There's nothing worse than having a favourite TV show end on a cliffhanger after a surprise cancellation... but an axed series being forced to rush its planned ending isn't much better.
These shows at least got the opportunity to tie things up, but with only a limited amount of time in which to do so, the final products ended up feeling hurried, slapdash, and in some cases just plain bonkers.
The more ignominious fate of a cliffhanger demise almost befell cult series Sense8 when Netflix declined to order a third season, but fan outcry eventually convinced them to order a two-hour finale in which to resolve the characters' fates.
It was a reprieve, but still not quite what series creators the Wachowskis had been hoping for. Almost everyone got their happy ending, and while grateful fans acknowledged that the feature-length series closer was better than nothing, many still took to social media to complain that it still felt "rushed".
In other words, despite ending with a a great big orgy, some Sense8 fans felt that the series failed to deliver a satisfying climax. 😏
2. Quantum Leap
Despite having promised Quantum Leap creator Donald P Bellisario that he'd get to continue the adventures of time-hopping hero Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) in a sixth season, NBC then opted to axe the series.
The final episode, 'Mirror Image', had already been completed by the time the decision came through, so to provide some closure the episode was re-edited to include two end-title cards which resolved the fates of Beckett and his best pal Al (Dean Stockwell).
Most galling for fans was the bleak fate meted out to Beckett, who it's revealed never made it back home. The ultimate ignominy, though ? The last-minute title card spelt the character's surname wrong. Oh boy!
It might've been all light-hearted larks on-screen, but the end of frothy crime procedural Castle was marred by some rather unpleasant behind-the-scenes business.
In April 2016, it was reported that ABC was planning a ninth season, but without co-lead Stana Katic, who'd played Detective Kate Beckett since the show's inception. ("It hurt and it was a harsh ending," she later admitted.)
If Castle had continued, the eighth season would have ended on a cliffhanger, with Beckett's life left hanging in the balance. (The following season, presumably, would have revealed she'd died, explaining Katic's absence.)
As it was, though, we were fed a rather abrupt conclusion, with a sudden time jump revealing that Castle and a very much alive Beckett ended up married with three children. A happy ending, yes, but a little jarring given the lack of build-up.
Joss Whedon's wild sci-fi thriller was faced with having to craft an abrupt ending not once, but twice. With the axe hanging over the series, Whedon produced a thirteenth episode – 'Epitaph One' – which took place entirely in the future and provided hints as to where the show's present-day storyline might have gone, were it to continue.
In the event, FOX did order a second season of Dollhouse and so decided not to air 'Epitaph One'.
The show's fate was just as uncertain a year later, so season two ended with 'Epitaph Two: Return' – a sequel to an episode which, don't forget, wasn't actually broadcast in the US. Using some of the unaired footage from 'Epitaph One' to set the scene, this second future-set episode again gave fans indications as to the ultimate fates of their favourite characters.
In short, yes, the behind-the-scenes goings-on at Dollhouse were every bit as convoluted as the show's own storylines.
5. Last Resort
Before winning a new legion of fans for his pitch-perfect portrayal of Captain Raymond Holt on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Andre Braugher starred in this overlooked but actually pretty decent thriller.
Braugher played a naval captain who is the victim of a government conspiracy. After receiving bogus orders to fire on Pakistan, his Capt Marcus Chaplin commandeers a submarine equipped with nuclear missiles and subsequently is declared an enemy of the state.
The series was cancelled after13 episodes, but with just enough notice to allow the writers to craft an ending to their story. (The thirteenth episode had actually already been written, but was re-drafted with a tacked-on conclusion.)
In an almost hysterically hurried final episode, the conspiracy was exposed, the corrupt US president was assassinated, the submarine went down with Marcus still at the helm and the rest of his crew made it back onto US soil, with literally seconds to spare before the end credits rolled.
6. Once Upon a Time
ABC's fantasy series underwent a relaunch for its seventh season – with the previous year's finale having wrapped up the Storybrooke arc and written out several major characters, the following year's episodes embarked on a new journey, set in the new fictional neighbourhood of Hyperion Heights some years later.
But the revamped show had a seriously short lifespan – Once Upon a Time was cancelled one year into its soft reboot, leaving writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz with the difficult task of wrapping up storylines they'd only just embarked upon.
In what was effectively the show's second series finale, the duo had to wrap up the evil plots of Wish Realm Rumple (Robert Carlyle) and Wish Realm Henry (Jared S. Gilmore), as well as deliver a crowd-pleasing resolution to the entire show to date.
The solution? Another curse, but a good one this time as Regina (Lana Parilla) brought every single realm together under one roof, allowing all of the show's characters to be reunited. The former Evil Queen is rechristened as "the Good Queen" and everyone, yes, lives happily ever after. All rather lovely, but also rather breathless.
7. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
Aaron Sorkin's only television series to run for just a single season, this show about the making of a Saturday Night Live-esque variety show arrived with much hype, being the writer's follow-up to The West Wing, but never quite delivered on the buzz or the promise of its early episodes.
When NBC took the decision to drop the show, Sorkin had to put his foot to the accelerator to provide some form of closure. Cue a sweet but rather rushed romance between two characters – Danny Tripp (Bradley Whitford) and Jordan McDeere (Amanda Peet) which went from 'Will they / won't they?' to proud parents in the space of a few episodes – and lots of earnest scenes in the series finale where characters speedily and rather awkwardly spelled out their feelings for each other.
The end result was an ending that was sweet but far from subtle.
8. Pushing Daisies
A devout fan following wasn't enough to save this quirky series from Bryan Fuller about a pie-maker (Lee Pace) with the ability to bring dead things back to life with a touch.
With ABC opting to cancel the show after two seasons, a snappy epilogue running to around 100 seconds was tacked on to the last episode in post-production, explaining what happened to all of the show's major characters.
Fuller said at the time that, even if he'd had more time to craft the ending, he wouldn't necessarily have been able to produce anything more satisfying or substantial. "I don't know if I would have been able to end the Chuck and Ned (Anna Friel) story because, for me, that's the relationship that goes on and that you fight for.
"For me, there was one ending, and that ending was decades later, and I couldn't really quite rush their story to any sort of conclusion."
9. The Lyon's Den
Oh, this one's a treat.
Starring a pre-West Wing Rob Lowe, 2003 legal drama The Lyon's Den was a fairly unremarkable series... until suddenly it wasn't.
NBC cancelled the show after six episodes due to poor ratings, but Lowe and the entire cast and crew were still contractually obligated to make all 13 episodes that the network had originally ordered.
Effectively giving the network the finger, Lowe and the show's producers plotted the most absurd ending possible (as he revealed many years later during an appearance on the NPR radio series Wait Wait Don't Tell Me).
The last episode saw Lowe's character exposed as a serial killer – having been unmasked by fellow lawyer Grant Rushton (Kyle Chandler). Lowe's Jack Turner then murdered Rushton, before leaping to his own death from the firm's office tower.
Why not? After all, no-one ever saw it.
You Might Also Like