Television shows that come and go. But there are some shows that are so good they deserved a better fate than what they got, including these ten shows that got cancelled far too soon. It is a list of shows that may have ended up with bad timeslots or networks that wouldn’t give them a chance, but were cancelled before they could become TV stalwarts.
Many of these shows have starred some of the best movie and TV stars from the past ten to 15 years, but their circumstances didn’t allow them to spread their wings any further from a select number of episodes. Some of the shows got a second chance while others never saw the light of day again.
Here are the top ten TV shows that got cancelled too soon.
10 My So Called Life (August 25, 1994 – January 26, 1995)
This show starring Claire Danes lasted just 19 episodes during the 1994-95 TV season. It was looked at as a portrayal of adolescence and was acclaimed for the commentary of its main character Angela Chase, played by Danes. It also featured a young Jared Leto. The first show of the season ended with a cliffhanger like most TV shows do, but the show never got a chance to finish off that storyline and got cancelled. The show’s time slot didn’t help either, as it aired on Thursday nights on ABC against NBC’s Mad About You and Friends. It was a show that would have worked great in today’s teen-based programming industry, but it came one year too early for its own good.
9 Twin Peaks (April 8, 1990 – June 10, 1991)
From the start, Twin Peaks had a cult following but would last just two seasons on ABC with only 30 episodes. The show was based on a small town in Washington following the investigation of the murder of the homecoming queen. It was the perfect storyline, but unfortunately, not enough people were watching the show and ABC desperately wanted its writer to reveal who had killed Laura, the homecoming queen. Like My So Called Life, Twin Peaks was on Thursday nights and its ratings suffered with shows like Cheers up against it. The network did move the show to Wednesday for its first season finale but sent it back to Thursday for its second season where ratings tanked and the show ultimately died off.
8 Pushing Daisies (October 3, 2007 – June 13, 2009)
22 episodes and two seasons isn’t a long time for a show to be on the air, and Pushing Daisies was doing that by June of 2009. The show was based around Ned, a pie maker who could bring dead things back to life with his touch. The premise of the show was interesting and the show was touted as a “forensic fairy tale” but viewers never caught on and by the time December 2008 came along, ABC decided to pull the plug. The last three episodes of the show were sent to Saturday nights to burn them off. It was looked at as one of the best new shows of 2007 when it came out but couldn’t compete with NBC’s Deal or No Deal in the end. It was a sad conclusion to what could have been a promising show.
7 Star Trek (September 8, 1966 – June 3, 1969)
When people think of Star Trek, they assume that with all the movies and spinoffs that have come from it, the show must have been on the air for a long time. That wasn’t the case with the original series as it only lasted three seasons. The journey of the starship Enterprise and its mission “to boldly go where no man has gone before” obviously didn’t go over well for fans in the late-1960s. There were 79 episodes made in those three years though, and the show has lived through syndication. The biggest problem was the timeslot NBC gave the show. It aired Friday nights for much of its run and the younger audience that the network was trying to aim for didn’t tune in on that night or at 10pm Eastern where the show landed for its final season. It may rank up there with one of the biggest mistakes the network has ever made.
6 Happy Endings (April 13, 2011 – May 3, 2013)
There was no happy ending for this show as it was cancelled after the 2013 season. It would air for three seasons and 57 episodes. The show was based on six best friends living in Chicago, trying to deal with their own individual lives after the main couple broke up, forcing people to take sides. The show had a promising timeslot right after Modern Family on Wednesday nights on ABC but was soon moved around which is always the worst thing to happen to a show. The move in timeslots and day eventually saw the show’s ratings go down to a point where ABC decided to go in a different direction. Sony TV, who produced the show, went to different networks trying to keep it on the air but each one would pass, allowing the show to fade away.
5 Veronica Mars (September 22, 2004 – May 22, 2007)
The first that people saw of Kristen Bell came on this UPN show that ended up finishing on the WB before being cancelled after three seasons in 2007. Ironically, as the show began to gain momentum and viewership, it was put on hiatus in 2007 for the reality series “Pussycat Dolls Present.” When the show returned, it wasn’t the same and the network didn’t bring it back for a fourth season. A major problem came from the fact that the show wasn’t on one of the major networks and only an average of 2.5 million people watched each week as it shifted around on Tuesday and Wednesday. Unlike some of the other shows on this list though, Veronica Mars did get a second life in the movie theater as a film was released in 2014.
4 Jericho (September 20, 2006 – March 25, 2008)
There are shows that fans love so much that they will beg and plead for them to stick around. Jericho is one of those shows. It lasted two seasons and just 29 episodes but never would have gotten that second season without a fan campaign to bring the show back after poor ratings on CBS caused its cancellation. The show centered around a town in Kansas in the aftermath of nuclear attacks on 23 major cities in the United States. The show was placed on Wednesday nights to begin as well in 2006 which placed it against shows like Bones, Deal or No Deal and ABC’s comedies. There were efforts to move the show to another network without success and there was no third season on television. The show continued in a comic book series, however.
3 Firefly (September 20 – December 20, 2002)
It was a very short run for this Fox show that only got 14 episodes with 11 being aired before it was cancelled in 2002. The show was set in the year 2517 with humans arriving in a new star system and it followed the crew of Serenity. The show was looked at as one that would have a lot of success, but viewers never appeared to get on board for many reasons and attempts to move it to another network were unsuccessful. Many point to the fact that Fox aired the show out of sequence which made it hard for viewers to follow. The show also got preempted for sporting events which made keeping track of the show difficult. There have been two comic book mini-series done about the show along with the movie Serenity.
2 Arrested Development (November 2, 2003 – February 10, 2006)
The show got axed by Fox in 2006 after three seasons with low ratings. It has been looked at as one of the funniest shows of all time and with a cast that included some of the biggest stars in film and television over the last decade, it's hard to understand why the show was cancelled so quickly. The problem boiled down to fewer and fewer people watching even after the praise the show was receiving from critics. The final four episodes on Fox were put directly against the opening ceremonies of the 2006 Winter Olympics. The show was revived however in 2013 with a fourth season on Netflix which allowed fans to enjoy the show for another 15 episodes. It's unlikely that the show ever gets back to national television, although silver screen rumors continue to swirl.
1 Freaks and Geeks (September 25, 1999 – July 8, 2000)
It's hard to understand the reasoning behind NBC cancelling this show after just one season. The list of actors in the show has spawned some of Hollywood’s biggest superstars from James Franco to Seth Rogen to Jason Segel. There were only 12 episodes aired of the show during the 1999-2000 television season and 18 produced in total with fan pressure making NBC show three more episodes with the final three airing later on Fox Family. The show averaged just under seven million viewers per week as it landed the dreaded Saturday night spot against Fox’s COPS which didn’t help its chances. The show is being seen on FXX these days and while there have been talks about a movie, the idea hasn’t gained any traction.