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Because of its episodic nature, television seems to be one of the only media that is plagued by this issue. Movies don’t cut out halfway through without a conclusion. You never buy a novel’s first few chapters, and then realize the last chapter will never be written. It just seems ridiculous. However, as much as I love to bitch and moan about this, TV shows do get cancelled. This article then, is a list of just a few examples of TV shows that not only got cancelled, but were cancelled so abruptly that they ended with either a cliffhanger or a large number of plotlines unresolved.
In my mind, as good as these shows get (well…some of them), it’s hard to justify watching them again. Knowing that the story doesn’t have a conclusion leads to an odd feeling of eeriness when rewatching these series. Not only that, but I can’t help but think ‘well this is awkward’, whenever these shows try to introduce longer character and story arcs. You can’t invest because you know it won’t pay off. This is truly unfortunate, because there are some great shows on this list, and it often wasn’t the creative team’s fault. It was the studio’s fault for pulling the show, or the Nielsen family’s fault for watching American Idol instead of these cult classics. In fact, it is our own fault for not selling these shows to anyone who would listen.
But enough of this. On to the shows.
Spider-Man Unlimited was a show that first ran in 1999 on Fox. While the show got fairly good ratings, it was overshadowed by none other than the behemoth that is Pokemon. Spider-Man Unlimited was cancelled after a 13 episode first season. This series was a pseudo-sequel to The Spider-Man Animated Series that came before it. After saving a space shuttle from an attack by Venom and Carnage, Spider-Man finds himself jettisoned on Counter-Earth, a planet in the solar system that is on the other side of the sun. Spider-Man had a whole new look, with a suit that could go invisible, sonic weaponry, and last but not least, a cape!
I was just the right age for Spider-Man Unlimited when it first aired, and I soaked up every minute of it. Watching it now, I can see that it was a pretty terrible story. Spider-Man just doesn’t work in a setting that isn’t full of melodrama and adolescence. The show ends on a huge cliffhanger, whereby one of the main villains, The Synoptic, released spores all over Counter-Earth that made its inhabitants mindless servants. Spider-Man could have dealt with this, I’m sure, but we never did get to see how. I remember tuning in the following week, hoping to see the dramatic conclusion, only to be treated by a rerun of the pilot episode, and the whole process of beginning, middle, and beginning starting all over again.
My Name is Earl
For those of you playing at home, My Name is Earl was a mildly popular comedy that aired from 2005 to 2009. With four seasons, and over 90 episodes, this show was not cancelled prematurely. However, that didn’t stop the writers from ending a season on a cliffhanger, hoping to convince the networks to renew the show.
This isn’t the biggest problem with My Name is Earl, though. The biggest problem is that the whole premise of the show revolved around a man completing a list of good deeds to correct his karma. While the show was never stupid enough to give the list a definitive number (like the next entry), the show was cancelled without Earl ever successfully finishing the list, thus leaving the rest of the series almost null.
100 Deeds for Eddie Mcdoud
There is an intrinsic fault in giving your television series a definably resolvable plot line. My Name is Earl has this problem with the list, and 100 Deeds for Eddie McDowd has this problem with its one hundred good deeds. This Nickelodeon show follows the titular character, Eddie McDowd (Seth Green), on a journey of morality and self-realisation. Also he’s a dog. Basically, Eddie McDowd was a bully at school, and as punishment for that, an un-named hobo/magician turns McDowd into a dog with the promise that, if McDowd ever completes 100 good deeds, he will turns back into a human.
Now, I fully understand that 100 was a stupidly high number for a Nick show to aim for. I think the idea was Eddie would complete one good deed an episode, and so 100 episodes later, the show could end. However, it seemed the network became greedy, and scared of the end, so many episodes of this show ended without another deed being accomplished, effectively allowing them to continue the show forever. This was a terrible mistake, as the show was cancelled well before 100 episodes, and therefore, well before Eddie had a chance to become a better person, and then literally become a person again.
The Spectacular Spider-man
What is it about Spider-Man and getting cancelled on a cliffhanger? The Spectacular Spider-man was a show which originally aired from 2008 to 2009. The show ends with Miles Warren taking control of Dr. Connors' lab and using it to perform illegal experiments to create super soldiers. Not only this, but the believed dead Norman Osborn is seen in disguise leaving for Europe to continue his criminal schemes from afar.
This television show seems to be the exception to the rules of this list. The Spectacular Spider-Man was not cancelled due to a ratings drop, or a quality drop. This show was awesome until its demise. What killed The Spectacular Spider-man, it seems, was pure politics. In 2009 Disney announced that they were to acquire Marvel Studios, and integrate the company into the Disney family. Due to some, arguably, bad business in the past, Marvel had sold both the film and television rights of Spider-Man to Sony. Sony, with Marvel, produced The Spectacular Spider-Man. However, when Disney acquired Marvel, they struck a deal with Sony. They agreed that Sony could continue making Spider-Man films, however, Disney reacquired the rights to Spider-Man on television. This put The Spectacular Spider-Man in an interesting and mostly unfortunate position. Rather than simply continuing where Sony left off with The Spectacular Spider-Man, Disney decided to create their own television series Ultimate Spider-Man. This announcement effectively acted as the last nail on The Spectacular Spider-Man’s coffin, and the show was never heard of again. Pity, really. This show was marvellous.
Firefly was a Sci-fi show created by Joss Whedon, which originally aired from 2002 to 2002. Despite being cancelled after a single season, Firefly has amassed a sizable cult fan-base. The show, obviously being designed for multiple seasons, set up an array of storylines in the first season, which didn’t have time to play out. Because of this, plotlines such as the Hands of Blue were left wide open and unresolved. The two episodes that the two men with blue gloves appear in seem odd now, as we know they will have no conclusion within the bounds of the television show.
When Firefly was cancelled, we assumed this would be the end, however, Serenity, a live-action film based on Firefly was announced, and many fans believed that this would be the only chance for the writers to give explanation to many hanging threads left over from the series. While it is true that some threads were tied-up, other plot lines, such as the aforementioned Hands of Blue, were again left untouched. Not until a Firefly graphic novel was released, that is. Still, the television series as a whole just feels unfinished. By every definition it was unfinished, and that just leaves a bad taste in the mouths of those watching, knowing that Firefly will never come to a fully satisfying conclusions.