In 2002, Fox Television premiered an amazing show that is widely touted as the best sci-fi show of all time. Unfortunately, after airing only 10 of the 13 filmed episodes, Fox canceled this show. Though it lives on today through DVD sales, Netflix, and even got a second life with a theatrical feature film, for me it set the tone for what to expect from the Fox Network. The show is, of course, Firefly, created by the king of nerds Joss Whedon. You would think the unceremonious cancellation of a show that became so beloved and enjoys a loyal fanbase to this day (including myself) would have taught Fox a lesson. However, Firefly is just one in a long line of shows that Fox pulled the plug on too soon.
It seems to have become a part of the Fox TV business plan to pull the plug on shows with tremendous potential before giving it a proper chance. You may say, it’s become a defining characteristic of the channel. There is a sad history of shows, particularly with a fantasy or science fiction background, which later achieve cult status not being given the opportunity to thrive and find an audience on Fox. Looking at it from an optimistic point of view, you could celebrate the fact that these shows are given an opportunity on a major broadcast channel. If you’re me, however, the optimistic view doesn’t quite work. As soon as Fox announced the pilot for Minority Report, a sequel to the 2002 movie, I felt a familiar sense of dread.
In 2004, Fox picked up a quirky show from Bryan Fuller called Wonderfalls. It was unique and well written with a fantasy bent in which the main character had the ability to talk to tchotchkes in the Niagra Falls souvenir shop she worked. The show premiered on a Friday and when Fox noticed it had higher ratings during a Thursday repeat, the channel abruptly changed the air date. With a lack of promotion or adequate advertising, the ratings dropped and the show was cancelled after the fourth episode. The remaining episodes of Wonderfalls went on to be broadcast by a cable channel and with its critical reception the DVD sales were positive.
Fox decided to give Joss Whedon a second chance at a TV show when Dollhouse premiered in 2009. Though it received a better reception than Firefly by the numbers, Fox still very much meddled in the creative process of the series, not airing the season finale “Epitaph One” which was included on the DVD. Epitaph One is an important episode because it jumps into the future and shows the audience where the story is heading. In my opinion, airing Epitaph One would have done a lot to keep the shows viewers engaged and excited for the big payoff. Joss had planned for a five-year run of the show but even with the renewal for the second season Fox continued to not adequately support the show, pulling it from sweeps and airing episodes back to back to shorten the season. I did not think Dollhouse was as good as Firefly though there is no denying it benefitted from Fox’s obvious mistake in canceling the show.
This obvious lapse in judgement and the growing reputation for canceling shows with tremendous upside potential should have made Fox more willing to give these shows time to mature and find an audience. Obviously this has not been the case. In 2013, I reached my last straw with Fox after they announced the cancellation of what had been my favorite new show of the season, Almost Human. Almost Human was a buddy cop + police procedural with a twist. One angry cop with a dark past and the other, an android. There were very interesting plots and themes and though the ratings were not spectacular (which broadcast shows ratings are these days) it received consistently positive reviews and I was eager to see where the story could go. Now, no matter how interesting or exciting a show premise seems, as soon as I hear that it was been picked up on Fox, I prepare for heartbreak.
Minority Report premiered this fall and though not without its faults, it has some striking similarities to Almost Human. Unsurprisingly, it has already been announced that Minority Report's 13 episode order has been cut to 10 signaling it's eventual cancellation. Though Minority Report isn't yet living up to expectations, I don't doubt that it could not turn itself around and establish itself as a very successful show. Yet since it's on Fox, it seems as though it won't be given a chance.