Top 5

Top 5: Most Traumatic Early TV Series Cancellations

Top 5


The fall TV season is upon us!  While a few shows have already gotten underway, the majority of shows begin debuting new episodes next week.  Tomorrow we’ll have up a KT Fall Show Premiere Guide so you can plot your couch potatoing for the next nine months.  With returning favorites, comes a crop of new shows, probably the most promising of the last five years.  Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, JJ Abrams’ Almost Human, Brooklyn Ninety-Nine and a whole host of potential time sucks just waiting to be discovered….and some of them will end up breaking your heart.

SHIELD is a good bet.  SHIELD isn’t going to break your heart.  It’s got Marvel and Disney going for it on a network Disney owns.  It’s going to be just fine.  It’s not going to do what these five shows did to me and I’m sure many of you.  You’ve got your own shows that lived on the bubble and didn’t make it, mostly thanks to network stupidity.  These are all available (except #3) on Netflix, Hulu and/or Amazon Prime so they can be revisited at will, but despite the different genres, networks and casts, they all have one thing in common: they all left way too soon.

1. Firefly (FOX)
Firefly, Joss WhedonThis is kind of a no-brainer.  13 episodes (only 10 of which aired) of Firefly was enough to whip together a group of Brown Coat fans who are still nuts about this barely-scratched universe ten years after its cancellation.  FOX gave a JOSS WHEDON show ten episodes.  They aired the pilot and the first episode out of order and then switched its time slot twice.  This was a particular labor of love for Whedon and, like many of these shows, the cast has gone on to find success.  Nathan Fillion‘s Castle is beginning its fifth season.  Zoe Saldana stars in KT-favorite Suits over on USA.  Monica Baccarin is nominated for an Emmy on Sunday for her work on Homeland.  Summer Glau is joining the cast of Arrow for its second year.  It’s worth mentioning that, like #2 and #5, the story here has continued in comic books.  Whedon has also given Buffy the Vampire Slayer seasons eight and nine through comics.  The X-Files even recently returned for a tenth season in comic book form.

2. Pushing Daisies (ABC)
Pushing Daisies, Bryan Fuller, Lee Pace
It’s almost impossible to describe Bryan Fuller‘s masterful Pushing Daisies.  Mostly because it sounds like a horrible idea, but then so does Breaking Bad‘s premise in a vacuum of the talent used to execute it.  There’s never been anything on TV like PD and it makes the best use of color of any show that’s ever been aired.  It’s a phenomenal series.  Lee Pace, who plays Ned on the show, is going to blow up in the next two years with big roles in the final two Hobbit movies and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.

3. Boomtown (NBC)
BoomtownMy friends are manically whacking their browsers closed right now because I have been unrelentingly annoying about Boomtown’s year and a quarter truncated run.  Boomtown could have been one of the best cop shows ever.  THE best ever.  Donnie Wahlberg, Neil McDonough, Mykelti Williamson, and a host of familiar faces you’ve seen in movies and on series since were on the best cop show I’ve ever seen and we only got 30 episodes.  You can get the first season on DVD and it’s worth every penny.  Graham Yost wrote and ran this show.  Google him and see what he’s gone on to do.  I’m not going to do it all for you!

4. SportsNight (ABC)
Sports Night, Aaron Sorkin


Sports Night really never had a chance.  It was Aaron Sorkin‘s first series right before The West Wing and ABC had no clue what to make of this look behind the running of a thinly disguised SportsCenter clone.  They imposed a horrendous laugh track on it the first season, shuffled it all over creation and then ended it after two years.  Every member of the cast has gone on to Emmy or Oscar nominated work and Sorkin got valuable experience from it and moved whole themes and monologues to The West Wing, Moneyball and other projects.  The best part of the show was Robert Guillaume, who suffered a stroke during the show’s run and then had the courage to show his recovery process on-air as part of the storyline.

5. Angel (The WB/CW)
Angel-castOK, yes.  Angel got five years.  It’s a stretch to stick it on the list, next to shows that got 13 episodes.  However, Angel, which spun-off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, ended up becoming a more consistent and better show than Buffy.  It got better and better every season and had years of life left in it.  It did leave us with one of the best endings any show has ever had, but I’d have traded that for a few more years of its company.


4 thoughts on “Top 5: Most Traumatic Early TV Series Cancellations”

  1. I was really mad when they cancelled Journeyman. And Glory Daze. This is why I watch very few TV shows these days. Why get all involved in one to just have it cancelled? Annoying. From now on I’ll wait a few years then catch repeats if the show is still around, I guess. In the meantime, I’m just watching movies instead. 🙂


  2. Why why why did they have to treat Firefly so shabbily? Why why why did they have to cancel Carnivalle? Why why why did they have to cancel Twin Peaks? Twin Peaks is the greatest show in the history of television, and I refuse to argue the point. Cooper is still out there, trapped in the Black Lodge! I’m depressed.
    The only consolation is the feeling that, maybe, when a show’s first episodes are THAT good, there is no place to go but down. Millennium, for example, would have been better off without the third season; it tarnished the legacy of the show.
    No—who am I kidding? Josh Wheadon can do know wrong, I want more Firefly.


    1. Well at least we got Serenity and it’s awesome but that was such a fantastic cast and universe. Carnivale didn’t even get a shot. It just stopped. That should probably flip with Angel but I never watched Carnivale until it was cancelled so it wasn’t as traumatic. I’ve never watched Twin Peaks purely because I’m afraid it’ll do that to me.


      1. Ah, but NOT watching it is worse than the feeling of loss when you reach the end. You must make this a top priority, because right now there is a gaping hole in your pop culture education. Be sure to start with the Pilot, not the episode labeled episode one. I promise you will think me.


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