Best TV Shows That Were Canceled After One Season

Best TV Shows That Were Canceled After One Season

Given the oversaturated nature of modern television, it’s only natural that at least some quality programming gets left in the dust. The good news is that many of these overlooked shows are still available to stream, giving viewers a chance to see what they might have missed the first time around. The bad news is that those same viewers will be left hanging after they finish the first season. (Equally bad for some viewers are the worst TV series finales of all time.)

Why would a potentially great show get canceled after just one season? Some might wonder. The answer usually boils down to low ratings. Every now and then, however, a different variable comes into play. Take the drama series “Higher Ground,” for example, which debuted on Fox Family in 2000. While not a ratings smash, its cancellation was also the result of a network acquisition.

Nevertheless, low ratings remain the most common and recurring factor behind the cancellation of a TV series, even a beloved one. Prematurely knee-capped, these shows arguably went out at the peak of their powers. That gives audiences one solid season of programming to get through.

To determine the best TV shows that were canceled after one season, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on audience ratings from IMDb, an online movie and TV database owned by Amazon. TV shows that ran for only one season before cancellation were ranked based on average audience review scores on IMDb as of July 2022. In the case of a tie, the show with more audience votes was rated higher. We did not include series that were designed to only be one season long. Only series with at least 1,000 votes were considered for inclusion. Data on the number of audience reviews and cast information also came from IMDb. (By way of contrast, here are the longest-running prime time shows in history.)

Source: Courtesy of Comedy Central

25. Jeff & Some Aliens
> IMDb rating: 8.0 (1,694 votes)
> Series ended: 2017
> Cast: Brett Gelman, Alessandro Minoli, Josh Fadem, Sean Donnelly

This animated sitcom adapted a recurring sketch from the series “TripTank” and aired on Comedy Central. In search of Earth’s most average human, three aliens shack up with a dude named Jeff. Positive reviews and a small but loyal following wasn’t enough to keep the show alive for a second season.

Source: Courtesy of ABC Family

24. The Middleman
> IMDb rating: 8.0 (2,996 votes)
> Series ended: 2008
> Cast: Matt Keeslar, Natalie Morales, Brit Morgan, Mary Pat Gleason

Fledgling artist Wendy Watson (Natalie Morales) is recruited to become the next crime-fighting superhero in this sci-fi action comedy series. Creator Javier Grillo-Marxuach adapted the story from his own co-authored graphic novel. It ran on ABC Family for 12 episodes.

Source: Courtesy of ABC

23. Kitchen Confidential
> IMDb rating: 8.0 (4,838 votes)
> Series ended: 2006
> Cast: Bradley Cooper, Nicholas Brendon, John Francis Daley, Jaime King

Before breaking out in 2009’s “The Hangover,” Bradley Cooper starred in this comedic adaptation of Anthony Bourdain’s best-selling book. It takes place behind the scenes of an upscale New York restaurant and follows chef Jack Bourdain (Cooper) as he mounts a career comeback. “This spirited series combines poignant moments and lots of laughs to create a special blend of TV fun,” wrote critic Melissa Camacho for Common Sense Media.

Source: Courtesy of Fox Network

22. The Good Guys
> IMDb rating: 8.0 (7,352 votes)
> Series ended: 2010
> Cast: Bradley Whitford, Colin Hanks, Jenny Wade, Diana Maria Riva

This hour-long action comedy series came to viewers from Matt Nix, creator of the hit show “Burn Notice.” Playing with the buddy cop paradigm, it partners a snarky but straitlaced detective (Colin Hanks) with a washed-up veteran (Bradley Whitford). Their ongoing friction is at once a personality clash but also the result of generational differences.

Source: Courtesy of CBS

21. BrainDead
> IMDb rating: 8.0 (10,392 votes)
> Series ended: 2016
> Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Danny Pino, Aaron Tveit, Tony Shalhoub

The creative duo of Michelle and Robert King followed their hit drama “The Good Wife” with this biting blend of political satire and science fiction. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays a documentarian turned government staffer, who discovers that alien insects have taken over the brains of various politicians.

Source: Courtesy of Cinemax

20. Quarry
> IMDb rating: 8.0 (13,079 votes)
> Series ended: 2016
> Cast: Logan Marshall-Green, Jodi Balfour, Damon Herriman, Edoardo Ballerini

Adapted from a popular book series, this noirish thriller goes down in 1972 Memphis and tells the story of Mac Conway (Logan Marshall-Green). Upon his unwelcome return from Vietnam, Conway becomes a contract killer. Creator Michael D. Fuller attributed the show’s premature cancellation to several factors, including “a regime change at HBO and a re-(re?)-branding at Cinemax.”

Source: Courtesy of Amazon

19. Good Girls Revolt
> IMDb rating: 8.1 (5,879 votes)
> Series ended: 2016
> Cast: Genevieve Angelson, Anna Camp, Erin Darke, Hunter Parrish

This Amazon series, which draws from real-life events, takes place in the 1960s at a Newsweek-style magazine. As three female employees fight for equal rights, they end up changing America’s workforce culture at large. Vogue critic Patricia Garcia wrote that it “picks up right where Don Draper left off, providing plenty of nostalgia for viewers addicted to period dramas.”

Source: Courtesy of National Broadcasting Company

18. Kings
> IMDb rating: 8.1 (8,494 votes)
> Series ended: 2009
> Cast: Ian McShane, Christopher Egan, Susanna Thompson, Allison Miller

Actor Ian McShane followed the HBO cult series “Deadwood” with this NBC drama, playing King Silas Benjamin in a modern-day retelling of the story of David and Goliath. Set in a fictional monarchy, it follows a young soldier (Christopher Egan) as he ascends to the throne.

Source: Courtesy of National Broadcasting Company

17. The Black Donnellys
> IMDb rating: 8.1 (14,059 votes)
> Series ended: 2007
> Cast: Jonathan Tucker, Tom Guiry, Olivia Wilde, Billy Lush

“Family above all,” read the tagline for this NBC gangster drama series from co-creator Paul Haggis. It sends four Irish-American brothers into New York’s criminal underworld, where their loyalties are put to the test. Pulled from the air after eight episodes, its entire first season became available on DVD.

Source: Courtesy of Fox Family Channel

16. Higher Ground
> IMDb rating: 8.2 (1,488 votes)
> Series ended: 2000
> Cast: Joe Lando, Hayden Christensen, A.J. Cook, Kandyse McClure

This drama series welcomes viewers to the remote Mount Horizon High School, where troubled teens navigate their adolescence. It debuted on Fox Family to positive reviews and respectable ratings, but was canceled as the result of a network sale. Star Hayden Christensen went on to play the role of Anakin Skywalker in two of the “Star Wars” prequels.

Source: Courtesy of HBO Max

15. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
> IMDb rating: 8.2 (3,505 votes)
> Series ended: 2009
> Cast: Jill Scott, Anika Noni Rose, Lucian Msamati, Desmond Dube

Alexander McCall Smith’s beloved book series laid the groundwork for this comedic crime drama, in which Mma Precious Ramotswe (Jill Scott) opens a female detective agency. It was backed by major Hollywood producers and filmed on location in the country of Botswana. Two intended film follow-ups never made it past the development phase.

Source: Courtesy of National Broadcasting Company

14. Eerie, Indiana
> IMDb rating: 8.2 (5,687 votes)
> Series ended: 1992
> Cast: Omri Katz, Justin Shenkarow, Mary-Margaret Humes, Francis Guinan

Before “The X-Files” and “Stranger Things” there came this sci-fi horror dramedy series about a team of teenage investigators. It yielded a short-lived 1998 spin-off called “Eerie, Indiana: The Other Dimension” as well as a paperback book series. Among its loyal legion of fans is “Gravity Falls” creator Alex Hirsch, who cites it as a direct influence.

Source: Courtesy of CBS All Access

13. Clone High
> IMDb rating: 8.2 (7,473 votes)
> Series ended: 2003
> Cast: Will Forte, Phil Lord, Michael McDonald, Christa Miller

From “The Lego Movie” directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller and “Ted Lasso” creator Bill Lawrence came this short-lived animated sitcom. It takes place in a high school occupied by the clones of famous historical figures. As if low ratings weren’t bad enough, its controversial depiction of Gandhi provoked a hunger strike in India.

Source: Courtesy of Disney XD

12. TRON: Uprising
> IMDb rating: 8.2 (8,261 votes)
> Series ended: 2013
> Cast: Elijah Wood, Tricia Helfer, Charlie Bean, Elizabeth Ho

This animated sci-fi series makes up part of the TRON universe and takes place between the films “Tron” and “Tron: Legacy.” It blended 2D animation with CGI and aired on the Disney XD channel. Elijah Wood provides the voice of Beck, a young program who launches a revolution from within the computer world.

Source: Courtesy of Netflix

11. The Get Down
> IMDb rating: 8.2 (22,486 votes)
> Series ended: 2017
> Cast: Justice Smith, Shameik Moore, Herizen F. Guardiola, Skylan Brooks

Filmmaker Baz Luhrmann collaborated with iconic figures such as MC Nas and Grandmaster Flash when co-creating this musical drama series. It takes place in the late 1970s Bronx and channels the rise of hip-hop through the story of various youth. Rotten Tomatoes breaks the show down into two seasons, but it’s actually one season divided into two parts.

Source: Courtesy of American Broadcasting Company

10. Forever
> IMDb rating: 8.2 (57,157 votes)
> Series ended: 2015
> Cast: Ioan Gruffudd, Alana De La Garza, Joel David Moore, Donnie Keshawarz

Part fantasy and part procedural, this ABC drama tells the story of 200-year-old medical examiner Henry Morgan (Ioan Gruffudd). Through the investigation of various murder cases, Morgan hopes to unlock the secrets of his own immortality. Each episode flashes back to points in the protagonist’s past, spanning multiple historical eras in the process.

Source: Courtesy of Viacom International

9. Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous
> IMDb rating: 8.3 (3,751 votes)
> Series ended: 2013
> Cast: Bo Burnham, Thomas F. Wilson, Kari Coleman, Cameron Palatas

Multi-hyphenate Bo Burnham co-created and stars in this MTV sitcom, which follows the title character (Burnham) on his quest for overnight celebrity status. Determined to make it in spite of having no actual talent, Stone hires a documentary crew to trail his every move. “It’s clear that the writers (and Zach) are so knowledgeable of this particular world that the end result is smarter than you’d expect the average reality show send-up to be,” wrote critic Pilot Viruet for The AV Club.

Source: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox Television

8. Surviving Jack
> IMDb rating: 8.3 (4,852 votes)
> Series ended: 2014
> Cast: Christopher Meloni, Rachael Harris, Connor Buckley, Claudia Lee

Set in the early 1990s, this single-camera comedy finds a former military man (Christopher Meloni) taking on parental duties while his wife attends law school. It comes from co-creator Justin Halpern, who incorporated his personal experiences into both this series and the 2010 sitcom “$#*! My Dad Says.”

Source: Courtesy of Fox Network

7. The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.
> IMDb rating: 8.3 (8,592 votes)
> Series ended: 1994
> Cast: Bruce Campbell, Julius Carry, Christian Clemenson, Comet

This off-kilter Fox series injects Western genre tropes with elements of comedy and sci-fi. Bruce Campbell plays ex-lawyer turned bounty hunter Brisco County, who uses futuristic technology when tracking down bad guys. It was canceled due to low ratings.

Source: Courtesy of Fox Network

6. Wonderfalls
> IMDb rating: 8.3 (12,688 votes)
> Series ended: 2004
> Cast: Caroline Dhavernas, Katie Finneran, Tyron Leitso, William Sadler

Heeding the cryptic call of animal figurines, a souvenir-shop employee (Caroline Dhavernas) embarks on life-changing missions in this hourlong dramedy. Like a number of short-lived TV shows from (co)creator Bryan Fuller, it retains a loyal cult following.

Source: Courtesy of National Broadcasting Company

5. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
> IMDb rating: 8.3 (24,175 votes)
> Series ended: 2007
> Cast: Matthew Perry, Amanda Peet, Bradley Whitford, Steven Weber

Hollywood veteran Aaron Sorkin takes viewers behind the scenes at a sketch-comedy show (à  la “Saturday Night Live”) in this NBC dramedy. It debuted the same year as network peer “30 Rock,” which took a far more comedic approach to a similar premise and lasted much longer.

Source: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox Television

4. Terriers
> IMDb rating: 8.4 (10,814 votes)
> Series ended: 2010
> Cast: Donal Logue, Michael Raymond-James, Laura Allen, Kimberly Quinn

An ex-cop (Donal Logue) and a former criminal (Michael Raymond-James) open a private investigation business in this dramedy series. It was nominated for Outstanding New Program by the Television Critics Association and named the “Best New Series of 2010” by IGN. When those accolades didn’t equate to tenable ratings, FX gave it the ax.

Source: Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video

3. Wayne
> IMDb rating: 8.4 (14,966 votes)
> Series ended: 2019
> Cast: Mark McKenna, Ciara Bravo, Joshua J. Williams, Stephen Kearin

This comedy action series debuted on YouTube Premium and racked up over 10 million views with its first episode. The story follows noble teen rebel Wayne McCullough (Mark McKenna) and his crush Del (Ciara Bravo) as they embark on an action-packed road trip. Re-airings on Amazon Prime sparked rumors of a second season, but the show has yet to be renewed.

Source: Courtesy of American Broadcasting Company

2. My So-Called Life
> IMDb rating: 8.4 (20,642 votes)
> Series ended: 1995
> Cast: Bess Armstrong, Wilson Cruz, Claire Danes, Jared Leto

A grounded counterpunch to hit shows like “Beverly Hills 90210,” this seminal drama garnered serious acclaim for its authentic depiction of teenage angst. It features breakthrough performances from Claire Danes and Jared Leto, whose characters come of age in a high school setting. Fans launched a major campaign to save it from cancellation but to no avail.

Source: Courtesy of Netflix

1. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance
> IMDb rating: 8.4 (24,461 votes)
> Series ended: 2019
> Cast: Neil Sterenberg, Beccy Henderson, Nathalie Emmanuel, Taron Egerton

A prequel to Jim Henson’s 1982 cult classic “The Dark Crystal,” this fantasy series welcomes viewers back to the world of Thra. Advanced puppetry and sparing use of CGI bring each episode to life. Despite positive reviews and a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Program, it was canceled after one season.

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