In the cutthroat world of television programming, there’s a fear that gets into the minds of not only the producers, cast, and crew, but the audiences as well. That fear is cancellation; the thing that almost one-hundred percent ensures your favorite show will never see the light of day again.
Many favorite series have been canceled, with cries against the networks for doing so. While a few programs get the chance to come back from cancelation, most must suffer the fate, which can include never coming to home video, or being hard to find online.
There’s an even worse fate than simply getting canceled. Plenty of shows in this vein at least make it through a season before biting the dust. Then there are the shows that, for one reason or another, were canceled while new episodes were being produced. These range from variety shows that bomb immediately, to dramas that failed to attract a sizable audience, to shows that didn’t even air.
This list provides a variety of entries, some of which are still hard to come by, while some others are easily accessible. In some cases, you probably don’t even want to watch these shows, but we’re not here to judge.
So sit down and take some time to learn about 15 TV Shows Canceled Mid-Filming.
15. 666 Park Avenue
Loosely based on the novel of the same name, 666 Park Avenue has a title that doesn’t try to hide what it’s about. A couple moves into a Manhattan apartment on the Upper East Side where the building and its tenants are not what they seem.
For starters, the couple that owns the building are agents of Hell, hanging out in New York City to get people’s souls, while the tenants in the building either suffer at the hands of the owners and/or have supernatural secrets of their own.
The show was ordered by ABC for thirteen episodes but, after the airing of the first few, was announced as canceled. However, the network also said that they’d air the remaining final episodes, which gave the crew time to rework the finale so that it would be more final and provide closure for viewers.
14. Life on Mars (US version)
Based on the UK program of the same name, Life on Mars tells the story of a New York City police detective who, after being struck by a car, is displaced from the year 2008 to 1973. As a result, he initially doesn’t know what’s going on, doesn’t realize he’s been completely displaced, and has to figure out a way to get back to his original time period, while having to deal with a very different brand of policing.
The show had a serious and bizarre mystery as its premise and was well received overall. However, due to changing time slots, it lost viewership and was canceled before the final episodes were aired. This allowed the producers to wrap up the show with the final few episodes, resulting in a (mostly) conclusive finale.
13. Arrested Development
Arguably the most critically acclaimed sitcom of the 2000s, Arrested Development tells the story of a wealthy family that lost everything, and the one son that had no choice but to keep them all together. Narrated by Ron Howard (who also served as an executive producer), the show positions itself as a documentary, and uses archival footage to present its story and jokes.
Unfortunately, the show wasn’t a huge ratings success, despite winning several Primetime Emmy Awards. By the third season, FOX cut the original order of 22 episodes down to 13, and broadcast the final four episodes back-to-back in a two hour block.
Creator Mitchell Hurwitz at the time said he did not feel like finding another network for the show and that he’d told the story he wanted to tell. However, several years later, the show returned on Netflix with a fourth season.
A very interesting case of technically being cancelled twice, Futurama was created by Matt Groening (of The Simpsons fame), and developed by Groening and David X. Cohen.
The show originally aired on FOX with an erratic schedule, which ultimately resulted in the show not being ordered for more episodes. However, after being allowed to make a few direct-to-video movies, Comedy Central decided to bring back Futurama for good – before later announcing they’d stop ordering episodes and that season seven would be the final season.
Between all this, the show’s creators had come up with several possible “finales” for the series: “The Devils Hands Are Idle Playthings” (the final episode during its original run on FOX), Into the Green Yonder (the last of the four direct-to-video films), “Overclockwise”, and “Meanwhile” (the current series finale).
Co-created by Tim Minear (who was an executive producer on Firefly), Drive was a very short lived show about the participants (willing and unwilling) in a cross-country road race who followed clues to reach their next destination at the request of a shadowy organization.
The show starred Nathan Fillion (also of Firefly), was the first TV show ever to have a live Twitter session during an episode, and was even mentioned in an issue of Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.
So what happened? The show was broadcast on FOX and originally ordered with 12 episodes. It had a two-hour premiere consisting of 2 episodes, but due to low ratings, the show was canceled after 4. Only 6 episodes were produced, with the unaired 2 being distributed online.
10. The Playboy Club
Due to a myriad of opposing reasons, a show with the name “Playboy” in it, airing on national television, was probably doomed from the start.
The Playboy Club was a historical drama set during the early days of the titular club in 1961 Chicago. Featuring Amber Heard as one of its main characters, the show attracted a lot of attention for all the reasons you’d think: mixed to negative reviews, protests, boycotts.
After airing three episodes, the show was canceled by NBC, with no plans of airing the remaining four that were still being shot and produced. Different reasons behind the show’s cancellation swarmed, with low ratings being cited as the main reason, along with pressure from certain moral guardians, though others believed the show was canceled simply because it wasn’t very good.
9. Viva Laughlin
Musicals as a TV series don’t always work as well as a movie might. Sometimes it just doesn’t connect with the audience, and sometimes it’s just really, really bad.
Viva Laughlin was an American adaption of the British program Blackpool, taking its name from the sequel program (Viva Blackpool). A musical comedy-drama, it focused on a businessman wanting to establish a casino in Laughlin, Nevada.
The show notably featured Hugh Jackman (who was also an executive producer), and contained characters breaking into contemporary songs.
After much marketing and hype it had a special premiere on October 18th, 2007, before officially premiering on its regular October 21st time slot.
8. A to Z
Created by Ben Queen (who also co-created the aforementioned Drive and developed the recent Powerless— all of which got canceled), A to Z starred Ben Feldman as Andrew and Cristin Milioti as Zelda, two strangers who meet under weird circumstances and begin to fall in love.
The show was narrated by Katey Sagal and dealt with their relationship over the course of several months. The show was fairly well received, with particular praise towards the two leads.
The show premiered on NBC on October 2nd, 2014 – and was canceled on October 31st, after five episodes had aired. It was ordered with 13 episodes and the network allowed the show to air its complete run of episodes. This resulted in a fairly complete and conclusive series and satisfying finale.
7. Cop Rock
Co-created by Steven Bochco (who created the influential and acclaimed Hill Street Blues), Cop Rock is exactly what it sounds like: a musical centered around law enforcement. It aired on ABC in 1990, had a theme song by Randy Newman, and baffled just about everyone who came into contact with it.
While it may have its fans these days and at least made some people curious back in the day, it was a critical and commercial disaster.
Cop Rock was one of the biggest television failures of the decade.
The show’s final episode aired on December 26th, 1990, and had the entire cast (breaking character) and crew come together to perform the closing song. Even though it was critically panned, the show managed to air reruns on channels like VH1 later in the decade, and even received a Shout! Factory DVD release in 2016.
Popular and full of fourth-wall breaking humor, Moonlighting starred Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd as private detectives with romantic tension. The show aired on ABC from 1985 till 1989, and was planned to end with a grand finale in 1988, due to Willis becoming a massive movie star and wanting to get into movies, and Shepherd, after having had twins, wanting to just end the show altogether.
All would have gone according to plan, had that year’s Writer’s Strike not happened, delaying the show from ending till the following year.
The final episode of Moonlighting featured the protagonists returning to their place of business, only to see it being taken apart.
After being told that their show has been canceled, they rush around the studio lot looking for a television producer, who explains their situation further, culminating in a montage of the show’s previous moments and a short epilogue.
5. The Dictator
Here’s a show we’re sure you’ve never heard of— because it never aired.
The Dictator was a sitcom poised to air in March of 1988. It starred Christopher Lloyd as a former Caribbean island dictator who is exiled and establishes a laundromat in Queens, NY with his wife and sons. The pilot was well received and the show was put into production, with the first episode to air the 15th of that month.
The Writer’s Strike happened on March 7th, which immediately halted production of the show.
The third episode had barely begun filming around this time, and not wanting to debut a show with so few episodes made, CBS decided, even after publicity and magazine ads, to cancel the show before it ever aired.
A more recent example of a show that got the axe before it ever aired, Hieroglyph wasn’t so much about the study of symbols and language as it was a proposed FOX show about “deceit, sex, intrigue in the court and fantastical goings on” in ancient Egypt. In an unusual move, the network skipped the pilot stage and went straight for a 13 episode order, scheduled for a 2015 premiere.
The show had its first episode shot in Morocco in early 2014, and was going to continue filming in New Mexico, but in June of the same year, the series was canceled.
FOX said this was because the show was not coming along the way they were hoping.
3. You’re in the Picture
It’s the early 1960s, and there’s a new variety show coming out hosted by Jackie Gleason of The Hooneymooners. It sounds interesting enough: a group of celebrities became part of life-sized illustrations of scenes or songs, and the host would have to guess what they were.
Okay, so maybe that doesn’t sound interesting. In fact, the episode received, then and now, extremely negative reviews.
This resulted in the following week’s episode consisting of only Gleason apologizing for last week’s show.
That episode, ironically, did receive positive reviews.
This makes You’re in the Picture one of the only television programs to ever be canceled with only one or two episodes aired. The fact that the show’s second episode wasn’t even of the same format as the first’s is doubly amusing.
The only show to ever be canceled during its first (and only) episode, Turn-On was a sketch comedy show that was broadcast in 1969. A show “produced by a computer,” it was filmed ahead of time and then broadcast, instead of being shot and presented live. Featuring no laugh track, next-to-no sets, and a Moog synthesizer, the show was extremely polarizing for the execs who chose to let it air.
During the broadcast— aside from complaints from across the country— certain West coast stations decided not to air it at all.
1. Heil Honey I’m Home!
A sitcom centered around Adolf Hitler? Well, it happened back in 1990, and it was called Heil Honey I’m Home! Intended as an extremely blatant parody of the sorts of sitcoms made between the 1950s and ‘70s, this UK program had a “comical” Hitler and Eva Braun living in Berlin with Jewish neighbors.
It aired one episode on the British channel Galaxy, and was immediately canceled once Sky acquired British Satellite Broadcasting.
Multiple episodes were planned, produced, and shot, but only the first episode ever aired.
Many considered what they saw as “tasteless,” while some defended the show as being an intentional exaggerated parody, so the things that’d come off as offensive are supposed to. Creator Geoff Atkinson has said that he never intended to shock, but to examine Hitler’s situation in 1938, while also admitting that the satire didn’t hit or translate well.
Did we miss any shows that were canceled mid-filming? Let us know in the comments!
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