There’s a reason that long serials with eight seasons already released are so comforting. You know that when you start to invest time into watching them, they aren’t going to be cut off suddenly — you can can be assured that the storytelling being wound will continue for at least long enough to conclude or grow so low in quality you’ll no longer care, as there’s nothing worse than a story cut short.
Starting to follow a television show only to have it canceled is very much like having a book read out loud to you, only to have the reader slam it shut after the first climactic few chapters, then wrap it in a towel and burn it in a trash can. What would have happened if Grandpa from The Princess Bride had just closed the book and turned the light off early? It’s a similar feeling. Although, it raises an interesting solution for those of you who like a good book and are feeling down after reading this — a lot of these shows stem from books, or are eventually made into movies. So, if you have to know how they end, there may be a solution. Let’s prod some old wounds and gaze nostalgically at a few canceled shows past that we wish hadn’t had to go so soon.
1. Pushing Daisies
Pushing Daisies was truly a work of art. The writing was usually quite hilarious yet grim, the acting superb, and the visual art of show was perhaps the most impressive yet. Each episode was like a design dream; the colors, crazy clothes, beautiful buildings, and back drops. Pushing Daisies was like the adult version of A Series of Unfortunate Events crossed with Harry Potter because, for those who didn’t realize, Jim Dale, the narrator for all seven of J.K. Rowling’s books, also played a fantastically comical narrational role for Pushing Daisies.
The show only went for twenty-two episodes (or, two seasons) before it was canceled by the ABC network. It followed the story of Ned, a highly neurotic pie maker with a dead dog he brought back to life through touch and his bizarre power to reanimate the dead, then lay them back to rest, all with a single touch. The twist: if he doesn’t put them back where they should be in a very specific number of seconds, they’ll stay alive, but someone nearby will die.
Ned uses his power by accident as a child, leading to the revival of his dog, which he now pets with a long stick, and for a short time his mother, leading to the death of his childhood sweetheart’s father. Eventually, he uses the power to become a private detective part-time alongside his pie business — which he makes using rotted fruit he freshens up a bit — and to bring his dead childhood girlfriend back to life, leading to the most sexually frustrating but sweet romance you’ve ever seen.
After the show was canceled, the creator, Bryan Fuller — now working on Hannibal – started trying to get a movie and a comic book made. The movie is still in the kick-starter process and the comic book seems to be stalled, but you can read/look at the first color editions online, as Fuller tweeted them as they were produced, and Pushing Daily Daisies kindly collected them.
2. Arrested Development
Thank you Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX). Even with Netflix’s revival of the highly popular, sadly canceled family comedy about “the story of a wealthy family who lost everything and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together.” The witty writing and fantastic comedic brilliance of every actor involved made the show’s cancellation a real loss.
The fourth season came over six years after the third one ended and the show was canceled, but come it did. An Arrested Development movie appears to be genuinely still coming, if you were wondering. IMDB interviewed Jason Bateman — who plays the character Michael Bluth — to discuss whether or not the upcoming movie was real. “We hope that there is enough people out there who would want to see it that [Fox] Searchlight could get its money back from financing it. [Mitchell Hurwitz] is half-way through writing the script now, and once he’s done and if he’s happy with it, we’ll start to schedule it and shoot it,” said Bateman.
It seems that little needs to be said about the popular science fiction show being canceled — viewers everywhere have railed on and on about it for years now — and with good reason. The cast was fantastic, the universe expansive and open for years worth of playing in. Basically, it was just a bad call, as the enormous fan base — and the show’s continued popularity even today — proves.
Firefly followed a ship, its captain, and its crew as they lived the lives of space cowboys and outlaws. After it was canceled following the end of its first season, they did manage to make a film, Serenity, which unfortunately didn’t do terribly well at the box office, despite such a strong fan base from the television series. The good news is that if you find yourself missing Zoe, Captain Malcolm, Wash, and all the rest, there’s a comic book co-authored by Joss Whedon who helped direct the lone Firefly Season.
4. Party Down
Party Down made it a solid two season, but it truly deserved so much more. The show follows employees of the Part Down catering company and their apathetic and tired responses to the hand that LA dealt them, serving drinks and food at events ranging from weddings to porn awards.
The series also includes a romantic element between two similarly bitter employees played by Parks and Recreation stars Adam Scott and Lizzy Caplan — the latter well-known for her role in Mean Girls. It was just the right kind of dry and witty comedy, with on and off recovered alcoholic boss, Ron Donald, adding just the right touch.
5. Better Off Ted
Better Off Ted is one of those hilariously witty shows with what seemed like a relatively low budget demand that defies reason or cancellation. It was well worth the hour that ABC gave up on Wednesday to broadcast, and it likely didn’t cost them as much as shows like Once Upon a Time, which, let’s be real, isn’t as good.
What really made Better Off Ted, well, better, was the characters it created. For one, there was the company itself in this workplace comedy, Veridion Dynamics, which ruled over each employee’s life in a eerily big brother crossed with HAL sort of way. Each episode would begin with a short commercial from the company, voiced by a creepily mechanical woman, and utilizing stock photographs, saying things like, ”Competition: Whether its animals, or this old woman and baby fighting to the death, competition makes us stronger. In business that means better products, pills that look like candy, hands that can shoot lighting, and a new generation of hurricane proof dogs. Veridian Dynamics: Competition, it makes everything better.”
There was Ted, the lovable but flawed manager who once used his daughter to try to undermine competing co-workers, as well as when he froze one of his scientists. There was Linda, the frustrated moral compass who stole creamer and created a bagel-throwing game. Then there was Veronica, played by Arrested Development’s own Portia de Rossi, the driven and competitively immoral executive who said things like, “A female mentor would have been very valuable for a young Veronica, who was bursting with potential — yet vulnerable, like a fawn in the woods. But tough, like a fawn in the woods with a machine gun.”
6. Lie to Me
Lie to Me‘s cancellation was like cancelling House, except Tim Roth was involved. The show followed Dr. Cal Lightman — Roth — as he and his fellow lie detectors used body language and facial tics to route out lies, solve crime, prevent bombings, and in a few cases, gamble.
Admittedly, some characters could have used a bit more development, Eli and Ria come to mind, but Doctors Lightman and Foster were a fully fleshed, touching, and often quite witty pair. Much like House, the show revolved around the sarcasm and brilliance of once character, driving viewers interests with rude but clever dialogue. When it was cut short, its chance to develop into something even better was lost, a considerable mistake when one considers the prowess and historical successes of Roth.
7. Veronica Mars
Veronica Mars starred Kristen Bell as a teenage high-school detective, working to dig up clues as to her friend’s murder and her own rape with the overarching mysteries accompanied by the many odd occurrences in the town she lived. The show made it three seasons, not as bad as some shows, but certainly not as long as some could wish.
The show was simple, yet fun; a bit far-fetched, but intentionally so. Its popularity has led to a film after the fact, slated for 2014, which will include a lot of familiar faces. Logan’s character will be returning, as will actor Jason Dohring, and obviously Kristen Bell is on her way back.