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THE B-LIST: Short-lived — but not entirely forgotten — sci-fi series worth watching

Genre shows you can binge in just a day or two

Don't you hate it when you fall hard for a new show — one with an intriguing premise and colorful characters — only to see that show cancelled almost immediately?

There are plenty of short-lived greats that come readily to mind.

The space western "Firefly," which gave us fantastically quotable dialogue, Nathan Fillion in suspenders and plenty of opportunities for Gina Torres to cock a shotgun.

The colorfully macabre "Pushing Daisies," starring Lee Pace as the cutest necromancer in history and Anna Friel as the undead girl of his dreams.

The ahead-of-its-time steampunk adventure "The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.," created by Carlton Cuse ("LOST") with The Chin himself, Bruce Campbell, in the titular role.

But while those shows were cut off before they could even reach their prime, they've also achieved passionate cult status. There are legions of fans still screaming their praises online, diehards who live in hope of a future resurrection — or at least new adventures in a different medium, be it comics or films.

But what about the unsung genre greats? One season wonders that have faded from the collective fandom memory?

Let's walk down that murky memory lane today and shine a light on some single-serve sci-fi fun, starting with:

6. "JOHN DOE" (2002-2003). Our titular hero (Dominic Purcell) doesn't know who he was before he was pulled out of the water by Cambodian fishermen. But he does know everything else, so the walking Google teams up with detectives to help them solve cases and, hopefully, his own mystery. It's a fun premise, and the standalone cases often have tinges of "The X-Files." The muscular and intimidating Purcell is best known for "Prison Break" and "Legends of Tomorrow," but this was an underratedly great start to his American career.

5. "ROAR" (1997). Before the ill-fated Heath Ledger was the Joker, before he went to “Brokeback Mountain,” he was Conor, a young Irish chieftan fighting Roman invaders and dark magic in this adventure series built along the same lines as “Xena” and “Hercules.” Future scream queen Vera Farmiga co-starred as one of Conor’s loyal warriors, with Sebastian Roché as the evil foil Longinus, the centurion who stabbed the crucified Jesus and is now seeking a way to break his curse of immortality. A must-see for any Ledger fan.

4. "WITCHBLADE" (2001-2002). NYPD detective Sara Pezzini (Yancy Butler) becomes the latest butt-kicking lady to wield the Witchblade, a semi-sentient gauntlet that bestows superpowers on its bearers. Based on the popular comic series, there's plenty of intrigue, historical flashbacks to past Witchblade bearers (like Joan of Arc) and action, making this a personal fave. But due to Butler's public struggles with alcoholism, the show was cancelled after two short seasons — and remains the highest-rated show to get the axe.

3. "DARK ANGEL" (2000-2002). In the post-apocalyptic future of 2019, Seattle has become a city of cyberpunk technology. Max (Jessica Alba, in her breakout role) is a genetically-enhanced supersoldier who escaped a covert facility as a child and moonlights as a cat thief (fitting, since she has feline DNA). The second season may have been a let-down, but the quality cast — a pre-"NCIS" Michael Weatherly, a pre-"Supernatural" Jensen Ackles and character actor extraordinaire Kevin Durand — the gothic mad science plots and female empowerment narrative at its core was a huge deal to a slew of teenaged girls (yours truly included).

2. "BRIMSTONE" (1998). When NYPD detective Zeke Stone (Peter Horton) kills his wife's rapist in cold blood, he ends up in Hell for his sins. Fifteen years later, 113 damned souls escape into the world, and the Devil (John Glover) gives Stone a chance at redemption: if he can send the evil souls back to Hell, he'll earn his own resurrection. What a fantastic premise! What opportunities for future stories — Stone hunts Nazis, arsonists and even Typhoid Mary —and yet we only got one season! And there's never even been a DVD release! Talk about sinful.

1. "MIRACLES" (2003). Paul (Skeet Ulrich) is an investigator for the Catholic church, a jaded cynic whose life changes when he meets a boy who can heal with a touch. Joining forces with Alva Keel (Angus MacFadyen) and Evelyn Santos (Marisa Ramirez), Paul investigates stigmata, possessions and more in this "spiritual successor to 'The X-Files'." Tragically, only six episodes originally aired, and the series was unfairly canned before it could find its feet, but I highly recommend tracking down the DVD set to see all 13 episodes of this great chiller with a religious bent and buckets of creepy atmosphere.

• ANGIE BARRY is a page designer and columnist for The Times. To suggest future topics for The B-List, which covers pop culture, history and literature, contact her at

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