The ’90s gave life to some of the most successful sitcoms of all time—Friends, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Frasier, Everybody Loves Raymond, and That ’70s Show to name just a few. These are shows that still remain classics to this day that we love to watch back time and time again no matter how many times we have seen them already. Did you ever wonder, though, why certain sitcoms really took off in the ’90s and why others failed miserably?
The list we have complied aims to take a look at some of the most peculiar reasons why ’90s sitcoms were cancelled or taken off the air. Many of the shows mentioned on this list lasted only one season, and the reasons for this are quite varying. So, sit back, relax, and take a look at some ’90s sitcoms you may have long forgotten and the exact reasons why each was taken off the air.
15. All-American Girl
For those of you who don’t remember, All-American Girl was a 1994 sitcom starring comedian Margaret Cho as the rebellious teenage daughter of a conservative Korean-American family. The show revolved around Cho’s own comedy material. But unfortunately, the show only aired one season and was cancelled in 1995 despite ABC’s attempts to try for another season. The reason why the show may have ended so early is due to the fact that it received quite a large number of complaints from viewers, particularly Asian-Americans who were uncomfortable with how the onscreen Korean family was portrayed. They believed that the actors did not portray Koreans in a realistic manner and that the only ethically Korean actor was Cho. Cho eventually spoke out to clarify that the comedy contained in the show was not in fact her but rather that her stand-up routines had just inspired producers. She stated, “When you’re the first person to cross over this racial barrier, you’re scrutinized for all these other things that have nothing to do with race, but they have everything to do with race—it’s a very strange thing.”
Action was a 1999 comedy series about a Hollywood producer named Peter Dragon who, when the show kicks off, is in the process of trying to recover from his last box-office flop. Despite being praised for its irreverent, realistic, and sometimes hostile look at Hollywood culture, the Fox show was cancelled in 2000 after a thirteen-episode run. At the time, only 8 of these episodes were run on Fox but the remaining episodes later ran on networks such as FX and Comedy Central. It is not quite clear why Action was cancelled so soon as the show has certainly earned a cult following in more recent times. However, it is assumed that low views is the main reason Action was taken off air. This is surprising considering that this is a show that received high critical acclaim and has an endless list of celebrity cameos including Sandra Bullock, Tony Hawk, Steve Kmetko, and David Hasselhoff.
13. George And Leo
This sitcom starring Bob Newhart and Judd Hirsch had a short run on CBS from September 15, 1997 to March 16, 1998. It is very odd that this show was cancelled after 22 episodes because of low ratings, considering the success its actors have had in the past. In fact, during the show, one episode titled “The cameo show” featured guest appearances from many of the co-stars of Newhart’s and Hirsch’s previous sitcoms including The Bob Newhart Show, Taxi, Newhart, and Dear John. The show centered around the fact that Newhart and Hirsh’s characters become in-laws once their children get married. Although it was never a big hit on television, it was still an enjoyable watch nonetheless.
12. Madman Of The People
Madman of the people was an NBC sitcom that was cancelled after a one-season stint from 1994-1995. The show had the prestige of being placed in the Thursday 9:30 time slot as part of the must-see TV segment. The series, which stars Dabney Coleman as a newspaper columnist who has been writing a piece titled “Madman of the people” for 30 years, was certainly cancelled for the oddest of reasons. In fact, quite controversially, Madman of the people was one of the highest-rated shows to ever get cancelled. Apparently, although it was getting good ratings, the show was losing a considerable portion of its lead-in audience from Seinfeld and was also hindering ER which was a show that bosses believed had the potential to take off. Due to this, Friends, which was receiving some early success, was chosen for the 9:30 slot instead, leading to one of the most dominant programming blocs in TV history.
11. 704 Hauser
Up next, we have 704 Hauser which is an American sitcom that was a spin-off of All in the Family and aired on CBS in April of 1994. The series is centered around the concept of a black family, the Cumberbatch family, moving into the former home of Archie Bunker, many years after Archie has sold the house located at 704 Hauser Street in Queens. The show has many references to All in the Family and in the first episode, Joey Stivic, Archie’s grandson from the original series, makes a cameo appearance. The show was cancelled due to low viewership after just 5 episodes. 704 Hauser attempted to essentially reverse the white and African-American roles which was quite a controversial decision as many viewers caught on to the fact that they were basically watching a remake of the original series with the roles reversed.
The next cancelled sitcom on our list is Sydney which aired in 1990 and starred Valerie Bertinelli, Craig Bierko, and a 21-year-old Matthew Perry before his Friends success. The show centers around Sydney Kells (Valerie Bertinelli), the daughter of a now-deceased policeman and the relocation of her New York City detective agency back to her hometown where her overbearing family are still situated. Matthew Perry stars as Sydney’s overprotective brother, Billy, who is also a cop. Craig Bierko plays her love interest in the form of an uptight lawyer. Strangely, Sydney was cancelled just three months after it aired with only thirteen episodes under its belt. This is odd as the show received good critical acclaim and reviews; it even has a rating of 7.8/10 on IMDb.
9. Bakersfield P.D
Next on the list, we have Bakersfield P.D. which is another ’90s sitcom that was cancelled before it ever really got the run of itself. This show was based in the police department of Bakersfield, California. And although it never really took off, ratings wise, many claim it is a very underrated show. In fact, after Fox cancelled the show due to low ratings, the cable channel Trio decided to show reruns of it under its “Brilliant But Cancelled” segment. The reason Bakersfield P.D. may have received such bad rating when it was originally on air is that it had a very unconventional approach to sitcom television. The show was shot with naturalistic lighting and without a laugh track which, when you stop to think about it, is almost unheard of in terms of sitcoms.
8. If Not For You
If not for You was a CBS sitcom that first appeared on TV screens in 1995. The show starred Hank Azaria and Elizabeth McGovern as Craig and Jessie, two people that fall for each other while both are still involved with other people. This was a show that offered early roles to many known actors we regularly hear of these days, including Peter Krause, Sandra Oh, and Reno Wilson, not to mention Debra Jo Rupp, Jim Turner, Caroline Aaron, and Kelly Coffield. The strange reason why this show was cancelled is mainly caught up in the fact that it wasn’t the right fit for a network like CBS. Many have a soft spot for this short-lived show, and it’s likely that if it aired at a different time on a different channel, this show could have potentially had a longer run, perhaps even for four or five seasons. However, it was not meant to be.
Another ’90s comedy that got the axe was Cupid, an ABC show which featured Paula Marshall, as a psychologist situated in Chicago who is given charge of a man named Trevor Hale, played by Jeremy Piven. Hale’s character is under the impression that he is Cupid and that he has been sent to earth from Mount Olympus by Zeus and that it is his job to connect 100 couples without being able to use his powers as a punishment for a sin he has committed. Oddly enough, this show was cancelled despite the fact that the premise and acting in it were of a very high standard. Apparently, this was just not a show that viewers were interested in, as when the show tried to air again in 2009 with a new cast, it was yet again cancelled. The show was a clear revival of the original failed series and changed only its location from Chicago to New York. The new series was cancelled after just 7 episodes.
6. Can’t Hurry Love
Can’t Hurry Love was a CBS sitcom that ran from September 18, 1995 to February 26, 1996 and starred Nancy McKeon as lead character Annie O’ Donnell. The plot of the show revolves around Annie, a single thirty-something woman living in New York, and her three friends—Didi, Roger, and Elliot. The show has been compared to Sex and the City as it essentially revolved around Annie’s quest to find love and to balance her career at the same time. CBS bosses controversially decided to axe the show despite the fact that it had an average household rating of 11.4, tying it for 24th place among all TV shows that year. This is quite odd and makes it rather unfair that a show that was clearly doing well with audiences was cancelled after its first season and never given a chance to fully bloom.
5. Me And The Boys
Me and the Boys first aired on ABC on September 20, 1994 but was short-lived, getting the axe on February 28, 1995. The series stars comedian Steve Harvey, who also acted as a writer for the show in his first ever leading role. Harvey’s character is Steve Tower, a widower who runs a video store in Dallas and is struggling with raising his three boys by himself. Madge Sinclair also played a part in the show as Steve Tower’s mother-in-law, Mary. This would be her last acting appearance ever before her death. The series had a good place on ABC’s lineup following Full House on Tuesday nights. Mysteriously, despite ranking #20 in the ratings, ABC cancelled the series after one season.
4. Boston Common
Boston Common was another NBC sitcom that makes it onto our list that ran from 1996 to 1997. Peculiarly, the show was doing very well until ratings suddenly dropped. The series was one of the 10 highest-rated shows in its first season as it ranked 8th in the yearly ratings. But with a move to Sundays in its second season, the show dropped from 8th to 52nd place. This is not as strange as it may sound at first, and the reason why this drop in ratings most likely occurred is that the show originally had one of the most sacred spots on any television lineup. The time slot in question is the Thursday 9:00 pm slot between Seinfeld and Friends. It makes sense why this is such as sought-after spot, but it is also cursed as it highlights how many shows cannot make it on their own when they are taken out of this cushy position. Therefore, Boston Common is not the only show on our list that blossomed in this time slot but failed miserably when it was removed.
3. Fired Up
Although Fired Up only ran for 2 seasons and 28 episodes, it is one of the most successful and longest-running cases on our list. The show, which first aired in 1997, starred Sharon Lawrence as a self-centered promotions executive and Leah Remini as her mouthy assistant. When both ladies end up getting fired from their jobs, they team up to create their own business, in which they are equal partners. Fired Up started off with great ratings after it was lucky enough to get the 9:00 time slot that followed Seinfeld, a show that had very successful ratings. Everything was going great for the show at this stage with the New York Times even stating that the show had a “topical premise and an edgy lead character, just what most sitcoms lack.” However, everything changed for the show after NBC decided to change its time slot. Almost immediately, ratings fell, and the network decided to cancel the show.
2. Stark Raving Mad
Stark Raving Mad was an NBC sitcom that ran from September 23, 1999 to July 13, 2000 and starred Tony Shalhoub and Neil Patrick Harris. The show had an intriguing and interesting premise as Shalhoub stars as odd horror novelist Ian Stark, who is obsessed with practical jokes and whose first book, Below Ground, was a bestseller. Neil Patrick Harris is Stark’s editor, Henry McNeeley, and has quite a peculiar set of fears and phobias. The show was an early success, and in 2000, it won a People’s Choice Award for Favourite New Television Comedy Series. Despite this, it was soon announced that Stark Raving Mad would not be returning for a second season. This was confusing to many, and it is still not completely understood as the show was ranked number 15 of the most viewed TV shows of that year.
1. My So-Called Life
Many of you may have seen this coming, but it goes without saying that 1994’s My So-Called Life is the strangest case of a ’90s show being cancelled. Although not technically a sitcom, this show definitely has its elements of humor. Set at the fictional Liberty High School, the show follows the emotional challenges of several teenagers in the social circle of main character Angela Chase played by Claire Danes. The short-lived show ended in a giant cliffhanger that everyone assumed would be resolved when the show returned the following year in 1995. However, this never happened as to fans’ dismay, the show was cancelled. This was a big shock to many as the show had been met with huge critical acclaim. It was praised for its portrayal of adolescence and the commentary of its central character, Angela, and even now has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. My So-Called Life regularly features in top-rated TV show lists, so just why was the show cancelled? Shockingly, it’s claimed that My So-Called Life got the axe after just one season due to low ratings. Although this may be partly the case, it’s believed that Claire Danes’ reluctance to not take on the responsibility of starring in a second season of the show is part of the reason why it was cancelled.
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