BLOG Cancelled shows and their cliff-hanger endings

From Firefly to Flash Forward – blogger Steven Ellis reminisces about shows that are missed (and some that aren't)

I wrote a blog a few weeks ago about giving up on shows when you hear they’ve been cancelled and saving your self from another unresolved cliff-hanger ending. That blog got a great response from readers and started some interesting discussion. It also got me thinking about another aspect of giving up on a show: what if you think it's rubbish?

I’ve read of a few shows I started watching, but at some point previously gave up on, being cancelled over the last few months; V, The Event and Flash Forward are the first ones that come to mind. All three, like Caprica and Star Gate: Universe from my previous blog, were cancelled after a cliff-hanger last episode. So, I’ve saved myself some grief there.

My reason for giving up on the shows is varied, some I gave a chance and really wanted to watch, others I knew by the end of the first couple of episodes that I was not going to hang around.

V I gave up on very quickly. I remember the original mini-series, I was at school when it aired and the playground was awash with tales of being allowed to stay up late to watch it and horror at the fate of that poor little hamster. It was like nothing we’d see on TV before. The remake was poor in comparison. I lasted four episodes. I’d much rather just watch my old V DVDs; so, that’s what I did.

Flash Forward I really, really wanted to like; I read the book years ago and loved it. But I found the TV show very hit and miss, from some stunning set pieces to boring empty characters, the show never found a balance or a true direction for me. It was full of some great actors, in fact some of my favourite actors, but they weren’t given enough to work with. The show started to languish at the bottom of my Sky+ menu. I always found something else I’d recorded higher on my watch list, so eventually it just got deleted. I lasted seven episodes. Three were deleted unwatched.

The Event I hated straight away. If ever there was a more wrongly named show this was it. It tried so hard to be all the best bits of shows that have gone before it that it wasn’t actually anything new at all. Each episode was like watching clip shows of the greatest moments of better shows (and some worse ones too). I lasted three episodes.

And so, eventually all three shows were cancelled, and I felt vindicated in my decision. I’d saved myself from falling for another show only to have it cruelly taken from me. But what about those out there that did love the show? They have three sets of characters forever left in limbo. On my previous blog one of the comments suggested that first seasons (and maybe second seasons too) should be not allowed to have cliff hangers. I like this idea; it would save viewers from unresolved endings. Most of these shows get canned after one season any way; would having a complete rounded story be better? Would it improve DVD sales? Would it make any difference at all? If a show is popular, and profitable of course, it’ll get renewed anyway won’t it? Is the age of the cliff-hanger ending a popular and essential part of the season finale, a way of ramping up the drama or just a lame ploy to try to make sure a show gets a second season?

Another thing brought up in my previous blog was Firefly. You’ve probably heard of it. The 2002 spaceship/cowboy show from Joss Whedon. I love Firefly, I think it’s the best thing Whedon’s done since Buffy. I wish there had been more episodes. But as a boxed set it’s perfect, the fourteen episodes tell a tail of a group of disparate people becoming a family through their adventures. But it’s that last episode, Objects in Space, which makes it, leaves us with a crew that is finally becoming a family, finally finding their place; it ends with a sense of hope. And as the credits on that last episode roll, I’m always left happy. You can imagine the ship sailing off with the crew on new adventures and be happy in that thought. As I said; it would be great if there were more episodes, but it isn’t essential, because it works as a package. We aren’t left with everything up in the air or our heroes in mortal danger; they just sail away into the metaphorical sunset. I already knew it had been cancelled before I saw a single minute of the show and it doesn’t matter because we know how it ends. At least until the film came along and killed half of them off. But that’s neither here nor there in regards to the TV show. For me the show works as a neat package. I would probably buy more single season DVD boxed sets if I knew it was going to be a complete tale told without having to wait for a cliff hanger resolution that may never arrive.

And so my question to you is twofold; how long do you give a show before you give up? And what makes you give up? Or alternatively what makes you hang on hoping it will improve? And do you think that a ban on season one cliff hangers would be a good thing?