The 20 Greatest Shows Canceled By Fox Before Their Time
?By Kevin J. Guhl
I’m going to come right out and say it; The Fox Network is the fucking devil. How many times in the last 20 years has this story repeated itself? Fox greenlights an awesome show. Many viewers love it and practically become obsessed with the show. Fox then cancels the series after a handful of episodes because the ratings did not climb fast enough for the impatient, small-minded execs at Fox. Imagine if a classic, long-running show like Seinfeld had aired on Fox (which actually almost happened) instead of another network. Seinfeld, which didn’t become a ratings sensation until after a few seasons on NBC, probably would have died a quick death on Fox. Imagine the lost potential. And then think about all the great series that Fox did axe before really giving a chance to catch on and build an audience. It’s heartbreaking and cruel. Fox is a god-damned cocktease. The network manages to find and purchase some of the most imaginative shows on television, and then proceeds to sentence them to a quick execution to the horror of the viewing audience. Even worse, Fox itself often sabotages its own shows by poor and erratic scheduling. Fox’s sports coverage has a history of pre-empting and therefore destroying great shows. No wonder no one watched, you fucktards; they couldn’t find the show! As for ratings, Fox obviously has unrealistic expectations to think that a show will succeed so immediately, especially in a day and age when there’s so much competition. Why should anyone watch Fox when they obviously seem to delight in our pain? A complete list of good shows canceled by Fox would sadly be way too long, so I’ve narrowed it down to 20 of the best programs completely shat on by Fox. And now, a moment of silence for the (mostly) dead.
20) Strange Luck
Episodes Aired Before Fox Canceled It: 17
The success of The X-Files generated a lot of shows hoping to capitalize on being weird, but Strange Luck was one that deserved more of a chance to stand out from the pack. D.B. Sweeney played a freelance photographer who was the sole survivor of a plane crash as a child and ever since then had a tendency to be around when something bad happened requiring his help.
19) John Doe
Episodes Aired Before Fox Canceled It: 21
John Doe starred a character who had no idea who he was but mysteriously had full knowledge of just about everything else, and used that ability to help solve crimes while being monitored by the possibly nefarious Phoenix Organization. Before the audience could figure out who John Doe was, Fox canceled the show. The creators of John Doe have since revealed he was someone who had returned from death after coming into contact with the great universal mind that awaits us all.
Episodes Aired Before Fox Canceled It: 29
If you needed verification that Fox has been abusive to television viewers since Day 1, here it is. Werewolf was part of the first Fox line-up in 1987. It told the story of Eric Cord, a man cursed with lycanthropy who traveled the country (kind of David Banner-like) while trying to find and kill the originator of his werewolf bloodline before Cord totally lost control. Interesting show, good special effects, shot with a silver bullet of course by Fox before Cord could complete his quest.
17) The Ben Stiller Show
Episodes Aired Before Fox Canceled It: 12 (1 unaired)
Fox apparently didn’t know what a huge future star it had in its hands with Ben Stiller, as the network barely gave this well-received and Emmy-winning sketch comedy show (which first aired a season on MTV) a chance before giving it the boot. Ben Stiller obviously did just fine for himself, and clips of the amusing impersonations that he did on the show like Bono, Captain Kirk, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Cruise live on online.
Episodes Aired Before Fox Canceled It: 4 (4 unaired)
Maybe Fox can’t take all the blame for the failure of Profit; perhaps the audience just wasn’t ready for it. These days, audiences enjoy watching morally questionable main characters like Tony Soprano and Dexter. But in 1996, a main character (Adrian Pasdar of Heroes fame) that would do anything to climb the corporate ladder, even murder, was a hard sell to viewers. But still, they only got FOUR episodes to get used to the show before it was canceled? Fuck you, Fox; that’s ridiculous.
Episodes Aired Before Fox Canceled It: 4 (2 unaired)
Fox just does not like Nathan Fillion, as he starred in two shows on this list. His character in Drive was involved in an illegal cross-country race in which competitors drove muscle cars in the hopes of winning a $32 million prize – although some drivers were forced into the race. Fox canned the show just as the race got started in spite of decent viewership that was apparently not good enough for Fox’s impossibly high standards. Drive managed to snag a bittersweet Emmy nomination for visual effects, though.
14) Tru Calling
Episodes Aired Before Fox Canceled It: 25 (1 unaired)
The always lovely Eliza Dushku played Tru Davies, a morgue worker who speaks with the recently deceased and then finds herself 24 hours in the past with a chance to prevent those people from dying and also to repair things in her own life. As the series progressed, she met her counterpart, Jack Harper (played by Jason Priestly), who worked against her in a classic battle of fate vs. free will (preceding Lost). Before more could be revealed about the show’s mysteries, Fox axed Tru Calling, even dickishly refusing to air the last episode filmed.
13) Family Guy
Episodes Aired Before Fox Canceled It: 49 (1 unaired)
Whether you think the show is still hilarious or jumped the shark after its resurrection, this daring cartoon about a dysfunctional family in Rhode Island managed to do something pretty much no TV show had done before – escape the certain death of cancellation and come back in full force for several more seasons of episodes.
And why did it come back? Because the DVD sales made Fox bucketloads of money. So there you go, Fox, you were retards for playing loose and fast with Family Guy‘s scheduling and complete dumbasses for canceling it. Here’s the proof that you do not know what the hell you’re doing! Thank god the Cartoon Network has some brains and kept the show alive in re-runs during its dark days.
Episodes Aired Before Fox Canceled It: 16 (1 unaired)
Fox really knows how to recognize the talent behind its shows, doesn’t it? Judd Apatow’s unique style of natural humor has made him a box office hit with movies like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Superbad, but this funny, dramatic and mostly realistic show about college life died a quick death on Fox which, to be fair, followed the quick death of Apatow’s similar show, the cult classic Freaks and Geeks, on NBC. Seth Rogen, later made famous through Apatow’s movies, appeared as a regular on Undeclared.
Episodes Aired Before Fox Canceled It: 13
Brimstone had an awesome premise that was part Ghost Rider and part Highlander; NYC police detective Ezekiel Stone (Peter Horton) died and went to hell because he killed (and enjoyed doing so) the man who raped his wife. After 113 souls escaped from Hell, the Devil (played delightfully by John Glover) let Zeke return to Earth to recapture the immortal spirits in exchange for a second chance at life. Obviously, Zeke didn’t get anywhere close to capturing all 113 souls before Fox, the real devil, sent him back to Hell.
Episodes Aired Before Fox Canceled It: 67
Millennium had a decent run of three seasons and benefited from its connection to the popular X-Files, but saw a sharp decline in viewership after Fox placed it in the Friday night death slot during its second season. Fox gave it the axe despite it ending on a cliffhanger and a year before the show could have resolved itself in real time with the actual millennium. Thankfully, forensic profiler Frank Black (Lance Henriksen) and his conflict with the mysterious Millennium group received some closure in a seventh season X-Files episode. A follow-up movie is also rumored.
9) The Lone Gunmen
Episodes Aired Before Fox Canceled It: 13
It seems X-Files spin-off The Lone Gunmen was kind of a love it or hate it show. Speaking as someone who loved it, the show succeeded as a twisted version of the X-Files, placing the well-established Gunmen in investigations (mostly of corporate and shadow government conspiracies and the like) that were mysterious, yet also bizarre and hilarious. One exception was the pilot episode, which was played pretty straight and had a plot spookily similar to 9-11 (which its airing preceded by about six months), featuring a government conspiracy to crash a plane into the World Trade Center. Thankfully, creator Chris Carter resolved the show’s cliffhanger ending (sort of) in an X-Files episode, and that episode was included on the Long Gunmen DVD set. But sadly, Carter seemed to blame fans for the failure of the show and punished them by killing off everyone’s favorite hackers/fringe newspaper publishers in the last season of the X-Files. The fact that the Lone Gunmen appeared as ghosts to Mulder while he was taking a whiz in the X-Files series finale didn’t really make up for it.
8) The Tick
Episodes Aired Before Fox Canceled It: 8 (1 unaired)
Nigh-invulnerable vigilante the Tick got his start in a hilarious comic book by Ben Edlund that lampooned the superhero genre, then went on to thrill the masses in a cartoon on Fox. While it would have been nice if the animated series had been longer, it was the live action series that really got the shaft. Starring Patrick Warburton as The Tick, the ingenious program was mismanaged by Fox, who ended it after only eight episodes had aired. It’s amusing to look back and see Lost‘s ageless enigma, Richard Alpert (played by Nestor Carbonell), dressed up in full, ridiculous costume as Batmanuel.
Episodes Aired Before Fox Canceled It: 13
Wonderfalls had a mind-numbingly bizarre yet awesome premise and it’s no wonder that it attracted a loyal fanbase — the standard operating procedure for Bryan Fuller, the immensely talented but seemingly cursed producer of this and Pushing Daisies. In Wonderfalls, a gift shop sales clerk (Caroline Dhavernas) had conversations with animal figurines that told her to go to the aid of people who needed help; it was kind of like Son of Sam in reverse, and it wasn’t nearly as cutesy as it sounds. Fox killed the show after a poorly-advertised timeslot change and showing the episodes out of order, making this decision after only the fourth episode had aired.
6) The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.
Episodes Aired Before Fox Canceled It: 27
Way before Firefly, Fox crapped on another science-fiction/Western series — this one starring Bruce Campbell and co-created by Carlton Cuse (who later made Lost). It was funny, it was action-packed, it had weird technology, it had Bruce hunting down the outlaws that murdered his father (played by R. Lee Ermey!) — but the strangest part about it is that at the beginning, Fox actually thought it was going to be a hit. It was the show after it that they assumed was going to be a clunker. That show turned out to be X-Files. Fox, determined to cancel something, gave the boot to Brisco County.
5) Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Episodes Aired Before Fox Canceled It: 31
Fox’s most recent victim wasn’t really a surprise. Most TV viewers knew the network enough by now to realize that a great sci-fi show like this one was surely destined for early cancellation. You would think that a show about the proven Terminator franchise would be a no-brainer to keep around, especially when it showed such potential to explore the backstory of the Terminators and John Connor’s family, all while the heroes dodged and fought killer robots from the future. The first season was the highest-rated scripted show of the 2007-08 season, in spite of Fox’s typical dicking around with the schedule. It reaped in awards. You would think this would be enough to convince Fox to place some faith in the show, but it was senselessly canceled after the second season. There has been an outcry to bring it back but to no avail. Fox sucks, and seems determined to prove it. If I were the creator of a TV show, at this point I think I’d rather not make it at all than accept a deal with Fox and see all my hard work amount to nothing when the knee-jerk execs decide to pull the plugs after about four episodes air!
4) Keen Eddie
Episodes Aired Before Fox Canceled It:7 (6 unaired)
The cancellation of this weird, witty, original and amazing show about a New York cop transplanted to Scotland Yard stirs such hatred in my soul for the Fox executives that I had better restrain my words lest I get hit with a restraining order. Keen Eddie was an offbeat comedy/drama/buddy cop show that successfully fused British style with a very American sarcastic cop, and it was close in tone to Guy Ritchie movies. And it had Sienna Miller! It would have been easy to miss this show on Fox, as they shuffled it around the schedule and canceled it after seven episodes. The series picked up a following when aired on Bravo, but by then it was too late. I’ll never understand how Fox doesn’t take their own sucky scheduling into account when judging a show’s performance, nor will I understand why they are so anxious to cancel so many shows, not even broadcasting half of the episodes they paid for! They have the attention spans and the patience of two-year olds.
3) Arrested Devleopment
Episodes Aired Before Fox Canceled It: 53
Arrested Development, the story of the wacky Bluth family, is a comedy classic. Critics love it; its many rabid fans love it; and the show scored six Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe. It was not a ratings bonfire, which Fox of course expects every show should be. Fox ventured on a seemingly determined path to give themselves an excuse to cancel the show, airing it against Monday Night Football and refusing to air it during Sweeps. Aware of its inescapable fate, the show itself began taking jabs at Fox’s surefire cancellation. All is not lost, though. Arrested Development at least got three (somewhat abbreviated) seasons and a movie is forthcoming.
Episodes Aired Before Fox Canceled It: 72
Basically, the story here is the same as Family Guy‘s, only this is the much-celebrated show about a fish-out-of-water delivery guy transplanted into the future that was created by Matt Groening, the same guy who created epoch-spanning Fox hit The Simpsons. You would think Fox would have been more kind to Futurama. But no, more bad scheduling and sports pre-emotions led to yet another great show’s demise. DVD sales led to Futurama‘s return, although it took a little longer than Family Guy to come back, as the water was first tested with a series of four direct-to-DVD movies. Futurama will be back full-time in 2010 on Comedy Central, although Fox briefly reminded everyone what an asshole by refusing to meet the salary demands of the voice cast. Like we had forgotten. Thankfully, rare good sense prevailed and the original voice cast will be back for the new episodes.
Episodes Aired Before Fox Canceled It: 11 (3 unaired)
It’s hard not to think about Firefly and openly weep. Buffy creator Joss Whedon somehow managed to blend elements of Westerns and Space Operas to create a show that worked extremely well and sparkled with originality, attitude and humor. Unlike in most of Star Trek, the humanity of the future is shown to not have changed much, still fighting each other and struggling to survive in new frontiers. The casting for the crew of the Serenity was perfect, with Nathan Fillion’s Malcolm Reynolds leading a crew of smugglers (and others) whose personalities bounced well off one another. The greatness of the 14 episodes produced is so obvious that it’s almost hard to watch them now knowing what potential was cut short by Fox’s typical short-sightedness. DVD sales were strong enough to warrant a theatrical movie, but otherwise Firefly is pretty
much dead. And that is a travesty. Fox has a history of fucking us over, but this time they went above and beyond.