April 6-7, 2024
Written by Rachel Finucane
Call the cops, because there’s been a murder! Several, in fact. Sure they may have happened years ago, but that can’t diminish the pain we feel! Dozens of funny, emotional, and relatable TV shows have been lost to the ether of early cancellation, but today we want to look at just seven, seven shining gems, cut down in their prime, murdered before they truly blossomed! Okay, we’re getting our metaphors confused, but the point still stands.
Crafted by the brilliant mind of Buffy’s Joss Whedon and starring genre favourite Nathan Fillion, there’s no doubt Firefly is a top contender. The crew of a small spaceship navigate the difficult task of surviving, as they take on any job which will keep them fed. Whilst the show was given a reprise with the 2005 film Serenity that picked up where the series left off and gave us a satisfying conclusion, there’s always going to be the “what if?” question left behind by its far too early cancellation.
With trademark Joss Whedon quirky dialogue like “I swear by my pretty floral bonnet, I will end you,” and the plethora of great action sequences sprinkled about, it’s hard to nail down one best line, or best scene, however, Whedon’s talent manifests itself most in creating unique characters with captivating backgrounds and flawed traits, and that is going to be our highlight; the characters.
The characters were rich in flavour to the point where their actions would leave the audience quite stunned sometimes, but always satisfied. Having a fundamental understanding of who the characters were, but not being able to judge what their next action would be is the basis of Firefly’s excellent characterisation. One standout example of this is River’s monologue in Objects In Space.
Based on the graphic novel of the same name, Dark Matter followed six characters who woke up from a cryogenic sleep on an unfamiliar ship. With no one else on board and their memories lost, they set sail, as they travel the universe to figure out their past and what brought them together. Series creators Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie had a five-year plan for the show, and while there was a shortened wrap-up season pitched to Syfy, it fell on deaf ears.
In the landscape of sci-fi shows today, Dark Matter helped fill the gap that was left by the end of Stargate Universe, a show that also featured both Mallozzi and Mullie as two of its key writers. For what it lacks in special effects and set design, it makes up for in character development and the intricacies of the human interaction. The writing is strong, and the performances by actors who are generally unknown create a special combination that pulls you into the main plots and sub-stories, that are constantly evolving with every episode. If that isn’t enough to cement a spot on this list then the gripping “kill them all” scene between Jodelle Micah’s Five and Zoie Palmer’s The Android speaks for itself.
With re-runs frequently being aired on the Cartoon Network and Comedy Central, a light is still shone on this beloved futuristic animated sitcom. Crafted by animation pioneer and The Simpsons creator Matt Groening, it centred around Philip J. Fry, who, by a happenstance of his own child-like personality, gets cryogenically frozen, and emerges into to the year 2999.
Futurama was unceremoniously cancelled in 2002 but was later briefly revived when Cartoon Network picked up the syndication rights. In 2006, four direct-to-DVD feature-length films were released, with Into The Wild Green Yonder serving as the de facto finale.
Simply refusing to stay dead, it was stirred awake once again when Comedy Central bought the rights, and new episodes of the show were on the air by 2010. In 2013, Comedy Central announced they would be airing the final episode, despite Groening stating that there are more stories they’d like to tell.
Futurama had all of the ingredients from Matt Groening that have contributed to The Simpsons’ longevity, but in a very unique setting. Being able to veer between a comedic tone to serious in a way most cartoons of its time certainly didn’t hurt either, as many can attest, Futurama is often remembered for its emotional episodes rather than its straight up comedic ones.
The show often touched on the parallels between Leela and Fry, as they both felt like outcasts in a society they didn’t belong to, with Leela being a mutant, and Fry literally being a man out of time. From Fry’s head being sewn onto Amy’s body, to Luck Of The Fryish, one came for the laughs but ultimately stayed for the feels.
The series where devouring people never looked so good. At its core, Hannibal is a very eerie and twisted renovation of the Hannibal Lecter stories with Mads Mikkelsen’s younger Hannibal at the forefront. Rather being stagnant, Hannibal still has his love for cannibalism and murder, but pins it on other people. His counterpart, Hugh Dancy’s Will Graham, visualises said murders after they happened by attending the crime scene. Developed by Bryan Fuller, the series aired in 2013 and was later cancelled in 2015 with a thirteen episode third season.
What initially sets Hannibal apart from other shows is the cinematographic gold spun into antler mountings, human bodies used as mushroom-patch fertilizer, and whatever other imagery makes your stomach twist and turn. Close-up shots of the weird and twisted in saturated colours that add to the unease.
The characters are so compelling and the plot is so intricate that you’re never quite sure as to which side you’ll be rooting for. That’s not to say it went without its faults. While there was a draw to the psychological character study that the series morphed into by its third season, changing the format of a series can leave audiences divided, especially with a change this severe, as it started off as a procedural crime drama in season one.
It’s clear that three seasons of this show were not enough to leave the fans satisfied when a fan-funded movie was released in 2014. Rob Thomas shaped Kristen Bell’s Veronica Mars into a razor-sharp, quick-witted character who lived both in and outside of the Nancy Drew trope. The series follows Veronica’s adventures throughout high school, along with her gang of misfits, as she helps her private investigator father solve cases, despite his hesitations, eventually following her into her adult years, as the movie forged her career forwards to the FBI.
Clichés were broken down and delved into, to create a character that, although being compared favourably to Buffy, in that both of them marked iconic characters who went on to shape a generation, displayed her own ideologies. Buffy lived within the supernatural hype, while Veronica was within the walls of Neptune High where controversial issues, still to this day, were wrestling with, which leads to the standout scene where she comes face to face with Beaver.
As a massive nerd himself, having Zachary Levi as the face of this show makes one wonder how this was axed at all. Chuck followed the titular character on his misadventures from being just a geek working at the Buy More, to having to juggle his day-job with the task of being a computer-chipped brain spy. Created by Gossip Girl’s Josh Schwartz, the series originated in 2007 and then went off the air in 2012, but not without constant rumours of a much needed Chuck movie from its cast.
Wearing its heart on its sleeve, Chuck was in a genre all its own. However, due to being in the bubble every season, no amount of Subway sandwiches or cult following were able to let it reach its true potential. The show peddled along with characters on both sides of the spectrum who were multidimensional. While The Big Bang Theory plays into the geek lifestyle, there has yet to be another heartfelt character like Chuck Bartowski who has a brain, likes comic books, but ultimately, and sometimes recklessly, does the right thing, despite the personal cost.
In what would eventually become a bromance like no other, Seth Rogen and James Franco star in this angsty teen comedy series, which would soon become a reference point for most high schoolers. Freaks And Geeks follows Lindsay Weir and her younger brother Sam as they navigate their way through high school, with Lindsay befriending a group of slacker ‘freaks’, while her brother and his geeky friends struggle to fit in.
18 episodes of the series were completed, but, unfortunately, the show got cancelled before the 13th could find its way to air. Though all 18 are now available to watch, Freaks And Geeks remains as one of the best television shows of all time, which makes it that much more heartbreaking that its lifespan was cut short so quickly before its full potential could be realised.
Resonating on a personal level for so many of us, Freaks And Geeks approached the complicated realities of adolescence with a sense of biting humour. Starring alongside Jason Segal and Linda Cardellini, watching Franco and Rogen before their prime has a sense of comedic value in itself. Despite the cast and the cameos it offers (including Shia LaBeouf, Ben Stiller, and Tom Wilson), the essence of the show remains bound in its realism, its relatability and most importantly, the music. Unlike most television series, Freaks And Geeks ended on a high, and will undoubtedly go down in history as a seminal television show.
Lead image: Jodelle Ferland as Five, Mark Bendavid as One, Melissa O’Neil as Two in Dark Matter (Photo by Steve Wilkie/Prodigy Pictures/Syfy)