Terra Nova: Now with more scowling and fewer dinosaurs!
This week fans of bad dinosaur-based science fiction got the sad news that Fox cancelled Terra Nova. Given the show's low ratings and high production cost, this shouldn't come as a surprised to anybody. You would have thought that a show about dinosaurs and time travel would have ignited a bidding war for the video game rights, but in the three years since production started, not one single company decided to announce intentions on making a Terra Nova video game.
They may have dodged a bullet this time around, but that has not always been the case. Game companies have a bad habit of betting on the wrong TV shows, which ultimately leads to that embarrassing moment when your big budget title hits shelves months after the show was cancelled. It's hard to seem relevant when your game is based on a show that didn't even have enough fans to stay on the television. Here are some of the most heartbreaking examples TV shows being adapted too late.
James Cameron's Dark Angel
[ Show Run: Oct. 2000 - May 2002 | Game Launch: Nov. 2002 ]
He may have directed the top two highest grossing movies of all time, but that wasn't enough to keep James Cameron's Dark Angel on the air. Starring a young Jessica Alba in futuristic Seattle, Dark Angel was
plagued by predictable plot points, an annoying supporting cast and cheesy writing. Eventually James Cameron stepped in to save this sinking ocean liner, but just like the Titanic it was too little too late. The Fox show was cancelled after 43 episodes.
The game was scheduled to be released in November of 2002, perfectly coinciding with the show's third season opener. Unfortunately, news of Dark Angel's cancelation came early in the year. As a result, Radical Entertainment slashed the budget of the Xbox and PlayStation 2 game. The result was a half-assed effort that disappointed fans and critics alike. Ironically, the game was on track to outperform its TV counterpart. On a game system goofy writing and predictable plot points come with the territory, so the emphasis on action would have made this franchise tolerable.
1 vs. 100
[ Show Run: Oct. 2006 - Feb. 2008 | Game Launch: June 2009 ]
Borne out of the success of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and The Weakest Link, NBC decided to up the ante with a game show starring a whopping 101 people (102 if you include host Bob Saget). The idea was simple enough; the two groups answered
a series of trivia questions to see who would be the last one standing. Like a lot of game shows, the novelty wore thin and NBC eventually ditched the show in favor of Deal or No Deal. Even though it only ran two years, this Danish import ran a total of 68 episodes.
Released a year after NBC kicked it from their network, 1 vs. 100 was Microsoft's first (and so far only) free Xbox Live Arcade game show. Run on ad money and scheduled only a few times a week, this Xbox Live Arcade game was definitely forward thinking. Despite interest early on, many players tuned out when they realized how hard it was to actually earn real prizes. Sadly the trivia show only lasted two short seasons before Microsoft kicked it from Xbox Live Arcade. Since then Microsoft has hinted at reviving their sponsorship-based game show initiative, but so far nothing has come from it.
[ Show Run: Aug. 2005 - May 2009 | Game Launch: April 2010 ]
What started with a simple premise quickly spiraled out of control as Fox demanded more seasons. Prison Break started its life as a show about, well, a prison break. However, before long it turned into a show about government conspiracies, fleeing the United States and, you guessed it, breaking out of ANOTHER prison. Of course, none of this was planned out ahead of time and
the writers were making it up as they went along. After straying so far from the original theme, Fox finally put the show out of its misery. Just to prove how little respect they had for the questionable audience that stuck with them, the writers had the main character die for no reason in the final seconds of the finale. Good riddance, Prison Break.
Deep Silver's Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 game, subtitled The Conspiracy, was released a full year after the show's final episode. Prison Break's linear storyline isn't helped by poor controls and dated graphics. All this disappointing action game did was remind fans that, after escaping multiple prisons and clearing his name, Michael Scofield died for no good reason. It wasn't even part of a story arc. They gave him a mystery illness and he died simply to make up for three seasons of dreadful plotting. The fact that these writers are still allowed to work on television is baffling.
[ Show Run: Mar. 1999 - Aug. 2003 | Game Launch: Aug. 2003 ]
After ten years of producing TV's top-rated cartoon, Fox was hoping to have lightning strike twice with a second Matt Groening series. That show was Futurama, a goofy series about a regular schlub who accidentally gets cryogenically frozen for a
thousand years. Although the show was able to earn a loyal fan base, the ratings paled in comparison to what Fox was used to. Sadly, the network scrapped the cartoon after only 72 episodes. Even though it only lasted four years, the show continued to draw big numbers as reruns in syndication. Eventually this caught the eye of Comedy Central, who saved the show and ordered an additional 50 episodes.
Like most games based on Fox animated TV shows, Futurama wasn't much to play. Some of the action-oriented gameplay mechanics made more sense in the confines of Futurama's science fiction premise, but that just wasn't enough for a recommendation. On the other hand, fans of the series were treated to a brand new episode not seen on television. Until Comedy Central announced the resurrection of the series, this mediocre game was literally the last place you could see Fry, Bender, Leela, Hermes and Nibbler. How depressing is that?
[ Show Run: Jan. 1984 - Aug. 1987 | Game Launch: June 1989 ]
Bad acting, cheesy synth lines, insufferable dialog and copious amounts of helicopter shots. I can only be talking about Airwolf, the action-packed show that lasted three seasons on NBC. It's the story of a man and his experimental helicopter, sort of like Knight
Rider without the heavy doses of Hasselhoff. When NBC cancelled the show after only three seasons, the USA cable channel stepped up. Unfortunately this led to budget cuts and a lack luster finale that few are willing to defend. By 1987 the action craze had been overshadowed by cheaply made and high rated sitcoms.
Acclaim had a window of four years to release a game starring an action hero and his kick-butt helicopter. It's the perfect premise for a simple 8-bit NES game, so capitalizing on the show's success should have been a cinch. Oh Acclaim, you let us down yet again. Airwolf was released two full years after the show crashed and burned on its second home network. The result was a middling action game that nobody cared about. Things got so bad that the Airwolf box art had to remind gamers that it was "based on a hit TV show." Ouch!