The cancellation of a TV series you watch can be one of the most frustrating experiences for those who love the story. Too often it means never knowing where it was all going to lead — it means never having closure. For some shows it especially hurts because it feels like there was so much more ready to come if they were just given more time.
So given that we’re currently in the era of the TV series revival, here are five shows that deserve another chance.
When Hannibal was canceled in 2015, fans were sure it was only a matter of weeks before a network or streaming platform renewed it. After all, critics and fans were in agreement that the series was one of the best on television. It just seemed to have found a home on the wrong channel — NBC — when really it should have been on a cable or premium channel. A year later, the show not only failed to find a home, but its creator Bryan Fuller is on to new projects while it’s A-list cast continues to go its separate ways.
As if it weren’t bad enough for Hannibal fans — who sometimes call themselves “Fannibals” — Amazon, once believed to be the most logical landing place, provided another slap-in-the-face. “None of us are up here trying to make anyone’s third-favorite show,” Amazon TV comedy head Joe Lewis told reporters. But with the show earning widespread critical acclaim to the tune of 100% and 97% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes for its last two seasons, it’s unclear exactly what show they’re watching.
2. Party Down
Party Down was one of those shows that was a little bit ahead of its time while receiving its fair share of bad luck. The 30-minute comedy follows a group of caterers as they try to make it in Hollywood while becoming entangled in the absurd lives of those they cater for. The show features an all-star cast of actors that were either already household names or well on their way, including Adam Scott, Lizzy Caplan, Ken Marino, Jane Lynch, and Martin Starr with high-profile guest stars like J. K. Simmons, Joey Lauren Adams, and Kristen Bell. Just taking into account the cast alone, a Party Down reunion seems next to impossible despite its cult following.
If you haven’t seen the show, you might be asking how a series with so many great comedy actors failed to find an audience. It certainly wasn’t the show’s reception, as the show consistently earned praise from both critics and viewers. This is where being ahead of its time starts to come into play. Running from 2009 to 2010, Starz probably wasn’t the best place for the show to land, as the channel simply wasn’t well-known for original programming (and still isn’t) or even available to most people. The show later lost Adam Scott to Parks and Recreation and Jane Lynch to Glee, which became Party Down’s death knell amid low TV ratings.
Fans of Deadwood have been clamoring for a comeback ever since the series was canceled in 2006 after three seasons, and now it looks like they’ll finally have their wish — although until filming actually begins most will still assume it still won’t happen. Starring Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, and Molly Parker among many others in an ensemble cast, Deadwood chronicles the transformation of Deadwood, South Dakota from a camp to a town. In only three seasons, Deadwood racked up 28 Emmy nominations, winning eight, en route to being named one of the greatest shows to ever be canceled.
So how did Deadwood manage to get canceled? It mostly came down to money. Despite widespread critical acclaim and a passionate fanbase, the series oversaw a big decline from season to season that showed no signs of slowing. While HBO might have been willing to put up with lower numbers given its award pedigree, the problem is that the 18th century Western was also one of the network’s most costly. And when creator David Milch was offered a final shortened season consisting of six episodes, his feeling was it was better to walk away than to try and force it.
Enlightened is yet another example that critical praise is nothing if a show can’t find its viewers. One of the best shows of the last several years, Enlightened tells the story of Amy (Laura Dern) whose entire personal and professional life implodes after a mental breakdown. The plot follows her attempts to piece herself back together following a philosophical awakening. Created by Mike White, who also acts in the main cast, the series was ultimately nominated for two Emmys and two Golden Globes, with Dern winning Best Actress in a Television Series Musical or Comedy in 2012.
Enlightened had a tough time finding an audience from the start, but there were actually some subtle signs that the series was picking up some momentum. This would make sense, given the universal critical acclaim of the second season that led many critics to champion for the show’s renewal when White admitted that ratings would probably shutter the show. While the problems that led to Enlightened’s cancellation probably aren’t going anywhere soon, we can at least imagine where the show was heading after White explained to Vulture his ideas for a third season.
Firefly is a legend when it comes to canceled shows and the battles to bring them back. The series, which was canceled before its first season was even completed, follows the adventures of a group of disparate characters aboard the Serenity spaceship in the year 2517 who, after being on the losing end of a civil war, live their lives as pioneers at the edges of their star system. Created by Joss Whedon (The Avengers) and starring Nathon Fillion, Gina Torres, and Alan Tudyk, Firefly was canceled after only 14 episodes due to low ratings in 2002.
For whatever reason, Fox seemed to have it out for Firefly from the start. A.V. Club notes that episodes were shown out of order leading to story confusion, it was given a bad time slot, and the series was not afforded adequate advertising to get new viewers watching. Only after the show’s successful DVD sales and continued support from fans did the series miraculously get a follow-up, the 2005 feature film Serenity, but the film’s anemic box office take quickly shut down any hope of more films or a TV series.
So should Firefly fans finally let the series go? After all, the story continues to live in on in other mediums such as comics, novels, and a video game. Ask any fan of the show that question and they’ll tell you this: absolutely not. In 2015, the cast of Firefly reunited at New York Comic-Con to tell everyone they would all be game for a second season if the opportunity arose. And given the show’s legendary status in the 14 years since its cancellation, it isn’t hard to imagine that an entity like Netflix, Amazon, or even a TV network might take a shot at it again.
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