The 10 Best TV Shows Cancelled Too Soon

by | October 10, 2009 at 11:36 AM | TV News

When NBC canceled its acclaimed police series ‘Southland’ earlier this week before a single episode of the second season aired, it set off a wave of confusion for fans, bitterness among the show’s cast, and discussion around office water coolers about whether it deserved to be included among a list of great TV series that have been axed too soon.

Without question, one individual has suffered more than any others from premature cancellation – that man being the king of contemporary comedy, Judd Apatow. He had three great shows that received a pink slip: ‘Freaks and Geeks,’ ‘The Ben Stiller Show,’ and ‘Undeclared.’ Don’t fret about him, though. He’s gone on to do ok for himself in the movies.

Other shows brought up? We’ll just name them: ‘Deadwood,’ ‘Greg the Bunny,’ ‘Pushing Daisies,’ ‘The Critic,” ‘Veronica Mars,’ ‘Moonlight,’ ‘Frank’s Place,’ ‘Police Squad,’ and…

Well, you get the idea. This is almost as much fun as naming the 10 best bands in rock that never made it big.

Here’s a list. What are your thoughts?

1. Arrested Development: Let’s just say the truth: This series about the Bluth family’s struggle against a reversal of fortune and their own hilarious eccentricities is the most bittersweet cancellation in TV history. It brought together the finest comedic, and maybe just the finest ensemble of actors in recent television memory, including Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Jeffrey Tambor, Jessica Walter, Portia de Rossi, and Will Arnett. Alas, three seasons were way too few, but it’s still possible to enjoy Mitch Hurwitz’s comedic genius: just click here and watch on Fancast.

2. Freaks and Geeks: Yes, it’s mandatory to include this NBC sitcom about nerdy teenagers in a Michigan high school circa 1980. And yes, it’s deserving. Episode titles alone provide the sensibility: “Tests and Breasts,” “Chokin’ and Tokin’,” “Smooching and Mooching,’ and ‘Discos and Dragons.’ Indeed, someone was having a fun time, including stars Seth Rogan and James Franco.

3. Journeyman: Not only one of the smartest shows in recent years, this 2007 series about a reporter who suddenly has the ability to travel through time and change people’s lives was also one of the hippest, particularly in the way it used big pop cultural events and great music. It lasted a scant 13 episodes. But you can watch this great series right here on Fancast.

4. My So-Called Life: Saying a teen finds new friends and trouble in high school is way too simple of a tag for this angst-ridden teen drama that put Claire Danes forever into the realm of cool. ABC canceled this series after just 19 episodes – one season – in 1994. Wouldn’t a TV movie catching up with these kids be nice?

5. Aliens in America: Maybe if this sitcom about a family that signs up for an exchange student and gets a Muslim teenager from Pakistan had been on Fox instead of the CW, it might stuck around for longer than 18 episodes in the 2007-2008 season. It was not only prescient, its punchlines were good, too.

6. Malibu Road: Only six episodes of this Aaron Spelling nighttime soap ran on CBS in 1992, but it should have stayed on longer if only for cast’s star power: Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Beals, Lisa Hartman and the sexy man of the moment Brian Bloom.

7. Firefly: Though continuing to live on Fancast (watch full episodes here), this Joss Whedon gem about galactic survivors led by Nathan Fillion as captain of the Serenity survived inter-galactic wars, rouges and The Alliance, but not Fox executives, who cut it off after 14 episodes in 2002.

8. Twin Peaks: This was a damn good show from the murky mind of writer-director-producer David Lynch, who posed the simple question, who killed Laura Palmer? Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) set out to find the answer, and millions were hooked. The first season in 1990, a ratings sensation, numbered only eight episodes. A full second season was ruined when the network began to meddle in the storyline. Laura Flynn Boyle and Sherilynn Fenn were the hottest women on TV at the time. Who knows where this show would have gone if it continued. Watch the entire series here.

9. Swingtown: Fancast users loved this sexy series that explored relationships, sex and suburbia in the 1970s. Unfortunately, CBS did not love Trina and Tom Decker as much and canceled it last summer after an unlucky 13 episodes.

10. Cupid: This short-lived, quirky comedy had one of the great premises in recent time: Trevor Hale is attractive, witty, uncommonly intelligent – and he may be Cupid, the Greco-Roman god of erotic love. Probably not, but he thinks so. Trevor’s insistence that he is Cupid lands him in a mental hospital, where he meets psychologist Claire Allen, a renowned authority on romance. It also had Jeremy Piven in the lead role. Sadly, there was no love here between viewers and the show, and it ended after 13 episodes in 1998.