There’s nothing more aggravating than being left with half a resolution after you’ve devoted yourself to a TV series for an entire season of episodes. You’ve invested your time in following the story. You’ve invested your emotions in the fates of your favorite characters. Then, some indecisive writer decides that your reward after a full season of build up is to wait to find out what actually happens. Sure, cliffhangers are the worst, but that twist of the knife is even more horrible when some jag network executive decides that the ratings for the series aren’t high enough and axes the whole series before said indecisive writer is able to finish his story. Throughout TV history, several promising, but woefully unappreciated series were cut down before their prime, right in the middle of a now-unresolved storyline. Here, for your consideration, are some of the most agonizing.
NBC’s big budget drama about a world in which nanotech had rendered electronics worthless set itself up for one heck of a season 3 by revealing that the nanotech itself was becoming sentient. Revolution began the series with a huge surge in viewership, but by the end of season two the show’s audience declined and it was cancelled, a move that left it’s devoted fans wondering what would happen.
2. Quantum Leap
For those unfamiliar with Quantum Leap, the charming little sci-fi show ran for five seasons on NBC, cataloguing Dr. Sam Beckett’s quest to find a way home after he becomes lost in the past after a disastrous experiment in time. Sam’s travels through the past saw him leapfrog from person to person seemingly at random, righting wrongs as he went, aided only by his human Wikipedia, Al. Unfortunately, at the end of season five, Sam leaps off to some unknown fate, never to return home thanks to a series cancellation.
Bryan Fuller’s take on the mental confrontation between Hannibal Lecter and criminal profiler Will Graham drew rave reviews and a small, devoted fanbase over the course of its three-season run. The series was always flirting with cancellation, which made its narrative risks so much fun to watch. Unfortunately, Fuller’s final risk saw both Graham and Lecter plunge over the side of a roaring cliff just days before the series was cancelled by NBC. Viewers will never know what became of this alternate reality duo who matched wits so well.
4. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
A woefully under appreciated action series set in the aftermath of Terminator 2: Judgement Day, The Sarah Connor Chronicles followed Sarah — played by a fully badass pre-Game of Thrones Lena Headey — as she, John, and a lady Terminator tried to bring down Skynet before it can cause the apocalypse. Unfortunately, at the end of season 2, the trio took a leap to an alternate future where no one had heard of savior John Connor. And then the show was cancelled, so we’ll never know what the heck was going on.
At the end of season 4, ALF’s wise-cracking, cat-eating shenanigans came to an end when he was captured by government agents who scooped him up and took him to their lab. Obviously, the sitcom’s creators didin’t intend for the series to go out on such a gloomy note, but the series was canceled before poor ALF could be saved from his government lock up.
6. Joan of Arcadia
This schmaltzy CBS drama was pretty popular when it kicked off on Friday nights, but viewers quickly lost interest in the series, which focused on a small town girl who could communicate with God. In spite of the fact that the show was praised by critics (and even nominated for an Emmy for Best Drama Series), it didn’t make it to a third season. That’s too bad because the series spent lots of time in season two setting up a villain who would run amok in season three. Unfortunately, viewers of the show never got more than a hint of the “Adversary” before the series was canned.
Since Twin Peaks got its long-awaited resolution thanks to a reboot on Showtime, Deadwood is probably the most vexing series that’s ended on a cliffhanger. David Milch’s true-to-life Western about the inhabitants of a boom town named Deadwood was brutal, filthy, and brilliant. And then, at the end of its second season, the series just kind of ends, with zero resolution for any of the characters who still draw breath. Milch insists that the series was supposed to end like that, but the rumors about an impending cancellation from HBO cast that theory in doubt.
On the subject of Heroes, let’s start here: The series reboot, Heroes Reborn, simply doesn’t count. With that in mind, the season four cliffhanger (and original series finale) is still considered the real end of the series. In that episode, super healer Claire leaps from the top of a carnival ferris wheel, essentially revealing the existence of super-powered people all over the world. Season five would have theoretically covered the fallout from her decision, but fans will never get to see it.
9. Bored to Death
It’s hard to call the revelation that you’ve been sleeping with your half-sister a proper end to a series, but that’s exactly what happened for viewers of the HBO series Bored to Death. Though a devoted following found lots to love about the series that was basically about Jason Schwartzman smoking weed with Ted Danson, HBO brass did not and the series was cancelled after three seasons, just moments after the aforementioned incestual surprise.
10. My So-Called Life
Scads of 90s kids remember Claire Danes not for her turn on Homeland, but for her star-making performance as an angsty teen on My So-Called Life. Though beloved by teenagers, apparently the series didn’t have enough of a following to merit a second season. What’s worse, it ended just as the love triangle between Danes’ lead, high school heartthrob Jordan Catalano (played by Jared Leto), and soulful Brian Krakow (Devon Gummersall) was coming to a head. She was holding Jordan’s hand in the last episode, but the faithful knew that wasn’t how things were supposed to end.
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