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November 17 2014

One-season what-ifs: 14 TV series that should've stopped after one season. This AV Club list includes a certain Whedon show.

Please, pinch me. I can't believe how they've described what was (mostly) a masterpiece second season. Yes, they kinda changed the premise... but NOT for worse. Also, the Epitaph episodes were Whedon and (consequently) TV at its best!
It would have been great to see the umpteen zillion plot arcs in Season 2 played out naturally over several seasons but I loved the latter half. It was a thrill ride and a stunning achievement to wrap it all up. The midichlorian reveal was a bit daft though.
I just rewatched the whole series, and it stumbles out of the gate pretty badly. But once it finds its footing midway through the first season it soars from there on out. Great ensemble cast chemistry, with particularly stellar performances by Olivia Williams, Fran Kranz, and Enver Gjokaj. You're right, Simon, the obvious "we're canceled" plot compression in the later half of season two is exhilarating and highly-entertaining. (Hey—anyone else notice the similarities between "the attic" and "cold-pac" in Philip K. Dick's Ubik? I didn't catch that the first time around.)
I disagree about Dollhouse and several others, especially Human Target.

Heroes is spot on, though. Everything about that show was designed to tell the story of the first season. The elements didn't work nearly as well for a continuing series.
Boston Public epitomizes this list.

As with many of David Kelley's dramas, it went from extremely compelling and entertaining to a mess, only more quickly and concisely--between seasons 1 and 2.
"Worse than the hasty, shoddy ending was the final “Epitaph” episodes."

I disagree, Epitaph One is the best episode of the series IMO. Epitaph Two, maybe not so much.
I also have to disagree about Modern Family. It's one of the strongest TV comedies currently on the air. This writer seems to be annoyed that it isn't a dramedy. Yes, I wish it took more dramatic chances sometimes, but it's still a very entertaining family comedy six seasons in.
Well I have to be the naysayer here. I agree that Season 2 was actually quite good, except for the obviously contrived makes no sense big bad "twist" that was clearly due to the early cancellation. But in contrast to everyone else, I did not like the "Epitaph" endings. Maybe it's just that I grew up in the '50s early '60s reading lots of science fiction, but it was CONSTANTLY filled with post-nuclear holocaust stories. Always with a small band of random survivors figuring out how to carry on in the grim aftermath and remake some sort of functioning society. Later we started getting the post-complete environmental breakdown holocaust stories, with your small band of random survivors, yada, yada, yada. So I'm a little burnt-out with the post-whatever the cause holocaust and the small band of random survivors struggling to survive against all odds and remake some form of society. Although the episodes had their moments ("Oh great, puberty") overall they were the one thing I never expect from watching a Whedonverse show: trite.
Re: Dollhouse, this article isn't really arguing that it should have stopped after one season.... it's arguing that, having been given a second season, the result did not live up to expectations (whatever they were). Which is pretty much a "no $#!+, Sherlock" argument to me -- what should have been multiple seasons worth of story were compressed into the latter half of S2. I was happy that they managed to come up with a reasonably coherent finale given how much ground had to be covered.

Suppose the authors got what they wanted: a presumably Epitaph1-less season one and done. Am I supposed to believe that would have satisfied them? It sure would not have satisfied me. (Confession: I was only marginally invested in the show until I saw Epitaph 1; had I known that the stakes were (a) that high and (b) that well thought-out, I would have paid a lot more attention to the earlier eps. After seeing it, I would have been royally peeved if S2 hadn't followed.)
Maybe we should stop with the negativity regarding quality of things. I mean sure we can't stop writers from various corners of the internet criticizing things, but who said we needed to post stuff like that here? I thought this was supposed to be a Whedon fan page, so tell me why would I want to read something that I am only going to disagree with anyway? It's only gonna make me and other fans angry to see something like that...
LastTimelord, if I can't criticize other people criticizing things, then the internet has no point.
I mean sure we can't stop writers from various corners of the internet criticizing things, but who said we needed to post stuff like that here?


The people who run the site? We don't like ranty fan bollocks or personal attacks on the writers/actors/showrunners but critiques of shows are fine. And the article is more critical on the forced nature of season 2 than anything else. I don't think swathes of fans are going to be angry about it.
@tomg - You just made me imagine a Dollhouse series that started out the gate with a flash of an "Epitaph" and then carried on with the regular series, but using the Epitaph setting as a frame and interspersing scenes and the rare episode throughout the main story of "how we got there from here". I think that would've been amazing, but critics would've whined about them dragging out the mystery for too long.
But the second season was so much better.
Yeah, I disagree a million percent with that analysis. I watched it all, of course, but for me it was the latter half of both seasons where it became MUST WATCH.
If not for Boyd, I would disagree with them deeply. But that was just... bad.
It's interesting because it goes against what so many people say about the show. I love Season Two and I'm very happy with what we got. But I might be in the minority in that the most enjoyable speculation for me was during Season One, when I was obsessed with the little hints we got about the identity themes and the character-based consequences of the technology. The plot wasn't anywhere near as exciting as the post-apocalyptic build-up, but the ideas were more unusual.

I still think about what the show could have done if it had taken the original pilot 'Echo' as its blueprint rather than the new direction it got from 'Epitaph One'. I don't know if I'd trade it for what we got, but I'm curious.
I'd trade what we got for a chance to see the original intent 'Echo' promised in a heartbeat. And that's not to say I'm down on what we got, but there was a clarity and confidence in the original pilot that the series struggled to regain after the network decided we needed a little more fun and sunlight in the noir.

And the Boyd thing... yes, bad. Fundamentally did not work for me on any level.
I enjoyed the first season. It is a little patchy until the "Man on the Street" episode but from then on it is first rate. I was less impressed with season two overall. I haven't watched season 2 in a long time but I remember the Boyd reveal really bothered me (and not in a good way, but in the it really doesn't seem to make much sense; this was done just to shock way). I also remember that I did like the ending for Echo and Paul but storywise I wasn't that crazy about season two (though it was nice to see Alexis and Summer).
My ideal stretch of Dollhouse is pretty much Man on the Street through The Left Hand. Just a perfect combination of awesome standalones and great arc stuff. I do think the back end of S2 is a little rushed, but I was still pretty engaged with it until the Boyd reveal. Not at all a bad run of episodes overall.
I think season 2 is a bit hit and miss, but when it hit it was a joy.

The Boyd thing is pretty inexcusable though.

As for the post-apocalyptic stuff, I enjoyed it and thought the final episode was brilliant, particularly the closing moments of redemption. It has been quite some time since I saw it though, so perhaps my feelings would be different now. I wish it could have found its way to it natural though, rather than rush we got it.

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