesn’t touch them within a minute, someone else dies. In the premiere he brings back to life his childhood/life love. Unable to ever touch her again, he solves crimes with her and his detective friends by resurrecting the victims to ask them questions for one minute. Yeah, it’s a weird ass concept.
Why it should have worked: LOOK AT THESE PEOPLE!
Plus an awesome English narrator, and beautiful, whimsical writing, like Tim Burton on ecstasy, only good.
Why it was worth staying on: The show is full of heart. Funny, mysterious, touching, romantic, and stylish, Pushing Daisies had a risky premise, and an even riskier tone of surrealism. It dealt with the idea of death and loss in a unique, enjoyable way without being cheap. Acting was stellar, writing fantastic, and LOOK AT THESE PEOPLE!!
Why it was cancelled: Well, for one, the writing strike. But let’s not blame the writers who were justifiably upset with their pay. The show was too whimsical, sentimental, and surreal for such a cynical audience. Plus look how long it took for me to explain the basic concept! It’s the weirdest idea for a show that actually has two seasons.
SERIOUSLY LOOK AT THEM!
Terra Nova(2011-2011): I have never seen this show, but it starred a guy from a different cancelled TV show. He has some bad luck picking shows…
The Schtick: People in an overpopulated future go back in time to restart the human race, and hope to get it right this time. Or something like that.
Why it should have worked: People with dinosaurs! We haven’t had a show like that since The Lost World, which hilariously had more seasons than any show on this list. I attribute that to me watching it after Junior High to see the hot barbarian chick. Plus, Terra Nova had Spielberg! Spielberg, people!
Why it was worth staying on: Besides the premiere, which apparently was fantastic, it was pretty terrible. But I like the Jason O’Mara, and People! and Dinosaurs! Right?
Why it was cancelled: Terrible ratings, due to cheesy dialogue and nerf guns for weapons. Plus each episode cost 4 million dollars to produce. Holy shit, 4 million and you can’t afford real fake guns?
Firefly: Yeah, we all know it. Deal.
The Schtick: Seriously? Okay: Cowboys in space. With a mysterious girl, an evil government, and the best ensemble cast since, well, ever.
Why it should have worked: Buffy, while never the most lucrative show ever, was pretty successful, lasted a full seven seasons, even with a network change and time-slot change, and developed a spin-off and a solid fan base (see, cult). Whedon had also demonstrated success when he wrote Toy Story. Yeah, not kidding.
Why it was worth staying on: Because it was the best gorram sci-fi show to ever grace television. Plus, Summer Glau! Everyone loves Summer, right?
Why it was cancelled: Because of rotating time-slots, un-aired pilots, out of order episodes, and general failure on the part of Fox. That and God doesn’t want us to have good things.
Dollhouse: While we are on the subject of failed Whedon projects…
The Schtick: People are drained of any identity, and spend their days wandering around a special facility/spa in a mindless state. When someone wants a particular person for an reason (sex, protection, friends, etc…), they can hire this facility to program one of these “dolls” with any identity. The show focuses on one particular doll, Echo, the cop determined to find the Dollhouse, and the workers in the Dollhouse.
Why it should have worked: Well, this time around, Fox was determined to not make the same mistake they did with Firefly, so kudos for them. It had action, adventure, mystery, witty nerds, and Eliza Dushku in a new outfit each week! And, Summer Glau! Summer… right?
Why it was worth staying on: Mainly, because it gave us Enver Gjokay (pronounced Ehn-Ver, ah forget it), who amazed us by playing a distinctly different character every time he was programmed as new person. The time that he played one of the other main characters on the show was one of the most fantastic bits of mimicry every seen on TV, better than any body-swap moment ever. Furthermore, we deserved to see how the world got to where it was in the finale of the first season, which took place ten years in the future. And Whedon was just beginning to explore the concepts of prostitution, objectification, and individuality.
Why it was cancelled: Because it was a confused show. It commented on the idea of objectification and dressing people up as dolls by…dressing Eliza Dushku in a different revealing outfit each week. Because character motivation was confused. And, honestly, because its lead was not really that strongly written. Echo was not a very compelling character, and was overshadowed by far stronger characters. It was just hard to get in to, much more so than any other Whedon project.
But you know the real reason it was cancelled? SUMMER GLAU. Three shows on this list! Three! And Sarah Conner Chronicles was cancelled too! THE OPERATIVE WAS RIGHT! SHE’S AN ALBATROSS!!
This is just part one. Expect more cancelled sci-fi shows in the near future. But in the meantime, let’s discuss what we have learned from this list:
Don’t cast Summer Glau! She’s cursed!!