There are many great TV shows that were taken down before their time. We're not talking about TV shows that were so awful that networks didn't even bother airing all the episodes before pulling the plug (I'm looking at you, Zero Hour.) We're talking about TV shows that failed to complete their run due to reasons that have nothing to do with quality, such as:
1. Andy Barker P.I. (6 episodes)
Andy Barker, P.I. is a detective sitcom that focuses on the titular character (played by longtime Conan sidekick Andy Richter), who is a certified public accountant that became a private investigator after an unfortunate case of mistaken identity. After growing fond of solving cases, Andy decides to continue posing as a P.I. with the help of a surveillance-expert restaurateur, a film buff owner of a video store, and even his wife.
As expected of any show from Conaco (Conan O'Brien's production outfit), Andy Barker, P.I. has decent writing, a strong cast, a good attention to detail, and the same brand of self-indulgent humor that works so well for The Tonight Show. The show satirizes numerous detective show clichés, while using standard sitcom constructs as a framework.
The show only lasted for one season, and didn't even manage to air all of its episodes in one go, with the show being moved to a different timeslot after the fourth episode. Some say that the reason NBC decided to drop it was because they focused more on 30 Rock, which had more star power and potential. The fact that Conan O'Brien is a producer meant that the show couldn't jump ship to another network either (this happened before the Tonight Show/Leno debacle.)
If you want to check out the show, Shout! Factory has released the complete series on DVD on November 17, 2009
2. Fear Itself (13 episodes)
Fear Itself is a Canadian horror anthology series from Mick Garris, with each episode directed by popular horror directors (such as John Landis and Rupert Wainwright). The show was borne from Garris' previous project, the Masters of Horror series, with the main difference being a marked toning down of the gory and sexual visuals, making it more suited to network TV.
The show only managed to air 8 of its 13 episodes, and was put on hiatus in order to give way to the 2008 Summer Olympics. Despite NBC's promise of a return after the event, no further episodes were aired and the timeslot was filled with re-runs of other NBC shows. NBC confirmed on March 13, 2009 that the series will not be returning to their network, but did not cite any reasons for the cancellation.
If you want to watch the whole series, including the unaired episodes, a DVD has been released last September 15, 2009.
3. Kindred: The Embraced (8 episodes)
If you feel like the Twilight movies' depiction of Vampire clans and politics is too cartoony, but feel uneasy with the relationship subtexts in Anne Rice's novels, Kindred: The Embraced may be your choice of drug. It is based on White Wolf's Vampire: The Masquerade series of role playing games, and focuses on a fictional version of San Francisco that is home to numerous vampire clans collectively referred to as "The Kindred."
In Kindred: The Embraced, the vampires disguise themselves as humans and blend in with society, with all five clans being ruled by a so-called "Prince" of the city, Julian Luna (played by Mark Frankel). The best description for the series came from Sci Fi Weekly, calling it a "cross between Melrose Place and The Godfather." With fangs, of course.
Kindred: The Embraced aired on Fox from April 2 to May 9, 1996. The series was then cancelled and no additional episodes were produced. Showtime was planning to revive the series, but the untimely death of Mark Frankel in a motorcycle accident halted negotiations and sealed the show's fate.
All 8 episodes of the series were released on a two volume DVD set on August 21, 2001. But if I were you, I'd avoid the pilot episode and start watching from episode 2. The pilot was particularly bad, both in terms of writing and effects. Thankfully, the story is not crippled if you fail to watch it.
4. MotorCity (20 episodes)
Motorcity is an animated action-adventure from Titmouse, Inc.'s Chris Prynoski and Disney Television Animation. It focuses on a fictional, futuristic version of Detroit called Detroit Deluxe, which is ruled with an iron fist by evil billionaire Abraham Kane (voiced by Mark Hamill). Kane has kept the city bound with strict laws that ban various personal freedoms, including the use of automobile transportation. The last resistance comes in the form of a group of teenaged rebels called the Burners, led by Mike Chilton (voiced by Reid Scott), who sets up shop in an underground refuge called MotorCity.
Motorcity may not be your cup of tea if you're not into shows targeted towards male teenagers, but the show is still decent enough to become a contender for Cartoon Network's Ben 10 juggernaut. Or at least, it would have if the network only handled it right. You see, MotorCity performed poorly in the ratings, despite good feedback from fans over the net (Prynoski's name alone guaranteed an initial fanbase) due to lack of promotion and frequent timeslot changes. The frequent timeslot change is already bad enough, but the lack of promotion meant that fans usually failed to keep up and follow the show to its new timeslot. Adding insult to injury, the episodes were shown out of order.
Even the Motorcity online game they released led to confusion, as it is only available to specific regions but instead of notifying people of the case if they come from an unsupported country, it merely forwarded fans to the main Disney website.
There's currently no home video release and Disney owns the IP to the show, which means Titmouse can't even shop it around to other networks. So if you want to check the show out, you're out of luck (or legal means).
5. The River (8 episodes)
The River is a horror/found footage series from Paranormal Activity's Oren Peli. It originally aired on ABC as a midseason replacement, with the first season consisting of eight episodes.
The River mixes Paranormal Activity's style of faux found footage with Lost-like themes, as it follows the crew of "The Magus," as they try to search for famous reality TV star and explorer Dr. Emmet Cole, who disappeared on an expedition to the uncharted Amazon basin six months prior to the events in the show. The crew is made up of Dr. Cole's estranged wife and son, his ex-producer, the daughter of his cameraman, a private security bodyguard, and a couple of former members of his TV crew. Over the course of the first season, the crew encounters various demons, spirits, and ancient curses as they discover the true reason for Dr. Cole's disappearance.
The River ran from February 7 to March 20 of 2012, and was officially cancelled by ABC on May 11 of the same year, citing poor ratings. The show was met by generally favorable reviews, so it's certainly not an issue of quality. There are people who believe that the show was overshadowed by another contemporary horror series that was gaining a lot of traction at the time, AMC's The Walking Dead.
If you want to check the show out, the complete first season is currently out on DVD format for US territories, and is also on iTunes. Netflix was in talks of reviving the series on VOD, but the deal fell through.