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Cult Favorite TV Shows That Were Canceled After One Season

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Young beautiful woman in morning bed at home. Hold remote control and watch tv or movie. Bowl with popcorn on bed. Cut view and close up.
Vlad Dmytrenko/istockphoto
‘My So-Called Life’
Amazon

‘My So-Called Life’ (1994-1995)

When thinking of beloved TV shows that lasted just a season, thoughts often jump to this ABC study of teen angst, which chronicled the high-school days, nights and inherent drama of sophomore Angela Chase (Claire Danes), her social circle, and home life. The show ended up being not only award-winning but also groundbreaking in tackling topics as diverse as child abuse, homophobia, censorship, and drug abuse. As the U.K.’s The Guardian noted, “The show lasted only one series, but it rewrote television’s rules, breaking down conventions and giving teens an authentic voice.” And, we cheekily add, it gave us the on-screen debut of Jared Leto as Jordan Catalano, the bad-boy dreamboat with the amazing hair. (Some things never change.)    


Related: 17 Beloved Classic TV Shows You Can Still Watch

Freaks and Geeks
Amazon

‘Freaks and Geeks’ (1999-2000)

As happens with a number of shows that fail to reach season two, the actors do go on to much bigger projects. This NBC show set in a suburban high school is a prime example, with alums including Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, James Franco, Linda Cardellini, and Busy Phillips. That’s not to mention those behind the scenes such as creator Paul Feig (“Bridesmaids”) and exec producer Judd Apatow (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up”). The iconic show’s 20th anniversary prompted plenty of media coverage, including in Rolling Stone that, “in honor of the gone-too-soon show,” ranked the episodes of “this cult TV classic, from good to great.”


‘Berrenger’s’ (1985)
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‘Berrenger’s’ (1985)

Now for a more personal pick … This NBC nighttime soap was a glitzy drama in the tradition of “Dallas” and “Dynasty” that focused on the business — and extracurricular — travails of the Berrengers, a family who owned and operated a chic New York City department store that bore their name. Jeff Conaway, Yvette Mimieux, Ben Murphy, and others kept me (I mean viewers) coming back. The show was pulled before all episodes aired; if memory serves, that left the cast’s future uncertain as a fire had broken out in the final installment we saw.   


Firefly
Amazon

‘Firefly’ (2002-2003)

This sci-fi epic — which has been called an “American space Western drama television show” —  showcased nine characters living on a futuristic spaceship. Though failing to capitalize on Joss Whedon’s previous successes (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and its spinoff, “Angel”), the Fox show would go on to receive an Emmy for special effects and gather a wider audience on DVD and more recently, Hulu. The New York Times in January of 2021 tapped it as an option for “comfort viewing,” noting, “The show remains a cult favorite, thanks largely to the charm of the Serenity’s crew. The central characters are spiky and sarcastic, but also tender and sincere.”    


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‘Battlestar Galactica’ (1978-1979)
Amazon

‘Battlestar Galactica’ (1978-1979)

We’re not talking about the 2004 reboot — or the proposed reboot of that reboot or the film versions or anything else. We are going back to the original. Yes, the Lorne Greene-, Richard Hatch- and Dirk Benedict-starring ABC sci-fi series that found survivors of an attack against humanity seeking a new world aboard their space battleship. Hey, you had to be there. It was an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of “Star Wars,” which even led to some legal troubles regarding copyright infringements, though fans of the genre hold it in a special place in their hearts.     


Related: Worst Reboots of Beloved TV Shows

‘Do No Harm’ (2013)
Amazon

‘Do No Harm’ (2013)

Think of the premise: a medical-themed show starring Steven Pasquale (“Rescue Me”) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hello, um, “Hamilton”). Sounds like a winning combination, right? Well, the show that featured a neurosurgeon with an evil alter ego was generally panned by critics (The Los Angeles Times noted, “Unfortunately, ‘Do No Harm’ suffers from a split personality of its own,” and called it “far more sentimental than thrilling.”). While it was said to be a twist on the 19th-century classic the “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” the NBC show’s cancellation was announced after just two episodes aired. Fans seeking out early work from these two stars (“I’ve been a fan since ‘Do No Harm’”) no doubt keep its memory alive.    


Jimmy Smits
Getty Images / Paul Archuleta / Contributor / Getty Images Entertainment

‘Cane’ (2007)

Awards don’t necessarily mean ratings success. Series star Jimmy Smits was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series and this show also got a nomination for a People’s Choice Award for Favorite New TV Drama. The saga of a Cuban-American family running a successful rum and sugar cane business in Florida also starred Héctor Elizondo, Rita Moreno, and Nestor Carbonell. Though the CBS show still earns props for its diverse cast (and can be streamed on Kanopy), The Hollywood Reporter’s advance review called it correctly: “There’s enough juice in the ‘Cane’ premise to build a following. It may help that the characters’ ethnicity is mostly incidental to the story line rather than central … While this is not an impossible time slot in which to make headway, a breakthrough could be iffy.”      


Kelsey Grammer
Amazon

‘Hank’ (2009)

Fans of Kelsey Grammer (the acerbic star of “Cheers” and its spinoff, “Frasier”) are a devoted bunch, following him to this ABC effort that Variety succinctly reviewed as this: “‘Green Acres’ updated with a corporate-tycoon-gets-humbling-comeuppance twist.” It further noted that Grammer serves as the show’s “primary asset,” which makes the show — which follows a sporting-goods CEO on a downturn, leaving the city for life back in Virginia — another star vehicle that remains a draw for its star’s most devoted fans.   


Jenny McCarthy
Jenny McCarthy by Gamerscoreblog (CC BY)

‘Jenny’ (1997)

Jenny McCarthy Wahlberg, the veteran judge on “The Masked Singer” who’s also written books, modeled, had her own talk shows on TV and radio and appeared in movies, once starred in her own NBC sitcom. “Jenny” was a fish-out-of-water saga following an upstate New York convenience store clerk who’s landed in Hollywood along with her best friend (Heather Paige Kent, these days better known as Heather Dubrow of “The Real Housewives of Orange County” fame). The show’s premise, a classic of the sitcom genre, retains a charming step-back-in-time quality. A Variety review at the time noted, in part, that, “There’s something agreeably quirky about the antagonistic, gal-bonding interaction between McCarthy and Kent, as if they actually (gasp) enjoyed working together.”     


‘Bunheads’ (2012-2013)
Amazon

‘Bunheads’ (2012-2013)

There were enough fans of “Gilmore Girls” and one of its creators, Amy Sherman-Palladino, to give this Sherman-Palladino show plenty of hype. But the ballet-themed comedy-drama on ABC Family starring Sutton Foster (now on Broadway in “The Music Man”) didn’t find a wide enough audience. The New York Times noted it “drew rave reviews but a modest audience,” so it remains destined to be watched again (and again) by aspiring dancers and “Gilmore” fanatics forever.     


‘It’s Your Move’ (1984-1985)
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‘It’s Your Move’ (1984-1985)

There’s something about seeing a noted actor during his or her younger days that makes you feel nostalgic. Jason Bateman, the “Arrested Development” cast member who made even more waves in both Netflix’s “Ozark” and now, car commercials, had plenty of time before the camera as a youngster, from “Little House on the Prairie” and “Silver Spoons” to this classic sitcom in which his teenage character was constantly trying to thwart his mother’s new love interest. It’s a memorable show that still has fans, as a 2012 Huff Post Entertainment piece nearly 30 years after its demise noted “the interesting thing about ‘It’s Your Move’ is that Matt Burton, as the protagonist, wasn’t a particularly nice person. Yet, as an audience, we liked him. Something that’s become more and more prevalent in episodic television over the last 28 years.”    


Witches of Eastwick
Amazon

‘Eastwick’ (2009-2010)

There was the 1984 book “The Witches of Eastwick” by John Updike. Then, there was the 1987 fantasy/horror film of the same name, starring Susan Sarandon, Cher, and Michelle Pfeiffer, along with the scene-stealing Jack Nicholson. Fast forward to this ABC TV incarnation, which found Rebecca Romijn, Lindsay Price, and Jaime Ray Newman in the leading roles with Paul Gross (“Due South”) tackling the Nicholson role. The Hollywood Reporter called it “a breezy, bright trip to the dark side.” A family favorite (of mine), this show was quirky, hilarious — and gone before we knew it.   


‘Booker’ (1989-1990)
Amazon

‘Booker’ (1989-1990)

Richard Grieco. That’s all you need to know — the young hunk was the main draw of this crime-drama that took Grieco’s “21 Jump Street” character Dennis Booker to his own Fox Network crime drama. There was action. There were cameos from “Jump Street” characters, along with notable guest stars ranging from Jason Priestley to Mariska Hargitay, Don Cheadle to Heavy D. The AV Club noted the show, despite it being from standout creator Stephen J. Cannell (“21 Jump Street” followed shows such as “The Rockford Files” and “The A-Team”) was an example of a series “failing to figure out how to use the appealing character at its center.” Those who still savor its retro escapism say, “Who cares?”    


Jason Gedrick
Jason Gedrick by Alex Black (CC BY-SA)

‘Falcone’ (2000)

Another show named after its lead character, “Falcone” was a CBS crime drama following an FBI agent named Pistone who goes undercover — as Falcone — to try and bring down the Mafia. Based on the real-life story of Donnie Brasco, the series starred Jason Gedrick along with Titus Welliver, and Eric Roberts. At the time, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that while the show was no “Sopranos” or even “Sopranos Lite,” “The new CBS crime drama shares more in common with shows of the more distant past, particularly ‘Wiseguy’ or ‘Crime Story.’ … Fans of crime stories will enjoy this B-grade tale of an undercover FBI agent.” It was shown as a miniseries, causing even more confusion, but fans of the genre recognize its Brasco pedigree.     


‘Moonlight’ (2007-2008)
Amazon

‘Moonlight’ (2007-2008)

Shows about vampires will have their fan base no matter what the critics say. This Alex O’Loughlin (the remake of iconic “Hawaii Five-O”) vehicle found him leading the cast of the CBS mystery as an “undead” private investigator who actually helps the living. Washington Post staffer Tom Shales, in a review that said, basically, that the show needed more vampire and less private eye, noted, “It doesn’t go quite far enough into uncharted territory but gets off to a basically promising start nonetheless, and executive producer Joel Silver (of ‘Lethal Weapon’ and ‘Die Hard’ fame) has seen to it that the show has a classy, snazzy surface.” It’s one for the ages.     


‘Models Inc.’ (1994-1995)
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‘Models Inc.’ (1994-1995)

Young models, fabulous clothes, a California beach house … and plenty of nighttime soap drama from a team led by Aaron Spelling. This spinoff of “Melrose Place,” (itself a spinoff of “Beverly Hills 90210”) found Linda Gray (“Dallas”) as the owner of a Los Angeles modeling agency, which included signees Carrie-Ann Moss (“The Matrix” series) and Garcelle Beauvais (“The Real” and “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills”), among others. It remains playful eye candy, innocuous escape-TV, as Variety noted at the time, “No one does much acting, since not much is required, but the posturings are pretty.”    


‘The Beautiful Life’ (2009)
Amazon

‘The Beautiful Life’ (2009)

Models got another spin in this show that aired on The CW from executive producer Ashton Kutcher. Mischa Barton (“The O.C.”), supermodel Elle Macpherson and actor-singer Corbin Bleu (“High School Musical”) were among the stars. The effort was canceled after two episodes. In response, according to TV Guide, “Citing fan requests, Kutcher will put all five episodes on YouTube,” where it remains.

‘Doubt (2017)
Amazon

‘Doubt' (2017)

This CBS legal drama led by Katherine Heigl also offered drama of the personal kind, with Heigl’s attorney character falling for her client, a doctor (once again we see the talented Steven Pasquale in a failed effort) recently charged with murdering his girlfriend some 25 years prior. A St. Louis Post-Dispatch review noted, “‘Doubt’ is a legal drama so heavy on the personal that it veers into soap territory.” Fans, though, continue to mention it for its inclusive casting of Laverne Cox.   


‘Grosse Pointe’ (2000-2001)
Amazon

‘Grosse Pointe’ (2000-2001)

The show-within-a-show trope has had hits — and misses. This one from The WB depends, likely, on your age as it offers a snapshot of the turn of the new millennium — and a look at the inner workings of Hollywood. An ensemble cast played the characters on a TV show and followed them “off screen,” as well. With countless pop-culture references, it today offers a bit of a time capsule into a period when TV shows were made differently (thanks to showrunners like Darren Star of “Beverly Hills 90210” and “Sex and the City” fame). As Variety wrote, the show “uses a fictional nighttime drama as a conduit for juicy Hollywood gossip and biting satire … Undoubtedly, the fun of the show is trying to guess how much of it is based in truth and how much is inflated for comedic purpose.”   


Three’s a Crowd
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‘Three’s a Crowd’ (1984-1985)

There’s a bit of reverence attached to most everything the late John Ritter starred in, from the epitome of jiggle TV, “Three’s Company,” to the sitcom “8 Simple Rules” to the cinematic effort “Sling Blade.” The “Three’s Company” storyline continued on this spinoff, which finds Jack Tripper and his ladylove living over his restaurant — and battling the interference of her father, played by Robert Mandan. The New York Times’ review was far from glowing — in part noting, “It would be nice to see (Ritter) broadening himself in other directions. He has the potential, certainly, for whipping up the kind of sophisticated humor that Cary Grant patented in the 1930s.” Still, many a Ritter fan will take seeing him — and the iconic Jack Tripper character — any way they can.    


Cameron Daddo
Cameron Daddo by Eva Rinaldi (CC BY)

‘Hope Island’ (1999-2000)

Long before The Hallmark Channel unveiled ensemble shows with heart, from “Cedar Cove” to “Chesapeake Shores,” there was this show on PAX TV that introduced viewers to those living on a fictional island off Washington State. A newly ordained minister (played by Cameron Daddo) arrives on the island, tasked with reviving an old church — and the quirky characters he encounters created a feel-good show that remains strong in memory. As the South Florida Sun Sentinel wrote at the time, “Although it has a spiritual cornerstone, ‘Hope Island’ isn’t awash in smarminess and affected piety. The characters are charming, quirky and fleshed out, and the setting — a remote island a few miles off the coast of the Pacific Northwest — is the most captivating since ‘Northern Exposure.’”   

 

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