Finding quality new shows on network and cable television every fall and January (for mid-season replacements) can be a crap shoot. It seems that the majority of what is green-lighted frankly stinks. Every so often there is a diamond in the rough, and you get a Lost or The Americans. But more often than not, on every other channel you find a Cavemen or something unfortunately starring David Spade.
This sad state of affairs begs the question: why is good TV canceled all the time? So many smart, entertaining, and well-written shows have been relegated to Hulu and late-night reruns on TNT when they should have been given full runs. With that, we present the Best Shows That Were Canceled Too Soon:
10. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (1 Season)
Some people dislike Aaron Sorkin’s brand of writing, but many can’t get enough of it. This show, focusing on the behind-the-scenes world of a sketch comedy show similar to Saturday Night Live, delivered the same quick-fire dialogue found in The West Wing, The Newsroom, and Sports Night (which, for the record, was also canceled too soon.) But Matthew Perry, fresh off of Friends, couldn’t save it from failing in the ratings. It was also too expensive to continue.
9. Eureka (5 Seasons)
Sure, Eureka had five seasons, which is far longer than any other series on this list, but there is no reason it couldn’t hit the magic 7 and therefore full syndication. Even for someone who doesn’t exactly love sci-fi, I found Eureka to be witty, charming and thoroughly enjoyable. It had a huge fan base and saw ratings success. But it was canceled by Comcast because it couldn’t turn a profit thanks to its large budget. Producers didn’t want to risk lowering the quality with a smaller budget, and so it ended.
8. Dead Like Me (2 Seasons)
A Bryan Fuller special, this Showtime dramedy starred none other than Mandy Patinkin as the boss of the grim reapers. It was funny, sensitive, and well-written. Fuller left the show in the middle of the first season due to creative differences with the producing team. He felt the quality of the show would suffer, and ultimately it was canceled after the second season.
7. Rome (2 Seasons)
HBO’s historical drama about ancient Rome was a ratings success (it won four Emmy awards for the first season alone). It revolved around two Roman soldiers who routinely interacted with real historical figures. It was big, bloody, loud, and beautiful. It was also extremely expensive to produce, which ultimately contributed to its demise. Rome had been developed under a two-year contract with the BBC, and continuing past two years would have made it prohibitively expensive for BBC to continue.
6. Pushing Daisies (2 Seasons)
This smart show had a lot going for it. The cast (complete with Broadway doll Kristin Chenoweth) was fresh and deft at bringing creator Bryan Fuller’s world to life. You rooted for the couple, which was doomed from the start, and welcomed the witty commentary from Chi McBride’s character. Plus, it was beautifully shot with vibrant colors. (Two of the episodes were even directed by power hitter Barry Sonnenfeld, who was also an executive producer on it.) Like the characters on the show, this one died before its time. Unfortunately, Lee Pace couldn’t bring it back to life with his magical touch.
5. Freaks and Geeks (1 Season)
Set in the early ’80s, this comedy rightly assumes that everyone (especially in high school) ultimately falls into one of two classes: freaks or geeks. The show that put James Franco, Seth Rogen, and Jason Segel on the map was executive produced by Judd Apatow and had the same feel as most Apatow projects. NBC and the show’s creative team had differing views of where it should go. That, coupled with its inability to rack up a solid audience due to frequent airing schedule changes, led to its cancellation.
4. My So-Called Life (1 Season)
Practically every teenage girl has a Jordan Catalano in her life. This hour-long drama geared toward a younger demographic did what so many shows have failed to do: truly understand how adolescents feel and what they routinely experience. The show didn’t condescend to its audience — it embraced it. Perhaps 17-year-olds aren’t a lucrative demographic, because this one only lasted one season. But it did launch the wildly successful careers of Claire Danes and Jared Leto.
3. Deadwood (3 Seasons)
This Western, which aired on HBO, was created by David Milch (known for LA Law and NYPD Blue.) It was extremely well-written, well-acted (especially by leads Ian McShane and Timothy Olyphant), and won eight Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe. After three seasons, HBO opted not to re-up the contracts of the actors on the show. While talks of a Deadwood movie keep popping up, nothing has come to fruition just yet.
2. Firefly (1 Season)
Joss Whedon’s cross between a Western and sci-fi appealed to almost everyone who ever saw it. His attention to detail, as well as his strong characters that had very real flaws (led by Castle‘s Nathan Fillion), stood out among similar shows. The series had humor, and you could argue that the scenario was relatively plausible (unlike Star Trek, for example.) Die-hard fans embraced the film version, Serenity, which was released three years later.
1. Twin Peaks (2 Seasons)
Yes, one can argue that this just made an epic return to television after being off the air for 16 years, but it should have continued in the ’90s. Critics might say that once Laura Palmer’s murder was solved, the show lost its glimmer. But the world that David Lynch and Mark Frost created was wonderfully creepy and strange — and unlike anything else on television. The characters are complex and weird and beautifully acted. There is a reason that so many people welcomed the return in 2017: they never wanted to see it canceled in the first place.