Not every show can go on for 15 seasons and counting like Grey’s Anatomy. Or even two seasons, it turns out. Some series burn bright but only briefly. The history of TV is littered with shows that only lasted a single season – or a few episodes. And many of them deserved much better than what they got.
Here, we’re looking at one season wonders that span several genres and have achieved various levels of notoriety for their quick cancellations. Some of these series continue to endure, while others are barely remembered. Still, each of them only had a short period of time to make the case for their existence and, for one reason or another, didn’t manage to persuade the powers that be to keep them on the air. These are 10 one season shows that deserved better.
Forever centered on Dr. Henry Morgan, a medical examiner in New York who also just happens to be immortal. He teams with NYPD detective Jo Martinez to solve crimes, while also attempting to determine the roots of his longevity. Although the 2014 show started slowly, building its mythology a bit hesitantly and leaning too heavily on its procedural aspects, it soon hit the right balance and became an entertaining and engaging series.
A show about an immortal could be maudlin, but Ioan Gruffudd made his Dr. Morgan charming and likeable. His relationship with Judd Hirsch’s Abe was especially appealing. And the series’ use of flashbacks to depict Morgan’s long-life kept things interesting. Unfortunately, Forever didn’t live up to its name and was canceled after a season one cliffhanger that looked like it was leading to an even better season two.
The Tick was recently rebooted on Amazon Prime, which has already released two seasons of the new series. But that’s not the version we’re talking about here. We’re mourning the loss of the 2001 Fox series starring Patrick Warburton as the big blue bug of justice.
This superhero satire, based on the comic book character, was smart, funny, and quirky in the best possible ways. And Patrick Warburton was perfectly cast as the inexplicably serious and silly title character. Despite all that, only nine episodes of the series were ever produced before it was canceled by Fox. At the time, superhero properties weren’t the phenomenon they are now. So, although fans and critics loved the show, it never caught on.
The 2015 series Limitless was based on the popular 2011 movie of the same name. The show told the story of Brian, a 28-year-old who’d failed to launch, until he discovered the limitless drug that made him the smartest guy in the room. Soon he was consulting for the FBI and using his enhanced abilities for the greater good.
What really made this show great, though, was Jake McDorman’s amiable lead performance, which undercut the seriousness of the procedural elements. Plus, the series wasn’t afraid to take risks. For example, a whole episode was an extended homage to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Had the show continued, it would have been fun to see just how much more irreverence the show could have packed in. The series lasted a whole season on CBS but was canceled after 22 episodes.
Aliens in America was a sitcom ahead of its time. The series — which focused on a Muslim Pakistani exchange student, Raja, who’s sent to live with the Tolchuks, a Christian family in Wisconsin — hit The CW in 2007. The show mined comedy from the scenario, as the Tolchuks attempt to understand Raja’s customs and attitudes, even though they differ from their own. Meanwhile, family matriarch, Franny, is invested in making her misfit teen son, Justin, popular.
Instead, Justin strikes up a close friendship with Raja that helps them both get through the horrors of high school. In the process, the two confront the racism and bigotry directed at Raja. While it dealt with serious issues, Aliens in America still managed to be hilarious and touching. With so many current cultural conversations surrounding the topics the sitcom tackled, the series might be more successful today than it was over 10 years ago.
Judd Apatow’s Undeclared is often brought up in the same breath as Freaks and Geeks. Both series hilariously and honestly capture the experience of a particular time in life and are both beloved one season wonders. Freaks and Geeks delves into the high school experience, while 2001’s Undeclared examines the freshman college experience, a time less often captured onscreen.
The great thing about Undeclared is that it portrays the college dorm experience so truthfully. Anyone who’s gone away to school has experienced the giddy highs of being away from home for the first time and the confusing lows of trying to determine who you are and who you want to be. Undeclared captures these moments in all their funny, ridiculous, and awkward glory. It was a show that was headed for even greater things until it was mercilessly cut short.
Andy Richter is mostly known as Conan O’Brien’s talk-show sidekick. However, Richter is also a talented actor. He first starred in the gone-too-soon Andy Richter Controls the Universe in 2002 and followed it up in 2007 with the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Andy Barker, P.I. Andy Barker, P.I. centered on an accountant who falls into a side hustle as a private investigator. In the process, he enlists several oddball characters in his new vocation. They include a video store owner played by Tony Hale who relies on his movie knowledge to crack cases and a former P.I. played by Harve Presnell who serves as Andy’s mentor and deals with a serious chicken phobia.
The sitcom barely got through four episodes before NBC canceled it. It’s a shame the series never got the love it deserved because it was an endearing, entertaining treat.
My So-Called Life was groundbreaking when it premiered in 1994. Painfully honest about the high school experience and the travails of the American teenager, the series is still regarded as one of the best of all time despite its short run.
While it dealt with many important issues of the time, including homophobia and drug abuse, it didn’t do it in the pandering way TV viewers were used to. Instead of a “very special episode” that was wrapped up with a bow by the end, the issues My So-Called Life dealt with were depicted as ongoing parts of life that people continued to grapple with. While the show didn’t have the longevity of many series, it more than earned its place in TV history.
The tagline for the very first movie production of Dracula in 1931 called the story “the strangest passion the world has ever known.” That film had nothing on this 2013 series, which was too delightfully strange to find more than a cult following.
The show was based on Bram Stoker’s famous novel of the ancient vampire and took place in London in the 1800s, but it reimagined the story of Dracula in bizarre ways. In the series, Dracula and Van Helsing are uneasy allies out for revenge against a society of vampire hunters, Dracula’s a businessman attempting to bring new technology to the masses, Mina’s a medical student, and Lucy spends more time dealing with her unrequited feelings for Mina than the three suitors she usually focuses on. The series was like really expensive, well-acted fan fiction. It was canceled after 10 episodes leaving numerous plots threads dangling and enthralled fans frustrated.
The space-Western Firefly is one of the most adored shows of all time. Even though only 14 episodes of the 2002 series were produced, it garnered a passionate fan base that still endures today.
The series revolves around the adventures of the crew of the Serenity as they travel the galaxy hundreds of years in the future. Firefly does a brilliant job of creating a fully realized universe. It’s a unique vision of the way society could evolve over hundreds of years. That vision included quirks in language, odd customs, and new ways of surviving in the world. More than anything, though, the specific, fully developed characters and their relationships made the show feel completely lived in. Fox did the series a disservice by airing it out of order. That made the plot harder to follow, leading to low ratings and Firefly’s eventual cancellation. On the plus side, the show’s loyal and vocal fandom helped get the wrap-up feature film Serenity produced In 2005.
Wonderfalls was a wonderfully offbeat show that aired for only four episodes on Fox in 2004. It’s a shame the series never caught on with viewers when it was initially broadcast, because it was an unexpected and fun show that was like nothing else on TV.
Wonderfalls focused on Ivy-League-educated misanthrope Jaye Tyler who returns to her hometown of Niagara Falls to work at a gift shop and live in a trailer. However, when inanimate objects start talking to her, she has to figure out how to appease them, leading her to reluctantly help people. While many series have focused on people who get roped into helping others for various reasons, Wonderfalls includes quirky and clever scenarios backed up by a singularly quirky and clever cast of characters. If you can get your hands on the series on DVD (for some reason it’s not streaming anywhere), which contains all 13 episodes that were produced, it’s well worth a watch.