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August 13 2009

List of the 20 Greatest shows prematurely axed by FOX. A fairly impressive collection of familiar faces appear, and guess, guess, guess what show takes top spot?

Tru Calling was many things but it was not great.
Wonderfalls, however, was. :-)
I'm going to come right out and say it; The Fox Network is the ******* devil.
I guess mentioning the new management has been great so far would kind of kill the hook, huh?
Fox is the fandom's friend. We've always been at war with Eastasia.
They got Wonderfalls wrong; it was cancelled after 4 aired. There are some amazing shows on there.
Fastlane should've been on there.

Also, I don't think Firefly should've been #1. Sorry.
Andy Richter Controls the Universe and The Inside should be on there too.
Oh I liked The Inside. It was a fantastic show. It's a crying shame it never got released on DVD.
Brisco County Jr! Oh, Bruce Campbell.

This is a depressing list here.
DVD sales were strong enough to warrant a theatrical movie...

I know this is an old argument, but the way this is worded, I believe the author is correct.

After Serenity spent about 12 months in development, which included greenlight delays and multiple script re-writes, the impressive Firefly DVD sales finally convinced the crotchety Board of Trustees that the 39 million dollar investment was warranted. I believe the timeline speaks for itself. And while Joss has declared he was never given an official "DVD ultimatum" - it's more than likely that he knew only as much as Universal wanted him to know.

Edited to correct typo.

[ edited by Succatash on 2009-08-13 23:57 ]
I certainly agree FOX used to be the devil... but with Dollhouse's renewal, it's hard to still hate them. I realize TSCC got cancelled under this management, but c'mon, TSCC had even worse ratings than Dollhouse, it had 2 seasons to grow an audience, and only ever *lost* viewers. I liked the show, but it would have been insane for FOX to keep it around.
I can't believe Alien Nation didn't make the list. Follow up movies or not, that was a brilliant show that ended far before it should have. They should bring it back.

Wait, what's that?

They're redoing it?

*smiles*
Passionate list for sure. It's a good thing there is some new management and were not reading about Dollhouse on that list. I think I will go hug my Firefly dvds now.
Kudos to the author for linking to my Strange Luck excerpt (I still can't get over how awesome - on so many levels - that whole sequence is.)

[ edited by brinderwalt on 2009-08-14 01:24 ]
I was going to be upset if Firefly hadn't been number one, whew! I'm glad somebody remembers Strange Luck. Loved that show too. I watched the Brimstone vid and loved it. Must... track... down... DVDs.
Goddammit, look how long I've fucking hated FOX!!!
In my opinion, Drive's cancellation was the most heinous of the lot. The others can be explained by low ratings, but Drive's ratings were respectable right out of the gate. Also, the show was cancelled less than two weeks after it's premier. Even Firefly was given more of a chance than that.

[ edited by RaisedByMongrels on 2009-08-14 02:10 ]
Glad to see Brimstone and Brisco County make the list. I spent many a happy childhood evening watching both. Brimstone hurt the worst though; that was around the time I started developing a real appreciation for television. Now if they just add Sci-Fi (I'm sorry, SyFy) to the list, we'll be in business. My heart still weeps over the loss of The Invisible Man, Good Vs. Evil, The Chronicle, and Farscape.
Shows cancelled so early are terrible. It's impossible to see what you have until, I dunno, 10 episodes. I read one week that Drive was the US #1 show and wait for it to start over here (UK). Few weeks later, never heard of it again.
On another note, It's funny to see that the majority of mostly still common names on that list have been reincarnated at a later date.

Anyway, that was non-Kevin Reilly FOX. We should be grateful for the few years he's gonna be working there
re: didifallasleep: Yes, they remade Alien Nation. It's called "District 9".

I second what the author writes about Fux. I know people are gonna defend what they did, but, in the end, they have a "sh**ty track record with great shows, including Space: Above and Beyond" AND "Kindred: The Embraced", two shows which did not get mentioned.
You know, after ripping Fox like crazy AND reading this list... I have a different take.

Why is it that only Fox is even trying to put out original programming? I don't see a lot of variety in the other three networks. Yes, you occasionally get a Heroes, a Chuck, or a Lost, but Fox is much more apt to take a chance on these types of shows. And yes, maybe we're mad about the Tick or Firefly, but no other network picked them up either so why are we furious with Fox? It doesn't excuse the cancellations, but I'm just saying...
I'm right with you azzers.

I may carp about the evil ways of Fox as much as the next genre fan, but I'm pretty sure that if someone were to make a list of this type for the other broadcast networks it would be a whole lot shorter - not due to a higher percentage of good shows being picked up - but due to the fact that fewer shows overall are actually good enough to get worked up about.

Ultimately I'd rather have the brief glimmers of artistic brilliance so often served courtesy of Fox than settle for the almost uniform (there are exceptions) mediocrity in programming the other networks seem perfectly happy to produce ad nauseum. Fox may end up screwing-over their own programming/audience a great deal of the time, but at least they have the guts to take artistic risks - unlike their market competitors.

[ edited by brinderwalt on 2009-08-14 04:43 ]
Haha, jperiodperiod. I was just reading about that today and was like, "Wait a tick!"

But I am excited about the actual Alien Nation coming up. It sounds a bit Battlestar Galatica-ish. No comment on the ending.

:P
interesting list.
i didnt think much of drive when it aired but they only gave it a few episodes before it was gone and never heard from again.

wonder how many american homes have tivo and dvdr and things like that? how representative can ratings be when people can easily record shows and watch them later? or see them online? or do ratings take stuff like this into account?

in any event, though i didnt see firefly when it was broadcast i still feel fully capable of being angry at fox for canceling it. and that is without considering arrested development, which i did watch.
Oh Wonderfalls... Wonderfalls, Wonderfalls, Wonderfalls. Quite possibly the best show to ever have lived (died).

It's not Fox's fault, comrades. Since we have been watching, Fox have cancelled fewer shows. And remember one season good, two seasons bad.

So many beautiful shows on that list. Tru Calling was really starting to find itself right when it was cancelled.
re: brinderwalt: Artistic risks? You mean like American Idol? Or ANY of the other so-called reality shows Fux has "created"? Popularity does not always go hand-in-hand with quality. I believe the shows that got canceled so early were doomed when Fox did that, and all the other networks got cold feet and would not pick them up.
re: brinderwalt: Artistic risks? You mean like American Idol? Or ANY of the other so-called reality shows Fux has "created"? Popularity does not always go hand-in-hand with quality. I believe the shows that got canceled so early were doomed when Fox did that, and all the other networks got cold feet and would not pick them up.


Artistic risks as in producing - say - Firefly. Fox has a reputation for finding and producing excellent programming - they just have issues sticking with it.

ETA: For whatever reasons, those other networks tend to be too timid to even pick up the calibre of interesting programming Fox has a reputation for dropping in mid swing.

[ edited by brinderwalt on 2009-08-14 05:59 ]
And the crap were are "stuck" with, keeps on getting found and produced! And then, for the most part, gets viewed by people who think that these shows are great! Talk about a vicious cycle.
...which would be why standard-form television is not my favorite medium (I prefer the long-format serial/mini-series/film series variety of programming myself.)
At the risk of incurring the wrath of every browncoat in the northern hemisphere, I have to say that I disagree with all of the hate Fox gets by genre fans. Sure, Fox has cancelled tons of quality shows; no one is denying that. But going through the list, I see a ton of shows that wouldn't of been given a chance by other networks. Firefly? The Tick? Wonderfalls? NBC/CBS/ABC wouldn't give those shows the time of day.

Fox gave a ton of offbeat shows a chance, something other networks wouldn't of done; they just didn't pick up a sizeable audience. It's easy to say that Fox should of given those shows more of a chance, or should of purchased more episodes or given them a better timeslots, but television is a business, not renaissance-era patronage. The shows didn't make money, and got cancelled.


Also: I really think the author of this list needs to look up the definition of "before their time". Futurama got 5 seasons, Arrested Development, Millennium and Family Guy got 3,and several other shows got either 2 seasons or at least a full season.
It's easy to say that Fox should of given those shows more of a chance, or should of purchased more episodes or given them a better timeslots, but television is a business, not renaissance-era patronage. The shows didn't make money, and got cancelled.


If there is a rational explanation (as regards profit margins or anything else) for the way Fox dealt with specific shows like Firefly (ex. airing serialized episodes out of order, skipping key episodes like the series premiere) or Drive (taken off the air before it even had the chance to develop bad ratings) other than spite or incompetence (what financial sense does it make to expend your company's resources on a project, then present said project in such a way that financial profitability would seem the least likely outcome?) - I'd love to hear it.



Edited to add emphasis on words... 'cause... you know... words mean things... if you know what I mean.

[ edited by brinderwalt on 2009-08-14 09:05 ]
That security man at the beginning of the Strange Luck clip looks familar .....
I shouldn't have read that list. So many reasons to be angry.
Brinderwalt: Sure. I didn't watch Drive when it came out, so I can't comment on that, but I can talk about Firefly. Serenity is a great episode and it's the perfect introduction for anyone who's already decided that they're interested in Firefly. Whenver I introduce a friend to the show, I tell them to ingore the broacast date's listed on the case and watch the show in order. BUT I don't think it's a good way to convince someone who's casually flipping through tv channels to stick around for more than a a commercial break or two. The purpose of a pilot for any TV show isn't to provide all of the backstory ; it's to get the viewer to come back next week. Worry about the show's mythology when you've got more/stable viewers.


IMO, The Train Job works great as a pilot. It provides a very clear statement about what the show is , it's fun, and it's not too long (ie: it's not a 2-hour commitment). We don't need details on the battle of serenity valley or the experiments done to River, not yet anyways. The train job has an immediate hook that I think works.

As for the rest of the episodes, honestly does it really matter if they air Jaynestown before Shindig or vice-versa? Firefly wasn't like 24, the episodes where (almost) all independent of each other. Maybe they aired some episode earlier because they thought they were better episodes, and would hook audiences. It doesn't alter the show or it's view-ability.

[ edited by Jor on 2009-08-14 10:47 ]
It's an enigma. On one hand, they're *developing* these great shows, but I just can't understand how they can axe a show like Wonderfalls or Drive after only 2-4 episodes. To me, that seems like a kneejerk reaction, no matter what show they supposedly committed to just by developing it. Doesn't seem like they were patient enough to let their investements become successfull.
Ah, Fox. I hate you for breaking my heart so many times, I love you for taking the chance on the quirky shows that can break my heart. Thanks for renewing Dollhouse.
Let's be honest here: a lot of Fox's programming is crap from our perspective (those of us who prefer scripted drama). On the other hand, the shows we like tend to 1) not be highly rated, and 2) tend to be expensive to produce.

So hate Fox all you want for that cheap, lousy reality programming, but it produces big bucks for Fox, and those big bucks help subsidize shows like Dollhouse which are never going to be huge money-makers. Sure, they've made mistakes in the past (and I'm sure some at Fox are kicking themselves over Firefly), but I think they finally understand the need for shows like Dollhouse, and are now willing to take risks on them (for now).

I got the impression that shows like Drive were fantastically expensive to produce, and that's one reason why its "respectable" ratings weren't enough. I liked the show, but I didn't like how little of each back story I was getting each week (the too-big-an-ensemble problem). Hell, I would have eventually gotten over it once I had seen ten or twelve episodes. And that's another problem: we are not usual television viewers. We'll stick with a show for ten episodes to see how it pans out. Most viewers won't, either because they don't like our kind of TV, or simply don't tune in regularly enough to follow along.

Also, about not letting shows mature enough before cancelation: the problem was that shows usually spike in the ratings out of the gate and then drop to levels more like what they will see over the course of a season. If even the initial "spike" in ratings isn't high enough to sustain a show, it will get canceled. Especially if the buzz around a show is less than spectacular (as it was with Drive, which critics did not seem to like much, if my memory serves). Wonderfalls was a critical darling, but the ratings ... meh. Again, I didn't get into Wonderfalls until I saw five or six episodes (all on DVD, of course, since I never watched the show on TV).

[ edited by ern on 2009-08-14 13:43 ]
'Drive' may have had "decent" ratings for say a Friday night (for the most part it did better than 'Dollhouse' has so far) but unfortunately it aired on Monday and came 5th for its hour when aired (Fox may have worried that it was dragging '24' down too). If it's a bit expensive as well then Fox will want to avoid (as they see it) throwing good money after bad. And it ran for 4 episodes AND two weeks BTW, when it premiered they showed two episodes initially, then another that same week on its usual day then another the following week IIRC.

Not all that bothered about this myself (mainly because i'm not from the US so don't watch Fox ;) but I guess if it's that heartbreaking an experience then you always have the option of not watching the channel. If you still do then there's clearly something about Fox shows that you're not getting elsewhere, which means the people pointing out that Fox are more open to experimenting with different, riskier types of show may have a point. Or it could be they just make more pilots and air more new shows in general, are there figures on that ? Or maybe they genuinely don't give shows as much of a chance as other channels.

Re: the list, i'd have 'Space: Above and Beyond' on there ahead of 'Tru Calling' (which got better when the "evil leaper" came into it but still had issues IMO). I liked 'Strange Luck' too, it's a brilliant premise but the show didn't always quite gel for me - some were good but mostly I kept watching because it had amazing potential. Same with 'John Doe', great premise, execution not always quite as great (and wasn't the idea that he was basically Jesus recreated through cloning, i'm sure I remember the creators saying that after it ended ? Or was that just fan speculation that's morphed in my mind ?).

[ edited by Saje on 2009-08-14 14:53 ]
I think it's easier to dismiss what's happened on Fox looking at specific shows that have been canceled - even if some of them really hurt. What's maybe more illuminating is looking at the big picture of what's actually survived. Below are the only scripted hour sci-fi/genre shows to return for a second season on Fox since 1986 when the network was launched. Only X-Files has made it beyond three seasons. What's happened recently is encouraging and I'm more open minded than I was a year or two ago, but it's still just a blip on a bleak record. It'll take some time to sort out if this is a new direction or just a brief happy circumstance.

1993: X-Files(9)
1995: Sliders(3*)
1996: Millennium(3)
2000: Dark Angel(2)
2003: Tru Calling (2**)
2008: T:TSCC (2)
2008: Fringe(?)
2009: Dollhouse(?)

* Continued on Sci-Fi for two more seasons
** Canceled before an abbreviated second season partially aired
Dollhouse is not evidence that Fox have changed. Look at TSCC, a show that they themselves (seemingly) did everything in their power to kill.

Fox (network) are not the only ones to produce original, quality, quirky scripted shows (or genre shows): BtVS, ATS, Alias, Chuck, Pushing Daisies, Roswell, Veronica Mars, Heroes, Smallville, Lost, Bionic Woman, My So-Called Life, Freaks and Geeks, 30 Rock.

None of these great shows aired on the Fox network, so saying that Fox are the only network to give quality, original shows a chance, is incorrect. Not to mention the brilliant things that happen on cable.

[ edited by NuVanessa on 2009-08-14 15:31 ]
Cable isn't really comparable though surely - lower budgets, shorter runs, fewer viewers, fewer content restrictions, less financial risk.

Look at TSCC, a show that they themselves (seemingly) did everything in their power to kill.

I dunno, it ran for two seasons (OK, 1) when the ratings were far from spectacular.

And I don't think anyone's saying no other networks produce quality, quirky shows, the suggestion (and I don't know if it's true myself) is that Fox produce more than other single networks, not more than ALL other networks combined. It's worth pointing out BTW, leaving aside subjective judgements about how many of those shows are quality, that if they didn't air on Fox then they also weren't cancelled by Fox - Bionic Woman, Freaks and Geeks, My So-Called Life, Veronica Mars, Roswell, Pushing Daisies, Angel, all cancelled what their fans would describe as before their time and Chuck was on the bubble (i'd add 'Journeyman' and 'Life' to the list).
And I don't think anyone's saying no other networks produce quality, quirky shows

I was responding to Azzers:

Why is it that only Fox is even trying to put out original programming?

There are plenty of examples for each single network, just as FOX have plenty of examples. I don't watch all of those shows, or like them, but they all have loyal cult followings. Yes, almost all of them cancelled, but generally not after 4 episodes. Most TV shows are cancelled sooner or later.

TSCC was treated poorly. I gave up trying to watch it on TV, especially on a Friday night.

[ edited by NuVanessa on 2009-08-14 16:10 ]
Ah, fair enough (I really don't mean this snarkily but quoting up front makes it easier to tell who you're responding to when your post doesn't follow on).

I dunno, it's all a lot more vehement than it needs to be IMO but each to their own. To settle it someone (who cares more ;) would probably need to approach it in a slightly more organised fashion by listing all the new shows for each season over the last say 10 years, split by network with a tag for cancelled shows, genre shows and the number of episodes aired. Then we work out the percentage of new shows that're genre shows for each network and the percentage cancelled. And then we could all hate or not hate Fox with a solid foundation.

Personally i'm going out for a few beers instead though ;).
I also would like to say that, according to what I read somewhere, the suits currently at Fux aren't the old suits, the ones responsible for all the carnage......until T:TSCC....uhhh, I'll get back to you on that one........
Jor: Yes, it matters that "Shindig" comes before "Jaynestown," but only for people watching the show closely. The plots-of-the-week are unrelated from episode to episode, mostly, but the emotional situations of the characters do change. Simon's coming along in "Jaynestown," and his relative closeness with Kaylee, have to follow "Safe" or else his story doesn't make sense--he backslides. And "Safe" obviously follows "Shindig" because of the cows. No one is going to be confused about the plot by airing them out of order, but it hurts the emotional texture. That said--I think "Jaynestown" is a particularly accessible episode, so it would be cool to move it up a bit for people harder to get into the show.

Anyway, my picks for numbers one and two came out as one and three (Firefly I love most dearly, but premature cancellation of Arrested Development? COME ON!), so I'm happy about that. I like Wonderfalls as well. Didn't so much watch the others on this list.
I know people are gonna defend what they did, but, in the end, they have a "sh**ty track record with great shows, including Space: Above and Beyond" AND "Kindred: The Embraced", two shows which did not get mentioned.


Kindred: The Embraced is one of the few cancellations I can forgive, as sadly Mark Frankel (who played the lead Julian Luna) died in a motorcycle accident in the middle of the series.
I can't understand saying T:TSCC was treated poorly. The premier had 18 million viewers...the next week 9 million...then it was 5 millionish and it was on a Monday, then bottomed out with 3 millionish.

I watched, and I felt like they were given a second season and they didn't really do anything with until the end. YMMV.
Most shows get cancelled, it's just that genre fans tend to be more passionate and complain more. ;)

I wouldn't say TSCC was treated poorly. It was given a pretty good chance even as the ratings continued to drop. And much as I love AD, 3 seasons was a lot more than other shows got. So with lists like these, logically I can understand why most of them were cancelled, but it still hurts every time it happens and it will always feel "cut short".

I watch and get my heart broken by other networks as well, but it does seem like I watch more on Fox. But that might just be a result of various people's relationship to Fox.

ETA: Saje, thefutoncritic's done some number crunching on cancelled shows. Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 are of interest, but they don't specifically focus on "sci fi" shows. Fox does seem to have a lot of 0-fers and a slightly lower average than the other big networks, but not excessively so.

[ edited by hacksaway on 2009-08-14 19:09 ]
Brinderwalt: Sure. I didn't watch Drive when it came out, so I can't comment on that, but I can talk about Firefly. Serenity is a great episode and it's the perfect introduction for anyone who's already decided that they're interested in Firefly. Whenver I introduce a friend to the show, I tell them to ingore the broacast date's listed on the case and watch the show in order. BUT I don't think it's a good way to convince someone who's casually flipping through tv channels to stick around for more than a a commercial break or two. The purpose of a pilot for any TV show isn't to provide all of the backstory ; it's to get the viewer to come back next week. Worry about the show's mythology when you've got more/stable viewers.


The purpose of a TV show pilot (and technically every episode thereafter) is to get the viewers emotionally invested in the show's persistent elements (usually its characters) thereby enticing the viewers to come back for more. "Serenity" doesn't just set up the basic plot like "the Train Job" does admirably, it delves deeply into the emotional dynamics that underlie all of the main characters' personalities, the effect of which is to provide an excellent springboard for the viewer as to why it is these characters are who they are and do the things they do.
Speaking as someone who was lucky enough to first experience Firefly in its entirety and intended order, the exact moment I first felt truly invested in what was happening was during the series' opening scene - specifically the reaction shot of Mal's utterly hopeless face as the Alliance's hell-fire is destroying not only his cause but his faith in God. Having a moment like that as a precursor to the events that follow effectively deepened my appreciation for what followed (and what is yet to be developed) to such an extent that I don't even want to think about what it would have been like to see the series as it was originally aired.

[ edited by brinderwalt on 2009-08-14 19:43 ]
Mal's bitter, resigned "Yeah, we win" was when I was really hooked but though I think "Serenity Pts 1 and 2" is the best pilot of any Joss show, I kind of get that for some people, 2 hours is too long to risk on an unknown show. Pretty much any sci-fi show (nevermind one by Joss Whedon) is worth two hours of my time but then i'm a life-long sci-fi fan, obviously not everyone is.

And cheers for those links hacksaway, that's pretty much exactly the sort of thing I meant except unfortunately we really need the specific SF&F show survival rates to judge whether Fox cancel more shows earlier because they launch more shows like that (which are likely going to appeal to smaller audiences). Interesting to see though that a) they're pretty much on a par with the other networks WRT cancelled shows in general (particularly if you allow for the times when, for some reason, NO shows survived the cut) and b) they haven't actually necessarily cancelled fewer shows in recent years.
Looking at those stats again, this means Dollhouse is the first and only Friday show on Fox to be renewed in the last 10 years. Amazing.

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