A trend I noticed in a lot of the older cartoons I watch is that, because they were made for syndication, many don't have a conclusion--something that wraps up many plot threads or stories built up over time. Despite the sometimes-high episode counts of these shows (I'm talking 65 at max, 13 at minimum), they just either gave the illusion that 'the show goes on', or get canceled before they can end on a high (or in few cases, low) note.
Of course, this sort of thing was the norm in the golden and silver ages of Saturday morning cartoons, the 80's and 90's, when syndication was hot (and a key element of the toy-television-comic book-industrial complex), and well-thought story arcs and character development were exceptions, not rules. (And they call television fuzz 'static'...)
Having by now seen a good number of these shows, I felt that some way, somehow, they deserve a cap off to the stories they told. And in this day and age where many a fan-favorite TV show is given a comic book continuation (Dark Horse and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, IDW and The X-Files, DC and Smallville: Season ___ , etc.)--sometimes with a proper final look at the world of that show--that wouldn't be a far-off possibility (lest rights issues or whatever get in the way). So, here I present to you my top ten cartoon shows, syndicated or short-lived (and in a couple of cases, ongoing), in need of a proper send-off.
The Setup: Four dinosaurs, evolved into intelligent warriors by a rogue alien scientist, team up with the alien law officer pursuing said scientist in order to stop a trio of raptors (also evolved by the scientist) from causing global warming on present-day Earth.
The Show's Last Episode: "Holiday on Ice", a Christmas episode. Yeah. Three guesses as to what happens.
Burning questions begging for an ending: Did the Dinos stop the Raptors once and for all? Did Chedra and the Dinos bring Argor to justice? Did Pork's museum/tourist trap see a boom in business? Simply put, I wanna know!
9. Mummies Alive! (1997, 42 episodes, DIC)
The Setup: Four mummies, originally bodyguards/advisors to the young pharaoh Rapses, awaken in the modern era to defend his reincarnation, a young boy named Presley Carnovan, from Scarab, the evil sorcerer who killed Rapses in the first place.
The Show's Last Episode: "Show Me the Mummy", where a recurring human character, Joe Pendleton the policeman, hosts a call-in radio broadcast to hear from those who've had brushes with the Mummies to find out who they are. Basically, the show ended the same way fare such as The Critic, Code Lyoko, and Beavis and Butt-head (originally) did. And most of the time, it's not that good to end a series with a clip show, especially with the case of The Critic.
Burning questions begging for an ending: Do the Mummies finally vanquish Scarab once and for all? Do the Mummies return to their eternal rest and head to the afterlife? What does Presley get up to in his adult years?
The Setup: Two warring sides from the far future--the human-looking Valorians and the reptilian/insectoid/shark-like Rulons--wind up in Earth's prehistory, and utilize the dinosaurs in their battles, while trying to return to their own time.
The Show's Last Episode: "Ice Age Adventure", meant to introduce a new sub-set within the accompanying toyline, made up of Ice Age animals such as smilodons, woolly mammoths, and giant sloths.
Burning questions begging for an ending: In an nutshell, do the Valorians finally defeat the Rulons? Do they return to their own time to quell the Rulon invasion of their planet? And do they see to it that their presence in the past doesn't impact the timestream? These are burning questions that would drive even Sheldon Cooper mad!
The Setup: In the 22nd Century, humanity, using mechanical battlesuits called Exo-Frames, fights an interplanetary war against their own creations, the bio-engineered Neo-Sapiens.
The Show's Last Episode: "Beyond Chaos", detailing the post-war climate of the Solar System, with a hint of a new threat to come...Which would have been addressed in a third season or film that never came to pass.
Burning questions begging for an ending: Who is the new alien race lurking in the background? What causes the humans and the Neo-Sapiens to unite against them? What becomes of the character Nara Burns and the mutation she undergoes?
6. Spiral Zone (1987, 65 episodes, Atlantic/Kushner-Locke)
The Setup: A special unit made up of military operatives from around the world fight to save Earth from being zombified by the spiral zone phenomena, and its creator Overlord.
The Show's Last Episode: "Countdown", another 'race-against-time' episode involving a bomb. Curiously, the later additions to the Zone Riders and Black Widows are absent.
Burning questions begging for an ending: Do the Zone Riders succeed in destroying all the Zone Generators, and bringing Overlord and the Black Widows to justice? Are Overlord and crew even cured of their Zone exposure and disfigurements?
5. The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers (1986, 65 episodes, Gaylord Entertainment Company)
The Setup: A quartet of specialized 'Galaxy Rangers' patrol space under the command of BETA (Bureau for Extra-Terrestrial Affairs) in order to thwart any and all criminal activity, including that of the evil Crown Empire.
The Show's Last Episode: "Heartbeat", where one of the Rangers, Walter "Doc" Halford, must convince the ruler of Tarkon, a planet of Luddites, that the Crown Empire has them in its sights.
Burning questions begging for an ending: Two big ones, mainly--Does ranger Zachary Foxx rescue his wife from the clutches of the Queen of the Crown? Does the Crown Empire fall at the hands of the Rangers and BETA? And does Captain Kidd, the show's "Harry Mudd" (as series creator Robert Mandell described him), ever get a lucky break?
4. Bionic Six (1987-89, 65 episodes, TMS Entertainment and MCA TV (the future NBCUniversal Television Distribution)
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The Setup: The Bennett family, bionically-enhanced to save their lives, go on missions for the scientist who saved them in order to thwart the schemes of his immortality-obsessed brother, the mad Dr. Scarab, and his minions.
The Show's Last Episode: "That's All, Folks", where the Bennetts and Dr. Scarab's team find themselves in a world similar to a Looney Tunes cartoon.
Burning questions begging for an ending: Do the Bionic Six finally bring Dr. Scarab and his gang to justice? What becomes of the Bennett kids in their adult years? The world must know!
3. Pokémon (1997-Present, 930+ episodes, 4Kids! Entertainment and OLM, Inc.)
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The Setup: Young Ash Ketchum, his trusty Pikachu, and their friends travel across the world of fantastic creatures called Pokémon, with Ash dreaming to one day become the world's #1 Pokémon master.
The Show's Current State of Affairs: Ash and Pikachu, along with Ash's childhood friend Serena and new friends Clemont and Bonnie, travel across the Kalos Region (the setting of the X, Y, and Z games); since Sun and Moon haven't come out yet, our heroes haven't been to the Alola Region.
Burning questions begging for an ending: Just one--does Ash succeed in his goal, or does he learn that there's more than one way to be a Pokémon master? Something tells me that that's a question not going to be answered any time soon, as long as Pokémon keeps raking it in for all involved. Face it folks, if Japanese anime has an equivalent in terms of series longevity to The Simpsons, it's Pokémon.
2. Robotech (1985, 85 episodes, Harmony Gold USA and Tatsunoko Production Co., Ltd.; continued in the films Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles (2006) and Robotech: Love Live Alive (2013))
The Setup: Three generations of humanity fight back against three different alien invasions using reverse-engineered alien technology in the form of transforming mecha, all over the mysterious fuel source called Protoculture.
The Show's Last Episode: The 2006 film Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles, in which, at the end, the Robotech Defense Forces set out to find their missing leader, Admiral Rick Hunter, and take down the aliens who set all the conflict at the heart of Robotech in motion: the robotic Haydonites.
Burning questions begging for an ending: Let's just say there's a lot of burning questions, some of which were answered in the comics and the Jack McKinney novels (especially the final one, titled End of the Circle). BUT, when Shadow Chronicles was being worked on in the early 2000's, Harmony Gold decided to render all those past depictions as secondary continuity, which means this current continuity has a lot of explaining to do. Two projects were attempted to finish things off: 2007's Shadow Rising and 2014's Kickstarter for Robotech Academy; both have since been long canceled and abandoned. With UK-based comic book publisher Titan having recently gained the Robotech license, one now wonders what sort of mucking they'll do to the continuity THIS time....
And now, the moment you've been waiting for--the dark horse, the wild card, the one driving fans crazy for years, probably the most unexpected pick for a series in need of a good swan song....
1. Duckman (1994-97, 70 episodes, Klasky Csupo) The Setup: A duck who works as a private eye in L.A. and lives with his family. Also known to break out into sometimes very insightful rants.
The Show's Last Episode: "Four Weddings Inconceivable", where in the middle of a triple wedding, *SPOILER ALERT* Duckman's supposedly deceased wife Beverly arrives and shocks the crowd. When asked by Duckman how she can still be alive, she alleges that his business partner and best friend, Cornfed Pig, always knew. Cornfed's response: "I can explain." The show then ends with "To be continued...?", and yet nada came of it.
Burning questions begging for an ending: Just one--does Cornfed actually have an explanation for Beverly's sudden reappearance? And is it a plausible one? (Whoops--guess that's two burning questions...)
So there you have it--just as Homer Simpson demands a novelization of the third Porky's movie, so too do I demand closure for these particular franchises. I mean heck, The Flintstones as a franchise got what I believe to be a proper ending in the 1993 TV special "Hollyrock-a-Bye Baby". And that's the beauty of an ending--even in books, even with film and television, even with video games and music, you can always read, watch, or play them again after finishing. It's just that simple.