There’s nothing quite as tragic as when your favourite TV show gets canned, especially when the cancellation comes way too early. Be it due to poor ratings, poor marketing, or just bad decisions on the part of the network that picked up the show in the first place (you’ll see what I mean when you read this list), it sucks when a good show gets axed before it really had its time to shine. What follows is a list of five of my favourite TV shows, all of which were cancelled far too soon. The REAL tragedy of it all is that shows like Survivor continue to get their contracts renewed, while much better programming like the shows listed here gets scrapped.
5. Clerks: The Animated Series
Clerks: TAS picks up where Clerks the film left off, following the day to day lives of Dante and Randall, the two cynical shop clerks from the movie. Taking a rather different approach to the subject matter from the film, Clerks: TAS featured much more outlandish humour and slapstick gags more befitting of a cartoon show. Jay and Silent Bob were, naturally, reoccuring characters as well.
Clerks: The Animated Series was way ahead of its time, and if it were pitched to TV networks today I’m sure it would get picked up in a heartbeat. But this was before Kevin Smith was known for the kind of wacky humour on display in his film Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and as a result, the differences between the Clerks movie and the Clerks TV show were pretty glaring, and not quite what the networks were looking for (one episode even pokes fun at these discrepencies in style). Additional factors that lead to the show’s cancellation were poor testing with older audiences and dismal ratings, which most likely had to do with the fact that ABC only aired two of the six episodes that were made, and aired them out of order (episode four was aired as the first episode, followed by episode two which was entirely based around mocking the real episode one). With the success of shows like Family Guy and South Park, however, Clerks: TAS would be right at home in today’s world of adult-oriented animation. The show’s six episodes are available on DVD and are all hilarious. It’s sad that ABC didn’t realize the potential goldmine it had on its hands.
Carnivale chronicles the strange and surreal adventures of a boy named Ben Hawkins, possessed of mysterious healing powers, who falls in with a travelling circus during the great depression. Meanwhile, a priest named Brother Justin has found himself called upon by supernatural forces to spread the word of God throughout the land.
This one is especially sad because the show was originally slated to run for six seasons, divided into three books consisting of two seasons each, but it only ran for two seasons. So we only get the first book of the story of Ben Hawkins and therefore only a third of the answers to the questions that the series poses. Not only that, but season two concludes with an enormous cliffhanger, which is extremely frustrating! Full of amazing, beautiful imagery and art house sensibilities, Carnivale has something for everybody. Well-drawn characters, steamy and sexy relationships, supernatural baddies, ghosts and other horror elements…the list goes on and on. This show deserved so much more, and fans still hold out hope to this day that HBO will make a made-for-TV movie that wraps everything up.
Spaced follows a group of friends who all live in flats in an apartment building on Meteor Street in London. Perpetually hard up for cash and struggling to succeed in their ventures, we watch as the characters try to find their place in life as often-unemployed twentysomethings.
Cancelled after only fourteen episodes, Spaced introduced the world to the brilliant team of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright – the guys responsible for Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Do I really need to justify it beyond that? Spaced is great for a multitude of reasons. Every episode is jam-packed with pop culture references that geeks like me eat up with a spoon. The jokes are hilarious and delivered at a rapid-fire rate. But most importantly, the characters are realistic depictions of twentysomethings, living in crappy apartments with very little money, yet still managing to enjoy themselves. This is what Friends would be if Friends were at all grounded in reality. Whereas I can honestly say that I don’t know anyone like the characters on Friends, I definitely know people like the characters on Spaced.
2. Arrested Development
Arrested Development centers on a highly dysfunctional family who find themselves in the middle of a scandal when their patriarch is arrested for defrauding investors in his real estate mini-mansion developments. The family, all of whom live excessive and opulent lifestyles and who are all pretty stupid, struggle to continue leading the lives they’re accustomed to in the wake of George Bluth Sr.’s arrest, but generally fail in hilarious ways.
Arrested Development is one of the big names in premature cancellation, and talk of an Arrested Development movie continues to this day, even though the project never seems to get off the ground. What makes the cancellation of Arrested Development so surprising is that over the course of the show’s three seasons it was nominated for no fewer than twenty Emmys! Twenty! In spite of all the critical acclaim, however, the show only pulled in middling ratings, and the geniuses at Fox (note sarcasm) decided to pull the plug after downsizing third season to a measly thirteen episodes. Even now, four years after its cancellation, Arrested Development still stands as one of the funniest shows in television history, and people are still lobbying for its return. On a side note: in an odd coincidence, Judge Reinhold has appeared on both Arrested Development and Clerks: The Animated Series.
Firefly focuses on the spaceship Serenity and her crew of loveable miscreants as they take on shady jobs, get into trouble, and have adventures out in the blackness of space, with the evil, nasty Alliance and the bloodthirsty space-cannibals the Reavers hot on their tail.
The phrase “the light that burns twice as bright burns half as long” could apply to no show on this list better than Joss Whedon’s wicked space western Firefly. Dropped after only one season consisting of thirteen episodes, Firefly has such a devoted fanbase that it actually managed a brief resurrection in the form of the film Serenity. What makes Firefly‘s cancellation all the more tragic is that it can be largely attributed to Fox’s poor marketing of the show (notice how Fox has turned up once again on this list?). The show’s time slot kept getting shifted around so that people never knew when it was on, and it was just poorly advertised overall. Shocking when you consider that Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Joss Whedon’s previous show, had served Fox well for seven seasons. Firefly features some of the absolute best characters in TV history, and you end up falling in love with all of them by the time you finish the first few episodes. Thankfully the tales of Serenity and her crew have continued in the form of comic books and even a roleplaying game, but nothing can match the brilliance of the original show.
Dead Like Me
Freaks and Geeks
The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.
Jack of All Trades
Good versus Evil