Firefly (2002-2003): This one is the universal go-to for shows cancelled before their time. Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog, The Avengers, Agents of SHIELD) is basically King of the TV Geeks. (Check out EW.com for a list of Whedonisms.) Joss has no problem experimenting with out-there ideas or just plain silliness (ie: “Once More, With Feeling,” the wonderful episode of Buffy where the residents of Sunnydale break into song and dance, expressing their secret truths). He also addresses some major philosophical ideas, most of which are made more subtle with witty dialogue and quirkiness. Firefly was able to survive one season and a movie but could’ve lasted much longer. It combines science fiction with Westerns in a union that really shouldn’t work. The show follows nine individuals on a cargo ship called “Serenity” (it resembles a firefly, thus the name) that work outside of the law to keep the ship running and survive the often treacherous reaches of outer space. (It’s a bit hard to recap for me but, the gist is, watch it.) Why was it cancelled? Episodes were aired out of order (hello?!), it was on Fridays aka TV death zone, not given time to find its footing (one season is never enough) and the usual excuse “numbers.” Life after Death: The movie Serenity (2005) gave fans another taste of what made Firefly so fun. It also delved deeper into the political issues within the context of the story (testing was done on one of the characters, River, an emotionally wrecked genius, who makes a massive personality shift in the movie—something that was clearly planned if the show had continued and been able to get fleshed out). The show also was continued through comics (a trend among beloved cancelled shows). Unfortunately with no possible syndication, you won’t often catch Firefly on TV; it is, luckily, available—complete with movie Serenity—on Netflix.
Up next: Jericho