Now that there’s more TV than ever before, even more shows get canceled.
Some shows get canceled because both critics and audiences hate them. Some get canceled because audiences don’t care, even if critics do. And some get canceled for reasons we’ll likely never know.
There have been quite a few painful cancellations throughout TV history, and here we picked some of the ones that hurt the most.
From “Freaks and Geeks” to “Pushing Daisies,” here are the 14 most painful TV cancellations of all time.
*Note: We did not include shows that have since been rebooted or picked up for another season, like “Arrested Development,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” and “The Expanse.”
“My So-Called Life” — ABC, canceled after one season (1994-1995)
This one-season teen drama perfectly captured teen angst in the 90s. And although it introduced us to the can of worms that is Jared Leto, it also introduced the world to Claire Danes, one of the most exceptional actors of the past few decades. Even though her performance earned her an Emmy nomination and a Golden Globe win, ABC didn’t give the show a second season.
“Freaks and Geeks” — NBC, canceled after one season (1999-2000)
“Freaks and Geeks” wasn’t a painful cancellation at the time because most people who love it now weren’t even aware of its existence. But it gained popularity after it ended, particularly since every member of its cast has become successful: Jason Segel, Martin Starr, James Franco, Linda Cardellini, Seth Rogen, Busy Phillips, and more.
“Firefly” — Fox, canceled after one season (2002-2003)
“Star Wars” is a space opera with some Western elements, while the short-lived “Firefly” is a Western that takes place in space. It’s just as funny as it is dramatic, mostly thanks to its talented cast including Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk, and its world is so detailed that you’re immersed in it immediately. It only lasted one season, but it’s had a lasting impact on creator Joss Whedon’s career, sci-fi, and the people who watched it.
“Deadwood” — HBO, canceled after three seasons (2004-2006)
“Deadwood” is like a modern Shakespeare play with a lot of F-bombs. Seriously: they curse a lot on this program. Set in Deadwood, South Dakota, in the 1870’s, the show is a compelling look at the brutal and terribly violent American West in its early days. It has an amazing cast to match creator David Milch’s writing including Ian McShane, Timothy Olyphant, Molly Parker, and John Hawkes.
“Rome” — HBO, canceled after two seasons (2005-2007)
Gorgeous in its visual style and its striking storytelling, “Rome” intertwines the history everyone knows (Caesar’s reign and downfall, Marc Antony and Cleopatra) with stories about the people no one really thinks about from this period: normal people. It’s fast-paced, often making huge time jumps within episodes, rather than drawing out the passage of time. Unfortunately “Rome” cost HBO a lot of money, but wasn’t huge enough to make up for it.
“Pushing Daisies” — ABC, canceled after two seasons (2007-2009)
Lee Pace tends to star on criminally underrated TV shows, starting with “Pushing Daisies” and years later, “Halt and Catch Fire.” This show, which also starred Kristin Chenoweth, was about a pie-maker who could bring people back to life with his touch. He uses the powers to solve murder cases. It was visually stunning, often playing with colour in a way that no network show had to courage to do.
“Better Off Ted” — ABC, canceled after two seasons (2009-2010)
This smart, refreshing, and strange (in a good way) satire of corporate office culture filled the gap that “Arrested Development” left several years earlier. And this show also starred Portia de Rossi – in a very different role from Lindsay Bluth. Unfortunately the show was years ahead of its time, since it came out when audiences were more interested in simpler comedy content like “Modern Family,” which also premiered on ABC in 2009. Perhaps if “Better Off Ted”came out today, it would have gained a bigger, devoted audience, like NBC’s “The Good Place.”
“Happy Endings” — ABC, canceled after three seasons (2011-2013)
This quirky comedy about 30-somethings in Chicago makes “30 Rock” look like it doesn’t have enough jokes per minute. It starts off a bit rocky by relying on a will-they-won’t-they romance, but eventually it abandons its premise for the better. “Happy Endings” fired jokes and deep pop-culture references at a rapid pace that makes it one of the most rewatchable comedies in recent memory. The entire series is available to watch on Hulu now.
“Man Seeking Woman” — FXX, canceled after 3 seasons (2015-2017)
Surreal to the point that it is almost a hybrid of sci-fi and romantic comedy, “Man Seeking Woman” was a truly unique and fabulous show about a man trying to find love. Jay Baruchel is great as the lead and truly pulls himself into a world where he goes on a date with a literal troll (not the internet kind).
“Bunheads” — ABC Family, canceled after one season (2012-2013)
While there are no buns pictured on Sutton Foster’s head above, there are certainly many buns on the heads of the ballerinas in this charming comedy/drama that critics loved, but not enough people watched. Sadly “Bunheads,” created by Amy Sherman-Palladino (“Gilmore Girls,” “The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel”), could have had a longer life on ABC Family’s rebranded network Freeform, which is more aligned with the audience that this show needed.
“The Mick” — Fox, canceled after two seasons (2017-2018)
Every episode of “The Mick” takes things further than you can imagine for network TV. It had the best physical comedy on TV. It got better and better with every episode as the cast got more comfortable with each other, and as their characters grew.
“Gypsy” — canceled by Netflix after one season (2017)
While critics generally hated “Gypsy,” which starred Oscar nominee Naomi Watts, it has an incredibly devoted fan base that campaigns for another season daily, and therefore earned a spot on this list.
“Sense8” — Netflix, canceled after 2 seasons (2015-2018)
This wacky sci-fi series was so much more than that. It had a diverse cast and told relevant LGBTQ stories that many people connected to deeply – so deeply that Netflix made a movie so the show could wrap things up for its devoted audience. The movie was released in early June.
“Everything Sucks!” — Netflix, canceled after one season (2018)
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