Law & Order, The Simpsons, Saturday Night Live, most TV series that are in their infancy hope to one day achieve the kind of longevity that these shows have managed to maintain, but few are so lucky. Whether it’s due to production complications or bad reviews it’s becoming increasingly rare for shows to last beyond a fifth or even a fourth season, and the sheer volume of quality programming available these days means that only the most outstanding shows will survive. Nevertheless, every so often there is a critically acclaimed show that falls victim to bad ratings and meets with an untimely end.
Join us as we take a look back at six TV series that despite their popularity, were canceled after just one season.
Created by Ted Griffin, Terriers contrasted a lot of the popular high-tech crime dramas of the time because its characters simply didn’t have access to the futuristic crime labs seen on shows like CSI and Criminal Minds. Instead, Hank Dolworth is an ex-cop who teams up with his reformed criminal friend to set up an illegal private investigation business. Despite getting a lot of critical praise and a nomination for Outstanding New Program by the Television Critics Association, Terriers was canceled in December 2010 after only one season — it was FX’s lowest-rated show ever.
5. Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip
This short-lived Aaron Sorkin series takes a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into the production of a Saturday Night Live-style sketch comedy show. Unfortunately for Studio 60, it was released shortly after 30 Rock — which had a similar, albeit much sillier, premise — and this likely prevented new viewers from flocking to it. Even though Studio 60 received multiple award nominations, the steadily declining ratings resulted in NBC’s decision to cancel it in 2007.
4. My So-Called Life
Looking to distance itself from the cheery blueprint used for most 90’s teen dramas, My So-Called Life followed Claire Danes character, Angela Chase, and her group of friends as they struggle with issues like peer pressure, homophobia and drug use. While it certainly wasn’t the first show aimed at teens to tackle these issues, it did so in a way that made it very relatable to its target audience — teenagers full of angst and uncertainty. Sadly, the ratings for My So-Called Life were greatly overshadow by Friends, which also debuted at the same time in 1994, and the series was officially cancelled in 1995 after Danes announced she was going to pursue a career in film.
3. Freaks and Geeks
This comedy series about a group of high school slackers shared a lot of the realism and emotion that was exhibited by My So-Called Life, but creators Judd Apatow and Paul Feig took it in a much funnier direction. Instead of dealing with a lot of serious, hard-hitting issues, Freaks and Geeks dealt more with the awkwardness of adolescence. The show quickly grew a cult following, but even that wasn’t enough to save it as NBC gave it the axe after airing only twelve of the eighteen completed episodes — a decision they almost certainly wouldn’t have made if the star power of James Franco, Seth Rogan, and Jason Segel worked retroactively.
2. Clone High
Both completely absurd and utterly entertaining, Clone High is the brainchild cooked up by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller while attending Dartmouth College. The show documents the lives of the clones of famous historical figures as they attend a bizarre high school headed by a scheming mad scientist. While Clone High draws a lot of its laughs from pop culture references combined with inconsistencies between the clones and their historical image, this aspect also landed the show in hot water with certain demographics. For instance, the portrayal of Gandhi as a raucous party animal drove Indian officials to mount a hunger strike in front of one of MTV’s office buildings. This growing controversy likely contributed to MTV deciding to pull the plug on Clone High in 2003 after airing only thirteen episodes.
After Joss Whedon finished with Buffy The Vampire Slayer and its spinoff, Angel, he tried taking things in a completely different direction with a show that’s essentially about space cowboys. Firefly has all the earmarks of a Whedon production, a cast of loveable misfits, a sprinkling of light-hearted humour, and a little insight into the mysteries and complexities of life. But even the Whedon touch couldn’t save Firefly as Fox decided to cancel it in 2002 after airing only eleven of the fourteen produced episodes. However, DVD sales of the series were strong and it quickly grew a large following. So large that, in 2005, their demands for more content were met with the release of Serenity — a full length feature film that acts as a capstone to the series.