At some point I figure somebody held or will hold a contest for who could come up with the most unoriginal article idea and I intend on winning that sucker in spirit this week. If there’s anything we citizens of the almighty internet love to do it’s bemoan the fate of great shows that were canceled just because, and I’m the latest in to write about them.
Maybe it’s the supernatural curse of television sci-fi/fantasy/horror, or maybe some executive deliberately buried it so he could make room for his kid brother’s moronic sitcom idea, or maybe I was just the only one who liked the damn thing. Point is, the show is gone with the wind and if you’re lucky you’ll always have the DVD’s and the wonderment of what could have been.
And no, I’m not going to bore you with more Firefly gushings or anything so obvious. Just because the premise is unoriginal, doesn’t mean the content has to be. Here are six more shows that never got the second chance that they sorely deserved.
1. Lucy, The Daughter of the Devil
This Adult Swim standout is one of the funniest things they’ve ever aired. You’ve got Satan, you’ve got his independent-minded daughter, her hippy boyfriend DJ Jesus (pronounced in Spanish) who may or may not be the second coming, a trio of special-ops Catholic priests (and a nun) out to destroy the evil and stop the apocalypse, and of course ukulele music. Because why the hell wouldn’t there be ukulele music?
The CG art style is unique and charming, and I think I can honestly say that the opening credits to each episode alone should have justified Lucy’s continued existence. Creative, diverse, and uniformly hilarious, you were taken on a brief and memorable trip through the wonderful world of low-budget post-ironic underground humor at the start of each and every episode; that and maybe a line of vampire choirboys singing Boogie Oogie Oogie while devouring an amorous priest. Yeah, it’s that kind of show.
And if you aren’t sold then I’ll just go ahead and point out that Satan is voiced by H. Jon Benjamin (of Archer fame). Okay, now picture that version of the Devil dueting with the Son of Man on Pat Benatar’s Shadows of the Night in a Mexican-themed karaoke bar. Who cancels that show? Seriously, I want to know so I can throw things at them in public.
There’s astonishingly little of Lucy for free on Youtube, but you can buy individual episodes there. If you prefer physical media you’ll likely need to import since Cartoon Network insisted on making the DVD release exclusive to their online store and then closed it down, but I did manage to scrounge up the first scene of the pilot episode for you.
2. Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace
This orgasmically hilarious delight from the UK lasted all of six episodes, and every second of each of them is to be cherished. What we’re looking at here is the perfect absurdist horror satire. Zero-budget artistic pretensions abound, as does poor acting, ridiculous commentary clips from the creators interspersed throughout, in-jokes, horror and sci-fi homages, and a general straight-faced savaging of every bad television trope you can think of. That’s a lot to manage in such a small number of episodes, but I swear by the end you feel like you’ve been watching this show your entire life because, in a way, you have.
Picture an 80’s horror version of Kung Pow: Enter the Fist with better jokes and pseudo-pretentions of self-importance and you may get an idea of what kind of humor you are in for. That’s the best I can do because there just has never been another show like this one. It was too cool to survive.
In spite of successful runs on American television, the show remains unreleased on DVD here, but the episodes are available on Youtube. Have a clip.
One could argue that this Battlestar Galactica prequel was canceled deservedly and it was, in fact, a bit of a letdown. However, when it was good, it was really good. The pilot alone would have justified renewal in a perfect world. One season is often not enough for a show to hit its stride as going back to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer will confirm. Some room to grow is necessary and artists should have more room to work rather than be expected to hit it out of the park the first time every time.
The transhumanistic themes of the early episodes of Caprica were brilliance on par with the best that science fiction has to offer, as was the virtual reality world and inevitable hacking of it to create a kind of “deep web” for the seedier aspect to take wing. These were amazing creations and we deserved to see more of them. It’s unfortunate that much of the series was taken up with a half-assed mafia plot full of clichés, but the show was far from sunk and had a strong cast to match its greater ambitions.
I’d have very much liked to see where future seasons would have taken this one, but the Sci Fi Channel (still not calling it SyFy) opted to halt this chapter of the BSG saga and fast forward to more action in the web miniseries Blood and Chrome, which was great in an action movie kind of way, but lacked the more cerebral aspect that was Caprica’s bread and butter. In the first season, we got to see the birth of the Cylons, but it would have been great to see the series through all the way through their slavery and eventual rebellion too.
“If you leave now, you’ll always wonder” indeed.
This Starz presentation was unfortunate enough to air at the same time as the first season of a certain fantasy smash hit on HBO, and got swallowed whole. Camelot was dubbed Game of Thrones -lite by critics, and while it did okay in the ratings the high production cost and cast scheduling issues contributed to its demise.
While the GoT comparisons are quite justified due to Camelot’s focus on political scheming, sex, and violence, the fact that it was based on Arthurian legends that were altered to keep it more down-to-Earth puts it in another category. And while one might argue about the casting of Arthur (kind of a scruffy pipsqueak) the rest of the cast ranged from sexy to badass, making it not unlike the more extreme Spartacus.
I was a big fan of this take on the stories I loved as a child and was sad to hear it wasn’t renewed. While Ralph Fiennes’ Merlin was definitely inspired, I was particularly smitten with Eva Green’s Morgan LeFay, who was portrayed as an ambitious and unscrupulous woman, but one that was shockingly relatable and even vulnerable at times. It seems crazy that they canceled a show about King Arthur before introducing Lancelot or the Round Table -much less any Holy Grail- but it happened. Goddammit, Starz.
5. Space: Above and Beyond
This mid-90’s science fiction gem took ten years to finally get a proper DVD release. I remember regularly checking Amazon and finding only a similarly-titled but unrelated documentary with the top review title warning us off that his was not the show we were looking for. Space: Above and Beyond aired before I had access to the internet so I had no idea it was canceled at the time. I just waited and waited for a second season that never came. When the DVD release came, it languished on my Amazon wishlist for a long time as I suspected the 90’s-ness of it all may thwart my rose-tinted memories of it.
But no fear was necessary. Once I sat down and watched it, it was actually better than I remembered. Inspired by Starship Troopers, Above and Beyond dealt with the horrors of war from both sides, the potential social catastrophes of artificially grown humans, the possibilities of rebel AI, and a lot of other well-trod conceptual sci-fi tropes and themes, but in new and exciting ways and against the backdrop of war. This is without a doubt a must-see show for anyone who has ever loved military science fiction.
The cast was exceptional as well, although none of them have become break out stars. The Wild Cards were a diverse and young set of fighter pilots out to save the human race from a nigh-invincible intergalactic enemy. As with all good television series, they played it fast and loose like some sort of heavy gunnery equipment left unfastened aboard a ship, but damn it they got results! If nothing else, Above and Beyond gave me hope for the future. If people are still listening to Johnny Cash and the Ramones that long after we’ve colonized space, then maybe humanity really is worth saving after all.
6. Kindred: The Embraced.
Remember Aaron Spelling, 90’s kids? Purveyor of nighttime soap operas for teenagers and middle aged housewives alike, Spelling ruled the prime time drama roost for a good long while. But did you know he had a show about vampires on around the same time a fellow One Season Wonder Hall of Fame inductee Space: Above and Beyond? Furthermore, did you know it was actually really great?
Unreality readers may have noted that some of us have a fondness for the video game Vampire: the Masquerade-Bloodlines. Well, Kindred: The Embraced is actually based in the same universe. In it, vampire society is divided into several clans and run by the Ventrue clan, whose head, Julian, is the Michael Corleone-esque vampire Prince of the city of San Francisco. As Prince, Julian gets to juggle presiding over several clans of conflicting bloodsuckers while maintaining vampire secrecy, watching out for his human niece, and loving the ladies. Because what good is any of it without a lady in your life.
While deviating from the White Wolf RPG source material to keep the story more down to earth, Kindred and its mythology was extremely compelling and unlike anything else on television. It was canceled after only eight episodes airing on CBS, and was considered for pick-up by Showtime (which could have been amazing) until the show’s star passed away in a traffic accident. There is no God.
And there you have it: six more wonderful geeky television shows filled with potential for more awesomeness cut down before they even hit their primes. These shows all had so much potential that I broke my multiples of five rule because I just had to shoehorn an extra one in. The humanity. It’s a tale as old as the television medium itself and given the large number of cool shows hitting the air these days, we’ll probably have five more before you know it. Hopefully, some tool won’t feel the need to write an entire article about them, though. It’s been done to death.