Of all the shows that got canceled last season, one of the hardest to lose was Fox's Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. The series was canceled after two seasons of action, complicated mythology, rich characters and plenty of surprises, not the least of which was the series finale, in which John (Thomas Dekker) goes into the future, leaving Sarah (Lena Headey) behind in the past. The cancellation was all the more difficult to take considering that the lower-rated Dollhouse was picked up by Fox, while TSCC wasn't.
If you read creator and executive producer Josh Friedman's blog, you begin to realize that the viewers aren't the only ones having a hard time.
Friedman writes: "Everyone says having your show canceled is like a death, but I've been dead before, and at least when you're dead you don't get thrown off the Warner Brothers lot for haunting your old parking space." He goes into much more graphic detail about his exit from the studio.
Earlier, Kevin Reilly, Fox's president of entertainment, offered an explanation as to why the network didn't renew Sarah Connor Chronicles.
"It was a good show," Reilly said. "It was not an either/or [with Dollhouse]. We did see it tailing off a bit. It had a nice creative core, but ultimately we made the bet on Dollhouse for the night." He added: "[It] was not an inexpensive show" and said that Fox had to "make some choices on the night. But, ultimately, we looked at the ratings track on Monday, where it had a pretty consistent run, and then on Friday, where it moved to. And that trend line was not pointing in the right direction."
While Friedman isn't any too happy about the loss of TSCC, he did offer some insight into the series when talked to SCI FI Wire in an exclusive interview via e-mail last week. Below is an edited version of our Q&A with Friedman about his favorite TSCC moments, the series finale and why he doesn't know if we'll see more Sarah Connor in the future.
In your mind, how does TSCC fit into the Terminator mythology? As an independent piece or part of the bigger whole?
Friedman: I think it would've been a mistake for me to get caught up in what is canon and what is not canon. I always felt TSCC owed a great debt to T1 and T2, and I was going to do everything I could to honor that. Over time, however, you also find yourself owing a debt to the work you're doing, the material right in front of your face. So you've got to make good with that and still try to maintain an integrity with the work that's inspired you. TSCC is an expression of the Terminator universe. But it's four years of creative decisions distilled into 31 hours that will probably not jibe with everyone's idea of the Terminator puzzle. That's OK. I go with the "uncanny valley" theory on this, as in most things: The closer you get to making one thing like another thing, the more the ways in which it differs stand out.
For you, over the two seasons, what storylines took on their own life, maybe in a way you didn't expect?
Friedman: I was pleased by how much we got out of Cromartie/John Henry [Garret Dillahunt]. Most of that is due to the genius that is Dillahunt—there's a reason David Milch couldn't leave him dead in Deadwood. I always knew we'd have a Terminator body aiding in the A.I. development, but I'll admit it wasn't always the Cromartie body. We explored other ideas there, but ultimately we couldn't stand removing Cromartie from the chessboard.
On the flip side, what storylines never quite developed the way you hoped?
Friedman: Well, the most obvious answer involves all the things that we dropped due to the strike in season one. The high-school intrigue re the suicidal cheerleader and the guidance counselor was a chunk of it. We had a character who was blackmailing various students and teachers, and John would have run afoul of him/her. We never got that far, and by the time season two rolled around, I think everyone just wanted to move past it. Obviously that's an annoying attitude if you've invested time into that storyline, but for everyone who wanted to continue that, there [were] probably 10 who were happy to get the hell out of high school.
You made some controversial story choices at the end of the second season, like killing off Riley [Leven Rambin] and Derek [Brian Austin Green]. Why go there?
Friedman: I don't think killing Riley or Derek was particularly controversial. I think both events were organic outgrowths of the choices they made and the lives they led. Both of their deaths are among my favorite moments on the show. And we do see Derek again, albeit a different Derek.
What are you most proud of when it comes to The Sarah Connor Chronicles?
Friedman: What am I most proud of? Most weeks I was just proud we got a show onto the air. It's f--king difficult. But I guess I'm proudest that we never took the easy way out of a story problem, and we gave the audience credit for being able to follow us no matter where we went.
The ending could be looked at as an actual end to the series or as a cliffhanger. Was it difficult to come up with the finale? Why did you want to end it on such a big note?
Friedman: The finale wasn't really any more difficult than any other episode. Frankly, "Adam Raised a Cain" almost f--king killed the writers' room, so the finale was a vacation compared to that. I'd known for quite a while where we were headed, so once we got to that point it was pretty organic. I don't think I set out to end "on a big note," but I knew I wanted John Henry to be attacked, and the drone seemed the most dramatic way to hit that beat. I needed to drive people to the future, and making the present an extremely dangerous place to be seemed like an important part of the equation. ...
Do you ever see the story continuing, perhaps in a comic book or another format?
Friedman: I don't own this franchise or control it in any way. I can't just go make a deal to do a comic book or a DVD movie or anything like that. The people that control the franchise need to be interested in another iteration of not just Terminator, which clearly they are, but TSCC, which at this point they are not. I've tried to pull this proverbial band-aid off as quickly as I can, but I don't want that confused with me giving up on the show. It's been my entire creative existence for years, and nothing strokes my ego more than hearing about people clamoring for more TSCC and e-mailing network executives to that effect. But I want people to have a realistic understanding of what's going on. I owe them honesty.
Is there anything you'd like to say to the fans?
Friedman: I don't think there's much I could say to fans that I haven't already said. TSCC has been my life for almost four years, and the fans have been a huge part of that experience. Nothing exists in a vacuum, and television is nothing if not a social compact—I'll try to make something worth watching, and you'll try to watch it. It's a handshake, and you don't want to leave the other guy hanging. Hopefully, we'll try again soon.