Even more so than movies arguably, TV is an extremely fickle business. Every year, the countless networks that air programming green light a variety of pilots in the hope that the show will become a staple of their channel’s lineup for years to come. Sometimes, the new show will go down in pop culture lore, having an extremely successful run that goes multiple seasons. Other times, the fresh program will fail to establish a connection with the viewers, leading to its cancelation after a short period of time.
Whenever a TV show is axed before its creators’ intent, things have obviously gone bad. But sometimes, the network executives are willing to give the show runners a season or two to iron out any kinks and find their footing. Then there are the cases where a show is so awful, the people behind it have no choice but to pull the plug as soon as it’s released to the public. Here is our list of 10 TV Shows Canceled After One Episode.
In the late 1970s, frat house comedies were all the craze thanks to the hit movie Animal House, and the television networks tried to capitalize on the craze. All of the attempts to replicate the Animal House formula failed, perhaps most notoriously with the CBS sitcom Co-Ed Fever. Revolving around an all-girls college that makes the decision to go co-ed, the show was plagued by an uninspired premise that tried to feature the comedy of college guys and gals trying to get along. Things took such a wrong turn that the show never even made its regularly scheduled time slot.
To introduce the public to their new series, CBS aired the first episode on a “special preview night” the day before the show was supposed to launch. However, it generated very low ratings and earned a trashing at the hands of critics. The executives were left with no choice but to cancel it, seeing first hand how disastrous it would be. But it wasn’t a total loss. One of the sets constructed was recycled as a girl’s dormitory for the first season of Facts of Life. So there’s that.
Heil Honey, I’m Home
Though some may perceive it as controversial and offensive, comedy is at its best when it comes with a little bit of an edge. It’s hard to imagine a show like Seinfeld capturing the zeitgeist without the many instances in which it pushed the envelope. And in terms of humor, there aren’t many more touchy subjects than racial and/or ethnic jokes. That was the idea of Heil Honey, I’m Home, a British sitcom that starred caricaturized versions of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun. The two share a life of matrimonial bliss, until they become next door neighbors to a Jewish couple.
You don’t have to be a history major to figure out what happened next. It’s painfully obvious why there was so much wrong with this premise, and even the less politically correct audience of 1990 didn’t see anything funny with it, calling the satire behind it tasteless. Amidst the controversy, the network had to say nein to the rest of the season, which is probably for the best since later episodes would have seen Hitler and Braun attempt to kill their neighbors. Poking fun at the Third Reich is something that can be enjoyed, but apparently only the likes of Mel Brooks have enough chops to pull it off.
At the turn of the 21st century, people were just beginning to discover the wonders of the Internet. It was becoming obvious that the world wide web was going to have a large presence in mass media as we became more technologically advanced, and the TV networks wanted in on the party. In prophetic fashion, ABC foresaw the Internet as a breeding ground for hysterical hijinks and produced a clip show called Dot Comedy. It would feature a series of funny Internet videos with regular people looking to go viral with their 15 minutes of fame.
It honestly isn’t the worst idea for a program, and in the years since, other channels have had success running a similar kind of show. However, ABC couldn’t become a successful pioneer. Executives pulled the show after the first episode due to what they considered low ratings. The 4.1 million viewers Dot Comedy scored was actually a lower figure than the show it replaced in ABC’s lineup, so there was a realistic cause for concern. If only ABC had waited a few more years, they might have had a real winner.
Hollywood is no stranger to portraying the fears people have when going through a midlife crisis. But the period before that can be just as terrifying, as youngsters are forced to confront the realities of growing up and settling down. That was the idea behind NBC’s Quarterlife, a show that was based on a very successful web series that featured a twenty-something transitioning to the next phase in real time. The hope was for the network TV version to attract a similar following as its inspiration, but the audience size couldn’t have been more different when it was all said and done.
In a shocking twist of failure for NBC, the premiere episode of Quarterlife actually generated lower ratings than the Democratic Presidential debate happening at the same time on MSNBC. With viewers clearly uninterested in seeing someone else attempt to deal with their “problems,” the network swiftly canceled the show before further damage could be done. To ensure their investment was not a total loss, NBC sent the remaining episodes produced to their sister station Bravo, but that clearly was not enough to save it from being a catastrophe.
Legendary rocker Ozzy Osbourne and his family were at the center of one of MTV’s most famous reality programs, The Osbournes, so Fox thought they had a winning formula when they brought the clan in for a new show. Titled Osbournes Reloaded, it was a variety program that even had the backing of the American Idol producers. It sounded entertaining enough on paper, but when viewers got to see it on the screen, the results were pretty ugly.
Labeled by critics as “Must-Flee TV,” Osbournes Reloaded struggled to draw in viewers and failed miserably with critics. It turns out, seeing the Osbournes work “real jobs” in a fast food drive-thru and Ozzy acting out comedy skits in drag didn’t have much appeal, and the show was mercifully short-lived. Another factor that played into its early cancelation was concern about the content, as Fox executives weren’t sure what would be shown was appropriate for network TV.
Secret Talents of the Stars
Talented celebrities are usually associated with a singular skill, like acting or singing, but as is the case with us regular people, the rich and famous have multiple talents. That was the idea behind CBS’ poor attempt at a competition show called Secret Talents of the Stars, where big names like George Frazier and George Takei (among others) would show off their “secret” abilities (such as rapping and singing country music) for fans to vote on from home. It was planned to go on for seven weeks before a champion was crowned, but it never made it that far.
Despite the promise that they could be involved, viewers didn’t take the bait. It seems as if TV can make a reality show out of anything, but this one was deemed too ridiculous to go on. After the first episodes posted abysmal ratings, CBS removed it from the schedule, illustrating that as talented as some of the stars may be, none of them had the ability to turn all the TVs in America to the same channel when it was on the air.
Emily’s Reasons Why Not
Whenever a big name movie star makes the jump from the silver screen to the small screen, it’s a big deal (think back to season one of True Detective). Unfortunately for Heather Graham, her involvement with the sitcom Emily’s Reasons Why Not ended up being the most memorable thing about that show. Even though it was heavily promoted by ABC, the show could not deliver on the hype and it was cast into exile shortly after its debut.
The most egregious culprit was the unoriginal setup, which was seen by many as cliché-ridden. Graham played a self-help book author, who (TWIST?) hilariously could not figure out her own personal life struggles (such as dating, etc.) while trying to maintain her career. Offering nothing new to the table in terms of execution, critics quickly dismissed it and audiences followed suits. When the reviews and ratings came in, ABC executives had plenty of reasons to the question “why not air the next episode?” and abandoned ship before things got even worse.
Typically, reality shows are designed for the subjects to receive some kind of financial gain, but Mark Wahlberg had a different idea with Breaking Boston. Looking to embrace the blue collar, hard-working nature of his hometown’s citizens, the Hollywood leading man placed four young women front and center, showing how they were trying to improve their lives and get ahead in Bean Town. It’s an intriguing premise for a reality program and could have been inspiring for audiences, but A&E executives clearly were not impressed with what they saw.
The first episode came and went, and the network canceled the next ones due to what they called “underperformance.” That explanation was left intentionally vague, but one can assume that low ratings had something to do with it. Even though this underdog story couldn’t resonate with viewers at home, those who were interested in seeing how the full story played out could see the series in full on A&E’s website, so the network was aware there was an audience for it.
The Rich List
Enthusiastically billed as the most addicting game show since Who Wants to be a Millionaire was in its prime, Fox thought they struck television gold when they pushed The Rich List. The competition involved teams making a list of answers to a particular topic (i.e. Tom Cruise movies) and seeing who came up with the most correct responses. It sounded like a fun idea that allowed viewers to even play from home, but Rich List went broke shortly after it initially aired.
Fox’s marketing team tried their hardest, amping up promotional materials during their World Series coverage, but it just wasn’t meant to be. The low ratings were a devastating blow for the network, and they had no choice but to ax it. The premise was later revived as a GSN original called The Money List, but that too was unsuccessful, getting canceled after nine episodes. Maybe if Regis Philbin was the host, things would have turned out better?
In 2013, Toronto mayor Rob Ford and his brother Doug (a city councilor) were household names around the world thanks to a series of heavily-publicized scandals that involved things like crack cocaine. Obviously, this meant they were deserving of their own TV show, and the little channel Sun News Network gave the siblings a talk show titled Ford Nation. And even though it premiered to high ratings, the program was pulled off the air less than 24 hours after the first episode had hit.
The reasoning behind the decision was that the fledgling Sun News Network claimed Ford Nation was too expensive for them to produce given their state. It took five hours to film the single episode, plus an additional eight for editing. That was deemed too great of a time commitment when taking into account the show’s format. Later, those involved with it would say Ford Nation was designed to be a special one-off event, but when it was first announced, it was revealed it would air every Monday. Clearly, people were just trying to save face.
Obviously, not every show can be a Seinfeld or Breaking Bad, but usually TV programs are given a chance to prove they’re worthwhile investments for the long haul. Even ones that aren’t ratings smashes (like Community) are revived because of some kind of passion for the project. The creators of these shows probably had the best intentions and visions of entertaining audiences on a weekly basis, but they were never granted an opportunity to rework some concepts in an effort to win back audiences. Sometimes that’s for the best, and a network is spared additional embarrassment of airing something that just can’t succeed in the marketplace.
As always, our list is not meant to be all-inclusive, so be sure to share some of your picks in the comments section below!