With so many good shows on television currently (seriously, we’re being spoiled), it’s tempting to think that all television creators have stepped up their game. But that’s just not the case. For every amazing show, there is one that is flat-out terrible. We are just so consumed with good television that we ignore the very bad. That doesn’t seem like us, does it? Ignoring the bad. Well, the networks who are behind these failures don’t want us to know about them. They want to hide their gaffs to keep up the illusion that they’ve got the best minds in television working for them. The truth is, everyone makes mistakes. Every writer has a bad idea and every director fails to capture their vision properly (that or their vision is garbage). We don’t want to shame these people, but we do want to laugh at their misfortune.
Most shows these days get at least a single season. If it fails to live up to expectations, the second season never gets made. There have been those that never even got that far. Chances are good that you’ve never even heard of these shows because they were cancelled so fast. Almost all of them had a cast you are familiar with and/or were promoted enough, but they just stunk. The shows just never got an audience, and when no one watches the show, no one gets paid. That’s a recipe for early cancellation. So, we thought it would be worthwhile to look at those shows that never made it. We’ll even pluck an arbitrary episode number out of the air to use as a cut-off to keep things manageable. Here are 15 Recent TV Shows Cancelled in Less Than 5 Episodes.
15. Viva Laughlin
Viva Laughlin is a mystery musical drama (yep, you read that right) starring Hugh Jackman. What else could a TV audience want? The show was about a new casino owner that gets caught up in a murder mystery. Now, the musical numbers were not the problem. It was everything else. After watching a couple of episodes, one reviewer at the New York Times had it in the running for the worst show of all time. Ouch! Although the show was green-lit for 13 episodes, only eight were actually produced and only three episodes aired. The remaining five episodes were so bad that CBS couldn’t even find any dead space to air them.
14. Wicked City
Wicked City only got to air three episodes before it got cancelled. A total of eight episodes had been produced, but low ratings and no viewers basically made the network decide to pull the plug. The show was moved to a dead time slot and aired out the rest of the produced episodes a couple of months later. This show was about two cops, Jeremy Sisto and Gabriel Luna, chasing down a Bonnie and Clyde-type couple, Ed Westwick and Erika Christensen, on Sunset Strip. Aside from the ’80s soundtrack, this show had barely anything good going for it. So we’re not really surprised it was cancelled that quickly.
13. Emily’s Reasons Why Not
As our oldest entry on the list, Emily’s Reasons Why Not is the farthest back into your memory as you’ll have to go. In 2006, ABC got the idea to introduce a sitcom starring Heather Graham. She was to play a single mom trying to find the right guy. She followed a strict dating system that didn’t always work out. Well, neither did the show. After only one episode, the chief of programming for the network, Steve McPherson, had seen enough. He wasn’t willing to give it any more time. He said that the show was “not going to get better and we needed a quick change.” Now that seems harsh, but the show probably was bad enough that he could say that with confidence. Later, it was revealed that someone had green-lit Emily’s Reasons Why Not without any of the executives even seeing a clip. Somebody got fired for that misfire for sure.
12. The Paul Reiser Show
Paul Reiser was last a big-named star when he was on Mad About You. We really haven’t seen all that much from him since that hit went off the air. Well, The Paul Reiser Show was to be his next big thing. The series, which was about Paul Reiser’s search for the next big show, was picked up and green-lit for the season. They had produced seven half-hour episodes and things were looking great…until the episodes started airing. Unfortunately for Reiser, it appeared that this show wasn’t a new idea at all. It was basically just a worse version of Curb Your Enthusiasm. The show was met with dismal ratings. Less people tuned in for it than the show that it replaced. After only two weeks, The Paul Reiser Show was cancelled. But, hey, if that show wasn’t cancelled, Reiser might not have appeared on Stranger Things season two.
11. Secret Talents Of The Stars
Secret Talents of the Stars was a reality talent show that featured celebrities showing off their unique talents in a tournament-style elimination. The schedule was set up for a seven-week structure and would allow for the viewing audience at home to vote on the performances. After the very first episode, the show was cancelled due to low ratings. For a show like this that required an audience response component, you need viewers or else no one votes. One of the reasons no one watched was because the show set up was second-rate as many of the celebrities listed were borderline stars or washed-up former stars. It just felt like the real stars were too expensive to get. There was also the awkward situation in the very first episode with one of the celebrity judges, producer Gavin Polone, calling George Takei and his country singing performance reminiscent of Brokeback Mountain. Why he made that connection is not hard to put together. With bad ratings, D-list celebs and homophobia all pooled into one, Secret Talents of the Stars was destined for failure, and fail, it did.
For eight years, from 1967 to 1975, Ironside was a popular show. For whatever reason, they decided to remake it. The remake was not popular. Here’s the description of the cop, Robert Ironside, “a tough, sexy but acerbic police detective using a wheelchair after a shooting.” Through four episodes, the show beat viewers over the head with how capable the lead character was. It was humiliating for everyone involved. There was even controversy about casting an able-bodied actor to play the role of a paraplegic. Nothing went right for this show. That’s why it was cancelled. One reviewer, Brian Tallerico of HollywoodChicago, wrote:
“[Ironside is] the most cliched, least believable, least fun, and just awful new drama of the year. It is aggressively bad. Avoid at all costs. Blair Underwood … deserves better than the horrendous, uninteresting writing here. [Ironside] should be a way to explore how our physical well-being is only one part of our lives and how we approach our work, even crimefighting. It’s not. It’s just manipulative drama that hopes to make you stand up and cheer by reminding you over and over again how tough its title character remains.”
Even though this awful show did end up completing the first season, it did so by just barely limping over the finish line. Besides, we highly doubt the network and the show’s creators are proud of the way things went. Doubt was a legal drama starring Hollywood’s favorite star, Katherine Heigl. It started out on CBS’ Wednesday night lineup, but after just two lackluster episodes, the show was pulled and cancelled. Well, it was cancelled, but the network let them finish airing the episodes they had already paid to have made. There was a huge gap between episodes airing, as the show finished its run several months later in a Saturday time slot.
8. Time After Time
March of 2017 was a big month for Time After Time. The show debuted in March of 2017 and the show was cancelled in March of 2017. Now, it did complete its run in Spain and Portugal because they apparently don’t care about airing garbage television in that place, but in North America, Time After Time was canned after just five episodes. The show was about an investigator who uses a time machine to go back and search for Jack the Ripper, which kind of sounds like a single episode of Doctor Who, which might be why it was cancelled so soon into its life. Truthfully, the reviews were decent for the show, but many were critical about how it approached violence. It starred Freddie Stroma, too, the guy who dated Hermione in Harry Potter, so there’s that.
Even though we’re dealing primarily with American shows, we decided that the Australian show, Mesmerized, was worth looking into. The show was hosted by hypnotist Peter Powers, an interesting name to say the least. Now, if you’ve ever watched someone be put under hypnosis before, you know just how silly it can look. It looks very fake, very put-on. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. For some people, it might not be, but for many, arguably the majority of the population, hypnosis is hard to believe. Even if we do believe it can work, we rarely trust that it is working when we see it on television. We don’t even believe reality TV shows have any reality in them. Why would we believe in this show? For that reason, Mesmerized bombed, as have most hypnosis-themed shows.
6. Made In Jersey
“We need more legal dramas” is a phrase that no one in the history of television has ever said. Just flick through the channels and you’ll find at least three on during any night of the week at any time. They almost all follow the exact same formula too. Well, not surprisingly, Made in Jersey got the “go ahead.” Network executives love that crap. Sadly, this one starred Kyle MacLachlan, who we adore, but oh well. It started out bad and ended prematurely, like a nervous high schooler’s first date. The show was cancelled after only two episodes, although CBS did end up airing the remaining episodes on Saturdays a couple of months later.
5. The Hasselhoffs
In 2010, the great minds at A&E asked perhaps the most important question of the time: Why do the Hasselhoffs not have their own show? This led them to the brilliant idea of The Hasselhoffs. They decided to get a film crew together and watch David Hasselhoff and his daughters do everyday things. You’ll know David from Baywatch. His daughters are probably most famous for filming and posting a viral video of David while he was fall-down-and-pee-yourself wasted eating a cheeseburger off the floor. Who wouldn’t want to watch a show about these folks? Well, apparently, the world just wasn’t ready for this masterpiece because it failed miserably. It secured about 700,000 viewers in the first episode. The second episode had about 500,000. The third episode never aired.
4. The Beautiful Life
For a show with a decent cast made up of Mischa Barton, Elle Macpherson, Sara Paxton, and Corbin Bleu, The Beautiful Life really bombed. The show, which first aired in 2009, was cancelled after only two episodes. This surprised everyone involved, including Ashton Kutcher, one of the show’s producers. He said, “What we feel like we’re doing is creating, in some ways, an industry first… A show that couldn’t find its legs on television, we believe can find its legs on the Web.” Now, this show, assuming you never did see it, is about a bunch of models living together in New York City. Basically, the drama version of Friends or the NYC version of Melrose Place and 90210. In other words, this show was like plenty of other shows, so Kutcher has no idea what he’s talking about.
Were you aware that Kelsey Grammer had a show called Hank for a short spell in 2009? Well, he did. It was about a big city executive who loses his job and relocates to a small town, like the TV version of Doc Hollywood or the human version of Cars. After only about five episodes, the show was cancelled. The ratings were not good. In fact, even Grammer himself says that he called Warner Bros. and asked that show be cancelled because it was so terrible. You know a show is bad when the star is so ashamed of it that he calls to have it cancelled. If you can find an episode or two, Hank is worth a watch for science. If you know where the bottom of the barrel is, you have something off which to judge all other shows.
2. Lone Star
Unlike most (if not all) of the shows on this list, Lone Star was actually really good. The pilot episode was rated as one of the better pilots in 2010. The premise was simple, a conman in a love triangle tries to take over his family business. It just didn’t get an audience. After the first week and very low viewership numbers, the creator, Kyle Killen, wrote, “For us to survive we’re going to have to pull off a minor miracle. Statistically, new shows tend to lose viewers in their second week. We’re aiming to gain them. In fact, screw it, let’s just double our audience. The good news is, our audience was so small that if my Mom AND my Dad watch it, we’ll pretty much be there.” They were cancelled the following week after just two episodes. Looks like mom and dad never tuned in.
Of all the shows cancelled in the last decade, none have a situation as hilarious as Eden. This was a reality TV show that featured a large group of strangers placed in a remote area in Scotland and tasked with building a community. It was like that show Utopia, if you remember that one, but worse…much worse. Well, not knowing how bad their show was, these poor schmucks went out there for a year and gave it their all to make something worth watching. What they didn’t know was that the show they thought they were making had been cancelled. It only aired four episodes and then was taken down off the air. Sure, it did end up playing the final episodes (posing as a second season even) but it was much later on and was only really because the people involved in the treacherous shoot made a big stink about the cancellation.
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