Keep Calm, Trope On: Cult TV

We all have our favorite and least favorite tropes. From love triangles to slow burns, tropes are often the best ways to showcase great characters and storylines. They can also be frustrating and make you question why it is even a trope at all. In this bi-weekly column, we’ll take a deep dive into some of the most classic television tropes.

Dare I say, thousands of television shows exist. Each with their own fanbase devoted to watching and keeping the spirit of the series alive. After all, television would never be made if there weren’t people watching.

Not every show that exists has a huge following. Not every show can be Grey’s Anatomy and last over sixteen seasons due to its popularity. While millions of people may not watch a certain series, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a group of loyal fans that tune in every episode.

In fact, cult TV shows tend to have some of the most active fans out there. It doesn’t mean that the series is the greatest of all time, but for a select few viewers, it maybe is to them.

When you think of cult TV shows, what generally comes to mind is Firefly, Veronica Mars, Lucifer, Freaks & Geeks, Chuck, and literally any Canadian TV show. But what makes these shows any different than a show that just ended early? According to Thrillist, what makes a series cult TV is that they are “short runs, limited but dedicated audiences, and influential work.”

Source: Netflix

All those shows I listed fit that exact criteria, except maybe Lucifer which has grown out of its cult shell over the past couple of years. But before it was saved by Netflix after being canceled by FOX, Lucifer, definitely fit the mold of a cult tv show. It was hugely popular at fan conventions but clearly didn’t have a strong enough viewership for FOX to want to continue with it.

In doing my research for this article, I was curious to see what other shows were considered cult TV at one point. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The X-Files are two shows that, while they were airing, were deemed cult television. But thanks to streaming services, they have well surpassed this to become worldwide hits. It goes to show just how much a series can evolve long after it finishes airing.

Some of my all-time favorite shows are considered cult TV. Wynonna Earp has one of the strongest and most passionate fanbases that I have ever seen. It’s that exact fanbase that got Wynonna Earp a season four after worry that it was canceled. Wynonna Earp is one of those shows that – until recently – people have slept on. I admit, I only watched the show about a year ago, only after the first three seasons aired. But when I did decide to watch it, I fell in love with it.

Watching Wynonna Earp and seeing just how amazing the following was behind the show has made me open my eyes to a lot more series that I may have otherwise looked the other way on.

I wrote in my last article on how I recently discovered Lost Girl – another Canadian show that most of the general population probably hasn’t heard of. It wrapped up after five seasons in 2016 but it still lives on today. Cast members from Lost Girl continue to speak to large crowds as conventions like ClexaCon, proving just how loyal the fans are four years after it ended.

Source: Syfy

One of the greatest things to come out of the streaming wars is the ability to discover and watch endless amounts of television (except Alias which for some reason still isn’t available anywhere). Shows that are considered “hidden gems” are right at your fingertips.

Without Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lucifer,, and The X-Files would never have become anything more than a cult TV phenomenon. Wynonna Earp most likely would have never been saved, let alone reach a third season. Netflix allowed people like me to discover this show and so many others.

That being said, there are still so many shows unrecognized by people. A lot of critically acclaimed shows like Lodge 49 were canceled too soon because, despite a lot of critical praise, there just weren’t enough viewers to keep the show going.

Television is a tricky thing. You can have the greatest show of all time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your show will survive. How sad is that?

As I wrote at the beginning of this article, there are thousands of television shows out there. So, you can’t really blame anyone for missing the boat and skipping over a certain TV show. Unfortunately, the ramifications of that mean that many shows that are critical darlings or have devoted fans may not get to a point where millions of people watch the show.

A lot of the time, these cult TV shows don’t amass a huge following until after the series already ended. Firefly, for example, really became popular long after it ended when people re-examined the show and realized it was good after it was too late.

I don’t think all shows are meant to reach that level of success. While I wish more people watch Wynonna Earp, it doesn’t stop me from loving the show and the fandom.

All we can only ever be so lucky as to find that show that gives us the most joy. And that comes in many forms.

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