Who doesn’t love a post-apocalyptic story right? Human kind struggling to survive after finally depleting our poor planet from all its resources due to excessive greed and/or World War III. This genre has had tremendous success in the movies.  Every summer there are at least 5 different blockbusters about a post-apocalyptic Earth; however, TV shows [which are usually more about the story, less about the special effects] have had less luck on this area. There are a few examples of post-apocalyptic shows that became hits, like the wonderfully written Battlestar Galactica and more recently Revolution [which is already showing some signs of ratings decay]; but most often than not… post apocalyptic TV shows meet their end too soon. 

TERRA NOVA  - The budget was extinguished too soon

Premise: The survivors of a post-apocalyptic Earth travel back to prehistoric times where they build a colony in a land populated by dinosaurs.
Survived for:  1 season (13 Episodes)

Terra Nova was the BIG show that couldn’t. It was meant to be a huge hit and it fell short. This show had time-travel, it had rebels, it had dinosaurs… It was supposed to be awesome, right? Well… it was OK [with a LOT of potential], in my opinion. So what went wrong? Where so many shows are under-marketed [*cough cough* CW], I think this show might have suffered from excessive hype. It was announced that Stephen Spielberg was producing a TV show about dinosaurs and that Stephen Lang, fresh out of Avatar, was on it. Then…. Nothing. Instead of premiering it midseason, they postponed it until the fall. The delay was attributed to a complicated post-production and there was a lot of talk about the budget. That was the big problem; it was an EXPENSIVE EXPENSIVE show, which failed to become the larger than life hit it needed to be. It didn’t become my TV obsession but I actually liked it. A lot of people liked it, however for the amount of money they were spending they didn’t need “a lot of people”, they needed an INSANE AMOUNT OF PEOPLE. It’s sad, because I think with a couple of changes here and there [focusing on the sixers instead of the Shannon family e.g.] the show could have been awesome. Too bad they spent all their money too soon.

JERICHO – Cancelling it was [Pea]Nuts!

Premise: The inhabitants of a small town in Kansas struggle to survive after a series of nuclear attacks on major cities of the US
Survived for: 2 Seasons (29 episodes)

I am cautious when I talk about this show because I liked it, but I thought it could have been so much better. Jericho had one of the most interesting premises and it had all the ingredients for an incredible post-apocalyptic show. However, it had the misfortune of being a CBS show and we all know CBS cancels shows with ratings other networks would kill for. In addition, CBS is the network of “case of the week” procedurals, so it wasn’t really the best home for a sci-fi/disaster show. As I said, I always thought there was something missing with Jericho, but it had such a cool premise and room for developing the characters and a rich mythology. I may not be Jericho’s number 1 fan, but the show sure had a very passionate following. They had some of the coolest “save the show” campaigns, including the one where they sent peanuts to CBS. That level of commitment is a sign that this show was a cult-hit and it was sad to see them cancel it after only 2 seasons [or season and a half].

TERMINATOR THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES – Judgment Day came ahead of schedule

Premise: Sarah Connor struggles to stay under the radar and protect his son John who is destined to become the leader of mankind once the machines rise against humanity.
Survived for: 2 Seasons (31 episodes)

Technically this show doesn’t take place in a post-apocalyptic world, but the characters know “Judgment Day is coming” so you might say it is a pre-apocalyptic show about an announce apocalypse. And the fact is that I love Terminator. I love the original movie with the horrible special effects, I think the second movie is one of the greatest action movies ever and I even enjoyed the third installment. I also watched the one with Christian Bale and thought it was pretty enjoyable. When I heard about the TV show I thought it was an awful idea, different Terminator, different Sarah Connor… what’s the point? I watched two episodes and changed my mind completely. The show was action packed [as much as you can on a TV budget], it had interesting storylines and everyone was perfectly cast. Summer Glau was incredible at playing a Terminator, Thomas Dekker made a convincing John Connor and Lena Headey had a weird quality by which she channeled Linda Hammilton but made the role of Sarah Connor her own at the same time. I loved the addition of Brian Austin Green and the development of the mythology. It was one of those weird cases where fans of the original movie liked the TV adaptation. The show was the perfect way of filling in the gaps between the second and third movie. It was cancelled way too soon and FOX could have used a cult-hit at that point.

DARK ANGEL – Turns out the X-Series expired after only two years

Premise: A genetically engineered super-soldier tries to fly under the radar, hiding from the organization that created her.
Survived for: 2 seasons (41 episodes)

Second only to Terminator, Dark Angel might be my favorite post-apocalyptic show of all times. Coincidentally, it was also created and produced by James Cameron. In the Dark Angel universe, it is not a nuclear war that puts humanity in danger. The threat that shatters the world was much simpler: an “electromagnetic pulse” which stopped all computer systems and turned the US into a third world country overnight. That premise alone had lots of potential, but they went even further with the cool factor and added a story about a secret military project to breed super-soldiers who escaped at age 9 and lived in hiding for over a decade. Dark Angel is one of my favorite shows of all times, mainly due to the wonderful first season. The show went on a very different direction during season 2, I wasn’t very pleased with their creative choices and apparently I was not the only one because the ratings started to drop. However, I think they cancelled it too soon. They could have easily gone back to what made the show great and I was more than willing to follow. It could have been one of the greatest sci-fi shows of all times; instead it is remembered as Jessica Alba’s breakout role and what Michael Weatherly used to do before NCIS.

FIREFLY - The assassination of the awesome cult-hit by the coward network 

Premise: A western in space
Survived for: 1 Season (14 episodes)

This was one cool, bizarre, quirky show. The concept of a “western in space” was something many dreamed about and Whedon finally masterfully created. I think it is safe to conclude that the prize for the DUMBEST CANCELLATION OF ALL TIMES goes to: Firefly. Even with only 14 episodes produced, this show is one of the most talked about sci-fi shows ever. Probably a classic at this point. The cast members still identify themselves as the characters they played and the online community is still as active as if the show was on the air. With so much fan devotion after such a short run which ended 10 years ago, can you imagine the type of phenomenon it could have become if they didn’t stupidly cancel it? Fox should still cry over the missed earnings. Also, have you noticed most shows on this list are fox shows? There seems to be a pattern of dumb cancellations. Perhaps they finally learned their lesson and that is the reason they let Fringe go on for so long [not complaining].

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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. loved this show TERMINATOR THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES, Missing, Last Resort great shows left untold

    1. Yes, I liked Last Resort as well, but it wasn't really "post apocalyptic"... but it may be on another "dumb cancellations" list ;)

  2. what about V ? it's a good show too

    1. Yes V was a good show, but I saw it more as an "invasion" show rather than post-apocalyptic... I guess it could also fit though... and yes, I do believe V was cancelled too soon... had a great cast and a lot of potential

  3. 'Moonlight' with Alex O Loughlin is another short lived series that was cancelled too soon. LOVED 'Firefly'. Also love the references to the show on Castle. Even Nathan Fillion agrees with you.

    1. Loved Moonlight! I was devastated when they cancelled it after only one season... it was a matter of timing (the writers' strike) + CBS wanting 10 new cop shows... too bad.

  4. There was a rumour that Terra Nova was to be continued as a movie - that was just after it was cancelled and the Australian Big Picture fund people were sniffing about - what I couldnt find was whether the tv cast would be continuing - especially Jay Ryan - guess it never got off the ground - I liked their dinosaurs better than the ones on Primeval

    Moonlight was another good one - although I like him in H5O better. I watched several episodes not long ago and regretted it greatly - WHY - the number of lines and tropes that are now in Beauty and the Beast just was too much - even the "save each other" line just didnt sound right when said by anyone other than Catherine

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