When Joss Whedon pitched his concept of “Firefly” to FOX, he was planning on a seven-year run. But as fate would have it, the show was cancelled after just 11 episodes, despite a massive fan campaign to save the show. In the last decade, “Firefly” has earned its place in TV history among the likes of “Star Trek”, (the similarities of which are too numerous to mention) “Warehouse 13”, and “Doctor Who” with a following that can only be described as cult status. It’s one more example of Network Executives wanting a return on their investment with zero concern for the series creators or fans. Canned series sometimes see the light of day with a DVD release, (which was the case with “Firefly”) but for others you better hope you TiVo-ed or taped it during its original run. Here’s a list of shows that, if left in the hands of someone else, could have become prime-time gold, but instead were quickly removed from television’s prime-time lineup.
1975: “Barbary Coast” turned the western on its head, giving it a James Bond/Spy thriller type of feel. William Shatner is Jeff Cable, an undercover agent whose job it is to uncover the corruption that has become such a part of 1880’s San Francisco. Being nominated for an Emmy wasn’t enough to keep this one on the air. Episode 13 was its last.
1981: James Arness teamed with newcomer Marshall Colt for “McClain’s Law”. Here, Arness plays a cop who comes out of retirement to get the man who murdered his partner. Once justice has been served, he stays on, and ruffles a lot of feathers in house and on the streets. This was a chance for Arness to play a modern day lawman. Audiences, however, were not impressed and the series was canned after only 16 episodes.
1991: In typical Michael Landon fashion, “Us” was slated to become his new family drama following “Highway to Heaven”, but it never had a chance as Michael Landon died of pancreatic cancer after filming for the pilot wrapped. So instead of becoming a series, it ran as a “movie of the week” on CBS. This follows the story of Jeff Hayes, a man who has spent 18 years in prison. But new evidence turns up proving that he had nothing to do with it. Now he’s got a second chance at life.
2000: The action/adventure anthology show “The Fugitive” concluded with what became one of the most-watched episodes in television history. But what’s not as well-known is its rebirth on television on Oct. 6, 2000. This time, Tim Daly of “Wings” plays the innocent doctor. The first African-American Gerard is played by Mykelti Williamson. And the one-armed man is Stephen Lang. Fortunately, this show made it through an entire season but ended on a cliffhanger that was never resolved. In a way, this show was responsible for the success of “CSI” as it premiered on the very same night. Thus, for every “CSI” there’s also a “Fugitive.”
2002: Mykelti Williamson tried his hand at success on the small screen once again as Det. Bobby “Fearless” Smith in “Boomtown”, but it wasn’t to be. This gritty, Rashomon-style cop show examined one crime from different viewpoints, and for an entire season it was a winner. But six episodes in to season 2, it was cut short. But all is not lost. NBC made it available on DVD.