This past week, fans of the Brooklin Nine-Nine TV series went from totally devastated to immensely relieved when the show was dropped by the Fox channel … and picked up soon after by NBC. Tragedy is often the catalyst for unity, even in realm of fandoms and geekery. In the tense hours after the initial unfortunate cancellation announcement, at the prompting of author Paul Kreuger (@NotLikeFreddy) on Twitter, people came together to commiserate and fondly remember other wonderful shows that were sadly cancelled way too soon. In no particular order, here are my picks:
In the 21st century, Captain America was rescued from a cryogenic state by the modern-day SHIELD organization and became one of the founding members of the Avengers. But back in 1942, Peggy Carter, Cap’s girlfriend, believed him to be dead. The Agent Carter TV series on ABC picked up where Peggy’s story left off, and really allowed for the character to shine on her own.
From the way she was introduced in Captain America: The First Avenger, you could tell she wasn’t merely a damsel in distress, and that she was perfectly capable of holding her own, but Agent Carter dove deeper. I really got to know Peggy as an individual, not the sidekick, love interest of a superhero, or the one-dimensional “strong female character” archetype we see so often. While most of her make counterparts at the SRS (a precursor to SHIELD) failed to take her seriously because of her gender, this series showed its modern-day viewers just how strong and independent a heroine Peggy Carter is. Her superpowers? Courage and resourcefulness.
Agent Carter also introduced some loveable side characters like Howard Stark’s endearingly awkward butler Edwin Jarvis (sounds familiar, right?); and Peggy’s co-worker and ally, Sousa, who also understands what it’s like to be discriminated against in the workplace.
The first season covered the devious machinations of the Leviathan organization; the Red Room where Natasha Romanoff would eventually become a/the Black Widow; and Peggy’s grief in the immediate aftermath of Captain America’s presumed death. It was so gripping — I may or may not have binged it over the course of a week…. The plot took several unexpected turns, some devastating, some positively exhilarating, and many both.
When the second season came out, there was a noticeable change of pace and setting. In terms of a villain arc, we went from dark, gruesome subject matter to … plain old dark matter. Perhaps to combat the cliché of two women tearing each other down to make any progress in their lives, the villainess of this season, glamorous actress and struggling scientist Whitney Frost (aka Madame Mask in the comics), is portrayed in an almost sympathetic light despite her nefarious schemes. (She, too, wasn’t taken seriously as a scientist by her male counterparts, and took to acting … and manipulating them instead.)
While Peggy got some closure in terms of love and prospective marriage, the season ended on an overall lackluster note. (Something about a ragtag team of grown adults playing tug-of-war with a rift in space just didn’t cut it for me.) But was it egregious enough to constitute axing the series? As someone who’s sat through worse on The Flash and Supergirl, I really don’t think so.
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
BBC America and Netflix partnered to produce this hilarious (and shamelessly gory) ball of wibbly-wobbly, Wholockian stuff. Based on the writings of Douglas Adams (of Hitchhiker fame), Dirk Gently tells a story fraught with time travel, mystery-solving, gore, comedy, gore, and did I mention gore? (It’s not for the faint of heart.) Bringing together a cast of seemingly unrelated characters to investigate a series of seemingly unrelated events, we quickly learn that everything is connected.
British actor Samuel Barnett plays the delightfully weird, Doctor Who-like “holistic detective” (read: socially inept, wannabe mystery solver with an unnatural knack for discovering clues) Dirk Gently. His sidekick is cynical, foul-mouthed Todd Brontzman, played by Elijah Wood (who hasn’t aged a day since he played Frodo in The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films).
In their quest to solve the mystery of a wealthy, reclusive businessman, Todd and Dirk cross paths with “holistic killer” Bart Curlish (played by Fiona Dourif of Chucky fame) and her unwilling companion, techie Ken (Mpho Koaho); and a grouchy, middle-aged man who seems obsessed with a dead Rockstar. All of that might sound positively strange, but watch on if you dare, because everything is, indeed, connected….
Like Agent Carter, the show was cancelled after its second season. The first season was so good, it’s understandable if the writers found it hard to top. The first season was just the right balance of weirdness and humor, focusing more on the story itself than character development. The second season struck me as more character-oriented, and it ventured into all the more outlandish and otherworldly territory in terms of the setting.
Atlantis, in my opinion, was the best Stargate series of them all. As someone who grew up around people who enjoyed Stargate: SG-1, Atlantis felt like a refreshing new take on a familiar concept that I could appreciate on my own … with my SG-1-loving older friends and family, of course! I don’t think I can pick a single favorite character from the wonderful ensemble cast; they all grew on me, and there was onscreen chemistry all around.
SG-1 lasted for a good ten seasons; Atlantis lasted only five. The ending felt so rushed and underwhelming. You could tell the team wasn’t ready to fly back to Earth and live out the rest of their days simply wondering what else lay in store for them in the Pegasus galaxy.
Joe Flanigan, who played John Sheppard, apparently tried to buy the rights to the franchise from Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer so that he could step into the role of showrunner, but was unsuccessful. Still, if you’re into reading, the Atlantis saga continues in the form of books. Fandemonium published the Legacy series, where the Atlantis crew flies back to the Pegasus galaxy for more adventures….
Star Trek: The Original Series
If you’re as much of a Trekkie as I am, surely the opening montage has been ingrained in your memory from hearing it countless times. Captain Kirk promised us a five year mission, not three. (Picard was wise to vaguely present a continuing mission in The Next Generation.) Having heard about it my entire life from my parents and grandparents, I started watching Star Trek in my first year of junior high school, and the episodes ran out far too soon.
So many TV shows today (including the new Star Trek: Discovery) are episodic, and if they’re on Netflix, they’re meant to be watched consecutively. (Search your feelings; you know it to be true.) Star Trek: TOS was something you could watch in no particular order – just pick out an episode that sounds interesting from title alone (“The Man Trap,” anyone?) – and you won’t be lost in context. Plus, there’s something altogether quite endearing about a show set in the space age … where everything’s just so progressive, but everybody’s dressed like they’re from the sixties.
Star Trek was revolutionary for its time; perhaps those who didn’t understand it couldn’t put up with another two years of man-eating aliens made from shag carpets and the captain’s thespian, morale-boosting deliveries. Half a century and five official spinoffs later, evidently, people can.
There have been numerous fan attempts at continuing the original USS Enterprise’s five year mission. The best yet, in my opinion, is Vic Mignogna’s Star Trek Continues webseries. (You might recognize him as the voice actor of Edward Elric in Fullmetal Alchemist and drunk uncle Qrow Branwen in RWBY.) As CBS started cracking down on fan productions in anticipation of Star Trek: Discovery, the crew of Continues successfully toed the line long enough to wrap up an eleven-episode series that effectively bridged the gap between The Original Series and Star Trek: The [Slow] Motion Picture. 🙂
Those are just a few of my favorite shows that I feel ended way too soon. What are some of yours? Grab some tissues and leave a comment below!