Cut short mid-
I knew what I was getting into. I can't say I didn't.
Last night I watched the last episode of Defying Gravity, the sci-fi series ABC pulled the plug on last year. I can't say I watched the final episode, because there was nothing "final" about it. I was watching on on DVD from Netflix, so at least I got to see all 13 existing episodes; ABC didn't even air them all. For a show with a long-form story -- which creator James Parriott says was plotted for at least three seasons -- such abrupt cancellation is the risk you take if you begin watching it (unless, of course, you don't begin watching it until the whole story has been told as was intended). I've watched other shows where I knew at the beginning that the planned story was not given the chance to reach its conclusion -- or, in some cases, any conclusion -- so I knew what to expect when the supply of episodes runs out.
I can see where Defying Gravity had a difficult job building an audience. It has a large cast of characters, a plot filled with mysteries and revelations, and it told its story with exactly the sort of serialized progression I enjoy, which is also a serial progression that makes it difficult for casual viewers to get into the show. I think we're nearing the close of a window of time within which shows like this were easier to pitch. The atmosphere must have been particularly receptive at ABC, where two shows with ongoing plotlines -- Lost and Heroes -- performed well right out of the gate. DG evidently did not, and was never given a chance to build an audience.
Which is a bit of a shame. There's so little sci-fi on television in general, and little of what there is rises far above the re-boot of V. Defying Gravity had characters I found engaging, if a bit too stock, and a story I found interesting. But it was, as I said, a large cast of characters, so everyone wasn't featured in every episode, which can make it hard for a viewer watching intermittently to get a handle on things. And the show lifted its narrative form from Lost; I'm talking about the "dramatic backstory" structure ( my term) that takes the conventional A-story / B-story / C-story approach common to shows juggling multiple plotlines and folds it in upon itself by interweaving backstory as an essential element of the narrative progression; I'm know other shows have used the structure, at least for isolated episodes, but I can't think of a predecessor show that relied upon it so totally as Lost did from the outset.
Defying Gravity was built with this structure at its core: every episode intercuts into the "now" action scenes from "5 Years Ago," following the early days of the crew's training and providing revelations about their that inform the ongoing story at -- naturally -- appropriate moments. It's really a classic structure, a variation on the tradition of beginning a tale in medias res. With DG's being cut short by cancellation, it results in a greater number of unanswered questions, perpetual cliffhangers in the past as well as the present.
Damned frustrating. But I can't say I didn't know what I was getting into.
So why is the next series I'm starting also a show cancelled before its time? Well, in this case I at least know that the creators had a chance to tie things up.