To kick things off, I want to explore my Genre Shows That Deserved a Second Season. In chronological order, they are:
V: The Series
Forget the atrocious remake of a few years ago, I'm talking about the original series, the one that was event viewing back in the 80s. A continuation of the 2 highly-regarded, highly-rated miniseries that preceded it, it was unfortunately made without the involvement of creator Kenneth Johnson (who later went on to write his own continuation as a novel), and in hindsight did not make the best use of its record-breaking cost of $1 Million per episode. Looking back, I'm all too aware of the the ridiculous character shuffling, reuse of stock footage, and increasingly cheap special effects, but this was the first big sci-fi series of my childhood. It, of course, ended on a cliffhanger that seemed to promise a glimpse of the Visitor homeworld . . . something we'd never get to see.
Yes, it was cheap and increasingly cheesy, and it doesn't hold up nearly as well as the original 2 miniseries, but I would have killed for a second season.
Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future
This was a show destined to fail from the start, but one with which I have a huge emotional/nostalgic connection - one of my elementary school teachers worked on the production, and we actually had the original models of the devastated San Francisco in our class. It doesn't get much cooler than that for a geeky kid. Anyway, this was a very dark, action-packed, surprisingly violent, post-apocalyptic dystopian adventure . . . with a kid's interactive toy tie-in. Yeah, talk about your mixed messages. It was a fantastic show that still stands up to repeat viewing, and you can see just how little work would have been needed to make it an adult prime-time drama, but when Mattel is ponying up the dough to support their toy-line, some quality has to suffer - and when the toy line dies, so does the show.
With J. Michael Straczynski as the head writer, you know this had potential, and I would have loved to see a toy-less second season (which was actually scripted).
If all you know of Max Headroom is the music video show and Coke commercials, then you need to check out the very smart, very funny TV series. The first real taste most American audiences had of the cyberpunk culture, this was an all-out satire on the television generation, consumerism, politics, and big business. Matt Frewer was fantastic, Amanda Pays was gorgeous (and fantastic), and Chris Young was that rare TV child prodigy you didn't hate. Technically, it lasted into a second aborted season, but at 14 episodes in total, I'm counting it as one short season. Poorly scheduled against the likes of Dallas and Miami Vice, it was canceled due to low ratings, with 2 episodes left unaired (that would later be broadcast, ironically enough, during the TV writer's strike).
This was a show that just barely scratched the surface of what it was capable of, and with so many continuation teases falling short, it's a shame it ended so coldly.
The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.
In case you missed it, this was a weird Western/Sci-Fi/Adventure mash-up from 2 of the script-writers on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, starring none other than Bruce Campbell (with John Astin playing an awesome bit part). It was such a fun show, with Billy Drago playing the perfect villainous foil to Campbell, and Christian Clemenson serving as a great sidekick. All the Western standards were there, from train robberies to gunfights, but we also saw the dawn of technology and some really cool steampunk elements. It had a loyal cult following, and was well-received by critics, but was yet another genre show to fall victim to Fox's insecurities about their place in prime time.
The writers were counting on a second season, leaving us with a forever unresolved cliffhanger, and there's no reason to think it wouldn't have been just as awesome.
Space: Above and Beyond
Created by Glen Morgan and James Wong (who would go on to make the Final Destination movies), this was actually planned for an ambitious 5 seasons, but only ran for 1. Set roughly 70 years in the future, it focused on the "Wildcard" squadron of the United States Marine Corps. Still smarting from something of a civil war with the Silicates (androids), humanity finds itself at the mercy of a mysterious alien species know as the Chigs. This was a darkly violent series, and one of the first to make legitimate use of computer-generated effects that didn't look computer-generated. It deal with a lot of serious issues, and had complex character arcs that we wouldn't see on TV sci-fi for another decade. Once again, however, poor scheduling and a lack of vision on the part of Fox saw an early demise.
The show just got better as it went on, it had a huge cliffhanger, and we know the writers had 4 more seasons planned, so there's no doubt a second season would blown us away.
To wrap things up on a more contemporary note, we have the Steven Spielberg-produced dinosaurs and time travel series from 2011. There's no doubt the series had its issues, and struggled to find it's storytelling niche, but it really settled in with the second half of the season, going so far as to win back its own critics. It looked fantastic, had decent (if uneven) casting, and phenomenal special effects for TV. Sure, it could have benefited from more dinosaurs, but what couldn't? When we got more into the Sixers, the separatist camp of time travelers, and began exploring the conspiracies behind the Phoenix Group, we had a legitimate piece of storytelling with enough human drama to compete with the dinosaur spectacle. It, of course, ended on a particularly frustrating cliffhanger, and then Fox strung us along for 4 months before officially declaring it canceled.
Dinosaurs, time travel, government conspiracies, and survival - with how good the series got in the second half, it's a shame we never got to see more.