The new season of Game of Thrones is nearly upon us and its fans are expecting great things. But with a huge costly production like this there’s always the fear that the network, in this case HBO, will pull the plug if ratings start to slide. Thrones should be immune; it’s a proven success and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t keep getting bigger and better – and follow George R. R. Martin’s hugely popular series of novels to the end. But other shows have fared less well, being abruptly cancelled and often leaving the fans feeling thoroughly dissatisfied.
So, in a rather clumsy and backward toast to a hopefully long and prosperous run for Game of Thrones, we’ll take a look at the top 5 most disappointing TV cancellations.
It goes without saying that this piece contains spoilers – but all the shows have been cancelled, so by definition they’ve all finished so you should have seen them by now.
Like Lost, FlashForward had a bumper-budget crash-bang-wallop opening scene. But that’s where the similarities with the J. J. Abrams blockbuster end, particularly in terms of success. The problem with Flashforward seemed to be its inconsistencies. Sorry to mention it again but after the ongoing riddle of Lost, viewers had started scrutinising plot twists and continuity more closely than ever before, so if you’re making a high-concept drama then you’d better map it out in detail, stick to it religiously and don’t change your mind.
In case you haven’t seen it, and that’s highly probable, the premise of FlashForward was that (almost) everybody on the planet loses consciousness for 137 seconds, during which time they see themselves 6 months in the future. The main character, Mark Benford, sees himself relapsing into alcoholism and his wife in the arms of another man – that bloke out of This Life. This turns out to be a great example of the writing losing focus and drifting off-kilter. This Sword of Damocles hanging over Mark and his wife is the show’s main personal plotline, yet whilst the Bentons start off fighting tooth and nail to keep their marriage strong, they both seem to forget and just go along with it when the bloke out of This Life turns up.
Then it turns out you can get a ring that stops you blacking out when your sinister organisation does its thing that makes everyone blackout – and it all gets a bit silly.
It was for the best that they stopped it.
Now this was a shame. Originally planned to run for 6 seasons, but ditched after season 2, Carnivale is a classic good versus evil tale told through the eyes of a travelling circus scraping an existence as it drifts through the dust bowl of the Great Depression. Dealing with archaic and arcane religious and mythological topics, Carnivale paid the price for taking its time. The main character, Ben Hawkins, spends all of the first season and a big chunk of the second wrestling against the fact that he holds unearthly powers, whilst many of the viewers are shouting ‘get on with it’ at their screens. By the time he’s got down to business and the setup for his battle against Brother Justin – his evil counterpart – really gets going, 24 episodes have elapsed. This proved too much for many viewers and more importantly, the network executives, and HBO pulled the plug on this expensive, meticulously crafted, ambitious and thoroughly well made show.
3. The Tripods
The Tripods was a BBC sci-fi series shown about tea-time on a Saturday during the eighties. I know because it was an important part of my childhood. Based on the books by John Christopher, who shamelessly ripped off the 3-legged alien craft in H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, the ‘Pods as I’ve just decided to call it, told the story of 3 teenagers’ quest to free the world from the yoke of its alien overlords.
The thing about the Tripods trilogy was that it was a trilogy, everything with the tripods comes in threes, see? So you would think there would have been three seasons wouldn’t you? Especially as season 2 ends on a cliff-hanger, with the boys returning to the rebel hideout after risking life and limb in the Tripods’ city only to find it completely destroyed.
What’s become of the last free humans fighting to save the world? I thought.
Can’t wait for the next season*, I thought.
But there was no third season. It had finished. Bugger.
*Actually, I didn’t think ‘season’, I thought ‘series’ because we hadn’t been Americanised back then.
Plenty of people will say this should top the list of most disappointing cancellations. And I would agree with them, but (warning, contains a spoiler regarding this list) I still quietly weep when I wonder what Seasons 4 and 5 of Deadwood could have been.
But back to Firefly: Joss Whedon’s cowboys in space romp was entertaining, edgy and funny. It took itself seriously enough to make us root for the ramshackle band of outlaws pinballing from one money-making caper to the next whilst trying to avoid the attentions of the all powerful Alliance – but was self aware enough to deliver great moments of comedy.
The cast, plotlines, sets – not least the Spacecraft itself – and the dystopic background made the show a cult smash, and when it was cancelled before the end of its first season, fans toiled to have it resurrected with various campaigns. A combination of the fans’ voices and the success of the DVD sales prompted a movie, Serenity, which has become a staple in Best Sci-Fi Movies lists ever since.
If ever there was an argument for atheism, it’s that no all-knowing and all-loving deity would have allowed Deadwood to be cancelled. It was a masterpiece.
I recommend Deadwood to tons of people and as a result I’ve received lots of texts, often late at night saying things like, “just watched the last episode of season 3, you didn’t tell me it just ended. I’m gutted and my girlfriend’s upset with you”. Actually, they tend to be a lot more offensive than that, but you get the gist.
So yes, Deadwood ran for 3 seasons, and was simply the best. But because most people are idiots, and Deadwood took the liberty of having the characters talk to each other a great deal, it didn’t get the ratings it needed to support its costs and so it went to that great saloon in the sky.
It still hurts, but go and get the box set, pour yourself a whiskey and bask in its gritty magnificence.
The sets for Deadwood were dismantled to make way for another big-budget period piece, Rome, which actually turned out to be rather good. And then that was cancelled after 2 seasons.
I should have included Rome in this list instead of FlashForward.