The music industry has a concept called the “one hit wonder.” As the name states, it’s a band that has only had one real hit.
I have applied this concept to television, as the One Season Wonder. A One Season Wonder is a series that lasted for one season or less, and made a lasting impact on fandom.
After looking back on the 50-plus years of sci-fi/fantasy programming, I present to you my top five One Season Wonders, counting down to No. 1.
5 – The Time Tunnel
Airing during the 1966-67 season, The Time Tunnel was produced by Irwin Allen, and starred James Darren and Robert Colbert as Drs. Tony Newman and Doug Phillips. Thirty episodes were produced and aired that season.
While only airing one season, this show is well remembered by genre fans as well as fans of Irwin Allen’s work. While the history wasn’t always accurate, and later episodes degenerated into featuring the silver-clad aliens like Allen’s show tended to do, it is well remembered and was a unique concept for its time. The strength of the concept can be acknowledged by an attempt to remake the show in 2002.
4 – Alien Nation
This show was the template for dealing with discrimination and aliens assimilating into another culture. And I’m not necessarily referring to extraterrestrials.
The series was adapted from a rather generic action film about aliens landing on Earth, with no place to go. The series made it so much more.
Giving us a bipedal alien, with traits closer to marsupials than Homo sapiens, it let us take a peek at an alien race, trying to hold on to parts of their culture while assimilating into ours. While the crime aspect is what sold the series, genre fans came back week after week to immerse ourselves in an alien culture looked down upon by so many.
The concept was so strong, it refused to go away, Syfy has a remake of the series in development. Hopefully if it lasts, it will remain close to the original.
3 – Kolchak: The Night Stalker
Spun off of two successful television movies, Kolchak: the Night Stalker aired 20 episodes on ABC during the 1973-74 season. It starred Darren McGavin as the titular character Carl Kolchak, an investigative reporter for the Independent News Service.
Known primarily as a horror series, the show featured a variety of characters, from vampires to robots, from aliens to witches. And through it all, the character of Kolchak fought the creatures he came across while searching for the truth regarding these creatures. The truth, and getting the story, whether or not it was ever published, was what mattered most to Kolchak.
This was a concept lost on the remake that appeared on ABC in 2005.
This series was an inspiration to many working in the genre, including Chris Carter, creator of the long running Fox series “The X-Files.”
2 – Firefly
It’s such a simple concept, put a collection of eclectic characters in one place, and let the plots and characters play off of each other. This series from Joss Whedon hit with this concept like no other series before. A strong cast, with well developed characters has transformed this series into a cult classic.
Premiering in 2002, only 11 of the 14 episodes produced were aired. The fans adopted these characters as their own. They were so loved. The series spawned a feature film following up on one of the dangling storylines left behind after cancelation.
It’s a pity the Fox network didn’t really seem to know what to do with this show. If they had, it might still be on the air.
1 – Battlestar Galactica
The original “Battlestar Galactica” told a story of betrayal, which lead to near extinction to the human race. While the later version based on this show preferred to show us how futile and depressing surviving was, the original put a spin of hope on it.
While viewed as cheesy, the show said to us, “let’s live.” They found a way to move on. Was it realistic? Probably not, but it worked for its time. Its unlikely the same approach would work today.
In 1978, this series was a top 40 series when it concluded. It was almost unheard of for a top 40 series to be canceled, but it was. While it did well in the ratings, it was killed by its expense. Television is always a game of numbers, and the cost of the show was greater than they could charge advertisers for its ratings. And so it died.
This series was loved by millions, and there were several attempts to revive it after its death. And it finally succeeded in the critically praised mini-series that aired in 2003, which led to the series revival in 2004.
Oh, and “Galactica 1980” doesn’t count as a second season. Different name and different cast equals different series.
Each of these shows had strong concepts that have lived on beyond the show itself. Each one has found new life after its demise. To me, that is what shows the strength of each show, and why it belongs on this list.
That’s my list of the top five One Season Wonders. You’re most welcome to agree or disagree. Do you prefer a different order? Or perhaps a different series or two should have been included? Let me know.