The best TV shows offer a welcome escape fromreality. For half an hour at a time, we can go anywhere we want. We get to look into worlds full of magic, mystery, action, intrigue, romance and heart break. All of this from the comfort of our own couches.
Through all this, we grow attached to our favorite characters. They become like family. We cheer when they succeed. We’re devastated when they fail. When they go away for the summer, it’s all we can do to pass the time until they come back.
Sometimes they don’t come back, though. We follow a character’s journey right up until some studio executive decides to end it. Of course it never ends exactly where we want it to. Fandom can be a tricky thing. Characters we think deserve happy endings are killed off. Characters we hate are allowed to live happy lives. There is no justice.
Most of the time when a show ends we have only ourselves to blame. After all, a show can only last as long as people are watching it. The reverse is also true. We may love a show, but if we don’t give it the attention it deserves while it’s airing, it goes away.
Here, we’re looking at 9 TV Shows Canceled On Huge Cliffhangers (And 6 That Should Have Been).
15. Canceled: Chuck
Everything seemed to be going great for Chuck in season 5. He had the girl of his dreams. He’d met both of his parents. All of his friends seemed to be achieving their goals. Then the unthinkable happened: a spy came along claiming to be the one the Intersect was initially meant for. He kidnapped Sarah, wiped her memory clean, and turned her into a weapon.
The final scene left everything open, with the question of whether Sarah got her memory back or not frustratingly unanswered. Chuck had been suffering from low ratings practically since its inception. Every season after the second was predicted to be the end.
14. Should Have Been: Dexter
Dexter’s sixth season season was a low point, but its last moment gave fans something to get excited about. Deb walking in on Dexter mid-kill promised a fresh spin on a dynamic that had reached an all-too-comfortable status quo.
Season 7 delivered. It offered plenty of the heart-pumping cat and mouse action the show had become famous for. It set all the pieces in place for an awesome final season. Dex fell in love! Deb murdered LaGuerta! Would she and Dex have to flee together?
What we got was so much less than underwhelming. Nobody acted like themselves. We had to deal with watching a bunch of side characters we’d never met and didn’t care about get killed off. To add insult to injury, our last shot of Dexter was as a lumberjack. Talk about going off the rails.
13. Canceled: Angel
The real tragedy of Angel is that its cancellation could have been avoided. From what anyone could see, the show was a hit. It had healthy viewer numbers, a great team and very solid critical response. The Buffy spin-off seemed poised to continue on as long as its parent show.
Then Joss Whedon bit off more than he could chew. He requested the show be given early renewal. He did this so that he could assure jobs for the entire cast and crew for another year. It had the opposite effect. The next day, the plug was pulled.
Whedon decided not to change the finale. With the armies of Hell literally diverging around them, the team ready themselves for a last stand. The series eventually ended up continuing in comic book form, but by all reports the televised version would have been very different.
12. Should Have Been: The Walking Dead
Fans love it when you diverge from source material. They cheer when you take a beloved comic book moment and completely change almost everything about it. Oh wait, sorry, they hate that.
People were excited for the introduction of Negan to The Walking Dead. The character had been a comic book favorite for a while. The great Jeffrey Dean Morgan did a great job of bringing him to life. From the costume to the smugness, everything was there.
Glenn’s death by Negan’s bat was something fans expected. For better or worse, it was pretty much a shot for shot adaptation. But the writers didn’t stop. They also had Negan kill off Abraham seemingly for pure shock value. It was the first real sign that the show was devolving into pure shock value.
11. Canceled: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
The Terminator timeline has become as muddled as Fox’s X-Men time line. It’s become so ridiculous of late that James Cameron is returning to save the franchise with the as of yet untitled 2019 reboot, despite previously insisting he never would.
One property that remains beloved by Terminator fans is The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Before Lena Headey was hated as Cersei Lannister, she was adored as Sarah Connor. Though the show only lasted for about a season and a half, it maintains a large cult following to this day.
It ended with one hell of a bang. Sarah and John Connor are separated. John gets thrown into the future only to find out that he himself has somehow been erased from memory. Obviously the franchise plodded onward after this, but we may never see an entry as magical as this show again.
10. Should Have Been: Supernatural
Supernatural is awesome. That is not in question. But it’s been going for 13 years and there’s no end date in sight.
There has never and probably will never be a better place to end the show then after the conclusion of season 5.
The story that began with a demon bleeding into Sam’s mouth and killing his mom was over. It ended in the most epic way possible. The brothers literally defeated Lucifer. Dean found happiness. And then, suddenly, Sam had somehow escaped Hell!
The show suffered an obvious dip in quality in season 6, where the returned Sam turned out to be soulless. Supernatural has since regained much of its swagger, if not its sense of scope. Everyone has died and come back multiple times now. The brothers even have their mom back. There’s just nowhere left to go.
9. Canceled: Hannibal
Who’d want to watch a story about a guy who eats people? Well, considering The Silence of the Lambs swept the Academy Awards upon its release (the only horror film to ever do so), a lot of people. This was due in no small part to Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Hannibal Lecter.
Enter Mads Mikkelson. Mikkelson gave Hannibal a calm demeanor that was different from Hopkins’ and fresh enough to retread familiar ground.
With Mikkelson at the fore and solid writing and performances all around, Hannibal quickly became a hit. Unfortunately, advances in piracy meant that the nightly ratings just weren’t there. The show ended with Lecter and Agent Graham falling over a literal cliff. The possibility of a season 4 is continually teased by showrunner Bryan Fuller, however.
8. Should Have Been: That ’70s Show
Pro tip: if your main character leaves your show, it’s time to call it quits. The folks at That ’70s Show obviously missed that memo. Alas, hindsight is 20/20.
The season 7 finale was both a great cliffhanger and a fitting send off. Eric got the going away party he never wanted. Red even finally told him that he loved him and he was proud of him. Then we got a by the numbers cliff hanger about whether or not Jackie would choose Hyde or Kelso. (She chose Fes.)
But money talks, and so the show limped on without Foreman. Ashton Kutcher left also left early on in the last season. With a third of its main cast gone, there just wasn’t any magic left. Sure, Tommy Chong is funny, but even he couldn’t save those final episodes from mediocrity.
7. Canceled: Clone High
The premise of Clone High is silly, without a doubt. Great figures from history are cloned in a lab and then thrown into a high school together. The high school is actually run by a shadowy government organization with devious ambitions.
While it was on the air, Clone High managed to offend just about everyone. The shows depiction of Gandhi basically drove the entire country of India to threaten a boycott of MTV. Creators Phil Lord and Christopher Miller pitched alternatives to Gandhi in the second season, but sadly it was not picked up.
6. Should Have Been: Lost
If there was ever a show to divide fans, it’s Lost. From start to finish, Lost is essentially one big cliffhanger. During its first season the narrative was fairly simple. It featured a plane crash and a group of survivors forced to work together. Shadowy threats and vague references to monsters offered enough excitement for audiences to want more.
And boy, did they get it. Lost continued on for another 5 seasons. Each subsequent renewal forced the writers to find some new and different way to frame this increasingly thin premise. Remember: Lord of the Flies, which inspired much of this, was only 248 pages.
5. Canceled: My Name is Earl
My Name is Earl came right out of left field. It didn’t feature any crazy action or an over-the-top setting. It’s just about a guy who happened to be kind of a lowlife, won the lottery, and decided he should probably make up for all the wrong he’s done.
We’ve all had dreams of being that noble hero, of making amends for all the dumb things we’ve done, and of who we’d help if we came into some real money. Every week, we watched Earl live those dreams.
The series came to an abrupt end with Earl finding out that he’s a father. It also left a ton of other mysteries in the air, including the question of Earl’s biological dad. Writer Greg Garcia teased that while no answer was ever decided upon, talk around the table produced names like Dave Chappelle and Lil Jon…
4. Canceled: ReBoot
ReBoot was a groundbreaking show. It took both TV and CGI to places it had never gone before. Set in the Mainframe of a computer, episodes featured users uploading “games” to challenge the show’s protagonists. Bob, the show’s hero, also had to fight with viruses Hexadecimal and Megabyte.
The show’s final scene featured the odds tipped heavily in Megabyte’s favor. He had taken control of the Principal’s office. Poor Fong and Enzo’s father had seemingly sacrificed themselves. Bob and Matrix seemed helpless against him.
That was in 2001, and no answer has been given since. Amazingly, ReBoot is being given the revival treatment. A new series titled ReBoot: The Guardian Code is set to premiere in 2018. It will introduce new characters as well as giving fans a resolution they’ve been waiting almost two decades for.
3. Should Have Been: Sherlock
Sherlock Holmes has been showing up on screen for over a hundred years. It’s hard to find new things to do with the character, but everybody’s still trying. The BBC’s Sherlock seemed pretty fresh at first. The star power alone made it an instantly memorable show.
One of the best parts was Holmes’ arch enemy Jim Moriarty. Andrew Scott brought so much insanity and charisma to the character that he stole every scene he was in. Nobody believed he was dead at the end of the second series.
When his face showed up on TV screens across the world at the end of series 3, fans were over the moon. The fact that he was actually dead was a huge slap in the face. The series four finale was a mess from top to bottom. The show’s quality had been deteriorating, but Sherlock’s long lost sister hammered a huge nail into that coffin.
2. Canceled: Undergrads
Pete Williams has been pushing to revive Undergrads for years. The show followed four high school friends trying to find their way in the confusing world of college. It stood out from other adult animation of the time by making the characters as relatable as they were ridiculous.
While Nitz, Cal, Gimpy, and Rocko all fit into easy college kid stereotypes, they also showed real growth throughout the short 12 episode run. It also gave us perhaps the greatest televised game of Risk ever.
During the series, Nitz is so infatuated with a girl named Kimmy that he fails to notice his friend Jess’ legitimate feelings for him. The final episode leaves him being spurned by both of them. While Williams, the creator, holds out hope of someday bringing the story to its conclusion, the chances become slimmer and slimmer by the year.
1. Canceled: Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Clark and Superman
Film wise, the ’90s were a dark time for the Man of Steel. Things were going swimmingly on the TV side of things though. He was regularly kicking butt with Batman and the rest of the Justice League in the cartoon world. He was also happily married. The New Adventures of Superman explored Clark Kent’s family drama as well as his weekly bad guy fights.
The cast and crew were blind sided by ABC’s cancellation of the show. They believed they would be renewed and had already begun setting up a story for the fifth season. Clark and Lois find a baby in their basement and a mysterious note declaring the baby to be theirs.
Series exec Brad Buckner confirmed that the child probably wouldn’t have been theirs. He was a Kryptonian, though, so a take on Superboy couldn’t have been far away.
Are there any shows that were taken (or should have been) before their time that we may have missed? Let us know in the comments!
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