Snuffed Out: TV Series That Were Gone Too Soon

The fate of GCB, one of our favorite new shows, will be decided in the next few weeks, and right now, there’s a 50/50 chance it’ll survive. If it does get canceled, at least it’ll instantly become a member of what we’ll call the Arrested Development/Freaks & Geeks/Firefly club. Shows that were canceled before their time, and have gained cult status since they left the airwaves.

All of those programs have rabid enthusiastic followers, and in the case of Firefly and Arrested Development, that fan enthusiasm has directly led to big screen resurrections.

We’re hoping GCB gets a renewal, but while we wait, let’s take a look at a few other shows throughout the years that were unfairly snuffed out, and picture … what might have been.

Pushing Daisies
ABC (October 3, 2007 – June 13, 2009)

Featuring a stellar cast, including Lee Pace, the incomparable Kristin Chenoweth, and Anna Friel as Dead Zooey Deschanel, Pushing Daisies jumped out of the gate, becoming the most buzzed-about new show of the year, and winning seven Emmy Awards for its first season. It would end its second and final season unceremoniously dumped into the wasteland of Saturday.

What Went Wrong?

Stupid writers wanting stuff! The Writer’s Guild Of America strike decimated the first season, and only nine episodes of a full 22 episode season were made. By the time the show returned, the bloom was off, and ratings tumbled. Months after the show was canceled and left the air, ABC finally decided to burn off the final three episodes … at 10 PM Saturday night.

Who knows what could have been if the show had been allowed to flourish, but creator Bryan Fuller probably wasn’t that surprised … having been through it before with …

Fox (March 12 – April 1, 2004)

Before the short-lived Daisies but after the short-lived Dead Like Me, Bryan Fuller created what is still the little seen jewel in his quirky crown. Wonderfalls starred Caroline Dhavernas as a Niagara Falls shop clerk who had to deal with her eccentric family while also having conversations with various animal tchotchkes. The great supporting cast included a pre-Eureka Neil Grayston, the faboo Diana Scarwid (Oh Diana … I am one of your fans), and … Lee Pace again. Hmm …

What Went Wrong?

Let’s see … Fox didn’t know how the hell to market it … the episodes were shown out of sequence … it was up against the similar-but-lesser Joan of Arcadia. or maybe it’s just … the curse of Lee Pace!

Syndication (September 15, 1997 – May 17, 1999)

Matt McColm (One of the most gorgeous men to ever grace the small screen) starred in this comic-book adaptation as Johnny Domino, a San Francisco jazz saxophonist who gained super powers after lightning struck his cable car. I’m not making this sh*t up.

What was his super power? He became able to tune his mind to the “frequency of evil,” which is helpful in tracking down the bad guys, but he also lost the ability to sleep (which is helpful if you want to show him wandering the sleek, rain-soaked streets of nighttime British Columbia). From what I recall, playing the sax while sleeveless and glistening activated his power, but I’m a bit sketchy on that.

That superpower is really not enough to sustain a series, so the show gave him a terrible, ugly supersuit that did … stuff. It also covered up his beautiful body and half his face, making him look like a Folsom performer with pink eye.

What Went Wrong?

Well, the show … wasn’t very good. Plus Taylor Dayne starred in the first episode as Johnny’s love interest, and then was never seen again, which was a fatal mistake.

You’re probably asking, “Then why was this a show gone too soon?” Because in November of 1998, something magical occurred. NightMan did a crossover with another beloved gone-too-soon classic from the 80’s … Manimal. Both shows were produced by Glen Larson, and if NightMan had continued, one can only speculate what other Larson shows would be plundered. Would we have seen an appearance from an Original BSG Cylon? Twiki from Buck Rogers? Automan?? We’ll never know.


The Book Of Daniel
NBC (January 6, 2006 – January 20, 2006)

Before he blessed us with Warehouse 13, out writer/producer/director Jack Kenny gave us a challenging, serious, non-pious look at contemporary Christianity … and paid the price. The Book Of Daniel starred Aidan Quinn as a priest addicted to pain killers who had regular conversations with Jesus (Raising Hope’s Garett Dillahunt), who gave him unconventional advice.

What Went Wrong?

The American Family Association and its evangelical tentacles doomed the show from the start. Various NBC stations refused to air the show, and it was pulled from the air after three episodes. Not only were we robbed of what could have been one of the most courageous shows about religion ever made, but … GARETT DILLAHUNT AS JESUS!

The WB (September 29, 1999 – May 18, 2001)

Before he became a Hollywood heavyweight with Nip/Tuck, Glee, and American Horror Story, out Ryan Murphy gave us the tragically short-lived WB dramedy Popular, which is still the best thing he’s ever done.

That’s right. I said it.

The show (which centered on two teen rival girls who had to learn to get along when their parents married) was ahead of its time, and unafraid to skewer teen TV cliches. The cast included a pre-GCB Leslie Bibb, pre-AfterElton Hot 100 Christopher Gorham, and pre-Melissa Etheridge ex Tammy-Lynn Michaels.

What Went Wrong?

It was the early days of The WB, and they sucked.

What’s galling is that the second season ended on a cliffhanger because no notice was given that the show was going to be given the axe. Still, if nothing else, Popular will always be remembered for giving us one of the greatest TV creations ever, the incomparable Mary Cherry.

The Five Mrs. Buchanans
CBS (September 24, 1994 – March 25, 1995)

A decade before Desperate Housewives premiered on ABC, out Marc Cherry premiered his CBS creation The Five Mrs. Buchanans, which was just as good, but doomed to oblivion. It starred Judith Ivey, Beth Broderick, Charlotte Ross, and one of my favorite comic actresses, Harriet Sansom Harris. They played four women who shared a deep loathing for their mother-in-law, played by Oscar-winning legend Eileen Heckart.

What Went Wrong?

CBS placed it in the dead zone of Saturday night, where it was unable to build an audience. Hopes were raised when the network decided to move it to the Monday slot after Murphy Brown, but changed their minds at the last minute and gave mid-season show Cybill that opportunity. The Five Mrs. Buchanans was canceled soon after.

Maybe it’s for the best, though. It did give Marc a chance to hone the female-ensemble chops he learned on The Golden Girls, and it’s likely that any Nicolette Sheridan-esque scrapes with Eileen Heckart would have resulted in carnage and dismemberment … for Marc.


The Flash
CBS (September 20, 1990 – May 18, 1991)

Whether it was the high production values or the fantastic casting, The Flash turned out better that anyone expected, and remains a benchmark for superhero TV shows. John Wesley Shipp was born to wear the form-fitting costume, which did I mention, was form-fitting?

What Went Wrong?

Huge production costs, coupled with frequent pre-emptions. Originally up against NBC’s Thursday night juggernaut, it was moved to … Saturday night, where it died a slow, agonizing death.

It’s All Relative
ABC (October 1, 2003 – April 6, 2004)

A comedy about two gay men with a daughter? No, not that comedy about two gay men with a daughter. It’s All Relative had gay actors Christopher Sieber and John Benjamin Hickey as Phil and Simon, a gay couple whose adult daughter has fallen for a guy with a colorful Irish family, which featured Lenny Clarke as the homophobic father and Harriet Sansom Harris (again!) as the matriarch.

What Went Wrong?

ABC canceled the show before it had aired its last two episodes of the season, citing poor ratings, but in fact, the ratings were solid for a new show. Was the subject matter finally too much for ABC to take? Or was it The Curse Of Lee Pace again? True, he had nothing to do with the show, but still.

This really is an example of a show that was gone too soon. There were a lot of stereotypes and cliches thrown around (both gay and Irish), but given the chance, it may have been able to grow out its broad characterizations.

Eerie, Indiana
NBC (September 15, 1991 – April 12, 1992)

Like a junior version of X-Files, Eerie, Indiana dealt with the bizarre happenings in a small town, with teenager Marshall (Omri Katz) investigating such horror staples as werewolves, zombies, and time-stopping Tupperware.

The final episode was also the best (written by Vance Degeneres), which had our hero Marshall find a script in his mailbox for a show called “Eerie, Indiana,” and his family calling him … Omri.

What Went Wrong?

Another show that may have been ahead of its time, it quickly gained a cult following when it was broadcast on Fox Kids years after its cancellation.


Veronica Mars
UPN/The CW (September 22, 2004 – May 22, 2007)

The faboo Kristin Bell starred as TV’s greatest female investigator since Pamela Sue Martin’s Nancy Drew (sorry, Jessica Fletcher).

Veronica is simply, one of the great TV characters of the last decade. Smart, kick-ass, but capable of being vulnerable and sometimes mean, she was constantly revealing new shades of her personality, and it didn’t hurt that she surrounded herself with hot slabs of beef.

What Went Wrong?

This really hurts. All was fine until UPN changed over to The CW. The show was at the bottom of the ratings in its first two seasons, but the great critical reaction and buzz kept it on the air. Then when The CW took over, the third season saw a change in the show’s tone, and fans began to tune out.

The final indignity occurred when … oh dear … the network pulled the show and replaced it with … please don’t make me write this … they replaced it with the reality show Pussycat Dolls Present, which is as far away from the spirit of that badass chick as you can get.

Paper Dolls
ABC (September 23, 1984 – December 25, 1984)

In addition to having one of the greatest TV theme songs of all time (I always put it on while getting ready for a date, as I dance around yelling, “Sparkle!”), the ABC nighttime fashion soap Paper Dolls boasted a helluva cast, including a pre-Knots Landing Nicolette Sheridan, a pre-DS9 Terry Farrell, and a post-Supergirl Brenda Vaccaro.

But what really elevated it to the high camp stratosphere was … well, a picture is worth a thousand snarky words.

What Went Wrong?

Soap saturation. There were so many soaps being produced in the wake of the success of Dallas and Dynasty, that it got lost in the shuffle.

Unfortunately, this was the second short-lived soap that the awesome Morgan was part of (the other being Flamingo Road), and it didn’t help her career. But I’ll always remember her turn as the bitchy Racine, or as one character refers to her, “A crocodile with lip gloss.”

Okay, your turn! What are the shows you think burned like a candle in the wind?



80's Pop Culture Expert, Shooting At The Walls Of Heartache.