TV of the 2000s: 15 Sci-Fi Series That Deserved A Longer Run

It’s always been a rough go on network television for series which require viewers to think and suspend their disbelief at the same time, but despite this, many brave producers and writers have tried to capture the imaginations of couch potatoes. Sometimes it works, as evidenced by the long runs of such shows as “Battlestar Galactica,” “Lost,” “Smallville,” and “Supernatural,” but more often than not, it doesn’t, which is why IMDb is littered with listings for sci-fi series that lasted for only a single season. Looking back at the decade (which, if you hadn’t noticed, is what we’re doing with all of these TV of the 2000s features), you can also find way too many shows which survived into the second season, proved that their first season wasn’t a fluke, sometimes even improving on it, and then got canceled…and, man, does that hurt. Heck, I even included three- and four-season wonders in this list, one because it had scored such a huge upswing in quality, the other mostly because it seemed like such a gyp when it got the axe. But, then, you could say that about all of these shows, really…

WARNING! LIST CAVEAT! – To be included within this list, the show cannot have started at any point prior to Jan. 1, 2000. Without that caveat, you can bet that “Angel” would’ve been included…and, yes, probably “Farscape,” too. But definitely “Angel.”

15. Masters of Science Fiction (ABC): As an anthology series in the 2000s, it’s not like it ever had a chance in Hell of surviving, anyway, which is why it comes in at the bottom of the list. Still, it deserves mention here, partially because it was really good, but mostly because it got an even bigger shaft from ABC than “New Amsterdam” got from Fox.

Get this: during ABC’s executive panel during the TCA Press tour of summer 2007, someone asked Stephen McPherson, the network’s president of entertainment about the origins of the series, and he responded, “It was a low-cost initiative that we tried. We did this series of movies to see if there was a way to spark something different at a really low cost point. You know, I think there is some good work done there, but it’s very unseen. So it’s just been…it’s been a little bit problematic.” Okay, now, to be fair, he’s acknowledging that there’s “good work” inherent somewhere in the series, but to put these comments in a better perspective, they were made before the show had even premiered. And how did he decide to remedy this problem of the series being “unseen”? By premiering it at 10 PM on Saturday night. Hey, way to get behind your programming, Steve!

In fairness, I’m sure no one, not even the series creators, ever expected “Masters of Science Fiction” to be anything other than a short-lived midseason entry, but it’s not like it had to be. The series harked back to classic dramatic anthologies like “The Twilight Zone,” “The Outer Limits,” and the like, and while its budget might not be through the roof, the performances – including turns from Malcolm McDowell, Anne Heche, Sam Waterston, Judy Davis, Terry O’Quinn, Elizabeth Rohm, Brian Dennehy, and John Hurt – were top-notch. But, then, that’s what happens when you bring in directors like Mark Rydell (”On Golden Pond”), Michael Tolkin (”The Player”), and Jonathan Frakes (”Star Trek: First Contact”) to helm adaptations of stories by Robert Heinlein (”Starship Troopers”), Howard Fast (”Spartacus”), and legendary sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison, who actually adapted his own story, collaborating with Josh Olson (”A History of Violence”). If any of this sounds like it might be up your alley, you can at least take comfort in the knowledge that the entire series is available on DVD, including two episodes that ABC couldn’t be bothered to air.

14. Dark Angel (Fox): Nowadays, it’s best remembered for the fact that it introduced the world at large to the assets of Jessica Alba (which, by the way, look damned good in black leather), but when “Dark Angel” premiered, its high profile came from the fact that it was the first thing that it was produced by James Cameron. What not nearly as many people remember, however, is that the show also starred Michael Weatherly, who would get a much longer running gig a few years later when he took on the role of Anthony DiNozzo in “NCIS,” and Jensen Ackles, now better known as Dean Winchester on “Supernatural.”

But I digress. The slightly-futuristic (it took place in 2019) “Dark Angel” was predominantly about Alba’s character, Max Guevara, a genetically enhanced super-soldier who has escaped from the government that created her and is using her job as a motorcycle courier to cover for the fact that she spends most of her time searching for her brethren, i.e. the other 11 super-soldiers who escaped with her. She does this with the help of Logan Kale (Weatherly), a.k.a. cyber-journalist “Eyes Only,” whose unparalleled computer skills go a long way toward making up for the fact that he’s paralyzed from the waist down. The series looked great, and having John Savage serve as one of its primary villains (Colonel Donald Michael Lydecker) was inspired, but trying to get the general public to embrace the cyberpunk movement – even the highly diluted version of it that “Dark Angel” offered – was a lost cause. Truth be told, we’re probably lucky that we got as much of the show as we did. If Cameron’s name hadn’t been on it, it probably would’ve been over at the end of Season 1.

13. Kyle XY (ABC Family): Ironically, I’m writing this mere moments after getting word that a copy “Kyle XY: The Final Season” has just been sent my way. Even if you aren’t familiar with the series, you’ll nonetheless have deduced from the appearance of the word “final” in the set’s subtitle that this isn’t a show that came and went within the span of a single season. Yes, “Kyle XY” actually lasted for three seasons, but it was still going strong creatively when ABC Family decided that it just didn’t match up well enough with their other content, like “Greek” or “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.” Now, look, I dig those shows as much as the next thirtysomething who wants to vicariously relive his youth through semi-realistic TV characters, but is that any reason to kill off a great sci-fi melodrama like “Kyle”? No, sir, it is not.

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TV in the 2000s: 15 Shows Canceled After Appearing in Bullz-Eye’s TV Power Rankings*

*Probably Coincidentally

Back in 2005, Bullz-Eye kicked off a regularly-recurring feature that’s become a staple of our site: the TV Power Rankings, which gives us a chance to offer up our opinions once every six months on the best that television has to offer. Now that we’re looking back at the entire decade in our TV in the 2000s feature, however, it gave us an opportunity to look back at all of the shows that have appeared within the Rankings over the course of its history, and when we did, it was a little eyebrow-raising to see how many of our favorite programs bit the dust almost immediately after receiving accolades from us. We’re pretty sure their cancellations weren’t our fault…or, at least, not entirely. Anyway, take a look back through the list with us, won’t you? If nothing else, it shows that we’ve got good taste, even if the average viewer doesn’t always share our opinions.

1. Arrested Development (Fox, 2003 – 2006) – “Even if this is indeed the end for one of Fox’s all time greatest shows, it is better to have loved and lost…oh, the hell with that, Fox is freaking nuts if they cancel this show.” So said David Medsker in February 2006. But did they listen to him? They did not. “We’re not ones to buy into the whole dumbing-down-of-society thing,” Medsker added, “but if this show gets canned while ‘According to Jim’ lives on, maybe there’s something to it after all.” Oh, yeah, there’s definitely something to it: “According to Jim” stayed on the air until June 2009.

2. Deadwood (HBO, 2004 – 2006) – When it was announced that Season 3 would be the last for the semi-historical look at the wild west, there was really only one name that John Paulsen could call the folks at HBO. We probably shouldn’t use it here, but if you need a hint, it starts with a “C” and rhymes with “sock pluckers.” “Everything about the show – the language, the acting, the story, the sets and the costumes – is colorful,” Paulsen observed in February 2007, “and whether or not HBO wants to admit it, they’re going to miss ‘Deadwood’ once it’s gone for good.” They must’ve been in some serious denial, then: creator David Milch reportedly agreed to do a proper wrap-up of the series through a pair of “Deadwood” movies” for the network, but things never really got beyond the discussion stage.

3. Invasion (ABC, 2005 – 2006) – The fall of 2005 was a good time in prime time for sci-fi fans, with each of the big three networks offering up an entry from the genre, but by the spring of 2006, their cheers had turned to tears. NBC’s “Surface” was permanently submerged after 15 episodes, while CBS’s “Threshold” crossed the point of no return after only nine episodes had aired. Give ABC some credit, however, for at least sticking with their entry for the full 22. “’Invasion’ started slowly, but has steadily ramped up the creepiness,” said John Paulsen in February ’06, acknowledging that, although it gave its audience lots of questions, at least it was providing them with more answers than “Lost” was. Unfortunately, there was still plenty to be answered when the show was canceled, and things got even more depressing when Tyler Labine talked to Bullz-Eye about what might’ve been. “(Creator Shaun Cassidy) had written this bible for the show, and he had written this amazing five-season arc,” said Labine. “We were just floored. Our jaws were literally on the floor after he explained it to us. We were, like, ‘Wow, we’re on for a really great ride!’” What a shame for us all that the ride ended as quickly as it did.

4. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (NBC, 2005 – 2006) – Well, you can’t say that we weren’t honest about offering up both the pros and the cons of Aaron Sorkin’s behind-the-scenes look into a late-night comedy series. “The show is pompous, unrealistic and ridiculously left-wing,” admitted Jason Zingale in February 2007, “but it also makes for some damn good television.” Unfortunately, with an awful lead-in – seriously, who thought that pairing the show with “Heroes” was a good idea? – “Studio 60” didn’t develop enough of a following to earn a second season.

5. Rome (HBO, 2005 – 2007) – In its first season, “Rome” turned up at #18 in the Power Rankings, but by the time Season 2 aired, it had leapt to #6. Not that such success earned the show a third season (it was apparently ridiculously expensive to produce, which you can absolutely believe if you’ve ever seen it, but at least the news of its cancellation came in time for John Paulsen to register his annoyance within the February 2007 Rankings. “As it turns out, ‘Rome’ isn’t the heir to the throne of ‘The Sopranos,’” he wrote. “Instead, sadly, it’s a bastard stepchild, just like ‘Deadwood.’” Creator Bruno Heller was probably even more pissed than Paulsen, having mapped out his vision of the series all the way through its fifth season, but as recently as December 2008, Heller was still sounding optimistic about the chances for a “Rome” movie. “I would love to round that show off,” he told the Hollywood Reporter. Hey, we’re behind you 100%, Bruno.

6. Four Kings (NBC, 2006) – If you don’t remember this sitcom, you’re forgiven, as it premiered in January 2006 and was gone by March. Still, it made enough of an impression to earn Honorable Mention status in the February 2006 rankings. “Four Kings” was created by David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, the duo behind “Will and Grace,” and featured Seth Green as one of its cast members, so you might think it surprising that it was off the air within seven episodes (and with a remaining six episodes still unaired). Looking back, however, the fact that the greatest praise Jason Zingale could heap upon the show in his write-up was that “it’s a worthy quick-fix until NBC finds a better alternative” should’ve given us a clue that it wasn’t long for this world.

7. Jericho (CBS, 2006 – 2008) – It was the little show that could, our “Jericho.” It started with an awesomely dark premise – a nuclear bomb goes off in the U.S., and we view the repercussions through the eyes of a small town in Kansas – and, after figuring out its direction (the attempts to meld some “Little House on the Prairie” aspects to the show were soon phased out), the series found its footing, kicked some creative ass, and was promptly canceled. But what’s this…? The show’s diehard fanbase made enough noise (and sent enough nuts) to get the show a 7-episode second season which lived up to everyone’s expectations and then some. Too bad the same couldn’t be said for the ratings, but those who actually tuned in for Season 2 know how many twists, turns, and outright shocks it included. There’s still talk of a possible “Jericho” movie. We can only hope.

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TV Roundup: “Terminator: TSCC” canceled, “Scrubs” and “Chuck” news, and much more

– Fox released it’s fall schedule. “Dollhouse” was renewed and “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” wasn’t. President Kevin Reilly said it wasn’t an either/or situation, but that the bet on “Dollhouse” was a bet on its producer Joss Whedon. I want to hear from people who watched both shows — was “Dollhouse” better? Because “Terminator: TSCC” was damn good down the stretch. (On a side note, how long do you think it will take Summer Glau to find another role? Hint: Not long.)

– Fox prez Kevin Reilly is apparently a big fan of Tyler Labine (who plays Sock on “Reaper”). Labine is set to star in the comedy “Sons of Tuscon,” which debuts in January. Clearly, this is not good news for “Reaper” fans.

– Ponderously, ABC renewed “Scrubs,” which only plans to have Zach Braff for six episodes. What’s the point?

– NBC renewed “Chuck” for 13 episodes, but it came at a price. There were significant budget concessions, so fans might notice that parts of the supporting cast may disappear at times. I stopped watching early in the season because it was getting kind of silly (and that whole Chuck/Sarah dance was getting tiresome) — did it get significantly better down the stretch?

– According to creator Noah Hawley’s Twitter page, “The Unusuals” won’t be back for another season. However, CBS did renew “Cold Case” for another season.

– Fox has renewed “Bones” for not one, but two years, according to Variety.

– CBS picked up a Chris O’Donnell-led spinoff of “NCIS” which is going to “focus on undercover ops instead of forensics.” Wait, wasn’t that the premise of “The Unit”?

– If no one watches “Samantha Who?” and it gets canceled, does it make a sound? Juuuuust kidding. (Not about it being canceled.)

– “The Office” creators (and I’m talking about the original UK version), Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, inked a deal with HBO to produce an animated comedy based on their podcast about their unusual friend, Karl Pilkington, whom they seem to think is the most fascinating man in the world. (And coming from those two, that’s high praise.)

  

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Fox: The Fall Schedule

Fox has officially announced its schedule for the fall, but let’s lead with a bit of bad news: “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” is not on it. The network officially canceled the series, and while I’m still dumbfounded by that decision, you know they’ll double-back and find a way to get it back onto the schedule if “Terminator: Salvation” is a hit. Or maybe they’ll release a straight-to-DVD movie which picks up where the series ends. Either way, I just cannot imagine that this will be the complete and total end of Sarah Connor’s TV adventures.

Okay, onto what is on the schedule, along with a few editorial comments…

MONDAY

8:00 PM – House
9:00 PM – LIE TO ME

Looks like another year of having to watch “House” and “Lie To Me” as full-season sets when they come out on DVD, because I’m still going to be watching “The Big Bang Theory,” “How I Met Your Mother,” and “Heroes.”

TUESDAY

8:00 PM – So You Think You Can Dance

WEDNESDAY

8:00 PM – So You Think You Can Dance Results Show

9:00 PM – Glee

The distinctive new comedy from Ryan Murphy (“Nip/Tuck”) starring Jane Lynch (“The 40 Year Old Virgin”) and newcomers Matthew Morrison (Broadway’s “Hairspray”), Lea Michele (“Spring Awakening”) and Cory Monteith (“Kyle XY”). Combining biting humor with a soundtrack of hit music from past to present, the inventive series follows an optimistic high school teacher who – against all odds – attempts to restore McKinley High’s fading Glee Club to its former glory, while helping a group of underdogs realize their true star potential.

THURSDAY

8:00 PM – Bones
9:00 PM – Fringe

When my wife finds out that “Fringe” is going to be competing against her beloved “Office,” she’s gonna be so pissed…

FRIDAY

8:00 PM – Brothers

A new half-hour comedy about a former big-city NFL hot shot who returns home to his family – and his mother’s house – to get his life back on track. Starring Michael Strahan (“FOX NFL Sunday”) and Daryl “Chill” Mitchell (“Ed,” “Veronica’s Closet”).

8:30 PM – ‘Til Death

9:00 PM – Dollhouse

Really? They canceled “Sarah Connor” for this? And do they really think this coupling is going to help the “Dollhouse” numbers?

SATURDAY

8:00 PM – Cops

8:30 PM – Cops

9:00 PM – America’s Most Wanted

11:00 PM – The Wanda Sykes ShowThe irreverent Saturday late-night series will feature Sykes’ outspoken comedic perspective on current events along with topical, high-energy roundtable discussions.

12:00 AM – Animation Domination encores

SUNDAY

7:00 PM – The OT (NFL Post-Game Show)

8:00 PM – The Simpsons

8:30 PM – The Cleveland ShowEveryone’s favorite soft-spoken FAMILY GUY neighbor, Cleveland Brown, moves with his son back to his hometown in Virginia and settles down with his high school sweetheart and her unruly kids.

9:00 PM – Family Guy

9:30 PM – American Dad

MIDSEASON

MONDAY

8:00 PM – House
9:00 PM – 24

TUESDAY

8:00 PM – American Idol

9:00 PM – Past Life

A fast-paced emotional thriller inspired by the book “The Reincarnationist.” The series stars Kelli Giddish (“All My Children”) as a gifted psychologist and Nicholas Bishop (“Home and Away”) as a former NYPD detective who work together to explore and unravel mysteries that must be solved in both the past and the present.

Wow, that doesn’t sound at all like “Life on Mars.”

WEDNESDAY

8:00 PM – American Idol Results Show

9:00 PM – Human Target

A full-throttle, action-packed thrill ride from executive producers McG (“Terminator Salvation”) and Simon West (“Con Air,” “Tomb Raider”). Based on the popular DC Comics graphic novel and starring Mark Valley (FRINGE), Chi McBride (“Pushing Daisies”) and Academy Award nominee Jackie Earle Haley (“Watchmen”), the series follows CHRISTOPHER CHANCE (Valley), a unique private contractor who will stop at nothing – even if it means becoming a human target – to keep his clients alive.

Anyone else noting the irony that the director of the new “Terminator” movie is getting a show just as the “Terminator” TV series is getting canceled?

THURSDAY

8:00-9:00 PM BONES

9:00-10:00 PM FRINGE

FRIDAY

8:00-8:30 PM BROTHERS

8:30-9:00 PM ‘TIL DEATH

9:00-10:00 PM DOLLHOUSE

SATURDAY

8:00-8:30 PM COPS

8:30-9:00 PM COPS

9:00-10:00 PM AMERICA’S MOST WANTED

11:00 PM-Midnight THE WANDA SYKES SHOW (working title)

Midnight-12:30 AM ANIMATION DOMINATION ENCORES

SUNDAY

7:00 PM – Animation Domination encores

7:30 PM – American Dad

8:00 PM – The Simpsons

8:30 PM – Sons of Tucson

From three-time Emmy Award winner Todd Holland (“Malcolm in the Middle”), the non-traditional family comedy stars Tyler Labine (“Reaper”) as a charming but wayward schemer hired by three young brothers whose father is in prison.

9:00 PM – Family Guy

9:30 PM – The Cleveland Show

  

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Ausiello keeps track of the bubble shows

EW.com’s Michael Ausiello is tuned into the world of television, and his information can usually be trusted. He has an article devoted to the current status of all the shows (renewed, cancelled, on the bubble, etc.) and suggests that readers bookmark it. Here are his thoughts on a few of the shows currently on the bubble.

Scrubs: Prospects brightening.
The Unusuals: A long shot.
Eleventh Hour: Could go either way. Now a long shot. Hearing the crew is looking for other work.
The Unit: A long shot. Now hearing it’s a goner.
Dollhouse: Could go either way. Now hearing it’s a long shot.
Fringe: Sure thing.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: A long shot.
Chuck: Could go either way.
Life: A long shot. Now hearing it’s a goner.
Medium: Safe bet.
My Name is Earl: Could go either way. Fox may rescue it if NBC passes.
Southland: Sure thing.
Privileged: Prospects brightening.
Reaper: It’s a goner.

I’m bummed to hear that the news on “The Unit” isn’t getting better. CBS invited Shawn Ryan to pitch story ideas for another season, and the show has been pretty great the last two years. It’s good to see that “Fringe” is considered a sure thing — I hadn’t heard much about how well it was doing ratings-wise this season. “Southland” continues to get good reviews. I don’t know that the world needs another cop show. My tastes are pretty particular after watching great shows like “NYPD Blue,” “The Shield” and “The Wire,” so I haven’t watched it, but if I keep hearing good things, I may dive in this summer when there isn’t much else on.

If you don’t see your favorite show on this list, be sure to check this link for the latest info. I’d like to see Ausiello tackle some of the basic and pay cable shows on FX, TNT, TBS, USA, HBO and Showtime, but this page only covers the major networks.

  

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