Has there ever been a show that you were drawn to after watching the first episode, and decided to dedicate your time to watching how the adventure unfolds? Whether it’s watching every week on TV when new episodes air, or binging on a streaming service, you get pulled into that world and connect with the characters. But then, something happened you weren’t expecting: it got cancelled. How could they give up only after so few episodes?! It wasn’t given a chance to grow and develop!
That and many more questions and thoughts linger inside peoples’ minds as they realize the show they were just getting involved with has suddenly ended. From cliffhangers to mundane endings, that cancelled show leaves a void in you that you wish wasn’t there. Many networks often nix shows they feel aren’t pulling in ratings, or just costs too much to produce. What they often fail to realize is that not many shows will be big hits initially; think of Seinfeld, X-Files and Parks & Rec. And in this era of TV series, where it’s all scattered on different platforms, it’s getting harder to pull in huge audiences with so many fighting for views at the same time.
This is especially true for one-season shows, but it also pertains to any series that makes it to season two. And so this list will include both one-season and two-season series that were cut off too soon that had potential to be something more. Keep in mind, I’m not exactly a TV junkie so there might be many shows that aren’t listed here that you might add. Also, given that I never had cable and barely had Netflix back in college, many shows from there also might not make it. These are the shows that I have had the chance to watch, only to see it get axed too soon before it really started to pick up.
Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974)
The oldest series on this list, and was once attempted to be revived in the mid-2000s, was a modern day spin to famous monster-hunter Van Helsing. Kolchak is a news reporter, who just happened to stumble upon the weirdest cases you can imagine. From tangling with vampires and swamp monsters to werewolves and robots, every episode saw him try to survive a legendary creature . My father introduced me to many classic movies and shows, and I was always into the classic monster flicks. So when I was introduced to this show, I loved it and wondered who he would tangle with next time. Sadly, the show was cancelled after 20 episodes, because actor Darren McGavin asked to be released from his contract. He was disappointed with the series’ scripts and was exhausted from his uncredited producing duties. Could there have been more? There are plenty of cultural legends that could’ve been touched, but for now they stay only as legends.
Did I ever watch Battlestar Galactica? Nope. Do I know what Cylons are? Yup. Though I was more of a Trekkie, and never watched BG, when I stumbled upon this I felt drawn to this origin story; back when I had Netflix. I’ve always had interests in futuristic, utopian shows, and after reading about the events leading up to a huge battle for humanity, I had to see what it entailed. Not to mention, the whole two families at odds between the Greystones and the Adamas interested me to see who’d win. Unfortunately, low ratings spelled early doom for this show that was set 60 years prior to BG. It only lasted 19 episodes, but it gave a decent conclusion to what happened in the world of the 12 Colonies.
Pan Am (2011)
This was a show that came too late, and struck when the iron was cold. After appearing in the popular movie Catch Me If You Can back in 2002, nearly a decade later ABC decided to create a show involving the once-famous airline. Besides the future, I love historical shows that go back in time and this 1960s Jet Age had potential. The characters, however, just failed to connect with audiences and the story was uninspired. Poor ratings did this show in and only aired 14 episodes. They should’ve taken off when Leo’s movie was still in theaters.
Life on Mars (2006)
Remember how I said I loved historical shows? This time we’re jumping a decade later, and into the disco 70s where modern-day police detective Sam Tyler gets into a near-fatal car accident; only to wake up in 1973. Gone are his modern tech, which forces him to rely on old-school investigating while dealing with cops who had different mindsets back then. It made me wonder if Sam was in a coma, or is something else behind this? What did this show in was ratings, but it’s not as simple as that. Back then, it was actually doing okay, however another mistake networks make – especially today – is putting a show on hiatus. When that happens, people don’t pay attention and miss when it will return. It was gone for 2 months, and changed timeslots – another mistake if people are already accustomed to a specific night – and ultimately viewership fell. This show made it to season 2, but ended on episode 8. The ending was. . . unexpected, to say the least.
Y’all already know I like a good classic monster tale, if it’s done well, and I really thought NBC’s take on the infamous vampire had a chance. In this series, Dracula goes to London and pretends to be an American entrepreneur who brings modern science to Victorian England. History and monsters in one show, but his ruse is a cover for plans of revenge against those who ruined his life centuries earlier. He also falls in love with a woman who appears to be the reincarnation of his dead wife, and also find a cure to his sensitivity to light. I really liked the actors in this series, especially Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as Dracula, but low ratings kept the seductive drama to just 10 episodes.
We go from a vampire who lives on for centuries to a man who happens to do the same. Dr. Henry Morgan, a New York medical examiner, was born 200 years ago. He studies the dead and helps crack criminal cases, as he hopes his work will also help solve the mystery about his own immortality. As he gets close to others, he struggles to keep his long life secret from everyone except his best friend and confidant, Abe. This show had promise with a unique plot, and the characters were likeable especially Henry and Abe. An air of mystery surrounds this series’ demise as ABC cited low ratings was the cause while people were quick to point out the stats say otherwise. A social media campaign tried to save the show beyond 22 episodes, but this show has since forever remained cancelled.
Flash Forward (2009)
Brace yourselves, these next three series are entering LOST territory. See back in 2004, ABC captured a big lightening in a bottle with mega-hit series LOST and has since then tried to re-create that magic by creating shows that asked more questions than provided answers. Such was the case back in 2009 with this series. Los Angeles citizens go about their day when suddenly something causes everyone in the world to black out for just over two minutes. During that time, each person sees a series of events in his or her own future; some of it’s good, some bad and some don’t exist. Afterwards, a group of characters try to pinpoint the cause of the blackout, and who caused it. Can destiny be changed and, if so, what effect can those changes have on others? Sounds intriguing, right? Sadly, it was so convoluted with many pieces to remember, and new characters popping in so often. It had too much on it’s plate with no direction towards the story’s goal. It lasted 22 episodes before we fast forwarded to ABC’s next hopeful hit.
I remember I really wanted this one to make it past a few seasons. I was drawn by the graphics, and the characters were alright, honestly. Omar Epps, Frances Fisher and Kurtwood Smith were awesome in it. The series follows the residents of Arcadia, Missouri, whose lives are changed when their loved ones return from the dead and appear as if nothing has happened to them. One of the main returned is Jacob Langston, an eight-year-old boy who drowned in 1982, but was found alive in China. Following immigration agent “Marty” Bellamy and Jacob’s uncle, Arcadia Sheriff Fred Langston, try to learn more about this mystery was fun each week. Later on, there would be more returned who were alright but the cast slowly kept growing and growing. Plot-wise it took a more religious turn, which was fine, except the end result fell flat as the show tried to keep things interesting as the ratings slowly declined. The show wasn’t resurrected for a third season, as it got axed after 13 episodes into season 2.
The Crossing (2018)
Oh, ABC. Yet another potential fell flat here. Steve Zahn and Natalie Martinez were good in this series about refugees from a war-torn country seeking asylum in a small American fishing town. However, it starts to become clear that they are not from a country we know of. The residents of this little town soon learn that they were fleeing from America; from a war that hasn’t happened yet. While the government tries to untangle the truth behind the migration, Sheriff Jude Ellis tries to do the same with the help of the mysterious Reece. While the creators of the show were smart to write the first season with an ending that could serve as a series ender (ultimately it was), what kept this show at only 11 episodes was ratings and pressure. The pressure not only from trying to follow LOST, but also trying to follow up on The Good Doctor. Another show that I love to watch, TGD made it’s debut several months before this series to quite good ratings and became a hit for ABC. So once again, the desire for every new show to be a hit clouded judgments at the network and, with slight dip in ratings, it led them to pull the plug on this mystery drama.
The Crazy Ones (2013)
Many of you know I really like Robin Williams and his movies. If I had the chance to meet him I would’ve. Back in 2013, I saw he was getting back on network TV and I was excited to see him weekly. Williams hasn’t had a series on broadcast since Mork & Mindy, and in this series he plays Simon Roberts – a very unorthodox man with a bold personality who leads an advertising agency with very big clients. His business partner – and daughter – Sydney, seems to spend more time keeping her father in line. Besides Williams, the rest of the team is filled with great actors who do amazing with the chemistry which adds to feeling connected with the show. The humor was also good, with a few misses but does well to recover. There’s even appearances from other well-known faces including Josh Groban and Brad Garrett. Sadly ratings were not as big as CBS had hoped – Big Bang Theory set the bar high – and the cost to produce the show was too high for them. The series lasted 22 episodes before Williams’ return to network television came to and end. A few months later, the actor would pass away.
ABC hasn’t had a hit Latin-based comedy since George Lopez back from 2002-2006. Cristela Alonzo tried to rekindle the magic with her family-centric show which stars her as an intern for a law firm. In terms of humor, there were some good moments; especially with her insensitive boss at work. However most of the cast were just okay, and didn’t add much. The real magic was not only Cristela, herself, but Gabriel Iglesias (aka Fluffy). The man brought a personality to the show, just like in person, as he attempted to woo Cristela every chance he got. But being aired on Fridays is not a good spot to thrive in your first year, and the comedy lasted only 22 episodes.
While this has shades of ABC trying to recreate LOST in it, it did just enough to give it it’s own identity while attaining a scent of mystery. But once again, more questions than answers were given. After small town police chief, named Jo, takes in a young girl she finds near the site of a mysterious accident, she learns the girl has no memory of what happened or who she is. Soon it leads to big conspiracies, supernatural elements, and efforts to save the girl. While there was potential, it started to lose steam near the end as ratings dipped and the story got confusing. The ending was intended to head into season 2, which did look promising, but ABC decided to cancel it after just 13 episodes.
My Own Worst Enemy (2008)
This drama follows a man with two identities: Henry Spivey, a mild-mannered family man, and Edward Albright, a covert operative who speaks 13 languages and trained to kill. Each identity was unaware of the other, until the psychological wall between the two is broken. This leads to both waking up into each other’s worlds that they don’t know how to handle. And with no one else aware of this, they only have each other to rely on. It sounded really cool on paper, but the show itself was just alright. It didn’t get far into it’s story, as the network decided after the 4th episode to end it as soon as possible. Again, wanting results now instead of waiting but they deemed the ratings not good enough. This series lasted only 9 episodes, and I’ll always wonder how in the world did this man ever sleep if each personality took over day and night, respectfully.
This series I really wanted to survive back in the day. Detective Michael Britten gets into a deadly car accident with his wife and son. He wakes up and constantly finds himself alternating between two different realities. In one world, his son survived but his wife perished and in the other his wife is the one that survived. While living in both realities to keep his memory of both loved ones, he returns to solving crimes with a different partner in each. In the world where his wife is gone, his partner is older and more experienced, while in the other he has a young, new detective partner. Both work partners are meant to fill the void of whatever family member was lost, which I liked that aspect of as well as the lengths one goes to hold on to a loved one. However, after a strong start it slowly dipped each week before NBC ended it after 13 episodes. But the dual worlds aspect is definitely a theme another show should consider reviving.
Mind Games (2014)
Steve Zahn and Christian Slater can’t seem to catch a break with TV shows. Back in 2014, they starred as brothers Clark and Ross Edwards. Clark is a former professor and human behaviorist with a history of bipolar disorder, while Ross was a scam artist. Together, they use their insight on human tendencies for their unique agency committed to solving problems through psychological manipulation. With a team of manipulators, they manage to tailor a plan for each problem situation and offer clients nontraditional solutions to troublesome issues. It was catchy and every week had a procedural tone to it, with some humor to go along with it. But ratings kept it only to 10 episodes, however more psychological problem-solving shows should give it a go if they can keep it light and humorous too.
The Blacklist: Redemption (2017)
There are two main reasons why I was excited about this show: I absolutely loved watching The Blacklist and I have a big crush on Famke Jannsen ever since she was on the X-Men series and appeared in Nip/Tuck. The series also brought in two other characters from the original show in Tom Keen and Matias Solmon to help Jannsen’s character, Scottie Hargrave, with Grey Matters – a covert international security organization run by Hargrave; whom Keen finds out is his biological mother. Tom has a fragile alliance with her group of mercenaries, as they put their unique skills to work solving dangerous issues the government won’t bother with. But for Tom, it’s more than just saving the world, but uncovering the truth of his own past. As I watched it, it had moments where it felt like something out of an Ocean’s movie with it’s spies and missions going on. Being familiar with each character before the show started helps develop connections, but something was amiss. Maybe that chemistry between characters, which was present in the original series. But with poor ratings, this series was not redeemed after 8 episodes.
Now a part of me wanted to put Tru Calling on here as well, because it’s sort of where my crush for Eliza Dushku began when I was 12 years old. But truthfully, I didn’t watch that series much given that I was more into gaming than TV around that time. But I recognized the name of the show, and I know it only last two seasons. In a way, it’s on this list but as part of the Dushku series that I did watch in high school. Her 2009 series stars her as Echo – A Doll coming from a secret facility known as the Dollhouse. This place likes to erase the personalities of Echo and her fellow “actives” so they can assume any relevant personas they may be assigned which befit the wealthy, powerful and well-connected. After each assignment, their personality is wiped so they can enter the next scenario with no memory of an earlier one. But as the series goes on, Echo’s memory begins to return, and she begins to piece together her true identity. A bit of sci-fi, action, and mystery that quickly drew me in. What did this show in was two factors: disagreements with the network that affected the direction it went and conveying the theme of the show accurately to the audience. Some people wanted it to be more espionage, while others felt it was portraying trafficking. Ultimately, this series ended after just 12 episodes.
American TV’s first set in India, with many of it’s stars being Indian American, had good promise. Todd Dempsy works for Mid America Novelties – an all-American company that sells novelty items. When the company outsources its call center to India and sends Todd there to run the operation, he discovers that his staff needs a crash course in all things American. While the culture shock is apparent to his new co-workers, Todd also goes through his own challenges during his life in India. Chemistry was present when watching the series, and the comedy had some good moments. It would be hard to find a character you didn’t like, and the viewers agreed. It debuted to good ratings, and even had the coveted timeslot right behind NBC’s comedy hit The Office. But a time change to Thursdays was what may have led to it’s demise, and soon the Peacock network cancelled this series at 22 episodes.
The Black Donnellys (2007)
Back when I was trying to fit in high school, I was excited to come home and catch up on the newest episodes of my favorite shows. One such show was this one, as it followed the Donnelly clan of four Irish brothers. Soon they become involved in organized crime around their neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen, which leads to a mob battle between the Irish and the Italians. To me, that was just an awesome concept. Similar to Caprica about families at odds, this takes it one step further and brings cultural history into it. Irish versus Italians: two cultures I probably have little to no ancestry in (I need to take a DNA test to know for sure), but growing up I wanted to be a part of each. And so I was curious who would come out of this battle to take over Hell’s Kitchen. The Italians who’ve owned the streets for a long time – led by Peter Greene who starred in The Mask (one of my all-time favorite films) – or the upstart Irish who were trying to make a name for themselves. The cast itself was good, and had another crush (Olivia Wilde) in it, and the chemistry between each was present. However, the reason it came to an end at only 7 episodes remains unclear. There was never a specific reason for it’s swift departure, but many believe it was due to ratings. This could simply be another series that was given a very short time to be a hit.
The Baker and the Beauty (2020)
The newest entrant on this list ended not that long ago at the start of June. Inspired by the Israeli series of the same name, it follows baker Daniel Garcia who does everything that his Cuban parents and siblings expect him to do. But then, his life changes unexpectedly when his girlfriend proposes to him. After turning her down, and seeing that relationship crumble, that same Miami night, he meets Noa Hamilton – an international superstar, model and successful businesswoman. She recently just got out of a high-profile Hollywood relationship, and sparks fly between the two. They decided to date, which leads to their lives being upended and pulls their loved ones into an unexpected culture clash. Back in 2019, ABC had another summer Latin-led show called Grand Hotel which did not make the cut despite viewers overall saying it was good, and should’ve been given more time. I didn’t get a chance to watch that series, but I watched every episode of this one. While the realities of running into a big celebrity, and falling in love with them, are quite rare it was a show that provided an escape from reality. Given the current state of the world, an escape to a feel-good, family story was welcoming to many. And that’s what it was, but it took itself mostly serious with that concept; highlighting troubles that come with fame and choosing between family and dreams. While some storylines felt forced, just to give a character something to do, the chemistry between each one is there. Getting connected to the show was easy, the music and vibe were spot-on, and it laid a good foundation for a possible second season. However, the writing was sort of on the wall with each week’s preview that stated the finale was coming even though the show started only a few weeks earlier. It was 9 episodes before ABC decided not to continue it, which left many fans upset for the second straight summer. More so because ABC chose to renew another minority-led drama For Life which had similar ratings as this one. ABC’s struggles with Latin-led series continues.
Pushing Daisies (2007)
If you were to have me rank the shows listed here, coming in at #1 is the final show I’ll be talking about: Pushing Daisies. This was the top show I was most eager to come home to and watch every week that year. It all ties into the movie Big Fish; another one of my all-time favorites. I didn’t watch that film until around 2006-ish, but I loved the visuals and overall vibe of this metaphorically-surreal world it created. Then in 2007, I saw previews of this show, which had no ties to the film, yet gave off that same impression and feel like something magical was here. It follows a pie maker named Ned who happens to have a rare gift: the ability to restore life to the dead with a touch. However, if they stay alive for over a minute, someone else dies in their place. After he re-touches the un-dead, they stay dead forever. Get it? Got it. Good. So he uses this power to help an investigator solve murders by reviving the victim and asking them to name the killer. Troubles come up when Ned brings his childhood sweetheart back from the dead with the intention of keeping her alive. You can feel the struggles of Ned falling for her, only to realize he can’t touch her knowing she’d be gone for good. I still remember that scene of them touching the wall knowing they’re on the other side. Sadly, timing was what brought this mystical tale to an end. Around this time, there was the Writers Guild strike, and the show completed just nine episodes of a 22-episode season. ABC gave it a chance and picked it up for a second season. But upon return from break, ratings declined and ABC chose not to order additional episodes beyond the 13 given.
While I wish I could add shows like Hannibal, Happy Endings and more to this list, they went on to have 3+ seasons which is a good amount of time to find footing and develop a show’s identity. Some of these shows’ plots may go on to be revived in a different way – if it hasn’t already – while some we’ll never see anything like it again. Unfortunately, in this “results now!” era, it can be hard for a show to make it unless it becomes a rookie sensation. But just think of all the shows – on here or in your mind – that were given up so early which could’ve turned into an absolute gem. Many of these shows are North American based, however I am sure there are good shows that are produced around the world that you enjoyed watching. I’d love to hear some of your favorite shows that you wish could come back! Maybe it could be revived one day, but for now we just have to hope that the next show we invest in will stay around for a good while and not leave us disappointed. . .