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The Best Shows That Should Have Never Been Canceled

There’s nothing better than discovering a new show to love. Maybe you’ve heard good things about it, or maybe it’s one of those divisive shows that people either love or hate. You binge it in one sitting, or maybe you’re the type that when it’s that good you only allow yourself one episode a week to make it last. We’re not sure if people actually prolong the joy of watching anymore (especially in COVID-19 times), but the point is: it’s a big deal to find a show you really want to really dive into!

So you end the first season wanting more, and in the months that follow you wonder when the new season is landing. Then you learn that it’s been canceled, and that your new favorite show isn’t coming back for another season after all. It’s crushing, and we’ve all been there.

But the truth is, a show being canceled isn’t necessarily reflective of how good or bad that show might’ve been. While it typically does have something to do with lower ratings, the success of a show is subject to a variety of circumstances. The time when it airs, and the show that it follows are just a couple of factors that can impact viewership. 

We thought it’d be fun to look back on some of (what we think are) the best shows that should have never been canceled, and celebrate what made them so special. 


Freaks and Geeks

Not only was this show Executive Produced by Judd Apatow, but the entire cast went on to have very successful careers. Dive into this gem and you’ll see the familiar faces of John Francis Daley (BonesHorrible Bosses, Game Night), Linda Cardellini (Brokeback Mountain, Dead to Me), Jason Segel (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Dispatches from Elsewhere), Busy Philipps (Cougar Town, Busy Tonight), James Franco (127 Hours, The Disaster Artist), and Seth Rogen (Knocked Up, Preacher). 

The show is your classic teen dramedy that follows a sister and brother, Lindsay and Sam Weir (played Cardellini and Daley), as they navigate high school in the early 80s. Despite being canceled after only 12 of its 18 episodes aired, the show has consistently been recognized for its greatness. Time named it a Top 10 TV Show of the 2000s, and Paste Magazine calls it the Best High School TV Show of all time. Not only that, but the show’s cult following managed to get NBC to air the remaining episodes of Season 1 when it was cut short. 

Tell Me You Love Me

This steamy HBO series premiered in September 2007, and followed the relationships of three couples who all had one thing in common: their therapist, Dr. Mary Foster (Jane Alexander). The three couples, as well as Mary and her own husband, are grappling with sex and intimacy issues. While the show was a bit controversial for its nearly-too-real sex scenes, its storylines did hit on a lot of realistic issues that couples face.

Palek (Adam Scott) and Carolyn (Sonya Walger), a successful couple in their 30s struggle to get pregnant and in turn are forced to confront how this affects their relationship. Jamie (Michelle Borth) and Hugo (Luke Farrell Kirby) are in their 20s and engaged, but fidelity and monogamy are things they’re still working through. Then there’s David (Tim DeKay) and Katie (Ally Walker), a couple in their 40s that hasn’t had sex in a year. Needless to say, the subject matter was intriguing and the execution was as well. It turns out that HBO renewed it for a second season, but the show was ultimately canceled before it made it to air.

Firefly

Set in year 2517, Firefly focused on nine characters who live together on a “Firefly-class” spaceship called Serenity. As expected, there’s a lot of backstory needed to craft this world 500 years in the future. For one, the United States and China are the only surviving superpowers. They form the “Alliance,” which essentially rules over a new solar system of planets inhabited by humans. People known as Independents fought the Alliance, but lost. Now they live on the outskirts of these planets, barely able to get by, and often find family in one another.

The show premiered on FOX in September 2002 and was canceled after only 11 of its 14 episodes aired. In 2003, it received an Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Visual Effects. When it was released on DVD sales were high, and it seems Universal Pictures took notice—they went on to produce Serenity in 2005, a film that continued the story of the series.

The Comeback

It’s hard to imagine a show starring the one and only Lisa Kudrow could get canceled, but it did! Kudrow starred as an actress on the brink of becoming a one-hit-wonder. Her character found fame on a sitcom in the early 90s, and has since been unable to find work, putting her out of the spotlight for nearly a decade. Finding herself smack in the middle of the rise of reality television, she accepts a role as a fictionalized version of herself in a fake reality show called, The Comeback.

Kudrow’s character provides endless cringe-worthy moments as a woman desperate to hold onto the limelight for as long as she can. The show was canceled after the first season and then nine years later, HBO revived the series for a second season in 2014. 

My So-Called Life

What set My So-Called Life apart from its counterparts was the way it painted teenage life as… real. This 90s teen drama, led by Claire Danes as Angela Chase, touched on everything from school violence and teenage alcoholism, to body image and learning disabilities. We follow Angela (who narrates the majority of the episodes), and her group of friends, including love interest and eventual boyfriend, Jordan, played by Jared Leto. 

The show was canceled after only one season, which aired between 1994 and 1995. Rumor has it Danes did not want to continue with a second season—she was only 14-years-old at the time of filming the first season. Despite its abrupt ending, the show remains critically-acclaimed having garnered the coveted 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Mick

Led by It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Kaitlin Olson, her character  Mickey is a shameless degenerate that suddenly comes into the care of her sister’s children and their very rich lifestyle. You quickly learn that being a Class A degenerate may just run in the family. The two older kids, Sabrina and Chip Pemberton (played by Sofia Black D-Elia and Thomas Barbusca), have zero respect for Mickey and fight her every attempt at mothering them. Then there’s the youngest, Ben, who on the surface is sweet, but also has a dark side. 

Mickey kind of gets help from her sort of boyfriend Jimmy (played by Scott MacArthur), and the family’s (sort of) housekeeper, Alba (played by Carla Jimenez). The show aired on FOX for a total of 37 episodes between 2017 and 2018, but was ultimately canceled after the second season. 

 

Clearly the TV industry is tough, and even a well-received show might not make it beyond its first season. Luckily there’s no shortage of new shows rolling in, so finding a new favorite is now a numbers game more than anything else. As for the ones that didn’t get their full run, the good news is that in this day and age of On Demand viewing and streaming, your chances of finding it in full are high, and you can feel free to indulge in repeated viewings.

Next Up: Movies That Should’ve Been Video Games

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