Sci-Fi Shows That Should Get a Second Chance

Every year, we are flooded with new shows on television, all of which are expected to scintillate and draw in viewers in an effort to find the next big hit. On the flip side, dozens of shows are canceled each season, be it after a complete run or partway through the season for various reasons, ranging from low ratings to a lack of network support. It seems that every round of cancellations, a venerable favorite of the sci-fi community bites the dust. Some shows are more memorable than others; here are several that most sci-fi fans feel deserve a second chance.

A show about normal people that suddenly discover they possess superpowers, “Heroes” ran on NBC for four seasons, with 77 episodes. The show featured one of the largest casts in U.S. primetime television, with 12 main characters in the first season, including Hayden Panettiere, Milo Ventimiglia and Ali Larter.

The show started off averaging 13.86 million viewers per episode in its first season. The hype around the show was overwhelming: a spinoff was devised and scrapped, books and merchandise rolled out quickly and the catchphrase “Save the cheerleader, save the world” was everywhere. Panettiere’s character, Claire Bennett, was a cheerleader with the ability to regenerate. The show had the potential to be one of the best on television, but it ended up falling short.

As the show wore on, those numbers eroded as fans became disgruntled with the arc of the show and the fact that it didn’t seem as focused or engaging. In seasons two through four, the season premiere was the highest rated show of the season, with ratings dropping steadily afterwards. By the time the fourth season ended, ratings and viewership had eroded to less than half of the original series premiere’s numbers. NBC canceled the show on May 14, 2010.

There might not be another show that lasted just one season with such a loyal fan base as “Firefly.” The series had 14 episodes, with only 11 of them airing in the United States during its televised run. The show was set in the year 2517 and the cast included Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin, Summer Glau and Jewel Staite. The final episode of “Firefly” aired on December 20, 2002.

Joss Whedon, the executive producer, originally sketched out the concept of the show to run for seven years, but ratings quickly took the wind out of the sails. At the time the show was canceled, “Firefly” was 125th in the Nielsen ratings, averaging 4.48 million viewers per episode. The show was dropped during the November sweeps and interrupted by the baseball playoffs. Shortly before Christmas, “Firefly” was replaced by the show “Fastlane,” which featured Peter Facinelli, Bill Bellamy and Tiffani-Amber Thiessen. “Fastlane” failed to fare any better, crashing out after 22 episodes.

“Firefly” still has a tremendous fan following, known as the “Browncoats.” They raised money and sent postcards in an effort to get FOX to change its mind and tried to convince another network to take it on after the postcard campaign failed. When there were no takers, Whedon released “Serenity,” a box office follow up to the show. A decade after the show went off the air, fans are still clamoring for more: a tenth anniversary special, “Browncoats Unite,” aired November 11 on the Science Channel.

Quantum Leap
It may be going back in the vault a bit, as “Quantum Leap” went off the air in 1993, but the show was certainly entertaining. With Scott Bakula as Dr. Sam Beckett and Dean Stockwell as Admiral Al Calavicci, the show dealt with time travel, specifically being able to go back in time if the traveler stayed within his own lifetime.

Ratings were the ultimate demise of the show, dropping 21 percent from the fourth season to the fifth, which was the final season. The drop was too much for NBC to ignore, which they’d done during the third season thanks to a letter writing campaign from fans.

There have been plenty of rumors about a restart of “Quantum Leap,” but it hasn’t happened yet. In 2002, the Sci-Fi (now SyFy) channel was going to do a show with Sam’s daughter as a leaper and Al being the holographic helper, but it never panned out.



Dollhouse,” which featured Eliza Dushku as an “Active” named Echo, aired for 29 episodes before getting the axe. The final episode aired January 29, 2010.

Ratings nearly doomed the show after its first season but the show was picked up for season two, with FOX’s president of entertainment stating that “if we’d canceled Joss [Whedon’s] show, I’d probably have 110 million emails this morning from the fans.” The second season received budget cuts and didn’t make an appearance during the November sweeps. FOX passed on ordering any future episodes and the show came to an end.

Dark Angel

Dark Angel

In a James Cameron directed foray into television, Jessica Alba starred as genetically enhanced super soldier Max Guevara in post-apocalyptic Seattle. It lasted two seasons and 43 episodes before getting the boot.

Changing time slots was a major factor in its demise. At different times in the second season,” Dark Angel” could be seen at 8:00, 8:30, and 9:00 P.M. ET, making it difficult to know when the show was going to air. Ratings dropped 40 percent from the first season to the second and the show plummeted from 70th in the Nielsen ratings to 114th, prompting its cancellation.

What sci-fi shows that are off the air do you wish would make a comeback?

One comment

  1. ‘Freedom’, ‘Level 9’, ‘Traveler’, ‘VR.5’ and ‘Star Trek: Enterprise’ are among the scifi/speculative fiction shows that IMHO deserved another year or two in addition to all the ones mentioned above.

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