Television's One-Season Wonders of the Decade
In the past ten years, a tragically short television life became a badge of honor for some television series; certain shows were just too smart, quirky or under-advertised to be appreciated by the mainstream. Like most rock stars whose early deaths made them icons, hasty cancellations have immortalized some of this decade's best programs. After the jump, seven series that flamed out too soon.
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[In order of premiere]
Wonderland (2000, ABC)
Peter Berg's directorial television debut -- a series showing the inner workings of a mental hospital from the doctors' and the patients' perspectives -- was as gritty and bleak as a network series has come in the past decade. Ted Levine and Martin Donovan starred as physicians within the hospital, afflicted with some of the same feelings of anger, self-loathing and fear that their patients felt. Although the writing, directing and acting were impeccable, ABC audience members were just not ready to see a vicious Times Square shooting directly after Who Wants To Be a Millionaire. ABC canceled the series after two episodes but DirecTV's Channel 101 has since aired the previously unseen episodes.
Undeclared (2001, Fox)
After Judd Apatow spent a season in high school with NBC's equally short-lived Freaks and Geeks, he moved onto college with Undeclared. About a group of freshmen including Jay Baruchel's geek, Seth Rogen's chubby Canadian and Carla Gallo's neurotic psychology major, the show followed the highs and lows of dorm life. Although the series never reached the cult-status of Freaks and Geeks, it boasted glowing reviews and a star-studded roster of visitors including Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, Amy Poehler and Ben Stiller. Fox canceled the series after airing 15 of the 17 finished episodes.
Firefly (2002, Fox)
One of the most ambitious programs conceived in the 2000's, Joss Whedon's Emmy-winning "sci-fi western with existential underpinnings" won over a die hard band of fans that have kept the Firefly flame burning the past seven years. Starring Nathan Fillion as Malcolm Reynolds, the captain of the Firefly-class spaceship Serenity in the year 2517, the series centered on his renegade crew existing on the outskirts of society. Even though the series was critically appreciated as a "wonderful, imaginative mess" with unlimited potential for its rich cast of characters, Whedon-esque witty dialogue and quirk appeal, the series was canceled after eleven (out of order) episodes aired to low ratings. Details of Firefly's painstaking production, from Whedon's battle for the series to be displayed in widescreen format to the "cultural fusion" of its musical score, has been recorded as Firefly lore.
Last Ditch Fan Efforts: Firefly fans AKA Browncoats (named after the brown uniforms worn by characters on the series) raised money for an ad in Variety, launched a postcard-writing campaign to other networks and raised enough money to supply 250 U.S. Navy ships with Firefly DVD sets. Passionate fans helped convince Universal Studios to produce a feature film based on the series called Serenity and a NASA astronaut later took Firefly and Serenity DVDs with him on the Space Shuttle Atlantis STS-117 mission.