Within the last few years, a TV show ending too soon hasn’t been the death sentence it used to be. Now, services like Netflix are always what people instantly think of as a way to revive their beloved shows. While that’s undoubtedly great news for modern shows, there are many from the past that got cut short, and just have no chance of coming back. Whether it’s just been too long, the original show was forced into a conclusive ending, or some of the cast has passed away, there are many great series that were given the boot too soon and have no hope for return.
Looking back over all the shows we’ve enjoyed over the years, here’s our fifteen favorites that ended prematurely, and look like they have no chance to be on TV again.
Jericho might just be the only show on this list that had fans revolting after it was cancelled, and actually managed to bring it back due to their efforts — only for it to be cancelled again. The show refuses to stay down, getting what could be called a third and fourth season via comic books, but it looks like all the fan clamor in the world isn’t going to get Jericho back on TV.
Jericho was far from the first post-apocalyptic drama on TV, but rather than wandering across a wasteland filled with zombies, Jericho was about a town’s efforts to rebuild. Obviously the show would never have the shocking brutality of The Walking Dead, but the series dealt with the same underlying themes of the breakdown of society and humans turning against each other. If Jericho had stayed on the air, it could have been a nice counterpoint to series focusing on monster-filled dystopias. But apparently zombies were the secret ingredient missing to make the viewers flock in for a show about a destroyed world.
While shows about emotionally flawed investigators are hardly new, Terriers still managed to gain attention with its high caliber of acting and storytelling that set it apart from many similar series. Like many of the shows listed here, critics caught on to the show and enjoyed it, but the viewers just weren’t there until after the series had been cancelled and many were left to realize what they had been missing.
Terriers dealt with some dark topics, but was also able to inject humor into situations involving injury and death. It looked like the show had all the makings to be a breakout role for actor Michael Raymond-James, who had previously appeared in series like True Blood. While James would go on to have a cameo in The Walking Dead and a major role in Once Upon a Time, his place in Terriers, and the show itself, was unfortunately just another one and done, and it looks like it’ll stay that way.
13. PUSHING DAISIES
While there have been a lot of detective shows with a twist, Pushing Daisies still managed to come up with a new one. Rather than its protagonist Ned (Lee Pace) being able to relive the final moments of murder victims, or see into the minds of the killer, Ned is able to resurrect dead people by touching them. And they can stay alive as long as he never touches them again, or else they will die permanently.
It was an intriguing set of rules with the possibility for a lot of different scenarios to be explored. Ned being able to revive those he cared about while having to avoid any contact with them was humorous, and created a versatile character for the writers to play around with. Unfortunately, the show was hampered even during its broadcast by a writer’s strike that left its first season deprived of its full episode order, and failing ratings caused the network to cut the second season premature as well. It doesn’t look like even Ned’s powers could resuscitate the show at this point.
Wonderfalls might have set a record with how quickly it was cancelled by Fox, lasting only four episodes before it was taken off the air. The quirky dramedy certainly had a unique premise, focusing on a sales associate in Niagara Falls who suddenly begins hearing voices from animal figures wherever she goes. It begins with a red wax lion (whose face is partially melted) dispensing advice, and refusing to be ignored. When our protagonist (Jaye) begins talking back to the animals, naturally people start to think she might be in need of some mental help. One woman even believes that Jaye is possessed and that a forced exorcism is the answer.
Even with its short exposure to audiences, word got around that this was a show that was worth seeing more of. As is typical of the shows on this list, efforts to get Wonderfalls picked up elsewhere fell flat. The one good result is that other networks eventually began showing reruns of Wonderfalls, including the unaired episodes. Future seasons were supposed to deal more with whether the animal voices were real or if Jaye was just crazy, but in the end fans only felt Fox was crazy for letting yet another original premise go to waste.
Before Game of Thrones, it seemed like expensive shows on HBO couldn’t survive no matter how popular they were. Year after year, fans were shocked to find the network was cutting costs by cancelling some of the most unique and intriguing shows on TV at the time. One major surprise was the Depression-era drama Carnivàle, which focused on mythology and religion within the backdrop of the show’s traveling carnival. While curiosity about side-show freaks and mystical abilities might have drawn audiences in, the show was looking to tackle deeper subjects than just shocking characters to gawk at.
Carnivàle was originally conceived as a six season series, so we only wound up getting a third of the entire story after it was cut off following its second season. Multiple plotlines were left dangling in the show’s building confrontation between good and evil, but the budget of the show outweighed its creativity. Each episode supposedly cost around $4 million to make, and after negotiations to mitigate that cost per episode fell through, the carnival packed up and left town for good.
10. KINDRED: THE EMBRACED
Before Twilight and True Blood became the standard bearers for a new generation of vampires, the short-lived Kindred: The Embraced tried to resurrect the genre in the ‘90s. Based on White Wolf’s Vampire: The Masquerade roleplaying game, the series was unique in featuring vampires divided into different clans, each with their own loyalties and distinctive traits. Rather than these vampires being monsters or the fantasies of teenagers, they tried to hide their existence and live side by side among humans, with humanity none the wiser. Of course, keeping up that secret with rival clans warring with each other wasn’t easy, and led to an interesting mix of political maneuvering, or just overt bloodshed.
It’s hard to say what could have been for the show, as after only eight episodes the actor playing Julian Luna, the vampire prince of the city, died in a motorcycle accident and the show was unable to continue. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series debuted just one year after Kindred, so clearly vampires were going to have a big audience right around this time. If not for tragedy behind the scenes, maybe Kindred would now be remembered as one of the defining shows in the genre.
While ABC Family might not be known for turning out as many raved about shows as HBO, not every series has to be a dark and gritty exploration of depraved characters. Bunheads was a surprisingly witty and humorous show focusing on the world of ballet, and had a personality that critics found reminiscent of the old favorite Gilmore Girls. While it never pulled in monster ratings, it was at least consistent. And considering how long Glee managed to stay on the air, you’d think another network would be able to take a chance on a similar stage performance show.
It’s not as if Bunheads was reliant on one-liners and quick-witted banter to keep viewers engaged either. The series kicked off with an engagement that ended in a funeral within the first episode, making it clear the show could deliver an emotional punch behind its charming humor. When it became clear Bunheads wasn’t in the cards to come back, many critics were perplexed by the decision and rallied to the show’s defense. But even glowing reviews weren’t enough to earn Bunheads another audition past its first season.
8. DON’T TRUST THE B—- IN APARTMENT 23
While the previews for this show made it look like nothing more than a typical situation of a responsible person butting heads with an obliviously obnoxious person, Apartment 23 actually did have quite a bit of self-awareness, for people who bothered to give the show a chance. Main character Chloe (played by Jessica Jones star Krysten Ritter) was just as obnoxious as the previews made her out to be, but she was by no means oblivious. Chloe made her way in life as a scam artist, and would keep a roof over her head by tricking people into moving in with her and paying rent up front, only to drive them out with a calculated plan to antagonize them.
When June becomes Chloe’s new roommate and winds up becoming the one person Chloe can’t scam, it made for an interesting and fun odd couple. Unfortunately, a show focusing on the success of a scam artist seemed to not be what viewers on ABC were into at the time, and ratings began to plummet into the show’s second season. Apartment 23 was cancelled to apparently make way for such engrossing shows as Dr. Ken to be airing on the network today. Somehow we doubt Dr. Ken will make a future version of this list when its time comes.
With the success of The X-Files, creator Chris Carter decided to make a spinoff show set in the same universe. Whereas The X-Files focused on government conspiracies and extraterrestrials, Millennium’s world of shadowy organizations led it to a focus on the occult and the supernatural world of angels and demons. Protagonist Frank Black was something of a psychic, and used his gift to help solve violent crimes by gaining vision of what the killers had seen and done during their violent acts.
The show had a darker feel than The X-Files, and premiered to good ratings, but ultimately lost viewers as years went on. After three seasons, the show was cancelled without even a proper sendoff. Carter gave his series a chance to say goodbye with the episode “Millennium” during The X-Files seventh season, where Frank Black got to work together with Mulder and Scully for a case. But for fans of the show, it was definitely a disappointment to not get answers behind what the Millennium Group was doing beneath its surface and what all the mysteries were leading up to.
6. TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES
We all wanted Terminator Salvation and Terminator Genisys to be good and to revive the Terminator franchise. Unfortunately, neither movie resonated with fans the way Terminator 2: Judgment Day continues to do to this day. So it’s baffling that when the franchise finally had something that fans cared about again in Sarah Connor Chronicles, Fox nixed the show right as it was hitting its stride. Between this and Joss Whedon’s string of cancelled series, maybe Fox just isn’t the best network for sci-fi shows.
After just two seasons, the show was taken off the air, even though Chronicles was the best received part of the Terminator franchise in over a decade. It’s up in the air when we’ll see another entry in the franchise, but at least some of the cast of the show have done well in the years since. After losing the titular role in the series, Lena Headey has wound up on a little show fans might have heard of called Game of Thrones.
A show where the lead character is a cannibal was likely always going to be a tough sell for casual audiences. Despite strong critical reviews and a devoted cult following, Hannibal’s ratings dwindled with each season. It’s honestly surprising a network like NBC picked it up to begin with, and at last word, Netflix and Amazon Video also won’t be bringing Hannibal back.
The show was cut short just before it reached the most iconic storyline in Dr. Lecter’s dark and twisted history: The Silence of the Lambs. It looks like we’ll never get to see a modern day Lecter have his duel of wits with Clarice Starling, or even where the showrunners might have taken Lecter’s story to have it avoid some of the silliness introduced by his last few film outings. Even if cannibalistic madman wasn’t popular enough among TV fans, at least the few years he had in the spotlight erased the sour taste left by Hannibal Rising, and restored the intelligent, sophisticated, psychopath who first fascinated us all those years ago.
When people think of a period piece drama filled with sex and violence on HBO, they probably think of Game of Thrones nowadays. But before Westeros, there was Rome. Just like Carnivàle two years prior, Rome was cut short because HBO simply couldn’t afford to make it anymore. Rome was actually the most expensive show on the channel up to that point, leading to stars Kevin McKidd and James Purefoy both stating they wouldn’t do Game of Thrones even if they were asked now, because they feel it stole their show’s budget.
Unlike many shows, the crew behind Rome actually got word they weren’t coming back after season 2, and were able to condense their planned five seasons down to give the show a more proper, albeit rushed, ending. Years of history flew by in season 2, with entire season long arcs dealing with periods like Marc Antony and Cleopatra in Egypt getting cut down to mere episodes. Season 5 was even going to deal with the rise of Christianity, and perhaps would have had Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo meeting with a certain well-known messiah from that period. What could’ve been sounded great, but we’ll always have scenes like Pullo in the arena as he showed his pride for the Thirteen.
3. VERONICA MARS
While all the shows on this list have their good points and could have used more time, Veronica Mars might just be the most baffling cancellation out of all these series. It had a strong fandom, critics enjoyed it, and the ratings weren’t falling off even after three seasons. It was just abruptly taken off the air in 2007. It seemed like the perfect show to hook some of the leftover Buffy the Vampire Slayer fandom, featuring another girl who deals with the drama of high school while saving the day in her spare time.
Like the next entry on this list, Veronica Mars did get to have a more proper goodbye a couple years ago after its Kickstarter-funded movie was released. But this is the perfect example of a show being forced to conclude too soon and just leaving fans frustrated and confused. Veronica Mars seemed to have hit its stride and to have everything a network would want to keep it on the air. It’s good that fans did get the closure of the movie years later, but it’s disappointing to think the TV series simply could have been on the air all that time and given fans so many more stories.
Firefly is always the obvious candidate when talking about shows cut short in their prime. Probably no other show has left such a lasting impression on fans after only one season on the air. But Joss Whedon is no stranger to losing projects that fans have given him a lot of support for. Just add Firefly to the list along with Dollhouse, the cancellation of Angel, and the Wonder Woman movie that he once had in the works.
The space western was fortunate enough to eventually get a movie to at least somewhat end on its own terms, but there’s no doubt that Whedon didn’t even get to scratch the surface of what he had planned with the series. After the major financial success Whedon had in directing The Avengers, it’s hard to imagine a network that would be so quick to end one of his shows nowadays. It might be too late for TV, though. After all his hard work has been repeatedly cut short on shows like Firefly, Whedon has understandably become a bit frustrated with working in TV and seems to prefer cinema.
Cancellation time rolled around for HBO again in 2006, and after Carnivàle ended up on the chopping block the year prior, Deadwood became the next show that wasn’t earning its pay for the network’s taste. The Western gained a lot of attention for its foul-mouthed characters, with there supposedly not being a single minute of screen time that did not contain cursing in it. While the strong language might have turned off casual viewers, many more enjoyed this look into a society of crass lawlessness.
Deadwood had three seasons to shed light on many dark issues using real life figures from the time period’s history, but it was ultimately cut short without even getting a satisfying end point. Since then there have been frequent rumblings of the actors coming back together for a few more episodes, or even a movie to tie off loose ends in a more satisfactory way. With all the options shows have to be picked up by different services nowadays, the possibility is still there even a decade later. But it’s looking likely that too many years might have passed at this point, and that the show was simply shot down in its prime, never to return to the small screen again.
Can you think of any other great shows that ended too soon and are beyond a revival? Tell us about it in the comments!
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