Genre Talk

Quirky is an Endangered Species: Lamenting Cancelled TV Shows


Oh, Captain Mal. How I miss you.

I have a problem.

I love cancelled TV shows.

The quickest way to get me to watch a show is to tell me it was cancelled after only one season. Better yet — midway through the first season. Sure, sometimes the show is  a bomb, but sometimes, the target audience was just too niche. And whatever that niche is — Nerdy romance writers? People who love Star Trek and Pride and Prejudice equally? People who think Lee Pace is brilliant? — I’m part of it.

This is especially true of the  slightly (and not-so-slightly) supernatural shows. I know you’re all thinking of Firefly, right? I’m right there with you. Cancelling that show was a tragedy. But my other favorite cancelled shows have a speculative fiction flavor, too. Pushing Daisies and Wonderfalls (my personal favorite) are some of the most brilliant television I’ve ever seen.

What is it about these shows? They’re all well-written, unique, clever, funny… Some of them didn’t even make it a full season before they got yanked. It’s enough to make a nerdy romance writer despair.


It’s normal to have stuffed animals and pink flamingos talk to you, right?

Then again, if I’m being honest, I might like the fact that these shows were cancelled. Finding them makes me feel like I’m part of a club. When I discover someone else who’s found one (or all!) of these gems, I want to cheer,  then discuss every last detail of every episode, lament the show’s untimely passing, and share in some good-natured gloating that we’ve discovered what the rest of the world missed.

Plus, I can’t help but wonder if any of these shows would be as good if they’d gone on for seven seasons. We’ve all seen series that start out clever and unique, but end up fizzling out and growing stale, victims of their own success. Maybe cancellation was a blessing in disguise, letting these stories stop when they’re meant to stop, instead of forcing the dramatic and romantic tension to endure long past their natural resolutions.

What about you, unbounders? Is there a canceled show you hold close to your heart? Why do shows like these get the ax?

17 thoughts on “Quirky is an Endangered Species: Lamenting Cancelled TV Shows

  1. You had me at Firefly 🙂 I was one of the few that watched that show live, and I remember saying to a friend after only 4 episodes that this was a smart show and that for that reason I bet it would be cancelled. I’ve often wondered too, if sometimes it was better to end before it got lame, though I definitely would’ve liked it to go for another season or two. Another factor to consider is–how much did knowing it was in danger of being axed contribute to how brilliant it was? Whedon and the cast were aware of the threat and worked hard to ensure each show would prove it shouldn’t be.

    • Props for catching the show live! I only found out about it years later. And I didn’t realize they all knew they were marked for cancellation. I wonder if, in addition to spurring them to try and make it great, that kind of knowledge loosens the creative reigns a bit. You know you may get cut, so why not take some risks and think outside the box?

      Another thing I’m noticing: smartly-written dramas (Breaking Bad, Mad Men) seem to do just fine. It’s the smartly-written comedy and “genre” shows that seem to get cancelled. I’m not sure what to make of it. Maybe they’ve got too much existential crisis mixed in with the comedy? (But that’s the part I love!!)

      • I think it might be a genre-bending thing. Maybe the “comedies” are actually straddling the line between comedy & drama, which makes them interesting, but hard to categorize. Just like with genre-bending (or breaking) books–they’re harder to market.

  2. Neat post. Yep, Firefly fan here too, and I have to agree that sometimes the clever shows, as well as those that defy genre-labels that get cancelled. That said, looking at the example of Joss Whedon, some of his stuff (ie: Buffy), did really well – and it was likewise quirky and strange. Perhaps it succeeded because it slipped past as a “teen” show, which, like YA where almost everything seems to go. More imaginative and out-of-the-box shows for adults seem to face a greater challenge, perhaps because networks (and some adults) think they’re “too old” for that sort of thing.

    Just my two cents. 😉

  3. A.J. What a great post! I loved Pushing Daisies and also Arrested Development. I think the model Netflix is using might really make more room for quirky. Yay!

    That’s an insightful observation about smart comedy being the hardest to sell. It reminds me of the conundrum of Romance, too. A genre of happily ever afters with lots of gravitas!

  4. Pingback: Syfy’s Two Power Hours: Being Human & Lost Girl — open thread | Paranormal Unbound

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