Nerdist was started by Chris Hardwick and has grown to be a many headed beast.

A Tale of Two Cancellations

by on November 19, 2010

Eric Stoltz in Caprica - photo: Syfy

Well TV nerds, we’re over halfway through November sweeps which means the vast majority of cancellations in 2010’s fall TV season have come and gone. Interestingly, of the five “default” candidates in my 2010 Dead Pool blog, none have actually been cancelled, and some - Outsourced, whoops! </facepalm> –  are bona-fide hits. (Though in the case of Running Wilde, it’s presumed that no news is bad news and Fox will probably let it expire quietly without ordering more episodes.) Meanwhile, amongst the definite cancellations, there are two that I’m really compelled to drop my two or four cents on – Caprica, which returned for the back-half of its first season on Syfy in October and was swiftly yanked from the schedule after four weeks; and Rubicon, AMC’s little thinker that could which, as it turns out, couldn’t.

Hard to know where to begin with Caprica, although I should start with my self-admitted massive Battlestar Galactica obsession. Like, bigger than the combined mass of all twelve colonies (and probably Kobol and both Earths, too) massive. When Caprica was announced, I was as trepidatious as any geek might be toward a prequel spinoff of my favorite show, however the extraordinary cast and early peeks gave me reason to anticipate. Though I was far from blown away by the way-early-released pilot, I still kept my hopes up… and continued to keep them up, even as they were clipped and tripped on a semi-regular basis, all throughout the first season. Here’s the thing – on an intellectual level, I found the political and theological issues raised on Caprica completely fascinating. (Though I had issues from a writing standpoint with some of what transpired on BSG, up to and including the finale, I never had a problem with the notion of introducing theological concepts and overall I still really love the show. Up to, and including, that finale!) I also really, really loved the Gibson-esque cyber realms introduced in Caprica via the holoband technology, and anticipated seeing how this would be tied together with the Cylon evolution toward the concepts we were introduced on BSG. (Suddenly, the Cylons’ ability to “project” their surroundings made a whole lot more sense…)

At the end of the day, however, you can gorge my noggin on all kinds of brain-food but for me to unequivocally love your show, my heart needs nourishment, too. Though there were a couple of characters I warmed to instantly (Magda Apanowicz’s Lacy Rand, as well as Sasha Roiz’s Sam Adama – easily a candidate for most criminally underused actor/character on any recent show), I found it extremely hard to invest in all of the plottin’ and plannin’ and back-stabbin’ on Caprica because everyone was so damned jerky and miserable, pretty much all of the time. Understand that I’m not implying any show’s characters are required to be “lovable” in simple terms for me to enjoy the show; most of the characters on BSG were deeply screwed up and often made lousy decisions even with the best of intentions but nevertheless, I adored pretty much every single one of them.  Ditto someone like Tony Soprano, who remained a womanizing, egotistical, insecure sociopath for six seasons and I never got sick of watching him.  I get that the point of Caprica was to tell the story of how the fall of a civilization came about, so that’s going to involve some nasty business.  It’s useful to think about the context in which Ronald D. Moore has stated they envisioned the show – Dallas in space – and in that respect, something always seemed to be lacking. On a show like Dallas, people would fuck each other over with a gleeful smile on their face and that’s part of the fun; on Caprica, no one really seemed to be having any fun. (Well, okay, Patton Oswalt definitely was in his guest shots as talk show host Baxter Sarno. I WILL miss you, Patton. Big time.)

I have other issues with the substance of Caprica, like the occasional bits of retcon that turned up versus what was established in BSG, as well as some typical convenience tropes of prequel writing that tend to grate on many die-hard fans nerves. (While I totally understand the desire to involve the Adama family in order to bridge the two series, did Bill Adama’s father Joseph have to be the one to quite literally hand Daniel Graystone the tech he needed to perfect the Cylon technology? I’m not so sure.) If the show had been able to tell its full story, these may yet have worked themselves out. And none of this amounts to a primary reason why Caprica didn’t make it to a second season, I don’t think. While Syfy lamented the show’s failure to find a strong audience upon the cancellation announcement, I feel as many do that delaying the show’s premiere after the pilot’s DVD release and then keeping the back ten episodes off the air for yet more months ultimately did more harm than good. (BSG struggled with crazy delays in scheduling its entire run, too.) Also, the show’s marketing seemed to pursue the BSG audience more aggressively than perhaps it should have; there’s going to be some overlap of interest, surely, in both series, but it might have been wiser to try to attract brand-new viewers instead of attempting to lure fans of BSG for whom the different tone of Caprica simply wasn’t to their liking. I will say this, though; having seen two of the unaired episodes remaining (which have yet to get an air date on Syfy), there’s been a distinct tightening of the plotlines indicating that we may yet have seen a show that delivered on the promise initially demonstrated many moons ago.  Gripes aplenty though I may have, losing Caprica is still a significant loss.

UPDATE!: Syfy have just announced that the last five episodes of Caprica will air back to back (?!) on January 4th, from 6 – 11 p.m.

And what about Rubicon?  Well, I won’t get too verbose on this score as I already penned a love-letter to AMC’s quietly engrossing conspiracy yarn a while back. The Season One ending proved as understated and riddled with indirectly-addressed issues as any of the episodes that preceded it, and though a lot of online reaction derided the show for concluding on what they perceived as a damp squib, I didn’t mind so much.  In a certain respect, though many questions remained unanswered, not going out with a big explodey cliff-hanger seemed wise on the part of the writers given that the show’s fate remained in the balance; as it is now, one could conceivably revisit Rubicon later (or watch it for the first time) as a uniquely thoughtful, paranoid-thriller of a miniseries that still takes its audience on an thought-provoking journey.  I guess what really disappoints me is that, despite the show’s low ratings after an initially successful premiere, I had hoped that AMC would find it feasible to lean on its other hit shows – Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and now The Walking Dead which is OMG HUUUUGE! (and with good reason) – and allow Rubicon to be renewed anyway, as its little passion project of whip-smart thinky drama that gets by with a drastically reduced viewership because the other series are doing the heavy lifting. Apparently not, which is a terrible shame. (As is the fact that my favorite fictional-character Twitter account EVER, that of Kale Ingram, will likely soon be obsolete. Seriously, I have yet to read a better tweet this year than “Stopped to pet an adorable Pomeranian. Thought about genocide. And diver scallops.”)

Sound off, peeps – gonna miss Caprica? Rubicon? Any other cancellations that you’re just in pieces about? GO!