Cancelled!

My pet hate with television in general (but American TV in particular) is investing time in something only to have the show cancelled before it naturally ends.  If you are really lucky, it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger.  If it does you are screwed – the penny pinchers at the Networks don’t five a fuck if the thing you have fallen in love with is gone.

It all started when I was rather young.  I was twelve when the unthinkable happened.  I had no idea that TV shows had to achieve certain things to continue to justify an existence, as far as I knew everyone watched and loved everything.  It didn’t cross my mind that someone could just pull the rug out from under me in a cruel and callous way.  But that is exactly what Michael Grade, then controller of BBC1, did.

A complete bastard.

It was 1985.  I was in London with my parents.  We were going to see a stage play (I don’t recall what it was, but there was a spate of God Awful stuff starring pop stars of the time – it was possibly Mutiny On The Bounty starring David Essex or Time starring Cliff Richard) when my Mum just happened to mention that the BBC weren’t making the third and final series of The Tripods, which I utterly loved.  I genuinely felt betrayed by the BBC – at the end of the second series there had been a massive “to be continued” style ending, and they even interviewed a couple of the actors on Blue Peter (a popular kids magazine show which has been running since the 1960s), and made a point of telling the viewers not to worry, although all seemed bleak for our heroes, it would have a happy ending in the final series next year.  Auntie Beeb had lied to me.  The story now ended with the good guys returning home to find that their base of operations against the aliens in the White Mountains had been destroyed.  Had it all been for nothing?  Apparently yes.

So 1985 was already shaping up to be pretty bad when my Mum gave me some other news – on the same day out in London.  The Tripods may have been removed from my life, but at least I still had my favourite show, Doctor Who.  Except that I didn’t.  Because Michael Grade had decided that it was performing badly and needed an overhaul.  Which involved an eighteen month break from the air whilst it was revamped.  I have to say that it felt personal.  There were only two shows that I would go out of my way not to miss, and Michael Grade had taken them both from me.  The following year he fired Colin Baker from playing the Doctor.  If I saw him on the street even now I would not be able to resist yelling “wanker” at him.

So that was my first taste of the pain of cancellation.  It is actually for it to be a British show, because as I was to learn as I got older, this was more normal for American shows.

My next bad experience was six years later.  I got into the US show Twin Peaks.  The first season was (and still is) a masterpiece of characterisation and drama, and the second season started well.  In fact it stayed brilliant until the story revealed who had killed Laura Palmer, the selling point of the show.  And then you could see the stories falling off the rails – it just didn’t know where it was going.  Consequently it shed viewers – by the end of the second season it had regained it’s mojo, and it ended with a superb multi layered cliffhanger never to come back.  We still don’t know what Killer Bob did with Agent Cooper’s body.

I loved Millennium.  A creepy show that, in hindsight, was never that popular as it had to reinvent itself every year, but I loved it.  It was all building to a big story set at the turn of the century… only it got cancelled in 1999.

And it keeps happening.  Firefly, The Sarah Connor Chronicles.  When I was younger I enjoyed American shows like Earth 2 and Space Above And Beyond, both of which finished clearly expecting to be back the following year.

Firefly… gone but not forgotten

So I don’t watch so much US TV now.  Or at least not when it is aired.  I have become a DVD boxed set watcher – and I only watch shows that I know end properly.  I am currently watching Fringe (which itself was cancelled at the end of its fourth season only to get a reprieve in the form of a truncated fifth season).  Next up I will be watching Lost – another show that almost didn’t make it to conclusion (it was almost killed off at the end of season three).  I am sure that there is some great stuff out there at the moment (Joss Whedon’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. looks promising) but I cannot and will not risk getting emotionally involved in those characters only to have them taken away from me prematurely.  The Tripods was the first time that I understood that the world was cruel and the people holding the purse strings don’t give a damn about the viewers.

It has changed the way I watch TV, meaning that I no longer contribute to ratings.  Which is a shame.  But on the other hand, only having to wait long enough to change the disc to see how the cliffhanger plays out has it’s advantages.  Or am I missing out there too?

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Posted on November 2, 2013, in colin baker, doctor who, earth 2, firefly, fringe, lost, michael grade, millennium, space above and beyond. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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