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What Canceled TV Shows Most Deserve a Better Ending? — IndieWire Critics Survey

Sometimes cancellations happen to good TV. These shows are the most deserving of an extension or a revival.


Dino De Laurentiis Company/REX/Shutterstock


Every week, IndieWire asks a select handful of TV critics two questions and publishes the results on Tuesday. (The answer to the second, “What is the best show currently on TV?” can be found at the end of this post.)

This week’s question: If you could give one canceled show one extra season (if only to wrap things up in a better way), which would it be?

Daniel Fienberg (@TheFienPrint), The Hollywood Reporter

It wasn’t that we were watching “Hannibal” just to see Bryan Fuller and company get to the events of “Silence of the Lambs,” but that was sure a fun thing looming on the horizon. The “Manhunter”/”Red Dragon” arc was probably the show’s most conventional, but it was all the more intriguing for that odd disconnect, of a frequently told story going through the mind of one of TV’s most original storytellers and the opportunity to play off of Jonathan Demme would have been almost impossibly delicious. How would Fuller and company have unentangled from the cliffhanger at the end of the third season? Who would have played Clarice? Would they have found a way to work Hugh Dancy’s Will Graham back into the story? So many questions. It should be added that I’d also like another season of “Wonderfalls,” which left me really unsettled on the “Is she crazy or is she some sort of weird prophet?” issue and probably another season of “Pushing Daisies,” just because. So really, although my actual answer is an entirely not-cheating, “Hannibal,” I could just as easily answer that I kinda would have liked for all of Bryan Fuller’s shows to get just one season more.

Sonia Saraiya (@soniasaraiya), Variety

“The Hour” — this BBC show from showrunner Abi Morgan might be a soapy pick, but I have spent more time agonizing over the cliffhanger that serves as the series finale than pretty much any other series finale of the past few decades. Morgan didn’t know whether or not the series was going to get picked up for a third when she wrote the Season 2 finale, but rather than tie things off she opted for a crazily upsetting ending, a plot twist significantly darker than anything the show had tried before. As a rapturous fan, I wonder if Season 3 would have capitalized on that brilliance or if it would have proven unable to sustain the fever pitch. “The Hour’s” cast was so talented all the way down the bench that they alone would have been worth another installment.

Titus Welliver and Ian McShane, "Deadwood"

Titus Welliver and Ian McShane, “Deadwood


Allison Keene (@KeeneTV), Collider

I have so many shows in my list of “just one more season!” it’s hard to choose (“The Grinder,” “Pushing Daisies,” “Hannibal,” “Don’t Trust the B in Apt 23,” “Party Down,” the beleaguered “Luck”), but I’m going to have to go with “Deadwood.” I binge-watched its three seasons around 2008 and was horrified at where it left off, desperate for more resolution. “Tell Me Something Pretty” was an abrupt end, and while in some thematic ways it was fitting, as a devoted viewer it was also endlessly frustrating. Seeing everyone in the town crushed by the political weight, arrogant sneer, and economic power of George Hearst was a bitterly depressing way to conclude what had been such a rich and layered story.

Though talk of another season, a movie, or just about anything related to “Deadwood” continues to swirl, I proceed with extreme caution. The last few years have seen the revival of many series of yore, and most would have been better left as they were. “Twin Peaks” could break that mold in May, but maybe wanting the thing is better than actually getting it. Still, with “Deadwood,” it has always felt like finding a way to return to that dusty town would be the right move.

Alan Sepinwall (@sepinwall), HitFix

I’m generally opposed to this new wave of Zombie Television. It’s okay if a show dies and stays dead. Really, it is! TV shows are a product of when they were made in the lives of both the people making them and the audience watching them, and it so rarely works out when we all get back together years later. Even the shows that were taken from us before their time were up are usually better off leaving us wanting more. (Even “Deadwood,” which I long held up as my Holy Grail of Uncancellation, has been gone for so long that I worry a reunion season would feel off.)

And having said that, if Netflix were to fund a second season of “Terriers,” I would be parked on my couch counting the seconds until I heard Rob Duncan’s surf guitar theme and got to enjoy the banter of Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James as buddy private eyes Hank and Britt. The premise of the short-lived FX detective drama was so low-fi, and its pleasures so simple (the overwhelming chemistry of the leads, the crackling dialogue from Ted Griffin, Shawn Ryan, and others) that I think it would be much easier to come back to life than something with as many moving pieces as, say, “Twin Peaks.” I don’t necessarily need more “Terriers” — the cliffhanger at the end of the first season finale also works as a philosophical summation of the entire series — but I’d gladly take some if offered.

Liz Shannon Miller (@lizlet), IndieWire

Not that it was a perfect show — in truth, “Almost Human” took way too long to figure out what were its most compelling elements. But I would give an awful lot to have seen the Fox sci-fi series evolve into what it was truly meant to be: A romantic comedy about Karl Urban’s brash human cop learning to love his hot robot partner Michael Ealy. America just wasn’t ready for this, I guess. Alas.

Damian Holbrook (@damianholbrook), TV Guide Magazine

“The Exorcist.” I know it hasn’t been officially canceled yet, but it’s not looking good and the show was so well done and scary, it deserves more time. The first season was a stellar continuation of the original film and left us with the promise of a full-on demonic outbreak led by the now grown and re-possessed Regan (played with juicy malevolence by Geena Davis). The tone of dread, the imagery and the overall impact of Season 1 — what if people who are demonically afflicted walk among us? — combined to make a truly fun, frightening Friday night viewing option that didn’t seem to be running out of potential story anytime soon. Plus, Davis and the rest of the cast are top-notch.



Fox Home Entertainment

Melanie McFarland (@McTelevision), Salon

I want to say “Firefly” because it’s the classic nerd answer, not to mention a reliable way to rile up fans who still curse Fox for its mishandling and demise. But my final answer is “Wonderfalls,” a wry little series that gave us an early glimpse at Bryan Fuller’s imaginative visual style and wicked sense of humor. It lasted for 13 episodes, four of which aired on Fox. The show’s unintentional finale is heartbreaking. Like all affectionate relationships that end abruptly, the fact that I never got any true closure haunts me to this day.

April Neale (@aprilmac), Monsters & Critics

Hard one! I have a top three if time limits do not apply: “Freaks and Geeks,” “Rome” (Titus Pullo fans, you feeling me?) and “The Knick” — the latter being the most recent.

Cinemax’s “The Knick” had so many excellent sub-stories around the main character played by Clive Owen as Dr. Thackery. Director Steven Soderbergh had indicated in some past interviews that he envisioned this series to proceed in two-year increments with new filmmakers interpreting the story.

For me, “The Knick” TV series is ripe for picking up the threads of the various characters outside of Owens’ deceased (we assume) Thack, especially Andre Holland’s Dr. Algernon Edwards’ path in his career.

Also too, the superb Irish-American duo of Chris Sullivan (Cleary) and Sister Harriet (Cara Seymour) who clung together for survival’s sake and forged an unlikely deep emotional bond. They were fantastic in scene and one of my favorite things about this series. The entire secondary cast was superb.

The fictional hospital The Knick is loosely based on the actual New York City’s Knickerbocker Hospital, a real-life medical facility that operated from 1862 to 1979, a very historically rich period of time.

That interesting time frame would be an excellent source of story for the right talent to mine with the existing and new cast to further the vision both Soderbergh and showrunners Jack Amiel and Michael Begler had. Amiel and Begler deserve to flesh out more of that intensely watchable small-screen series.

Joyce Eng (@joyceeng61), TVGuide.com

“Happy Endings” — Not to wrap things up but to go on forever. Sometimes I’m happy (no pun intended) that it was prematurely canceled so it will never wear out its welcome, but this is usually like 4 percent of the time. The other 96, I daydream about all the mile-a-minute zingers, non-sequiturs and pop-culture references we’ve been deprived of the past four years. And Dave’s V-necks. Always Dave’s V-necks. “Happy Endings” was weird, hilarious, frenetic, compulsively GIF-able, and we deserve more than a “lost episode.” If you don’t feel the same way, you can shut your whore mouth.

"Happy Endings"

“Happy Endings”

Eric Deggans (@deggans), NPR

These may be fighting words to many, but I’d like to see “The Sopranos” get at least one do-over. Its act of simply stopping its finale in the middle of a scene felt like David Chase refusing to conclude the family’s story — either because he couldn’t think of an ending that worked well enough, or because he didn’t want to give the audience the satisfaction. I think it’s telling that, as passionately as some argue that the current ending is a masterpiece, no one else in television has been dumb enough to try it again. My No. 2 on this list is another HBO show, “Deadwood,” which seemed to lose its way in its final season as creator David Milch got wrapped up in developing the massive bomb “John From Cincinnati.” Finally, I’ve always wondered what Tim Reid’s underappreciated gem “Frank’s Place” would have been like in the modern age. Its take on race and culture in New Orleans always felt ahead of its time, and in the age of “Atlanta” and “Insecure,” I’m betting it would really make an impact.

Tim Surette (@timsurette), TV.com

Okay fine, I’ll be the one to say “Lost.” However Season 6 ended — and it’s still unclear despite what superfans say — it certainly wasn’t satisfying for most of the show’s viewers, as it left many of the lingering questions unanswered in favor of spiritual hooey and everyone walking into the light together. (Why was Waaaaaaaaalt so special!?!?!?) If the show hadn’t stressed how important these questions were when they were being asked, it wouldn’t be such a deal, but we all stayed up late nights trying to decipher the importance of Jacob’s cabin and never got an answer. Season 7 should just be 10 episodes of Damon Lindelof reading off explanations for everything. Runner Up: “Under the Dome,” obvs. What happened after Alien Queen Baby found that new energy egg while on a field trip in her new job as teacher? There are literally about three people who need to know!




Todd VanDerWerff (@tvoti), Vox

This is a tricky question because the canceled shows I love best are the canceled shows that had the good sense to wrap things up in a way that more or less works as a perfect ending for their adventures. Would I love more “Freaks and Geeks,” “Terriers,” or “Deadwood”? Sure! But all three of those shows have such perfect endings for their characters that I would be loathe to risk screwing it up with further, more disappointing endings. Similarly, I loved when Daniel Knauf told me what he had had in mind for “Carnivale’s” series finale a few years ago — but I dunno that I needed to see it when the end of that show’s second season is so agreeably bleak.

So I’m going to go over to the comedy side of the fence, where I wish I had gotten to see season after season after season of the regrettably short-lived ABC sitcom “Sons & Daughters,” which came and went in the spring of 2006, mostly got lambasted as an “Arrested Development” clone (it wasn’t), and deserved so much better. This improvised sitcom was funny, funny stuff, but it also had a core of real family angst and pathos, which kept me watching. There was a really tremendous show in there, and it only irritates me more that the very similar “Modern Family” became a major hit on the same network just a few years later. Sometimes, a TV show is just an accident of timing, and that’s rarely been as true as it has been for “Sons & Daughters.”

(Alternate, super deep cut: I totally would have watched more seasons of NBC’s “Dark Skies.” That show was nuts.)

Ben Travers (@BenTTravers), IndieWire

As much as I miss Ed Burns’ one-and-done TNT gangster show, “Public Morals,” the hilarious Chicago clan of “Happy Endings,” and the sharp meta humor of Billy Crystal’s “The Comedians,” I would use my power to guarantee a definitive ending for one show desperately in need of one: “The X-Files.” Though not officially cancelled and more likely than not to be revisited eventually, Chris Carter’s revival season ended on the most monstrous cliffhanger for any could-be series finale ever. If I could bestow total, absolute, 100 perfect certified closure for the millions of fans out there — including my dear, sweet, devoted parents — a horde of UFO beams couldn’t stop me from giving that green light. So let’s recruit a few of the classic “X-Files” writers to provide Mulder and Scully their proper send-off (which, hopefully, involves a lot of doing it).

Q: What is the best show currently on TV?*

A: “Legion” (4 votes)

Other contenders: “Baskets,” “Girls” and “The Magicians” (2 votes each), “Big Little Lies,” “The Expanse,” “This Is Us” (1 vote each)

*In the case of streaming, the show must have premiered in the past month.

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