Any true TV fan has a list of series that were canceled far too soon, ready to recite at the mere mention of "Arrested Development"'s rabid fan base. And if you’re science fiction fan, then your list if probably twice as long. They may not all be able to get a second life, but at least with Netflix we can relive what made these shows so great and remind ourselves of all the unfinished plotlines that left us so incredibly frustrated. Whether they were too smart for their own good or were just severely misunderstood by their networks, these nine series are all worth a watch.
With the recent news of Comedy Central’s decision to pull the plug on this Matt Groening underdog, it seems only fair to start our list off with "Futurama." If you don’t already know, the animated series follows the adventures of Fry, a pizza delivery guy who accidentally gets himself cryogenically frozen only to wake up in the 31st century. Hilarity ensues. Constantly compared to its much more popular sibling series, "The Simpsons," it seemed like "Futurama" was never given its due. Even it’s second life on Comedy Central, which was nowhere as brilliant as the first five seasons, was still better than most live action sci-fi series. It seems wrong saying "Futurama" was canceled too soon (both times) but compared with The Simpsons’ 24 seasons (see, you just have to!) you can’t help but wonder what might have been.
This 2001 live action version of the popular cartoon and comic book never really stood a chance. It’s beyond campy and a little unnerving to watch at first with its 2D sets, cheap costumes, dramatic voice overs, and odd camera angles. But once you acclimate yourself to "The Tick"’s strange (yet, hilarious) environment you’ll quickly fall in love. It’s the original "Kick Ass" with Patrick Warburton’s delicious voice and impeccably oblivious demeanor thrown in for good measure. There are only nine episodes so take your time with this cult classic.
One of Joss Whedon’s more polarizing series, there’s no doubt that "Dollhouse" had a slow start. But once you power through the first few episodes, Whedon quickly proves why he is the master of TV science fiction by perfectly melding evil corporations, brainwashed yet kick ass women, a dystopian future plus some of the most ridiculous outfits ever. Oh, the spandex! Extra bonus, Netflix has the unaired thirteenth episode of Season 1, possibly the best episode of this misunderstood series.
We only need two words to explain why you should watch this other canceled-far-too-soon Joss Whedon series: space western. It’s cowboys in space, you guys! With Firefly, Whedon created an unforgettable world that didn’t get nearly enough time to shine before Fox pulled the plug. And do we even need to mention Nathan Fillion’s smile? Because we will. Combine it with Whedon’s classic one-liners, beautifully choreographed fighting scenes, and absolutely terrifying (and mystifying) evil creatures and you have another must watch sci fi series. And don’t miss "Serenity," also on Netflix Instant, for a much needed conclusion to the show.
Not canceled once but twice, "Sliders" may not be the most brilliantly written of the bunch but where it lacks in smarts it makes up in pure fun. Sliding (see what they did there) into a different universe every week is what made this show so watchable - you never knew where you’d end up. Maybe there’ll be dinosaurs. We’d bet on at least one interdimensional double. Once there was even a world run by women (impossible!). The show’s real shortcoming was the shifting cast issues in the later seasons (after its first cancellation), so if you want to experience the best of "Sliders," skip the last two seasons completely.
"Invasion" was doomed from the start. The series, which tells the story of an alien invasion arriving under the cover of a devastating hurricane, had the unfortunate luck of premiering barely a month after Katrina hit. ABC quickly pulled most of the series’ ads destroying any hope of a successful premiere. With that said it was still one of the more well-developed, high concept sci-fi series of the 2000’s and is definitely worth a watch despite its cliffhanger finale.
We all know the story of "Jericho" by now - Series is cancelled. Fans revolt, send nuts. Series is brought back. Series is canceled again. Jericho follows a small Kansas town left to fend for themselves after a nuclear attack takes out most major U.S. cities. While the plot line itself may not be anything new the show was well written, the characters were compelling, and in a sea of vampires and werewolves it was nice to get a good old fashioned post apocalyptic storyline. And also, there was Skeet Ulrich.
Another doubly canceled series, Roswell’s one problem while on air was finding the sweet spot between being a sci-fi series and teen drama. But unlike its fellow CW-er Buffy, it never quite found its way. Sure there were hidden spaceships, alien hybrids, and even a couple of shapeshifters but deep down it was clear this show just wanted to be about pretty young people falling in love. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!
"Surface" seemed to have it all - government conspiracies, alien lizards, clones, and even a tsunami that covers the world in water - but somehow that wasn’t enough to save it. NBC only gave this series 15 episodes before cancelling it on what is possibly one of the most frustrating cliffhangers of all time. It’s hard to recommend this series because of the severe lack of payoff, but if you’re looking for a show that stays true to its science fiction roots, this fits the bill.