PART I (Part II coming soon)

With Fringe ending this year and leaving a Sci-Fi void, I wonder if the show could eventually become a cult-hit that future generations continue to watch for years to come. I certainly hope so.

I started to think about sci-fi shows of the past that we are still talking about. Science fiction shows are not easily successful, they are complicated and struggle to find an audience and executives usually prefer to stay away from the genre. Fringe was incredibly lucky to get as many seasons and a proper ending as it did. Most sci-fi shows don’t make it past the second season. Regardless, some become extremely popular after they are cancelled. I bet, at least a couple times, executives wish they could go back in time to ‘uncancel’ certain shows.

You know people are not ‘over’ a show when they are still talking about it a decade after it’s cancelled, they cannot wait to get their hands on any related merchandise and they won’t shut up about a movie.

Here is PART I of the shows that fans just WON’T GET OVER.  Some were hits that lasted for years, some weren’t as lucky:

The X-Files (1993 – 2002)

Premise:  Two FBI agents investigate unexplained phenomena.
Run: 9 seasons/ 202 episodes
Audience: Around 15 million viewers

The X-files is the mother of all modern science fiction shows. Any and all current sci-fi writers reference The X-files at some point. It came at a time when nobody was expecting a science fiction show to succeed at a network that was struggling to find its place in the market. The show was different and more intelligent than anything else on TV. In a way it defined a generation and gave FOX its first long lasting hit. The theme song itself became so iconic, anyone can still recognize it. The X-files combined scientific facts with a procedural structure and incorporated a romantic story line. It had the perfect balance between science fiction and personal relationships. It is probably the most popular sci-fi show of the last two decades and it will continue to be a parameter for all shows to come.

Legacy:  The last movie didn’t do so well at the box office, but the stars are game for another movie and as David Duchovny himself put it: Fox should jump at the opportunity to exploit a franchise with a built-in fan base. I agree, they should make a movie for the fans, not try to make it into blockbuster and they should succeed. Regardless of the movie prospects, the show will live online and on DVD/Blu Ray. But let’s hope for a couple of movies while the actors are still young!

Twin Peaks (1990 – 1991)

Premise:  “An idiosyncratic FBI Agent investigates the murder of a young woman in the even more idiosyncratic town of Twin Peaks” (IMDB)
Run: 2 seasons/ 30 episodes
Audience:  It went from being the most watched show of 1990 to nothing the following year. Apparently it had an 18 share by the time it was canceled (down from the pilot’s 27 share) which would be awesome in today’s TV but that was 20 years ago when rating points weren’t so scarce…

It is not technically a sci-fi show, but it had so many surreal elements you can’t classify it as a regular drama either. I don’t remember when Twin Peaks first came out but I heard so many writers and producers reference it over the years that I knew it had to be something especial. It took me a long time to get around to watching it because of a prejudice against old TV shows. When I finally decided to give it a go on Netflix, I got what everyone was raving about. Twin Peaks is, and probably will forever be, a one of a kind masterpiece. It is unlike anything that came before or after. Its unique creepy tone is impossible to replicate. The show ended abruptly after two seasons and one could argue it actually ended when they prematurely revealed Laura Palmer’s killer. However, for one and a half seasons it had the audience glued to the screen enveloped in a mist of haze and confusion. Twin Peaks will remain as one of the most popular and beloved cult-hits of all times. It is a definite ‘Must See’ for any TV fanatic.

Legacy: Like me, many can experience the entire show online (currently on Netflix). If you are a Twin Peaks fan you must watch the Psych reunion, in the tribute episode ‘Dual Spires’. It is one of the best episodes of the series and it features a number of cast members. I don’t see how they could revive the show or make movies, but I would love to see more cast reunions and I am sure references to the show will keep popping up on TV.

Dark Angel (2000 -2002)

Premise: A genetically engineered woman tries to blend in a post-apocalyptic world while she hides from the government organization that experimented on her when she was a child.
Run: 2 seasons/42 episodes
Audience: Around 10 million viewers and only 6 million by the time it got cancelled.

OK, maybe Dark Angel doesn't get as much afterlife buzz as the other shows mentioned here, perhaps I am the one who can’t get over it, but I truly think is one of the best science fiction shows ever and I still get annoyed with the people who think Jessica Alba’s big break was Fantastic Four. Created by James Cameron, this show had all the elements of his most popular movies:  futuristic doomsday setting, strong female lead and the threat of technological progress. Only, instead of killer robots we had genetically engineered super-soldiers. It was a brilliant appealing concept and a superb first season. However, somewhere around the second season, the show became too cartoonish and it was eventually cancelled. Since then I’ve noticed the premise (kids being raised to be super-soldiers) has been used several times. Most notably on Hit Man, where they even used footage from the show [that movie kind of sucked BTW]. However, they have been unable to replicate the unique cyberpunk tone and underground feel that made Dark Angel so cool.

Legacy: I don’t think this show is available online anywhere. So Netflix, Hulu or Amazon need to acquire the rights for it sometime soon. I would love to re-watch it. It is, however available on DVD and it is a nice collection item to have on a video library. The show also had some afterlife in the form of a trilogy of novels and a video game. Some time ago TWOP suggested they should reboot the show with Summer Glau as Max. I don’t hate that idea, especially because I love Summer Glau, but I think it is still too soon to remake it and I think Jessica Alba still looks too good. So, may I suggest a movie instead? I know… the fan base is not big enough to justify a movie… but wouldn't it be cool if James Cameron decided to make a big blockbuster Dark Angel movie and market it as an entirely new concept? Hey, a girl can dream right?

Battlestar Galactica (2004 - 2009)

Premise:  Twelve human colonies are wiped out by an artificial-intelligence superior species. The few survivors aboard a battleship do their best to fight back while they seek for the mystical ‘Earth’.
Run: 4 Seasons/76 episodes
Audience: Around a 2.5 rating when it started, down to 1.3 by the time it ended. That’s about close to 3 million viewers during the good times, down to 2.2 or even 1.8 million viewers at its lowest.

We are talking about 2004’s Battlestar Galactica, however, the genesis of this story happened many years before. Original Battlestar premiered on 1978 and was followed by another TV show in 1980. Then there were comic-books, novels, video games and even board games. People who come across Battlestar seem to suffer from instant addiction, just watch that really funny episode of Portlandia to understand what I am talking about. I never got too obsessed about Battlestar, which is weird because I am all about these geeky stuff. However, I always thought it was a solid television show and one of the best of the genre. It is yet another sci-fi show that takes place inside a space shift; remaking it in the 21st century allowed them to have stunning special effects, but that wasn't what I loved about it.

Battlestar had a fantastic backdrop but at its core the show was a study of humanity from different points of view: Religion, politics and even our place in the cosmos as a species. Regarding politics, they explored how civilian rulers differ from military commanders, how the chain of power can fail or succeed, how power can be abused, stolen or effectively enforced. The religion aspect was also fascinating. The notion that they had an entire belief system completely foreign us, but they treated it as the absolute truth was very interesting. Plus they had the almost mythological quest of ‘Earth’, which for them was some sort of intergalactic Nirvana. Battlestar also showed what it would be like if humanity was not the dominating species in the world which led to many interesting stories from unusual points of view. As you can see, it was a highly intelligent show. The ratings kept declining, but the popularity didn't. I found an interesting article about that.

Legacy:  After Battlestar ended it wasn’t over, they still tried to bring it back with Caprica, webisodes and other failed attempts. I have a feeling we will see the Galactica (or Pegasus) flying again sometime in the next couple of decades. Eventually they would probably do another TV movie that could lead to yet another series. I hope they use some of the cast-members!

Firefly (2002 - 2003)

Premise:  It’s a Western… in space!
Run: 1 Season/11 Episodes
Audience: It averaged 4.48 million viewers

I’ve never heard SO many people talk about a cancelled show in my life! Firefly is probably the show they wish the most they could un-cancel. The high concept western in space was a little boy’s fantasy come to life. Nathan Fillion was a space-cowboy, Gina Torres was his trusty side-kick, there were horses and spacecrafts and they all spoke Chinese... What can be cooler than that, right? However, Firefly lived for only 11 episodes and an unsatisfying movie. The show was not perfect, but it was so original and wacky that it was great to watch. It is my favorite Joss Whedon show of all times. It has been 10 years since it went off the air and it is incredible how active the fan community still is. You can catch references to the show everywhere and I have the theory that at least half of Castle’s viewers watch it to see ‘Captain Mal’. Fans hated and attacked FOX for making, what was probably, the dumbest cancellation of all times. It is possible that FOX’s fear of making the same mistake is part of the reason they kept Fringe around for so many years.

Legacy: Firefly fans are so active! Everywhere I look, Firefly is winning an online poll for ‘show to bring back’, ‘best sci-fi’, ‘best cult-hit’, etc. and I catch references to it everywhere from The Big Bang Theory and Community to Chuck and especially Castle. The cast members: Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin, Summer Glau and Gina Torres will be geek royalty forever. I think they should eventually make another Firefly movie. The fact that, after so many years, the show still has so many passionate fans that generate so much buzz is remarkable. 
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The TV Empress is a Media Management graduate, screenwriter in the making (and financial engineer in the meantime). She has serious plans to take over global television. You can follow the TVEmpress on twitter @TVRepublik

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  1. for me it is always The X files which is d best ever show ever .. no show can bit them .. all time classic


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