Every single person knows the sting of their favorite TV show getting canceled but it’s only gotten worse in recent years. The streaming era has been incredibly inconsistent. With an algorithm choosing the fates of shows, these days you’re lucky if a show gets ten episodes, let alone released at all. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance was canceled by Netflix after a single season. Willow was not only canned by Disney+ after one season but also removed from its catalog. The same thing happened with Gordita Chronicles on HBO Max.
Streaming services like Netflix, once known for picking up canceled shows such as Arrested Development and giving creatives limitless freedom are now more known for not giving anything a chance unless it’s a massive Squid Game like success. Before word of mouth even spreads about a show, you often find out it’s canceled or removed entirely. At the dawn of the streaming age we never could have seen this coming.
But we should have. After all, a canceled TV show in the ‘90s predicted it.
Alien Nation, a sci-fi detective drama following a quarter million aliens who find themselves stranded on Earth and become its newest minority, aired on Fox from 1989-1990. While beloved by a hardcore fan base, the show was canceled after only a single season. Thankfully Fox reversed their decision and in 1994 Alien Nation received five TV movies to continue the story and executive producer/writer Kenneth Johnson was not going to let that original cancellation go without mention. Along the way he predicted what would happen to so many canceled shows after him.
In the third TV movie, Alien Nation: Millennium, which aired in 1996, human lead character Sikes (Gary Graham) rushes home to his alien bio-chemist and girlfriend Cathy (Terri Treas), insisting they watch a new show, “My Brother, The Alien.” Cathy believes the show is just promoting racial stereotypes about her people but Sikes insists and they watch the show on her computer (Alien Nation predicted streaming services as well!).
The show is painfully unfunny but after only a single scene has aired, a Fox logo cuts “My Brother, The Alien” off. An announcer comes informs the viewers,“The remainder of ‘My Brother, The Alien,’ will not be seen because our instant National Nielsen Ratings indicate low viewer interest.”
Sikes wishes he could have seen more of the show, commenting in frustration, “they shoulda given it a chance. At least ‘til the first commercial!”
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? While there hasn’t been a streaming show that’s been canceled after a single scene the rest is shockingly prescient. A show can’t get enough viewers fast enough and it’s quickly axed, before it even has time to adjust to what might make it more successful. That’s basically the entire playbook of streaming services these days.
In a DVD commentary track for this scene, released in 2007, Kenneth Johnson remembers that when he wrote it, “people laughed at me. But now I’ve seen them cancel shows after one airing and pretty soon they’ll be canceling them before the first commercial break.”
Oh, 2007 Kenneth Johnson. If only you knew.
Streaming services canceling everything wasn’t the only thing this Alien Nation TV movie predicted. A subplot of the film features Sikes using a program that will write a term paper for you, eerily echoing the use of AI these days. There’s also an on-point joke about Sikes needing information but can’t get it because officers have been assigned to security detail for, “the Power Ranger millennium reunion.”
What else will Alien Nation predict in our future?
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