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A Tale of Two Cancellations

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!

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20 comments

  • Not so worried about Caprica, dont know what it was but something started to annoy me about 4 eps in, but Rubicon is a great loss.

    A show that took it for granted that you could think and hold more than one idea in your head without having to be retold “the story so far…”

  • Space channel in Canada has been showing episodes of Caprica at their regular time. I think there is just a couple more left. They can been gotten if you know anything about bit torrenting. Anyways, each episode has gotten better and better. It’s really too bad they canceled this but let’s hope great DVD sales make SyFy change their mind.

  • Caprica…meh, but Rubicon! WHY RUBICON? He aint never done nothin to nobody, ‘cept give everyone one more reason to count Sunday nights among the finest nights of television. I was completely fine with the exceptionally understated season finale, with the caveat that they were playing it close to the vest for the sake of what would be an awesome second season opener. But this. This just cheapens it and leaves a big freakin hole in my fondness. Almost worst than the second season finale of Sledgehammer, right before ABC canned it. Mrs. Hammer indeed!

  • I’m sad that Caprica is canceled. I LOVED BSG more than anything, and the pilot for Caprica won me over. However, after watching the first few episodes I realized I wasn’t able to follow it week to week. I tivo’d it and after the first batch aired, I watched all of them over the course of a week, and was doing the same thing with the back ten. I will finish out the season and be sad to see it go.

    As for Rubicon, I have it also tivo’d, but I’m only on season 3 of Mad Men and haven’t even started Breaking Bad yet. I’m watching The Walking Dead as it airs, but I was going to go through the other three [now two] shows one at a time because it’s just too much tv at once. I guess I should have gone through it all faster.

  • I will miss Rubicon. An intelligent, riveting character study. I really cared about the team, and was fascinated by how they did and handled doing the job given them. I wanted to see how their stories played out over time. I came across an article wondering why people are abandoning cable television. I can tell them.

  • I am still rather miffed at SyFy for dumping Caprica. The advertising and the lengthy delays did an excellent show no favours. Sure, the brooding gets old, but the show was finally starting to find its legs when SyFy ripped the rug out from under it.

    I never watched Rubicon, so I can’t say I’ll miss it. I certainly don’t miss tripping over its cables and craft services tables on the way to my old job in TriBeCa. Sheesh.

  • You pretty much nailed both Caprica and Rubicon. I really enjoyed these shows because they were all about the journey, and for me, kept my brain working the whole time.

    I’m going to miss them.

  • I’ve been catching the SciFi unaired eps of Caprica over on Canada’s Space, so am not feeling the loss (yet). But when I do, it will suck. I really love the show even though it’s flawed.

    Terriers! Everyone, watch Terriers. It’s not cancelled yet!

  • I enjoyed Caprica and would have continued to enjoy it. The first part of the season built up all this momentum and by the time it came back on I’d forgotten about it already. If it wasn’t for Hulu I wouldn’t have remembered it was back on. At the end of the I couldn’t care less about anyone on the show. I agree that Sam Adama was the most wasted character. What few scenes he was in made me want to keep watching.

  • Can’t believe Rubicon got canned… While the premise sounds like a boring government serial that’s half The Mentalist and half 24, the AMC touch on the storyline, characters, and script really made it stand out as great TV. Kale and Miles were especially memorable & hilarious, and the Season 1 plot had to be more gripping than anything happening in a 1950s ad agency, right? Everyone loves what AMC has done so far, why not give Rubicon some time to grow and keep receiving critical praise? I guess I just don’t understand TV execs… but count me among the ranks of devoted Rubicon mourners.

  • If you look at how Caprica was started, and where the audience inspired them to take it, its no wonder why its getting canceled.
    As I recall, the original show idea for Caprica was pitched by someone who wasn’t involved with BSG at all. Syfy told them that the BSG guys might want to collaborate. So instead of being a true prequel or a brand new series, it was both. Yikes. If that doesn’t predict a Yoko Ono creative battle what does…
    Eventually the original idea was fading away because it was just too boring to focus on Zoe and Lacy as a space-soap-opera, and then the actors they chose to fit into the slow melodramas didn’t fit into the increasingly present Battlestar-esque tension (Zoe at the top…worst “fight” scenes ever).

    Rubicon…I guess Americans are as dumb as they say we are. Too intelligent for TV.

  • Wow. What a bummer way to start the weekend. I loved Rubicon, and that was one show I was really looking forward to watching another season of it. It was really nice to watch a story unfold that isn’t re-explained to you after every commercial break.

    I had high hopes for Outsourced, because I thought the movie was great. I’m really surprised that it’s getting renewed, honestly.

    And I had not watched a single episode of a Battlestar Galactica series before Caprica. Caprica got me hooked. I have some catching up to do before I mourn the loss of this prequel.

  • The Rubicon cancellation pisses me off a little. It seems to me that when something intelligent is written for American audiences; the reaction from the people who don’t get it is that the show is pretentious, contrived or boring. For people like me shows like Rubicon are gems in raw sewage, but i knew from the beginning that the show would not last in American waters. Maybe they’ll make a spin-off, Kale Ingram: Gay Man of Mystery. We need a strong gay male character on TV. Anyway, too bad, I just wish the best for all the cast and crews who get fired.

  • I didn’t know Rubicon was canceled, that makes me sad. I really enjoyed the show towards the end.

    Well as long as Terriers doesn’t get canceled I guess it will be ok.

  • I gave Running Wilde a chance because I love Will Arnett, but I had to give up on it. The premise is just too stupid, & Keri Russell is such a wet blanket… time to pull the plug. **beep** **beep** **beeeeeeeeeep**

  • I enjoyed Caprica and was really disappointed when it was canceled. I was looking forward to seeing the further traumas that Zoe would endure as the Cylons came into production, maybe explaining better their hatred for humanity.