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How Genre Series Hit There "Peak"...
And Ended Up In The Television Graveyard.
From The 11th Hour website.
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They came, we saw, they were canceled. So goes the story of nearly every great genre series to appear since 1990's (prematurely canned) Twin Peaks kicked off the trend. While a few managed to survive the network axe (namely, X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and for reasons unknown to us, Profiler), the majority were at best banished to eternal syndication on FX or The Sci-Fi Channel, leaving a multitude of never-to-be answered questions in their wake. What happened to Agent Cooper in the Black Lodge? Was Sheriff Buck truly the devil? Just how dead is Lt. Paul Wang? Is the cancellation of a series starring Bruce Campbell grounds for justifiable homicide?
Alas, we will never know. (Well, OK, except for maybe that last one.) But what we at 11th Hour can do, and are said to do rather well, is bitch, moan, complain and reminisce about our beloved shows and the Squirrel Bastards who obliterated them. Below we've included the highlights of 1990s' genre casualties. To qualify, the series must have aired for less than two years before network slaughter (sorry, Millennium), have premiered in prime time (apologies, The Crow: Stairway to Heaven) and must not have deserved said cancellation (good riddance, Dark Skies). Happy reading, and God bless the Sci-Fi Channel.
Name: Twin Peaks
Run: April 1990- June 1991
Creators: David Lynch and Mark Frost
Coolness Rating: Ultra
Influences: Film noir, David Lynch's freaky brain
Influenced: Every genre show since. (And that means XF too, Chris Carter!)
Basic Premise: The investigation of a young girl's death leads to more psychological twists and metaphysical turns than the Dali Lama on Disneyland's Space Mountain. The ensuing mystery even managed moments that scared the beejezus out of some viewers. (Okay, so maybe just me and my college roommate.)
Main Character(s): FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper played by hottie and Lynch Project Alumnus Kyle MacLachlan
Memorable Characters: The deceased Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), The Log Lady (Catherine E. Coulson), FBI Forensics Specialist Albert Rosenfelt (Miguel Ferrer), Sheriff Harry S. Truman (Michael Ontkean), FBI Regional Chief Gordon Cole (David Lynch himself!)
Strong Chick Factor: Not any that I can remember. Then again, the goofiest characters were male so... there you go.
Reason Canceled: Moody, brooding, and magnificent in its first season, TP lost steam and cohesiveness (not to mention coherency and Nielsen points) in its sophomore year.
Name: Eerie, Indiana
Creators: Jose Rivera and Karl Schaefer
Coolness Rating: Beyond
Influences: Twin Peaks, classic sci-fi and monster movies
Influenced: Possibly The X-Files; also spawned a lame follow-up series in 1998 (Eerie, Indiana: The Other Dimension)
Basic Premise: 13-year-old Marshall Teller moves to Eerie, Indiana and finds himself surrounded by paranormal phenomenon. Smart, satiric writing belied show's "Twin Peaks Jr." reputation.
Main Characters: Marshall Teller (Omri Katz), Simon Holmes (Justin Shenkarow).
Memorable Characters: "The kid with the gray hair" Dash-X (Jason Marsden), Mr. Radford (John Astin), and Elvis Presley.
Strong Chick Factor: The classic "Reality Takes a Holiday" brilliantly debunked female television stereotypes.
Reason for Cancellation: Faced with a show considered too subversive for kids and too childish for adults, NBC was at a loss on how to market the series. Someone should have told them that putting it up against 60 Minutes wasn't the best solution.
Name: The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.
Creators: Jeffery Boam and Carlton Cuse
Coolness Rating: Kick-ass
Influences: Obviously, old westerns and dime novels; the actual character of Brisco is very much a homage to Brett Maverick of the original Maverick. There's also references and inside jokes for everything from Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman to Silence of the Lambs.
Influenced: Not much at all, actually. It wasn't given much of a chance for influencing.
Basic Premise: Bounty hunter Brisco County Jr. divides his time between trying to avenge his father's death, catching various criminals, and searching for "the coming thing". Most of his adventures are engaging and chock-full of quality comedy, especially when you consider that his true companion is a sort-of-talking wonder-horse named Comet. The show even featured all sorts of weird storylines like time-travel and mystical objects and UFOs and ninjas, but usually managed to do it in an entertaining way.
Main Character(s): Bruce Campbell as Brisco, Julius Carrey as Lord Bowler, and Comet the horse as his own intelligent self.
Memorable Characters: Brisco worked for "The Westerfield Club", and Socrates Poole (Christian Clemenson) was his contact there, who gave him his new assignments and sometimes blundered about (in a lovable way) in Brisco's adventures. Billy Drago played John Bly, the criminal mastermind and killer of Brisco Sr., and the Swill Brothers (Will, Bill, and Phil) provided some great comedy.
Strong Chick Factor: Brisco featured a number of strong female roles, though they were mostly guest-starring. The most frequent was Brisco's sometimes-love-interest, Dixie Cousins (Kelly Rutherford), but Brisco also featured women in all kinds of roles, from bounty hunters to time-travelers to barmaids. One episode even featured a town called "No Man's Land"... where there were literally no men.
Reason Canceled: One noted critic said that if Brisco didn't make Bruce Campbell a huge star, he'd eat his desk. Bet he's still pulling the splinters out of his mouth. Unfortunately Brisco just didn't have the viewership: it aired in the timeslot Friday nights before The X-Files, which is a well known graveyard (second only to the Sundays at 7pm slot), then it was moved around some, and finally it ranked 111th out of 121 shows in the ratings. In a TV Guide Save Our Shows spot, creator Carlton Cuse joked, "We're on a first name basis with all our viewers." Does that mean we can call you Jeff and Carl?
Creators: Carol Flint, Mark Levin, Michael Duggan, and Billy Ray
Coolness Rating: Kick-ass
Influences: Old Westerns of the epic-journey variety, space colony stories.
Influenced: Ummm... Noxema commercials?
Basic Premise: Humanity has moved to space stations and left Earth in ruin. Ulysses Adair, son of rich station architect Devon Adair, has contracted a mysterious ailment known only as "The Syndrome". In an effort to save her son, Adair leads a colony expedition to Planet G889. Sabotage causes the advance ship to crash, leaving both colonists and crew to trek across a continent to their final destination of New Pacifica. They also discover that contrary to previous reports, they are not alone on G889; it's also populated by a variety of intelligent natives, and penal colonists from Earth.
Main Character(s): Devon Adair (Debrah Farentino), Ulysses Adair (Joey Zimmerman), John Danziger (Clancy Brown).
Memorable Characters: Antonio Sabato Jr. played pilot Alonzo Solace; Jessica Steen was Dr. Julie Heller; John Gegenhuber was bureaucrat Morgan Martin; Rebecca Gayheart played Morgan's wife, Bess Martin; J. Madison Wright was Danziger's daughter True; and Sullivan Walker played cyborg tutor Yale.
Strong Chick Factor: Earth2 had some really remarkable female roles; Devon Adair is a strong-willed woman used to always getting what she wants, but as played by Debrah Farentino, she's also a mother and human being with real depth. The group's doctor, Julie Heller, was also played with extreme skill by Jessica Steen; the episodes where Heller is found to be a Council spy are some of the most gut-wrenching.
Reason Canceled: The show followed Sunday-night football on NBC and was therefore preempted more often than it was aired on time. Then Universal decided that since they were getting the post-football crowd, they may as well go for the gusto; the creative staff was fired after the first season and new people were hired, who reshaped the show into something that it never was intended to resemble. Their demo for a second season was so horrid that NBC wouldn't renew their contract, and when the show was shopped over to UPN, they wouldn't take it either. It sounds quite backwards, but in these circumstances, Earth2's ultimate demise was probably a good thing.
Name: Space: Above and Beyond
Creators: Glen Morgan & James Wong
Coolness Rating: Ultra
Influences: WWII movies, Westerns, real life stories of the WWII Pacific Theater, the classic sci fi novel The Forever War
Influenced: Me to loathe the very name of the Fox Network, Starship Troopers (movie version), Wing Commander (movie version)
Basic Premise: A diverse group of young Marine aviators in the year 2063 get caught in the middle of the first intergalactic war and learn that the only thing that matters (as Colonel McQueen says in the pilot) is life: their own and those of their friends.
Main Character(s): First Lieutenant Nathan West played by hottie Morgan Weisser, Captain Shane Vansen played by the simply stunning Kristen Cloke and First Lieutenant Cooper Hawkes played by hottie (and one of The 11th Hour's Hottest Guys in Horror and Sci Fi) Rodney Rowland
Memorable Characters: Lt. Colonel Tyrus Cassius McQueen (James Morrison), First Lieutenant Vanessa Damphousse (Lanei Chapman), First Lieutenant Paul Wang (Joel De La Fuente), Commodore Glen Van Ross (Tucker Smallwood), and First Lieutenant Kelly Anne Winslow (Tasia Valenza)
Strong Chick Factor: Vansen, Damphousse, and Winslow kicked ass with the best of them. From the pilot right up to the bitter end, women were not only featured prominently in positions of responsibility and power, but also drawn as fully three-dimensional characters with both strengths and weaknesses.
Reason Canceled: Lodged in a horrible time slot, handed pre-emption after pre-emption, and occasionally delayed up to 40 minutes because of football, S:AAB did not receive ratings up to Fox's standards -- and yet they wondered why. The series went on to air only three repeats in the summer. Put simply, Fox is run by squirrel bastards.
Name: American Gothic
Creator: Shaun Cassidy
Coolness Rating: Ultra
Influences: Twin Peaks, southern Gothic literature
Influenced: The Millennium episode "Thirteen Years Later"... and more fan fiction than you'll believe.
Basic Premise: The small town of Trinity, South Carolina is home to scandal, murder and paranormal visitations -- in no small part due to Lucas Buck, the town sheriff who may just be Satan himself.
Main characters: Gary Cole as Sheriff Buck, Brenda Bakke as schoolmistress-turned-slut Selena Coombs, and Jake Weber as the good Dr. Matt Crower were among the show's talented cast. However, the series is best known for featuring Lucas Black's breakout role as Caleb Temple.
Memorable characters: Where there is Raimi, there is Campbell: executive producer Sam brought always-welcome Bruce on for a notable guest appearance.
Strong chick factor: Brenda Bakke's ambiguous performance as Selena stands among genre TV's gutsiest moments; Sarah Paulson as Caleb's deceased sister and Paige Turco as reporter Gil Emory were also series standouts. Unlike certain other genre series, American Gothic presented women as people-virtues, faults and all.
Reason canceled: CBS got things off to a rousing start by airing the episodes completely out of order, and omitting some (like the excellent "Potato Boy") altogether. The Friday night time slot was instant death in the face of X-Files rip-off competition. To end things as incompetently as they were begun, CBS aired the series' final episodes in the middle of July.
Name: Strange Luck
Creator: Karl Schaefer
Coolness Rating: Trippy
Influences: Maybe a touch of Quantum Leap
Influenced: There are some Strange Luck shadings in CBS' Early Edition.
Basic Premise: After being the lone survivor of a plane crash as a child, Chance Harper, a photojournalist by trade, leads a life both imperiled and animated by a series of coincidences which he attributes to his Strange Luck.
Main Character(s): Chance Harper, as played by one of the stars of the upcoming Harsh Realm, DB Sweeney
Memorable Characters: Audrey Weston (Pamela Gidley), Dr. Richter (Cynthia Martells), Angie (Frances Fisher)
Strong Chick Factor: Yeah, Chance's boss was a woman, but what really stands out is the episode where Chance's luck rubs off on Angie the waitress. While he hangs around to help her get used to the process, Angie proves that she's more than up to the challenge.
Reason Canceled: After giving the series the 8:00 PM Friday night Slot O' Death, once again the brilliant execs over at Fox couldn't understand the lousy ratings. As I said, Fox is run by squirrel bastards.
Run: 1997 (2 eps)
Creator: David S. Goyer and Stephen Kronish
Coolness Rating: Trippy
Influences: 1984 Dennis Quaid movie Dreamscape
Influenced: Nothing. How could it, given that NBC ran a whopping two episodes?
Basic Premise: A brilliant, but haunted neurophysiologist runs an experimental sleep clinic where he and his staff can actually enter into another person's disturbing nightmares.
Main Character(s): Dr. Nathan Bradford played by Nowhere Man's Bruce Greenwood
Memorable Characters: Kate Russell the interpreter/psychologist (Naomi Watts), Ben Costigan the former patient, new staff member (Jeffrey D. Sams), Vince Konefke the charming computer specialist (Abraham Benrubi)
Strong Chick Factor: Mostly this is Bruce Greenwood's show, but at least the character of Kate Russell stands up to him. Who knows? Maybe if we'd been allowed to see more of the show she would have been stronger.
Reason Canceled: The network delayed the premiere until November -- and then complained that a rival genre show which premiered in September beat Sleepwalkers in the ratings. I'm beginning to think that the squirrel bastards at Fox and ABC are related to the ones at NBC.
Name: Strange World
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Run: 1999 (3 eps)
Creator: Howard Gordon
Coolness Rating: Had the makings of Ultra
Influences: Twin Peaks, conspiracy theory, film noir
Influenced: Hopefully the 1013 Production Company team so that The X-Files can be good again, but I'm not holding my breath.
Basic Premise: A dying, former Army scientist infected by a chemical weapon in the Gulf War is given a shot of magic smack that keeps his symptoms from re-occurring, thereby saving his life for a brief period of time. However, his saviors, who present him with more magic smack at odd intervals, are a shadowy group who use his dependency on the drug to force him back into a consulting position with the USAMRIID (US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases) allowing him to investigate criminal abuses of science.
Main Character(s): Dr. Paul Turner played by Tim Guinee
Memorable Characters: Major Lynne Reese (Saundra Quarterman), Dr. Sydney MacMillan (Kristin Lehman), Japanese Woman (Vivian Wu).
Strong Chick Factor: U.S. Army Major Lynne Reese is Paul's boss. Doctor Sydney MacMillan is his girlfriend. The Japanese Woman dispenses both the magic smack and his instructions. Oh yeah. I think they have the strong chick factor covered.
Reason Canceled: ABC pissed off the NYPD Blue fans, who probably aren't the biggest genre fans to begin with, by pre-empting the popular show. Little wonder the normally high Nielsens for that hour sunk to the basement. Then, after only the first episode, ABC announced that if the ratings didn't improve, they were going to cancel it. Who wants to watch a show already on it's last legs? Well, we did.