Some TV shows march on for season, eventually reaching a satisfactory conclusion. However, many more go on just long enough to build up a sizeable audience only for the show’s network to pull the plug. For every Walking Dead, there’s a Firefly. Unconventional and inventive shows that found an audience, even if it wasn’t big enough to sustain them.
While fans are able to revisit these series, they’ll never know how this love-triangle played out or that loose end got tied up. They’ll always have their DVD box sets, but they’ll never have the closure they want.
In light of the recent wave of television cancellations like Castle, Nashville, Limitless and Heroes: Reborn, it’s worth looking back at some of TV most infamous cancellations and where these shows might have gone had they lingered on for another season.
Here are 12 Canceled TV Shows And Where Their Stories Would Have Gone.
Perhaps in a gamble to extend the lifespan of the series through anticipation culture, Hannibal showrunner Bryan Fuller was quite open from the get-go about the series future. Early interviews by Bryan Fuller suggested that a fourth season of Hannibal would have introduced Clarice Starling by adapting the famous Silence of the Lambs storyline.
However, later comments by Hugh Dancy suggested the Hannibal showrunner had a different direction in mind. According to him, “it took us back to the first season in a very unexpected way, and made total sense of that cliffhanger ending; it seemed justified. It was born out of a part of one of the books so it was still coming out of that universe, but it wasn’t the Clarice / Silence of the Lambs storyline.”
Though its cancellation isn’t as infamous as that of Firefly, Joss Whedon’s other science fiction series Dollhouse also met an untimely and rushed end. The second season of Dollhouse ended with some pretty dramatic turns – revealing that Boyd was actually one of the co-founders of the sinister Rossum Corporation, responsible for setting the events of the series into motion and connecting the pre-apocalypse and post-apocalypse timeline depicted in the series’ finale “Epitaph”.
In a world where the series wasn’t forced to rush towards some kind of conclusion, Whedon has suggested in interviews that he’d envision the series unfold more gradually. According to Dollhouse consulting producer Tim Minear, Season 3 would have seen Echo become something akin to a superhero with easy access to all the skills and abilities of her 38 imprints. “I think what you would have seen in Season 3 is [a series] a lot more embracing of its mythology and turned into more of a superhero show. It would have been a little bit more like Buffy in some ways,” he said.
David Milch’s acclaimed western series was infamously cut short after three strong seasons, with the series’ cast, including Ian McShane and Kim Dickens, making their dissatisfaction over the cancellation quite vocal in the years since.
In an feature entitled “The Meaning of Endings” included on the Deadwood DVD Box set, Milch discusses where the fourth season might have gone. Some of the fourth season’s bigger plotlines would have related to real-life history of Deadwood. Al Swearengen’s Gem Saloon would have been wiped out by fire, then a flood, before being rebuilt while Timothy Olyphant’s Seth Bullock would have gone onto become a more prominent figure in the series.
9. Terra Nova
Despite a promising debut and the attachment of Steven Spielberg, science fiction series Terra Nova failed to take off beyond one season. Though early talk of a Netflix revival amounted to little, the cast of the show have been happy to talk about what could have been.
According to Stephen Lang (who played Nathaniel Taylor), “We certainly had discussions about it and I knew a very basic idea – we were heading out towards the Bad Lands.” Lang’s comments were later elaborated on by executive producer Brannon Braga, who confirmed that the series would conform to a darker tone in its second season. Braga confirmed that the second season would see the colonists of Terra Nova face off against “highly intelligent dinosaurs” and dissent within their own ranks. “Taylor was going to go crazy… The main source of conflict would be between Taylor and Jim Shannon, and a battle for control of the colony and how to deal with these new dangers,” he said.
Of all the many ambitious mystery-driven drama series that emerge in the aftermath of Lost, FlashForward was one of the most tragic. The series kicked off with a dramatic and compelling premise but audiences quickly fell off the series and its cancellation became inevitable. However, the series’ creators did have a bigger plan for the series in mind.
Neil Jackson’s Lucas Hellinger was set to become a more central figure in the second season of the show. According to Jackson, “the plan for the second season was we find out the reason that my character had been causing these blackouts was to cull large numbers of the population, because he’d had so many FlashForwards himself he’d ended up seeing the future. The world within the next 250 years, looking at all the statistics, is going to become way too overpopulated for our natural resources. Famine, pestilence, drought -all these things will become commonplace. So as a humanitarian he wanted to indiscriminately kill lots of members of the population to try to bring the human population down.”
Showrunner Marc Guggenheim has also discussed the series’ endgame, describing the show’s final arc as one that would have seen Lloyd and Mark use the flashforward technology to “leap over an extinction level event…that was going to destroy human consciousness”.
ABC’s quirky but long-running procedural Castle came to an end earlier this year, with stars Stana Katic and Tamala Jones’ abrupt departure at the end of Season 8 throwing the series’ future into uncertain territory. Initially, ABC planned to push on into Season 9 and continue Castle without Katic, but subsequent departures by other castmembers (including Nathan Fillion) sealed the show’s fate.
According to showrunner Alexi Hawley, they initially wanted to keep the show going with Fillion continuing to solve cases and move the series away from longer-form storytelling. “We wanted to wrap up a lot of the threads of different conspiracies, Beckett’s mother’s murder, Castle’s missing time. We wanted by the end of Season 8 to have gotten through all those — hopefully in a compelling and satisfying way — so Season 9 can be more about the case of the week, going back to the fun of solving the case of the week and not have the luggage of past conspiracies,” he said.
6. My Name is Earl
The sole comedy series on this list, My Name is Earl ended its run with a promising “To Be Continued” but the show ended being canceled nonetheless. Though there was some talk of series creator Greg Garcia bringing the series to the big screen, it never amounted to anything and the stars involved have since moved on.
Thankfully for fans, Garcia did provide some information about where the series would have ended up. According to him, “You’ve got a show about a guy with a list so not seeing him finish it is a bummer. But the truth is, he wasn’t ever going to finish the list. The basic idea of the ending was that while he was stuck on a really hard list item he was going to start to get frustrated that he was never going to finish it. Then he runs into someone who had a list of their own and Earl was on it. They needed to make up for something bad they had done to Earl. He asks them where they got the idea of making a list and they tell him that someone came to them with a list and that person got the idea from someone else. Earl eventually realizes that his list started a chain reaction of people with lists and that he’s finally put more good into the world than bad. So at that point he was going to tear up his list and go live his life. Walk into the sunset a free man. With good karma.”
Extraterrestrial infiltration series V picked up the concepts of the 1983 miniseries and brought it into the 21st century. The modernized science fiction series saw mankind deal with the social and cultural fallout of the seemingly-peaceful arrival of an alien race calling itself the Visitors. A science fiction less concerned with big space battles and more interested in exploring xenophobia, the series explored the idea of an alien invasion in a very different way to shows like Falling Skies or movies like Independence Day.
While the series only ran for two seasons, lead actress Elizabeth Mitchell spoke about what Season 3 would have brought to the table. According to her, while the season would have initially dealt with the death of her character’s son, the season would have been one where the tide began to turn in humanity’s favor. “We were going to start to win”, she says.
4. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
In some ways, Fox’s Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles was probably one of the better things to come out of the Terminator franchise since the second movie. Using time-travel to jump Sarah Connor (this time played by Lena Headey) and a young John Connor into the early-2000s, the series’ was rife with ruthless ambition in a way that the last few Terminator movies haven’t been.
The finale of the second season of the show saw a Young John Connor jump forward in time again – skipping Judgment Day and jumping time directly into the war against the machines. In the wake of the show’s cancellation, producer Josh Friedman suggested that this game-changing twist would have introduced audiences to an older version of Headey’s Sarah Connor and that Danny Dyson, the son of the man who originally created Skynet, would have been a major player in the season’s story arc.
Fan-favorite post-apocalyptic series Jericho ended on a pretty big note, with Jake Green (played by Skeet Ulrich) sparking the start of a second American Civil War. However, this wasn’t always the direction the writers intended to take the series.
The series’ creators actually shot and prepared two different endings to use depending on how the show’s chance of renewal looked. If things had looked a little better behind-the-scenes for Jericho, we would have gotten a different ending that saw Robert Hawkins (played by Lennie James) get captured. This would have set the series up for a third season centering on Jake’s efforts to rescue her.
2. Almost Human
Fox’s Karl Urban and Michael Ealy-fronted dystopian procedural Almost Human was another promising science fiction series that’ll likely never see a proper ending. Set in the year 2048, human police officers are required to work with android partners in order to combat an enormous rise in crime. While the series ends on a thematically satisfactory note with leads John Kennex and android Dorian reconciling some of their differences, there are still many questions left unanswered.
We never got learn about Kennex’s missing memories and how his ex-girlfriend was involved with inSyndicate, nor the details of how Kennex lost his leg. According to Urban, one of Season 1’s major loose ends would have been tackled quite directly. “John and Dorian would have gone over the wall to find the Maker. There, they would have found a dystopian world in which there would have been deeper, darker secrets and places like a maze that they would have continued to reveal more about throughout the season,” he says.
1. Agent Carter
A feminist spinoff centered around Hayley Atwell’s character in Captain America: The First Avenger, Agent Carter might be a relatively recent cancellation but it’s one deserving of a more-graceful conclusion. The series’ never fully explained the role Carter played in the origins of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Season 2 ended things on a pretty major cliffhanger, with Chad Michael Murray’s Agent Jack Thompson gunned down by an unknown assailant.
Atwell herself spoke recently about where the third season might have taken things at MegaCon in Orlando. “There was talk of Season 3 of going further back into her past. So the showrunners were talking about a possible kind of twist, I suppose, into something to do with the family. They suggested there would be more to do with my brother” she said.
What series would you have been most excited to see a proper end to? Let us know in the comments.