18 Forgotten Superhero TV Shows That Didn’t Last Very Long

[ad_1]

Do you remember all those strange but promising superhero TV shows that have popped up here and there in the late ‘70s and the ‘90s? You know, the ones that premiered with a blast but then vanished without a trace after a season or two? There have been quite a few of those over the years, though most have now been thoroughly forgotten.




Back then, however, each new show was framed as the next big thing, “the next X-Men” or “the next Spider-Man.” Networks would heavily market the pilot episodes, hoping to tap into the mainstream interest in superheroes that Marvel’s films and comics had popularized. But for each hit that stuck, like Smallville or Heroes, there were more that sank without a ripple.

These forgotten shows had big ambitions and great concepts for their premises, but some combination of poor planning, lack of vision, or simply bad luck doomed them from the start. Before we knew it, the shows had been canceled, the actors had moved on, and nostalgic memories were all that remained. And even those faded with time. Now we look back on them as relics and unfulfilled potential.



18 Captain America (1966)

Captain America 1966 TV Series
Marvel Comics Group

Long before Chris Evans manned the shield and Steve Rogers became one of the strongest Avengers, CBS tried to make the character a flagship twice, and the ‘60s saw him as an animated hero saving the world in Captain America. The show attempted to feature the star-spangled super-soldier Captain America as he fights off villains like Red Skull and Zemo.

A Hero’s Epic Journey

From carrying out military operations while being brainwashed to learning about Bucky’s death and joining the Mighty Avengers, the show explores quite a few events in the hero’s journey. Very ‘60s in style and tone, the 13 episodes were rooted in political and corporate intrigue, making it less science fiction than necessary. In retrospect, one can realize just why the show couldn’t translate well. Currently unavailable for streaming.


17 Shazam! (1974 – 1976)

Jackson Bostwick as Shazam
CBS

Now there’s a blast from the past. Shazam! was a weird show, even for its time. The story revolved around a 12-year-old kid who could transform into an adult superhero (then Captain Marvel) just by shouting one word. His superhero form had powers like flight and lightning bolts. The episodes revolved around his real-life responsibilities as a kid and fighting off the bad guys as the magic-wielding superhero. Despite Shazam! now being a fairly appreciated hit, back in the ‘70s, the show was only received well by a portion of the audience.


Delightfully Zany Characters

From the kid’s pushy single mom to his Mentor, there were quirky characters that carried the show for three whole seasons. Ratings were decent, but the kids probably found it strange and confusing – given the special effects of the time. Still, Shazam! remained noteworthy. If nothing else, it proved superhero shows could work for more than just teenagers and up. Buy on Apple TV+.

16 The Amazing Spider-Man (1977 – 1979)

Nicholas Hammond in The Amazing Spider-Man
CBS

Taking a lighter tone than other shows of the decade, The Amazing Spider-Man portrays the origin story of our favorite superhero. Peter Parker is dealing with normal college life, and navigating relationships that are meant to charm the audience. But after being bitten by a radioactive spider, his life takes a sharp turn.


Hammond Paves the Way

It was Nicholas Hammond who wore the mask and tights way before Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, or Tom Holland. Major characters like Uncle Ben or Gwen Stacy never make an appearance on screen. It feels like the attempt to ground Spider-Man into the superhero genre may have been unnecessary at the time. The show only lasted two seasons, with the first episode being aired as a 90-minute TV movie. Still, it is a fond memory, and its fresh take on the character showed how the superhero genre had begun to evolve. Stream on Archive.

Related

The Greatest Episode of Any Animated Superhero Show Was Just Released

X-Men ’97 fifth episode, “Remember It,” has been called one of the best superhero episodes ever; here is why it is so great.

15 G-Force Guardians of Space (1986 – 1987)

G-Force: Guardians of Space TV series
TBS


G-Force Guardians of Space is one of those offbeat animated shows that dubbed and rebooted an original international program, in this case from the Japanese Gatchaman. The unique mashup featured a team of humanoid space cops fighting villains like the Galactor and his minions. There were space battles, advanced spacecraft, and a heavy electro theme. Still appreciable for its time, the show had silly concepts and cheesy effects in the tradition of ‘80s sci-fi.

Ahead of Its Time

The first attempt came from Sandy Frank Entertainment’s early 1978 effort titled Battle of the Planets, which was later dubbed into English and called G-Force Guardians Of Space. The show was fun for its 85-episode run but not critically acclaimed or a commercial hit. Everything about these bird-like superheroes represented the era in television before franchises became the norm. Currently unavailable for streaming.


14 The Defenders of the Earth (1986)

Defenders of the Earth TV Series
Marvel Productions 

Long-form storytelling in the superhero genre was never a strong suit for early television, especially animation. But when The Defenders of the Earth entered the field, it was considered among the best cartoon team-ups of the decade. Much like the Avengers and Justice League ensembles, this quirky ‘80s superteam series followed a group of super-powered individuals with abilities like flight, invisibility, super-strength, and energy projection.

Familiar Comic Book Heroes

It consisted of characters from the King Features comic strip like Flash Gordon, the Phantom, and Mandrake the Magician, focused on defending Earth from threats like the evil lord Ming the Merciless. Visually, the show had a fun and colorful style, but the production value was still very DIY. As for the concept, it tried to add humor and heart in equal measure, and lasted 65 episodes. Stream on Tubi.


Related: Best Animated Superhero TV Series of All Time, Ranked

13 RoboCop (1994)

RoboCop the TV Series (1994)
CTV

Based on the sci-fi action RoboCop films, the cyberpunk series RoboCop attempted to capitalize on the popularity of the franchise and appeal to a younger demographic, eliminating most of the graphic violence in their efforts to do so. Richard Eden appeared as the titular cyber hero, with the show ignoring the events of the sequels and changing the names of many of the original characters.


Bloated Production Budget

The series ran for just one season and consisted of 22 episodes, and was ultimately canceled in large part due to its hefty cost of production; it took a whopping $1.2 million to $1.5 million to produce each episode. The overall change of tone, underwhelming action, and lack of violence also proved to be detrimental, and RoboCop was unable to deliver on the ratings and viewership that could justify its massive production budget. Stream on Prime Video.

12 M.A.N.T.I.S. (1994 – 1997)

M.A.N.T.I.S.

M.A.N.T.I.S.

Release Date
August 26, 1994

Cast
Carl Lumbly , Roger Rees , Christopher Gartin , Galyn Görg , Jerry Wasserman , Gary Graham , Robert Hooks , Blu Mankuma

Seasons
1

Director and writer extraordinaire Sam Raimi produced the two-hour movie pilot for the Fox series M.A.N.T.I.S., which starred Carl Lumbly as the brilliant Dr. Miles Hawkins. After being shot, Hawkins is paralyzed from the waist down and subsequently creates a powered exoskeleton that turns him into a mighty superhero. Hawkins uses the wondrous suit to fight crime and protect the city from nefarious foes, adopting the name M.A.N.T.I.S (“Mechanically Augmented NeuroTransmitter Interactive System”).


Couldn’t Overcome the Kinks

Throughout its 22 episodes, M.A.N.T.I.S. went through major growing pains and struggled to overcome its poor ratings, dropping characters and incorporating elements like time travel, monsters, and parallel universes in an effort to attract a wider audience. Alas, the series just couldn’t gain momentum and was canceled after just a single season before all episodes could air. Two years later, Syfy (then the Sci-Fi Channel) bought the rights to air the show and was able to broadcast the final two episodes. Buy on Apple TV+.

11 Generation X (1996)

Characters from Generation X
Fox


When Fox announced a pilot movie titled Generation X, which was eventually going to turn into a series, fans had great expectations. The show followed a team of young mutants coming of age and being trained under famous characters like Emma Frost and Banshee.

A Forgettable Superhero Venture

Generation X embraced its teen drama roots, with melodrama and soap opera-style relationships between the mutants. Like an emo version of the much more successful X-Men: The Animated Series, this iteration of the mutants was much less ambitious, though had a cool (if muted) design. Fox aired the television pilot as a film, but critics panned it, viewers ignored it, and it was never really made into a full-fledged series. Currently unavailable for streaming.

Related

15 Best Superhero Sequels of All Time, Ranked

Proving that some stories are destined to be continued, these movies represent the greatest superhero sequels ever made.


10 Night Man (1997–1999)

Night Man '90s TV Series
Tribune Entertainment 

Night Man was a bizarre series depicting the nighttime adventures of a musician who recently acquired superpowers. Matt McColm plays Johnny Donimo, a saxophone player who was struck by lightning one night, and discovered that he now possessed supersonic hearing – meaning, he could hear people’s thoughts and detect the evil.

Peculiar Approach to the Superhero Genre

Directed by the acclaimed Glen A. Larson, creator of such cult classics as Battlestar Galactica, Knight Rider, Magnum, P.I., and The Fall Guy, Night Man was a stylish but strange project. It blends elements of dark fantasy with standard super-heroics, and showed a lot of promise. Its weird abstracted tone was ultimately a tough sell because the show only ran for two seasons. As for the Ultraverse character, Marvel had long acquired the rights. For now, the studio does not seem to have any plans for the hero. Stream on Freevee.


9 The Crow: Stairway to Heaven (1998 – 1999)

Inspired by the 1994 film of the same name, in which Brandon Lee tragically died during production, the Canadian superhero series The Crow: Stairway to Heaven attempted to tackle the James O’Barr comic book character, with Mark Dacascos portraying the rock star-turned-undead vigilante. The show premiered in 1998, just five years after Lee’s heartbreaking death, and like the 1996 sequel to the film, Stairway to Heaven was unfortunately destined to fail.


Tragedy Strikes Twice

During its single season, famous faces like Anthony Michael Hall and Corey Feldman made appearances, yet like the original cult classic, the production was plagued by a tragedy. Stuntman Marc Akerstream was killed during filming after he was struck in the head by debris when a special effects explosion went awry. Even though it delivered solid ratings at first and attracted some positive reviews, Stairway to Heaven was canceled, and though there were plans for some type of proper send-off, nothing came to fruition. Stream on Archive.

8 The Avengers: United They Stand (1999 – 2000)

The superheroes assemble in The Avengers: United They Stand
Fox Kids

Based on the famous team created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, The Avengers: United They Stand had a lot of potential to launch the Avengers into a bigger audience. But instead, the show took the original comics and twisted them into something clearly mediocre. It featured some of the less important heroes like Ant-Man, Wasp, Hawkeye, Tigra, Falcon, and Vision.


Marvel Gets a Makeover

The team gets together to fight all evil in the world, and its basic plot was ultimately too simplistic to grab the attention of viewers. Fox turned the heroes into enhanced versions of themselves – wearing armor instead of suits and being more muscular than seemed believable. While the sole purpose was to commercialize the franchise and sell merchandise, the show could not even achieve that, ending only after 13 episodes. Stream on Disney+.

7 The Zeta Project (2001 – 2003)

The superheroes in The Zeta Project
Kids’ WB

The DC Animated Universe is massive, and with so many flagship heroes, it is common to overlook some C-listers. The Zeta Project was a spinoff that revolved around a robot going rogue. Zeta was made by the government to infiltrate and assassinate as per the orders. But instead, he goes against his creators, leaves camp, and uses his abilities in a different land. All with the help of Ro.


Major Ratings Struggle

The character first appeared in the TV series Batman Beyond, and it’s bizarre that anyone thought Zeta would make a strong protagonist. Nonetheless, Robert Goodman’s creation for the WB Network was pretty cool, utilizing concepts like teleportation, conspiratorial corporate intrigue, and so on. It began strong, but ratings plummeted, and the show couldn’t make it beyond two seasons. Buy on Apple TV+.

Related: Superhero Characters Who Need Their Own Animated TV Shows

6 Birds of Prey (2002 – 2003)

The cast of the TV series Birds of Prey
The WB


Birds of Prey was a good idea but suffered from poor casting (and acting, to be honest) along with really corny dialogue that ruined the gloomy vibe. Set after the tragic death of Catwoman at the hands of The Joker and after Batman left New Gotham out of grief, the show made the awkward decision to rename famous DC characters and change their histories.

Progressive Yet Lackluster Series

It’s honestly a mess, which is a shame because there is so much to draw from with DC’s characters and the Birds of Prey comics. Yes, it was politically progressive for its time, but the show ended after 13 episodes. Today, it is seen as a minor footnote in the DC database. Buy on Apple TV+.

5 Krypto the Superdog (2005 – 2007)

The children's animated series Krypto the Superdog
The CW

Krypto the Superdog was a kids’ series about Superman’s dog Krypto, who was sent to Earth from Krpyton. Just like his master, he had gained superpowers to fight crime. When adopted by nine-year-old Kevin Whitney, he played an unassuming Labrador. But at night, he’d become Superdog, a canine who wanted to get rid of all evil.


Wholesome Family Fun

It had a fun, family-friendly tone with science fiction concepts mashed up with a superhero story. It centered on Krypto using abilities like flight, heat vision, and super-strength for comedic adventures and life lessons. But around this time, superhero projects with higher budgets were being created on TV and in movies, and viewers eventually dropped out of Krypto the Superdog, which really just ran out of ideas. Buy on Prime Video.

4 Aquaman (2006)

Aquaman 2006 TV Series
The WB

Another television series with a pilot episode meant to kickstart an entire series, Aquaman was created by the people behind Smallville, namely Al Gough and Miles Millar, with high hopes. But surprisingly, this one has fared worse in memory and esteem. Despite being based on a major DC superhero, the show was canceled after just one episode. It starred Justin Hartley (who later became Green Lantern in the franchise).


A Poorly Conceived Adaptation

The show aimed to adapt Aquaman’s undersea kingdom origin stories and character dynamics with a blend of fantasy, mythology, and comedy. But the show was plagued by wrong timing, low budgets, and a somewhat strange tone that failed to resonate with audiences. Aquaman’s later film successes and iconic status in DC’s universe have done little to revive views on this flop of a series. Currently unavailable for streaming.

3 Blade: The Series (2006)


Blade: The Series was yet another attempt to launch a superhero/horror franchise, this time based on the Blade films. It follows Blade as he investigates supernatural threats in NYC while balancing relationships with humans and vampires alike. The show featured Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones in the lead role, and tried to create a unique environment for a TV show; it mildly succeeded and received positive reviews for its dark and gritty style.

An Underwhelming Exploration

However, it wasn’t the best fit for Spike TV, a network devoted to masculinity; the show’s more gothic and creepy elements didn’t work for viewers, and it was canceled after 13 episodes, leaving its potential unrealized. Today, Blade: The Series is seen as a missed opportunity waiting to be revived. Stream on Tubi.

Related

12 Public Domain Comic Characters We Want to See in Superhero Movies

Superhero fatigue is real, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement. Let’s look at some original stories from the public domain


2 The Cape (2011)

The Cape

The Cape

Release Date
January 9, 2011

Seasons
1

Set in the fictional town of sunny Palm City, California, the short-lived superhero drama The Cape centered on hard-working detective Vince Faraday (David Lyons) who, after witnessing a shocking murder by the mysterious assailant named Chess, is forced to leave his family behind and go on the run after he is framed for the crime. Faraday decides to assume the identity of his son’s favorite superhero, The Cape, embarking on a crusade to clear his name and take out the villain responsible.

Huge Decline in Viewership

The pilot episode of The Cape attracted an impressive 8.45 million viewers, yet ratings steadily declined with the ensuing episodes, and it received a mixed bag response from critics. While it did garner a Primetime Emmy nomination for makeup, the drama was officially canceled after just 10 episodes and the series finale was only available online for streaming. Luckily, the last episode did wrap up some loose ends for the superhero, though the door was clearly left open for more seasons. Stream on Vudu.


1 Powerless (2017)

Powerless was a recent superhero comedy hybrid. It is set in a world where many people had some kind of superpower and focused on the team supporting those powers in the Director of Research & Development department at Wayne Security. With a great cast led by Vanessa Hudgens as Emily Locke, the show received positive hype for its original premise and style, blending fantasy elements with workplace ensemble comedy in a creative new way.

An Overly Ambitious Series

However, the show struggled from its launch, as audiences found that the concepts were thinly stretched across too many characters, cultures, and tones. Reviews were mixed, and it only lasted one season despite acclaim for its ambition and originality. Buy on Vudu.


[ad_2]

.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *