Bad ratings aren’t the only reason programs leave the air. Some canceled TV shows end for unplanned and sudden reasons thanks to offscreen drama, legal troubles, or untimely deaths– and some even have combinations of these.
The ’00s made us miss the ’90s for more reasons than one, not the least being that it’s a group of years that are nearly impossible to nickname elegantly. Do we call them the “aughts”? The “zeros”? Help us out here, decade.
However, the people making TV shows had the unenviable task of figuring out how to entertain people after the 9/11 attacks removed most of the fun from everything. This apparently meant doubling down on reality TV and slapping flag pins onto every lapel in a drama series— a nd we guess that’s a start.
Did you know that Saw costars Costas Mandylor and Dina Meyer were in a short-lived 2000 spy show called Secret Agent Man in which all of the characters were named after jazz musicians? It’s true, but that one was canceled for all the reasons you’d expect. Not all series were that “lucky.”
Here are some canceled TV shows that left the air thanks to misfortunes other than low viewership and lousy reviews. Keep in mind that regardless of when they ended, we’re including them as long as they started in that 10-year window.
Read on for the 16 ’00s TV Shows That Were Canceled For Mind-Blowing Reasons.
Witchblade was TNT’s adaptation of the same-named Top Cow comic about a police detective who finds and joins with an ancient, sentient gauntlet. We probably would have called that Witchglove, but it’s not our story.
Slightly inaccurate name aside, Witchblade was one of the most popular series the network has ever aired. It received good reviews and ratings, but it ended abruptly after its second season, surprising everyone. TNT offered no official explanation for killing the show, but Top Cow writer and editor Matt Hawkins wasn’t so tight-lipped.
He said the series ended because star Yancy Butler’s alcohol problem sent her to rehab. We don’t know why the network didn’t just recast the character or find a new host for the Witchblade and try to keep the ratings, though. It was a pretty good show.
15. Chappelle’s Show
Comedian Dave Chappelle’s comedy series was one of the smartest shows on TV. It both earned and deserved its viewership and critical acclaim. That’s why it was so surprising when it came to a shocking end.
Chappelle never seemed comfortable with his series becoming yet another catchphrase factory, and production on the third season met delays when he took time off due to stress.
Eventually, it came to light that he had gone to South Africa, reportedly for psychiatric treatment because that’s the go-to explanation when famous people take sudden vacations.
It wasn’t true in this case, however. Chappelle was actually just taking a vacation from the pressures of fame and people’s expectations of him, and he came back a couple weeks later. However, he never came back to the series, and Comedy Central had to take it off the air.
MTV’s prank series somehow left the channel on its own terms. It wasn’t because of impressionable kids setting themselves on fire because they’d seen it on TV. Don’t get us wrong; kids definitely set themselves on fire because of Jackass. However, that wasn’t what drove the show off the air.
Instead, the creators ended the show themselves due to their frustration over MTV and the censors’ attempts to dictate which parts of themselves they could injure on camera. They went on to make three movies because that would better serve their artistic vision of tricking a snake into biting a man’s penis.
This one’s shocking because it’s so normal. It wasn’t the pressure from parents’ groups, Senator Joseph Lieberman, and a legal battle from a guy named Jack Ass who claimed that MTV had stolen his name that did the show in. It was just boring creative differences.
13. The Spectacular Spider-Man
We lost count of how many animated series based on Peter Parker’s adventures have existed over the years around the time we got to “a metric buttload.”
However, The Spectacular Spider-Man was one of the better ones. It ended after 26 episodes, and it wasn’t even the show’s fault. Spectacular suffered a more cruel (and boring) fate than creative differences: media rights conflicts.
Spidey’s rights are split between Marvel and Sony. This is why it was hard to get the character into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, we’re glad they finally got that sorted out.
Shortly before Disney bought Marvel in 2009, Sony returned TV rights back to the comics company. However, iit retained the rights to this particular show and its art. Basically, Sony can make it but not air it, and Marvel can air it but not make it. Isn’t corporate law fun?
12. Megan Wants a Millionaire
Megan Wants a Millionaire was a spin-off of the earlier romantic competition show Rock of Love that starred former contestant Megan Hauserman in her quest to become a trophy wife. It was already an iffy idea in an already cringe-inducing TV genre. However, nobody could guess how this series would end.
VH1 finished filming the whole season but only aired the first three episodes of Millionaire. This because, on August 15, the body of model Jasmine Fiore turned up in a dumpster, crammed into a suitcase.
Authorities had only one suspect for the murder: her husband Ryan Jenkins, who had been a contestant (and placed third) on Megan Wants a Millionaire.
11. Clone High
This MTV animated series was about a high school for the young clones of famous historical figures. Gene donors included Joan of Arc, Presidents Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, Cleopatra, and Ghandi. That last character is where the show ran into trouble.
It turns out that neither the network nor Clone High’s creators realized that people in other countries might watch their show. India was not a fan. Hundreds of people started a hunger strike to protest the show’s version of the famous activist.
The outcry risked MTV’s broadcasting license in the country, and executives asked for some ideas to remove the offending character.
One involved just removing him entirely with no mention that he’d ever existed. The other, wackier option involved revealing that “Ghandi” was, in fact, a duplicate of actor Gary Coleman. However, MTV just pulled the show instead.
PitchMen was a reality show in which informercial stars Billy Mays and Anthony Sullivan discover and try to sell new inventions. You couldn’t switch on a TV after 12 a.m. in the ‘00s without seeing one of them hocking OxiClean, the Grater Plater, or some other oddly named product. So this series was probably inevitable.
It started in April 2009, and it seemed to be going alright until Mays died suddenly of heart disease that June. Rather than ending the show outright, the Discovery Channel tried replacing the late host with his son, Billy Mays III, before airing a couple new episodes with just Sullivan.
The show has unceremoniously fizzled out since then, and we’re not surprised. We didn’t want to watch it without Mays there to get us inexplicably excited about things like Sharkstopper, a device that scares off sharks with sound. Yes, it’s a real thing.
9. The Book of Daniel
NBC had to know that this show would cause some problems, but it went ahead and made it anyway.
The Book of Daniel is about a narcotics-addicted Episcopal minister with an alcoholic wife, a gay son, and a female bishop involved in an extramarital affair. The minister also talks to a vision of Jesus Christ that only he can see who has some serious problems with how people are teaching the Bible these days.
Of the eight produced episodes, only four ever aired. While NBC offered no official reason, it probably had to do with eight affiliates refusing to air it due to its “offensive” content.
8. Clifford the Big Red Dog
PitchMen wasn’t the only ‘00s show that suffered the death of an important cast member. The PBS Kids series Clifford the Big Red Dog hit a show-stopping setback when actor John Ritter, who had voiced the title character for both seasons, died suddenly of aortic dissection in 2003.
The creators of Clifford could have replaced Ritter if they’d been so inclined. But instead, they had the film installment, Clifford’s Really Big Movie, end the series. They stopped production on the show after its release. They weren’t done with the character, however, as the prequel Clifford’s Puppy Days kept the franchise alive on TV.
BattleBots has appeared in several forms both before and after its run on Comedy Central from 2000 to 2002. But that version ended for some pretty entertaining reasons.
The first of these was that despite its good ratings, it was still a series on a comedy network that was about people bolting knives to remote-controlled Roombas and running them into each other.
It sounds pretty silly when we describe it that way, but it wasn’t necessarily “ha-ha” funny. Also, its geeky content probably just wasn’t a great fit since the company reportedly wanted to focus on more directly comedic content.
Another, slightly sillier reason for BattleBots’ downfall had to do with stagnation. Co-creator Greg Munson believed that competitors had become too good at building fighting robots. They weren’t innovating anymore. Apparently only so many ways exist to weld sharp things to rolling things.
6. Sequels to Paris Hilton’s My New BFF
Paris Hilton’s My New BFF was a reality competition to see who would get to hang out with the world-famous socialite, presumably while they both walk around with adorably tiny dogs in their fabulous handbags. We’re sure other perks exist, but honestly we’d be all set with a cute ani-pal in tow.
After two seasons in America, BFF spun off into British and United Arab Emirates editions. The latter never aired on U.S. television thanks to some legal disputes over distribution in the Middle East, but that wasn’t the end of the series.
The original plan included sequels taking place in countries all over the world. But these failed to materialize, partly because Hilton had just turned 30 and thought she was ready for more grown-up projects. She moved on to other shows, saying “I have enough BFFs.”
5. 1000 Ways to Die
Spike TV’s 1,000 Ways to Die ran for 74 episodes between 2008 and 2012 and was basically Schadenfreude: The TV Series. It presented exaggerated versions of supposedly real-life deaths so that its audience could take delight in other people’s terrible, violent, and tragic demises. Somehow, Spike didn’t cancel it for being ghoulish and awful.
Instead, production ended after over two dozen crew members went on strike after they tried and failed to unionize. The company, Original Productions, went looking for other workers to keep the show going, but it never got back on track.
This A&E series followed the family of Stanley “M.C. Hammer” Burrell, the guy responsible for all those parachute pants in the ‘90s. It ran for 12 episodes in 2009 before it left the air, and that might have been due to its modest ratings, but it could have been something more serious.
In July 2009, police arrested Burrell’s cousin, “Bigg Marv,” on assault charges. The complainant was a woman whom Marv had met online. Hammer took to Twitter in his family’s defense, saying that the charge was false and that it was all part of what he called “‘The World of Fame’ where you become ‘The Prey.’”
3. Every Paula Deen show on Food Network
Paula Deen made her career on making traditional, Southern comfort food. She hosted three shows on Food Network in the ‘00s: Paula’s Home Cooking, Paula’s Party, and Paula’s Best Dishes. While Party ended in 2008, the other two programs ended abruptly after the network decided to cut all ties with the star in 2013.
The problems arose after a former manager of one of Deen’s restaurants filed a discrimination suit. It claimed both harassment and racial discrimination in the workplace and included the host. A story about Deen suggesting a “true Southern plantation-style theme” for her brother’s wedding, including all-black wait staff.
2. Rich Girls
The allure of relatively low cost and ease of production led networks to put a lot behind “reality” or “unscripted” programming. All you had to do was find some pretty people, point cameras at them, and cut it together in the most dramatic ways possible. What could go wrong? MTV’s Rich Girls, which aired for a single season in 2003, is what.
It starred real-life best friends Ally Hilfiger and Jaime Gleicher and followed them along on shopping trips and other adventures in the summer after graduating high school. And it nearly destroyed them. Living on camera started to affect both of the girls, and they started fighting before completely ending their friendship.
1. The John Edward 9/11 Special
Self-proclaimed psychic John Edward hosted Crossing Over and Cross Country, on which he provided “readings” from audience members and guests’ deceased loved ones. We probably don’t need to explain why his proposed TV special in the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 were a bad idea, but let’s do it anyway.
Edward started filming interviews for airing during November sweeps. The plan was for him to “contact” the victims of the tragedy while for their surviving family members. He claimed he didn’t know whom the producers had set him up with, which is a really odd claim for a psychic to make.
Once the public learned about the special’s existence, complaints flooded the offices of both the SyFy channel and the production company. This is the one show on this list that was canceled before it could even air, but we’re glad for that.
Can you think of any other ’00s shows that were canceled for shocking reasons? Sound off in the comments!
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