21 Amazing TV Shows That Were Canceled Way Too Soon

We’ve all been there – you find a great new show, fall in love with it, and then suddenly it’s unceremoniously cancelled. Some of the best and brightest tv shows have been axed after one or two seasons for reasons ranging from poor ratings to high production costs.

A few shows have managed to live on after being cancelled. Family Guy was actually cancelled after its second season only to be given an eleventh hour reprieve. Futurama was also lucky and managed to be cancelled and brought back several times during its run. Not every show is that lucky, though. A few shows on this list eventually lived on in other forms like movies and books, but most did not get such a chance. These tv shows now live on in streaming or on DVD with fans clamoring for closure or just a little more time with their favorite characters.

1. My So-Called Life

This coming-of-age dramedy follows Angela Chase (Claire Danes) as she navigates high school and typical teen angst. Angela is a nerdy girl turned wannabe-rebel, armed with a box of hair dye and her crazy friends Rayanne (A.J. Langer) and Rickie (Wilson Cruz). The show has a proclivity for the dramatic but it works because teens are nothing if not fully dramatic at all times. Since its airing it has been praised as one of the most accurate depictions of teen life.

It was the role that propelled Danes into the spotlight, as well as Jared Leto, who played Angela’s illiterate crush Jordan Catalano (hey — he had great hair, okay). The show was canceled after only one season but it lives on as a cult favorite.

Where to watch: Hulu and ABC.com

2. Freaks and Geeks

In the same vein as My So-Called Life, the Judd Apatow series Freaks and Geeks is a show about the chaos of high school and finding yourself. While My So-Called Life accentuated the pure drama of being 16, Freaks and Geeks focused on the humor, awkwardness, and tumult of your teen years. The show follows good-girl, Lindsay Weir (Linda Cardellini) and her brother Sam (John Frances Daly) as they try to survive high school. Lindsay shifts from an upstanding student and mathlete to hanging with the “freaks,” Daniel (James Franco), Nick (Jason Segal), Kim (Busy Phillips), and Ken (Seth Rogan). If only then we knew how famous all of these actors would be.
Sam and his best friends, Neal (Samm Levine) and Bill (Martin Starr), are considered “geeks” and therefore experience high school in a very different way. The show follows both siblings as they take diverging paths trying to make it through the school year.

Low ratings led to the show being cancelled 12 episodes into its 18 episode run. A fan petition eventually convinced NBC to air three more episodes, with the final three only available on DVD and streaming. Today it lives on as a cult favorite and source of amazing memes.

Where to watch: Netflix

3. Party Down

I wouldn’t blame you if you haven’t heard of Party Down. The darkly humorous show has become a cult classic, but not many were watching during its original run with only 74,000 people watching the first season finale. Unsurprisingly, the low ratings led to its eventual cancellation after season two.

The show follows a group of struggling actors and writers stuck as party caterers while they try to make it big. Adam Scott (of Parks and Recreation fame) leads the cast as Henry, a failed actor who returns to work at the “Party Down” catering company. The series is full of comedic talent with a cast that consists of Ken Marino, Jane Lynch, Lizzy Caplan, and Martin Starr among others. Each episode shows a different party with parties ranging from weddings to adult entertainment awards. With each party comes a party host with everyone from Kristen Bell to J.K. Simmons guest starring. As a result of its hilarious guest stars and talented main cast it has gained a large following since the cancellation.

Where to watch: Hulu

4. Selfie

Selfie was a silly, underrated show with a horrible, no good title. This title, in the end, hindered it so much that poor ratings led to cancellation after only six episodes into a 13 episode season. Hulu ended up streaming episodes 7-13 after the show was ripped from ABC’s schedule.

Selfie follows Eliza Dooley (Karen Gillan), a social-media obsessed woman who realizes she has no real friends or experiences outside her presence on the internet. With some help from her reluctant coworker, Henry (John Cho), she attempts to learn how to live life a little less connected. The show was promising and charming, but viewers weren’t interested in tuning in due to the show’s less-than enticing title.

Where to watch: Hulu

5. Trophy Wife

This is another great show that suffered from a lackluster title. Trophy Wife is about former party girl, Kate (Malin Akerman) and her marriage to older man named Pete (Bradley Whitford), who is now on his third marriage. Both ex-wives are still in the picture, as well as Pete’s three kids who Kate must learn to step-parent. Those who watched knew that show was promising and fun as it followed Kate’s misadventures in parenting while trying to prove she isn’t just Pete’s “trophy wife.” Despite favorable reviews from critics, the show wasn’t a ratings hit and was cancelled after only one season.

Where to watch: ABC.com

6. Dollhouse

From the mind of Joss Whedon, this sci-fi drama Dollhouse, revolves around underground “dollhouses” that served to program Actives, or Dolls, with traits specific to whomever buys their services. The Dolls, who are human women BTW, are computer-programmed to perform various tasks from criminal to sexual. The series follows an Active named Echo, played by Whedon muse, Eliza Dushku, on her journey to becoming self-aware. The show was granted a second season despite poor ratings, but it did not make it beyond season two.

Where to watch: Netflix

7. October Road

October Road follows Nick Garrett (Bryan Greenberg — from One Tree Hill), a famous writer who returns to his sleepy Massachusetts hometown after a decade away. Nick had left for what was supposed to be a weeklong trip post-high school and ends up not returning. This leads him to leave behind his high school sweetheart Hannah (Laura Prepon), his best friend Eddie (Geoff Stults), and his family. He isn’t exactly welcomed home warmly after publishing a book painting the town and its residents in an unflattering light. But when he learns his ex has a ten-year-old son, he can’t help but do the math and plant roots back in his hometown to get to know him.

The show survived for two seasons, but only 19 total episodes, before cancellation due to poor ratings.

Where to watch: Hulu and ABC.com

8. Girlboss

The most recent canceled show on this list is Netflix’s Girlboss. The show was based on Sophia Amoruso’s memoir of the same name and her creation of fashion site, Nasty Gal. A loose version of Amoruso was played by Britt Robertson, showcasing her early years as a broke 20-something as she turns selling thrift finds online into a fashion empire.

Netflix doesn’t disclose ratings but the show suffered mostly negative reviews from critics which may have led to its cancellation.

Where to watch: Netflix

9. Happy Endings

In a sea of shows trying to be Friends, Happy Endings was the closest we got. The show follows six friends as they navigate through life, love, and adulthood. After Alex (Elisha Cuthbert) leaves Dave (Zachary Knighton) at the altar their entire friend group must figure out how to stay together. Rounding out the friend group is Alex’s neurotic sister Jane (Eliza Coupe), her husband Brad (Damon Wayans Jr.), flaky Penny (Casey Wilson), and eccentric Max (Adam Pally). The show was equal parts silly and sarcastic, which made it a fan favorite.

Happy Endings was canceled after three seasons due to low ratings and the network (ABC) deeming it “off brand.” Since its cancellation, fans have continually called for some type of revival. Fans got a treat last year when the cast reunited for a live reading of a “lost episode” but that’s all we’ve seen so far.

Where to watch: Hulu

10. Undeclared

Judd Apatow’s follow up to Freaks and Geeks was its spiritual sister-show, Undeclared. Instead of following high school kids, this show focuses on college freshmen. Much like Freaks and Geeks, this show starred many of today’s top comedy stars before they made it big. The cast includes Jay Baruchel, Seth Rogan, Kevin Hart, and Charlie Hunnam.

The show only lasted one season due to — you guessed it — low ratings. Apatow later found lasting success in movies with hilarious films like The 40-Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up but his TV shows didn’t last.

Where to watch: Currently only available for purchase on DVD.

11. Terriers

When it comes to low-rated yet critically acclaimed series on this list Terriers, has got to take the cake. The show averaged far less than 1 million views per episode during its only season but was beloved by its small following. The series centers around ex-cop Hank (Donal Logue) and his ex-criminal friend Britt (Michael Raymond-James) as they become unlicensed private investigators. The dramedy has become a fixture on lists of shows you’ve probably never heard of but seriously need to see.

Where to watch: Netflix

12. Life As We Know It

As one of the many teen dramas of the early ’00s, Life As We Know It was a realistic and provocative look at high school life. The teen series was frank about sex and relationships earning it scorn from the Parents Television Council. (Which probably just makes us all just want to watch it more, right?) The show stars Sean Faris as Dino, a teen trying to make sense of his relationship with girlfriend, Jackie (Missy Peregrym) and get through his parents’ divorce.

The show was canceled due to poor ratings and only aired 11 of its 13 episodes leading the other two to only be available on DVD.

Where to watch: Currently only available for purchase on DVD or online.

13. Veronica Mars

Under the guise of a “teen show,” Veronica Mars subverted expectations and became one of the most beloved series of all time. The show stars Kristen Bell in her breakout role as teen sleuth, Veronica Mars. The series begins with Veronica taking a cue from her private investigator father, Keith (Enrico Colantoni) and investigating the death of her best friend, Lily (Amanda Seyfried). With a little help from her new friend, Wallace (Percy Daggs III), and a couple love interests along the way, Veronica solves cases for her classmates and gets closer to finding out what happened to Lily.

The originality of the show combined with Bell’s charisma made it a classic among the fans that tuned in. Low ratings eventually ended the show after three seasons, although that wasn’t the end for V.Mars. The rabidly loyal fanbase and the cast and crew who loved the show couldn’t let the characters go and in 2014 a Kickstarter-backed movie was released. Creator Rob Thomas has even continued the characters stories in novel form in recent years.

Where to watch: Go90

14. Wonderfalls

Sometimes a show comes along that’s so strange and charming that it doesn’t have a damn chance on network TV. Wonderfalls was that kind of show. The show centers on Jaye (Caroline Dhavernas), a gift shop worker at Niagara Falls who begins to hear the figurines in the shop talking to her. The bizarre concept contributed to the shows cancellation after only four episodes. All 13 episodes were later shown on the cable network, LOGO and released on DVD.

Where to watch: Currently only available for purchase on DVD.

15. The Tomorrow People

The Tomorrow People follows The CW’s winning formula of hunky teens with powers. The show stars Robbie Amell as Stephen, a teen who starts hearing voices that lead him to a group of genetically advanced teens known as “the tomorrow people.” When Stephen realizes he is one of them, he must choose between the safety of helping scientist group, Ultra hunt his people down or stand in solidarity with the tomorrow people. The show was canceled after one season for poor ratings… even by The CW’s standards.

Where the watch: Netflix

16. Enlisted

This military-centered comedy stars Geoff Stults, Parker Young, and Chris Lowell as the Hill brothers. The three Hill brothers navigate military life and brotherhood while all serving on the same base. The comedy was well received by critics and fans, but there weren’t enough viewers to keep it on the air. The show was removed from Fox’s schedule after nine episodes and was officially canceled two months later. The final four episodes were aired at a later date in order to appease fans.

Where to watch: Currently only available for purchase online or on DVD.

17. Bunheads

Bunheads follows Michelle (Sutton Foster), a classically trained dancer-turned-Las Vegas showgirl who moves to a small town with her new husband. Michelle struggles to adjust to small town life and gravitates towards what she knows, leading her to teaching at her mother-in-law’s dance studio. The show was created by Gilmore Girls creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino and therefore has many of the same elements of that show. Like the Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel hit, Bunheads is set in an idyllic small town with eccentric residents — many of whom were plucked from the Gilmore Girls cast itself!

The show aired 18 episodes and was officially cancelled six months after the season finale aired. Ratings were a factor in the cancellation, in addition to the network not having the money to fund the series.

Where to watch: Streaming on FreeForm.com

18. Reunion

This drama follows six friends over the course of 20 years — starting during their high school years and leading up to a murder the day of their high school reunion. The show cuts between the past and the present as viewers gain insight into the group dynamics and get closer to finding the killer. The show was originally meant to air 22 episodes but poor ratings cut the series order down to 13. Only nine episodes actually aired on television before it was pulled from the schedule. Due to this, the killer was never revealed.

Where to watch: the only true way to watch is to find episodes on YouTube or other places on the internet. The series was never released on DVD. Tragic.

19. Jericho

This post-apocalyptic drama focused on the fictional town of Jericho, Kansas after a nuclear attack on 23 major cities rocks the U.S. Steady ratings led many to think it would be renewed for a second season until CBS shockingly cancelled it. Jericho‘s story doesn’t end there, though. Dedicated fans sent 20 tons of peanuts to CBS executives, in reference to a scene from the shows season finale, in hopes to get a second season. It worked and a second 7-episode season was ordered. Jericho was then canceled… again… after the second season due to ratings. The show lived on posthumously as comic book series.

Where to watch: CBS.com with subscription and for purchase online.

20. Pushing Daisies

Pushing Daisies is a whimsical show with a surprisingly dark concept. The show centers on piemaker, Ned (Lee Pace), who can bring the dead back to life with his touch. Ned uses his power for good by asking the deceased for a little help in solving their murders. He runs into trouble when he brings his childhood crush, Chuck (Anna Freil) back from the dead and can’t touch her again or she’ll die forever.

The show was a critics and awards darling, but even that couldn’t save it from cancellation. The show was a casualty of the 2007-08 writers strike, which forced the show off-air before the second season aired.

Where to watch: CWSeed.com and for purchase online and on DVD.

21. Firefly

Last but not least is Joss Whedon’s sci-fi cult hit, Firefly. The “space western” takes place 500 years in the future and follows the crew of the Serenity spaceship. Led by captain Mal (Nathan Fillion), the crew takes jobs around the star system to keep their ship running and make a living on the outskirts of society.

Poor ratings led to the shows cancellation after 11 episodes despite 14 having been produced. This lead to the remaining episodes only being available on DVD. The show didn’t disappear after cancellation, though. The characters were revived for the feature film, Serenity and later in comic book form.

Where to watch: Hulu

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