If you’re someone you likes to watch television, chances are you’ve been burned by television execs a time or two. They really don’t care how great a show is if not enough people are tuning in, so not enough advertising dollars are being paid, you know?
The cold, hard facts of Hollywood as a business are often at odds with what audience want, but since we’re not paying for actors and sets and soundtracks and all of that, well…we don’t get a say.
You’ve probably got a short list of shows that were gone too soon in your head, but here are 25 objectively great properties that only lasted a single season.
This series released on NBC in 2009, and sought to retell the biblical story of David and Goliath in modern times.
It was set in a fictional kingdom and starred a few names you’d know for sure today – Ian McShane and Sebastian Stan among them – and viewers were totally digging what they saw.
The acting and production value might have been top notch but the viewers just weren’t there, and so NBC pulled the plug without giving Kings another year so find an audience.
Another NBC failure, Powerless aired only 12 episodes in 2017.
The first attempt at a DC superhero comedy starred Vanessa Hudgens and Danny Pudi, among others, who played a rag-tag bunch working for Wayne Security.
Their job was to design and create products for “normal” folks who might find themselves at the mercy of those with special powers.
Despite the fantastic premise, things didn’t go well – though NBC also didn’t give it much of a chance in a market totally saturated with superhero offerings.
This show had the potential to tell a different side of the story, but now us regular folks will probably never know what it’s like to be normal in a world of supers.
Gilmore Girls is one of the biggest cult classics of a generation, and the snappy writing and witty banter is a huge part of why. So when creator Amy Sherman-Palladino said she’d created another show, Bunheads, and it was starring Sutton Foster, it honestly seemed like it couldn’t miss.
Sutton plays a Vegas showgirl who gets married on a whim and then finds herself widowed in her husband’s small town, teaching dance at his mother’s ballet school.
The show had the in-depth, emotional writing and unexpected laughs, with relationships at the center – just what we expected and loved with Gilmore Girls.
The show was fantastic, but apparently I lived in a world where everyone watched it (and that wasn’t reality).
We only got one season, but it’s a total joy to watch anyway.
22. Life Sentence
This show had a unique premise that immediately drew a rabid fanbase, but it was ultimately cancelled in 2018, the same year in debuted.
Starring Lucy Hale, Elliot Knight, Jayson Blair, and a bunch of other faces you’d recognize, Life Sentence was about a young girl who learns two things at the same time: her terminal cancer was cured, and everything in her life is a lie.
The people around her were putting on brave faces and protecting her from hardships and problems, but now that she’s not dying, a different kind of tragedy falls into her lap.
It sounds as if it were made for CW audiences, but not enough of them were buzzing about the show, and so it was shown the door after just 13 episodes.
Another CW show, Ringer debuted in 2011 only to be canceled a year later after just 22 episodes.
It brought back Buffy star Sarah Michelle Gellar in the main role as Bridget, playing an addict who is six months sober and working to get her life on track.
When she barely escapes a professional hit job, she flees to NYC to live with her twin sister.
That’s when things get weird.
Her sister dies unexpectedly and in a way that allows Bridget to take over her life.
The plot was a bit complicated and sometimes convoluted, which could have led to audiences struggling to connect (or jump in late) but this one had so much potential I would have liked to see where the mystery went in another season.
It was the late 90s when Cupid released, a comedy about Trevor Hale, a man who believes he is the title character.
Zeus is punishing him by sending him to Earth with no powers (he thinks), a delusion that lands him in a mental institution with Dr. Allen, who takes him under her wing.
It sounds dumb, but once you watch the 15 episodes, you’ll see that it’s not.
That said, the 90s were a huge decade for television and this one just couldn’t compete, leading to execs pulling the plug too soon.
19. Angels in America
This limited series ran on HBO in 2003, and was based on a Pulitzer-prize winning stage play of the same name.
Set in the late 80s, it revolves around 6 strangers whose lives intersect – the main focus being a gay man with AIDS who believed he had been visited by an angel.
The cast, which included huge Hollywood names like Al Pacino, Mary-Louise Parker, James Cromwell, Meryl Streep, and Emma Thompson (among others) should have been enough to draw viewers.
It certainly drew critical acclaim, winning both Emmys and Golden Globes for its efforts.
There never was a plan for a second season, so this is one of those rare exceptions where one great season was PERFECT.
18. The Flash
There was a Flash series back in the 1990s, on CBS, that very much resembled the current series The Flash, airing on the CW – but it didn’t get nearly as much love.
This one starred John Wesley Shipp as The Flash and was written by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo, who were only given 22 episodes to sink or swim.
The stellar sets and eye-catching costumes, along with cameos by actors like Mark Hamill, contributed to a high budget, which was one of the things that led to its being cancelled before it had a chance to really take off.
This show had me at “a crime drama with a bit of time travel” but sadly, not enough others felt the same way.
It starred Peyton List and Riley Smith as Raimy and Frank Sullivan, a father-daughter duo only able to communicate through a radio – a decade apart.
Frank was killed and called a dirty cop in 1996, and now that Raimy is grown up and a cop, too, she’s looking to clear her father’s name and find out who killed him, too – and maybe find a way to go back for real and save her father’s life.
Unlike many properties that attempt to tackle time travel this one wasn’t confusing or too complicated, but after a long consideration, the show didn’t get a second season.
After one season in 2018 – just 10 episodes – NBC gave his show the axe.
It starred Josh Radnor of How I Met Your Mother fame and was set in a high school drama department where a good teacher turned around the lives of students who were struggling with real-world problems.
Too many people were dismissing it as “another Glee,” though, which is a shame since surely the show had new and interesting takes to explore, given a different demographic of student.
It just needed a bit more time to convince everyone else.
This single-camera comedy series was produced back in 2001 and starred a bunch of household names like Jay Baruchel, Carla Gallo, Charlie Hunnam, Seth Rogen, and more. It was meant to be a follow-up to Freaks and Geeks, which you’ll see later on this list, and aired on Fox.
The show followed a group of college freshmen in the early 2000s as they attempt to navigate University and answer the question of what they’re going to do with the rest of their lives.
The characters were promising, likable, and easy to root for, but despite praise from critics around renewal time, Fox passed on renewing it for a second season.
14. Spies of Warsaw
This BBC mini-series was only made for one season, so it’s not like it was canceled, but it definitely left us hungry for more back in 2013.
There were only 6 episodes that starred David Tennant, Linda Basset, Janet Montgomery, and other British screen royalty, and each was about a military attache to the French embassy who is drawn into a corrupt world in the back alleys of Warsaw.
You might find that it has a bit of a slow pace but honestly, the payoff is more than worth your time.
13. Almost Human
Karl Urban, Michael Ealy, Minka Kelly, and more starred in Almost Human, a show about a human and an android paired up to patrol the streets as police officers in a not-so-distant future.
The two become unexpected friends and the scripts were packed with humor, action, drama, a good message, and feel-good relationships.
The show was well-written and original, but ultimately only received 13 episodes to generate huge numbers before getting shown the door on Fox, largely because of budget constraints.
Also axed in 2018, Ghosted was a fantasy/comedy/horror series that delighted fans of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Office.
That sounds like a recipe for success, but this show, which featured a skeptical ex-cop partnering with a nerdy scientist pursuing the paranormal, never really found its own niche.
Fox originally wanted to give it another shot, ordering an additional six episodes to test what a second season might look like, but ultimately decided against continuing.
There’s no shortage of military dramas out there, but since it’s a hilarious comedy, Enlisted – which follows three brothers who end up posted together – should have been different enough to draw viewers.
Critics loved the brilliant comedy and the chemistry between the brothers – Geoff Stults, Chris Lowell, and Parker Young – but Fox could never decide where to put it in the schedule, which meant most people were never able to find it and latch on.
10. Everything Sucks!
This comedy/drama came from Netflix in 2018 and was set in Boring, Oregon. Given that it focuses on 90s culture, it’s hard to imagine that millennials everywhere didn’t make it a success, but alas.
The show is about two groups of teens, one from the A/V club and the other drama students, who make a movie together about the issues facing teens in the 90s.
Netflix only gave its diverse cast and fun writers 10 episodes before pulling the plug, and 90s kids everywhere wept.
9. The Fades
This supernatural drama aired first in the U.K. and focuses on a young boy, Paul, who is haunted by apocalyptic dreams. He can also see the dead, who he calls The Fades.
The concept of the series, penned by Harry Potter and the Cursed Child playwright Jack Thorne, is that the Fades are angry and vengeful at not being able to cross over and so they aim to exact revenge on the humans once they figure out how to cross the barrier between life and death.
Paul, and others like them, have to stand in their way.
It’s great, even if it only lasted for a single season of six episodes.
Constantine, which featured a British exorcist and occult detective after supernatural beings, debuted in 2014 on NBC.
Meant to stand on its own two feet, the character kept pooping up other places (like on The CW) and NBC decided their version didn’t have the ratings to stay in the game.
Matt Ryan, who played the lead, returned in the title role in an animated series in 2018.
7. My So-Called Life
What 90s kid isn’t still lamenting the cancellation of one of the best shows ever, My So-Called Life?
It starred Claire Danes and Jared Leto (plus a bunch of other players you would recognize now) and tackled important and tough societal subjects that were as pertinent to kids back in the 90s as they are to kids today.
ABC pulled it after just 19 episodes and we’re still not over it.
It was the first ever show to garner thousands of signatures on an online petition to save the show (which sadly didn’t have any effect).
6. Seven Seconds
A limited series from Netflix, Seven Seconds was never meant to stick around for a long time – but that doesn’t stop people from wanting it.
This was a beautifully written emotional rollercoaster that’s also very relevant, about the death of an African American boy struck and killed by a white police officer’s car. There’s a cover-up by the police as the boy’s family seek the truth and justice for what they’ve lost.
Some people criticized its legal accuracy but trust me, the story and the pacing are gripping enough to make you forgive any small flaws.
5. Freaks and Geeks
One of the most beloved shows, with an adored cast, in recent memory, people simply could not believe it when Freaks and Geeks was shown the door by Fox after just one season.
Released in 1999, it starred Linda Cardellini, John Francis Daley, James Franco, Samm Levine, Seth Rogen, Jason Segal, etc etc etc.
Everyone has gone on to other projects, but the series, which focuses on a gifted high schooler who befriends a group of slackers, is charming and just a complete delight to watch.
4. The Crossing
Fans everywhere think ABC will come to regret this obvious successor to the mega-popular Lost, but of course, that won’t change anything.
The Crossing was about a group of refugees washed ashore in a small American fishing town – refugees from a war taking place 180 years in the future.
They’re also not the first people to travel back in time, and as the twists and turns are revealed, so are more questions that demand answers.
ABC sadly gave us only 11 episodes, which is NOT enough time for a genre show to establish itself and get people talking if you ask me.
3. Band of Brothers
This is one of the most critically acclaimed World War II dramas out there, an HBO miniseries that was green-lit in 1998.
The series cost HBO nearly $100 million to make and 3 years of production, and back in the late 90s, those numbers raised serious eyebrows.
In the miniseries we follow the (true) story of an American paratrooper company as they traverse the final years of the war, and with direction from Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, they really couldn’t go wrong.
HBO never intended to go beyond the original miniseries, but they did eventually produce a Pacific version, as well.
2. The Brave
The Brave was a military drama canceled the same television year it released, 2017/2018. There were a slew of military dramas that year and only one of them, SEAL Team, has continued past the first season.
I did love the cast of The Brave, with Anne Heche standing front and center, and the fact that it dealt more with covert operations than regular battle units. It focused not only on the missions but on the personal lives and sacrifices of its operatives, as well, but after 13 episodes, NBC couldn’t figure out how to make it stand out among its peers.
This list absolutely could not end any other way. When people think of one-season shows that were rudely and unfairly cutoff before their prime, Firefly is the show that comes first to most people’s minds.
This space cowboy series from Joss Whedon debuted in 2002 and ran only until 2003, a total of 15 episodes. It followed a ragtag band of smugglers aboard the Serenity as they tried to survive the horrors of space and a society exhausted by war.
The cast was headed by the beloved Nathan Fillion, which should have been enough to keep it going on its own, honestly.
Fox never had the show’s back from the start, airing episodes out of order and never giving the characters much of a chance to get into people’s hearts – though they did, eventually, and you’d be hard pressed to find a single person today who didn’t like the show.
A 2005 movie, Serenity, backed by fans and Joss Whedon, wrapped up loose ends (though not in the way some of us have ever gotten over, ugh).
There have been countless calls to bring back Firefly, however, this is unlikely to ever happen. Most of the cast have since moved on to other projects since their time on the show, and in 2005 a movie called Serenity was given the green light to wrap up loose ends.
I kind of want to watch some of these, just so I can have my heart broken, too.
Is this list missing something near and dear to your heart? Share it with us in the comments!