Some might say that ABC couldn’t possibly have a problem with airing television series that featured the weird and the wacky. After all, they did give us six seasons of LOST, right? Well… that is true, but it wasn’t without problems; there were huge gaps between new shows and new seasons, and on more than one occasion the series was leaning towards failure. On top of this, it came to what many consider a very unsatisfying end. In spite of having aired for several years, it could very well be that LOST was a fluke, based on ABC’s track record.
Invasion: one season, 2005
A hurricane brings havoc and something a little more sinister to a coastal Florida town. Residents dealing with the aftermath of the hurricane find more than destruction in its wake, with alien water creatures having taken up residence, with intent to take over the bodies of the local townspeople. The series starred Eddie Cibrian and William Fichtner; its demise was blamed primarily on the real-life horror of Hurricane Katrina. In a flurry of political correctness, ABC pulled promos for the series and slapped an overdone warning message on each airing.
Pushing Daisies: two seasons, 2007-2009
Super quirky and well-loved by a rabid fanbase, Pushing Daisies was a strange little series that mixed mystery, supernatural power, the occasional musical number, and pie. Pie-man Ned (Lee Pace) has the amazing ability to bring the dead back to life, but only for a short time unless he is willing to risk terrible consequences. He gives life to the dead just long enough to find out their secrets, alongside PI pal Emerson Cod (Chi McBride), and solve their murders. When childhood love Chuck (Anna Friel) dies, Ned brings her back… permanently, causing the death of another in her place. Kristin Chenowith rounds out the cast as musical pie waitress Olive, who harbors affection for Ned in secret. Fans of the show were able to rally a second season, but could not save the series from its eventual demise.
V: two seasons, 2009 to 2011
A reimagining of the 1980’s series of the same name, the new V banked heavily on the star power of geek goddess Morena Baccarin, formerly of cult classic scifi series Firefly. The Visitors, an alien race, arrive with proffered intent to share their technology with Earth in exchange for some natural resources unavailable to them elsewhere. The truth was far more sinister, with the Visitors having been planning for an invasion for years, with many operatives in place on Earth to bring about their takeover. Though the series drew in new fans as well as fans of the original series, it was given only two short seasons before cancellation.
FlashForward: one season, 2009
A futuristic series that came in on the end of Lost, FlashForward was deemed by many to be a replacement for the ending island series. It even had one of the same stars: Dominic Monaghan. It was based on a scifi novel of the same name, with the premise of every man, woman, and child on earth losing consciousness for a little over two minutes, during which time they each saw visions of their own future, six months ahead. John Cho, of Harold and Kumar fame, Ralph Fiennes, and Jack Davenport rounded out a fairly star-studded cast. In spite of high critical praise tempered with some criticism of a very dismal and unexciting cinematography, FlashForward, with its high-minded premise, lasted only a single season.
Miracles: one season, 2003
I’ll be honest. Miracles is one cancellation that I’m still kind of irked about. The series took a stab at religious mysticism, playing against tales of God and the devil, set against the backdrop of the Catholic church. Lead Paul Callan (Skeet Ulrich) is a miracle hunter for the Church, or, rather, a miracle debunker. His job is to move from one suspected miracle to the next, proving or, more likely than not, disproving whatever happenings going on as religious miracles. When an old friend calls and sends him to a young boy who is said to heal by touch, everything changes; for the first time, Paul finds some truth to miracles he has long disproved, with a terrible catch. The boy indeed can heal, but at a price: for every life he saves, he loses some of his own, finally giving his last breath to save Paul after his car got up close and personal with a train. Horrified, Paul returns to his superiors only to have his findings dismissed and to realize his old friend, a priest, had never called him to direct him towards the boy at all: the man had been dead for some time. Disillusioned and his own faith shaken, Paul is approached by Alva Keel (Angus McFayden) to join his investigative team, tracking a spate of strange anti-miracles to discern what they might mean for the world at large. The dark core of the series is revealed in a simple exchange, when Paul questions why God would gift the boy with the power to heal only at his own pain. Alva’s response says it all: “What makes you think it was from God?”
The series was dark and fascinating, addressing head-on questions of God, the devil, mysticism, and religion. Whatever controversy it might have drawn due to its religious nature was eclipsed by its fervent fans. The problems for the series came instead with ABC’s repeated preempting of the series for news specials on developments in the Iraqi war and, in at least one case, a special on troubled pop singer Michael Jackson. Miracles ran for only one season.
Honorable Mentions of ABC Series Gone Too Soon:
No Ordinary Family
So what is it about ABC? Many different networks have their fair share of supernatural or scifi television series that weren’t given a fair shake, but ABC seems to carry the majority. Is it their ties to Disney that makes them so hesitant to give anything a little spookier or kookier than usual a shot at finding an audience? Or are they so insecure of their place in network hierarchy that they cancel at the slightest hesitation in ratings? Here's hoping that Once Upon a Time can last.
Perhaps we’ll never know why ABC is a constant death knell for the weird and wacky tv series that we love, but we can at least hold out hope that future producers and creators will recognize this pattern, and shop their premise to a more forgiving network.
With American Horror Story thriving on F/X, maybe they should stick to cable.