Everyone has a favorite sitcom. We watch these shows and laugh along with the characters. Sometimes we even cry with them. We form bonds with them and in a way, they start to feel like friends or family. And like friends and family, sometimes you can’t get enough of a sitcom, and sometimes you get tired of it and just want it to go away already.
It’s hard to be sure which is more painful – to see your favorite show burn out quickly, or to watch it slowly fade away, becoming overly repetitive and relying on catchphrases and callbacks too often. Sometimes your exciting new pal suddenly gets a new job and moves away, and sometimes they become your dull old pal who starts every conversation with “hey remember that time…”
Sure, some sitcoms last just the right amount of time – the aforementioned Parks and Recreation is a fine example of that – but the majority of them end too soon or way too late. It’s hard to tell where the line lies between too short and too long, and there’s not a single answer for all sitcoms – some can go ten seasons and still feel fresh, while others get old after the second season.
Here are 10 Sitcoms That Were Canceled Too Soon (And 7 That Went Way Too Long).
17. Too Soon: Community
You may think that Community, a show that ran six seasons, shouldn’t make it on the canceled too soon list, but there’s an argument to be made for it.
In many ways, Community really ended at the end of season three when show creator Dan Harmon was fired. Season four, as most fans would agree, was a shadow of what the series had been, and when NBC brought Harmon back for season five, there was hope that things could get back on track, but cast changes ended all that.
Chevy Chase was fired at the end of season four, and Donald Glover left the show early into season five. While Harmon and the team did their best, and there are some fantastic episodes in season five, it just never felt right.
At the end of the fifth season, NBC canceled Community, but the show was picked up by Yahoo! for a sixth season. Once again, there were some amazing episodes for season six, but the show still didn’t feel like Community.
16. Too Long: Scrubs
Unlike the other “too long” shows on this list, Scrubs managed to hit its ratings high early into its run, with the second season reaching the most viewers.
Still, the series did have a rabid fan base who loved to quote the characters that kept it alive and still keeps it in the pop culture world. And in fairness to them, the show was, for most of its run, very different and very good. TV didn’t usually show doctors who goof around, and comedies rarely dared get as heartbreaking as Scrubs would.
Sadly, the series didn’t know when enough was enough, even as members of the original cast started leaving. The series was initially canceled by NBC with the seventh season (which ran just eleven episodes), but ABC picked it up for two more years with a new cast of interns that nobody cared about.
15. Too Soon: Undeclared
It’s hard to imagine now that super-producer Judd Apatow could have a show canceled in the first season, but in 2002 that is exactly what happened to him for the second time. After Freaks and Geeks, his dramedy about high school was canceled, Apatow decided to do a straight sitcom about college life.
Undeclared was filled with actors who would become household names, including Charlie Hunnam, Seth Rogen, and Jason Segel. Along with the main cast, the show was filled with “before they were famous” appearances by Amy Poehler, Jenna Fischer, and Kevin Hart.
Loved by critics, Undeclared should have been a surefire hit, but a series of events out of the control of the show’s producers doomed it from the start. Undeclared premiered just two weeks after the events of September 11, 2001 – a time when no one in America was looking for a sitcom.
The second episode didn’t air for another four months and Fox chose to run the episodes out of order, making it hard for viewers to keep up with the story. Undeclared was canceled after just seventeen episodes.
14. Too Long: How I Met Your Mother
One of the worst things that can happen to a kid is being forced to listen to a seemingly endless story as told by one of their parents.
With that in mind, How I Met Your Mother unintentionally hit exactly the feeling it was going for. The show, which started each episode with “older Ted” telling his kids about how he met their mother, ran for nine seasons and 208 episodes. With the episodes clocking in at an average of 22 minutes, that means those two poor kids listened to their father ramble on and on for over 76 hours, and most of his story really had nothing to do with how he met the woman who birthed them.
The final season of the show took place over the course of a single weekend and centered around a wedding that would be done away with in an iconically bad finale. Still, the show did help remind the world that Neil Patrick Harris is amazing and turned Jason Segel into a household name, so it wasn’t a total loss.
13. Too Soon: Party Down
It took six years for Party Down to make its way to TV. Created by John Enbom, Dan Etheridge, Rob Thomas (the writer, not the singer), and Paul Rudd, the original pilot was filmed in Thomas’ house and – except for Lizzy Caplan – the whole cast was in place. By the time Party Down did get picked up by Starz, Rudd had to drop out and Caplan was brought in.
The show is about a group of underachievers who work for a Los Angeles catering company. Each of the workers has dreams of something better, from acting to writing to owning their own catering business, but their laziness and inability to smoothly work the job they have tends to get in the way.
The series which, along with Caplan, starred Ken Marino, Adam Scott, Jane Lynch, and Martin Starr, lasted two seasons on Starz before being canceled. For a time, there was talk of a movie, but in 2015 Adam Scott ended the rumors, saying that a movie was very unlikely.
12. Too Long: Simpsons
The Simpsons has been on for so long – 29 seasons – that if time on the show moved at the same pace as the real world, Bart would probably be as old as Homer is supposed to be. Homer, if we’re being honest, would probably be dead by now.
The Simpsons has been running so long that season sets were first released on VHS, then on DVD, and now are just streaming online. We’ve gone through four presidents with the Simpsons, with a fifth one currently in office.
Chances are, this show is older than the majority of the people who watch it. And if you listen to the people who still watch the Simpsons, you’re likely to hear “it isn’t really good anymore, but I still watch it.” At this point, it seems like people are watching the show just because they feel like they have to.
11. Too Soon: Happy Endings
Initially focused on the issues friends face when a couple breaks up, Happy Endings quickly eschewed that concept, becoming less serialized and more focused on being a joke-machine hang-out show.
With a main cast that included Elisha Cuthbert, Damon Wayans, Jr., and Casey Wilson – as well as Megan Mullally, Larry Wilmore, and Paul Scheer all having recurring roles – the show was loved by critics and viewers. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough viewers to keep the series on for too long.
Not helping matters was ABC’s decision to keep moving Happy Endings around the schedule during its third and final season, moving the show from Wednesdays to Tuesdays, and then Fridays. In the end, the moves cost Happy Endings more than half its already low audience.
10. Too Long: The Office (US)
Based on a British series that ran just 12 episodes (and two specials), the US version of The Office ran for nine seasons and 201 episodes.
The main story arcs of the series went from “will he get fired?” and “will they hook up?” to “they got married” and “he quit”. And it kept on going.
Steve Carell, who was the star of the show, left in the seventh season but by then the ratings had already started to drop from their high water mark of nine million weekly viewers (not counting the two episodes that aired after the Super Bowl).
While The Office was never a major ratings hit, the show had a strong following for many years and helped keep NBC alive during some very tough years. Today, Dwight bobble-heads lay in landfills across America.
9. Too Soon: Selfie
Selfie was supposed to be a big hit. It was going to turn Karen Gillan, best known at the time for her work on Doctor Who, into a household name and a major star. John Cho, playing the second of the two main characters, was already a recognizable face, but this would get him into the next level. Sadly, it didn’t work – the show was canceled by ABC after just seven of the thirteen filmed episodes had aired.
Created by Emily Kapnek, Selfie was a modern day retelling of Pygmalion with Gillan in the Eliza Doolittle role (though renamed Eliza Dooley). While the show wasn’t a critical hit, there was clear potential for the show to grow and become something more.
8. Too Long: South Park
At one point in the ongoing run of South Park, they did an episode called “Simpsons Already Did It”. Part of the idea of that episode was that The Simpsons had been on for so long that it was impossible to come up with an idea for an episode of South Park that Simpsons hadn’t already done.
That episode was in South Park‘s sixth season – fifteen years ago. Now, 21 seasons into its run, there’s no sign of South Park ending, even though it is far from the cultural smash it once was.
As with Simpsons, South Park is watched mainly by people who weren’t alive when it started, and even they mostly watch it out of habit. It seems like creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone are just as surprised as the rest of us that their show is still running. Comedy Central has renewed it through 2019, assuring that the series will pass 300 episodes.
7. Too Soon: Sports Night
By the time Aaron Sorkin came up with the idea for Sports Night, he was already considered one of the best writers in Hollywood. Sorkin’s plays – most notably A Few Good Men – led to his career as a screenwriter, and it was while watching ESPN that Sorkin came up with the idea for a script about the behind-the-scenes action at a sports network.
As Sorkin worked on his idea, he realized that it would work better as a sitcom than a movie. Disney agreed to make the show, airing it on ABC. Almost from the start, Sorkin and the studio were at odds – ABC wanted a live studio audience and a laugh track and Sorkin was completely against the ideas. By the second season, the laugh track was taken out of the show.
While Sports Night was a critical darling, it never found a large audience and the show was canceled at the end of season two. While that is a bit of a bummer, if Sports Night had gained a third season, Sorkin might never have created The West Wing.
6. Too Long: Big Bang Theory
We don’t know how long the actual big bang took – the way it is usually shown in fancy science documentaries, the actual moment was quick, which is partly why they call it “big bang” and not “big, long seemingly endless explosion.”
When it comes to the ratings juggernaut on CBS, “big, long seemingly endless explosion” may have been a more apt title. Big Bang Theory has been on the air for a decade now, and with an average of 18 million viewers a week, there are few signs that the show will be ending anytime soon. Add in the new spin-off/prequel Young Sheldon and we’re probably looking at at least another decade of “Bazinga!”
One group that surely doesn’t mind the never-ending success of Big Bang Theory are the cast and crew. Just this year, cast members Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg, and Kunal Nayyar all took pay cuts so that the show could pay Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch more. When a cast is willing to do that, you can be sure they still like working together.
5. Too Soon: Married… With Children
Premiering in 1987 and running for eleven seasons, Married… with Children helped turn Fox, a then-new station, into the powerhouse it has become. And while the popularity of Married… with Children had certainly come and gone when Fox canceled the show, some still think the ending came too soon.
The show, focused on the life of a lowly shoe salesmen and his “white trash” family, spent years angering the more uptight crowd and causing a lot of controversies, but by the time the series was canceled, the worried parents had moved on to other shows and music to be worried over.
Fox canceled Married… with Children after the end of the eleventh season, something that came as a surprise to the people who worked on Married… with Children who thought they would get one more season. Sadly, Married… with Children never got the chance to have a real finale.
4. Too Long: Two and a Half Men
Between Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men, Chuck Lorrie has two shows on the “too long” list, but his bank account surely isn’t complaining.
The show became a smash hit with its stars – Charlie Sheen, John Cryer, and Angus T. Jones – either reviving their careers or building them. By the end of the eighth season, Sheen’s public meltdown got him taken off the show and replaced him with Ashton Kutcher (who’s That ’70s Show was a contender for the “too long” list). Jones departed the show in the tenth season, leaving just Cryer as the remaining original main character. Still, the series lasted two more seasons.
In the end, Two and a Half Men, once the highest rated sitcom on TV died a relatively quiet death, its final season running just sixteen episodes and averaging half the viewers the series had at its height.
3. Too Soon: Clerks: The Animated Series
In 1994, writer/director Kevin Smith lit the indie film community on fire with his first movie, Clerks. Smith’s follow-up, Mall Rats, wasn’t as loved, but it did start the building of his brand empire. Smith took advantage of the beginnings of the internet to turn himself into a marketing genius, selling merchandise based on his movies like there was no tomorrow.
In 2000, ABC went into business with Smith and Clerks: The Animated Series premiered. Two weeks later, it was canceled. Leading to the cancellation of the series was a series of poor choices on ABC’s part, including premiering the show against the NBA playoffs, airing the fourth episodes first, and then showing the second episode, when needed people to see the first episode for most of the jokes to make sense.
2. Too Soon: Action
Chris Thompson was a legend in the sitcom circles, having worked on Laverne & Shirley, Bosom Buddies, The Larry Sanders Show, and Dave’s World among other classic series. In the late 1990s, Thompson pitched a show – a sitcom about an action movie producer and his crew. Two stations were interested – HBO, and Fox. Fox offered more money, and Thompson took it.
The show, Action, was raunchy – it is one of the few network shows in history to be rated TV-MA – and hilarious. Filled with celebrity cameos including Keanu Reeves, Salma Hayek, and David Hasselhoff and with a slew of positive reviews, it seemed like Action would be a hit, but Fox axed the show after airing just eight of the thirteen filmed episodes.
1. Too Soon: Police Squad!
Coming off the success of Airplane! Jim Abrahams, and brothers David and Jerry Zucker came up with an idea for a TV series that spoofed police procedurals of the time. The series, aptly titled Police Squad!, starred Leslie Nielsen as Frank Drebin, the hard-working but kind of dumb detective who solved murders that rarely made sense.
The series was critically acclaimed but lasted just six episodes. Not long after the series was canceled, it began to gain a cult following and six years later, Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker (as they liked to be called) decided to bring Drebin and the Police Squad team to the big screen.
In 1988, The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! came to theaters and was a box office smash, bringing in $78 million dollars and spawning two sequels.
Which sitcoms do you think ended before their time? Which need to go? Let us know in the comments!
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