There is stiff competition between the networks to come up with fresh new content that will attract viewers to their shows. Dozens of new shows are started every year in America. Some shows make it big and have a great run of several years. Other shows hardly get out of the gate before they are cancelled.
Most of the shows that get cancelled early deserve it. However, once in a while a great show comes along that, for inexplicable reasons, can’t draw a large enough audience for its network to keep it around. When a new show is picked up by a network it is usually given a run of 13 episodes, to try it out. With many of the shows in this list they were cancelled sooner than that, but there were still 13 episodes created.
The shows listed below have all been highly rated by critics and also beloved by their fans. They all have at least an 8.0/10 rating on IMDB, yet they were cancelled before their time. These are the shows you probably missed but should give a second glance.
Premiere: September 20, 2002
Better Off Ted
Ted Crisp is a single father and the well-respected head of a research and development department at Veridian Dynamics, a soulless conglomerate. Ted also serves as the on-camera narrator at times in this witty, satirical situation comedy. The show received acclaim, and was given a score of 84 out of 100 on Metacritic, but lacked enough viewers to last.
Premiere: March 18, 2009
Episodes: 26 (2 seasons)
The Black Donnellys
Premiere: February 26, 2007
Episodes: 13 (only 7 released on TV, the rest online)
Detective Brett Hopper is accused of shooting the assistant district attorney Alberto Garza. After realizing he has been framed and even his iron clad alibi can’t save him he runs. Sounds kind of like The Fugitive. Except it’s really more like The Fugitive meets Ground Hog’s Day, because every day Brett Hopper wakes up it is the same day, giving him the opportunity to try to solve the mystery of the murder and who has framed him. The show was cancelled after six episodes, though seven more were later aired.
Freaks and Geeks
Premiere: September 25, 1999
Jack of All Trades
Title character Jack Stiles (Bruce Campbell) is an American spy in the South Pacific in the early 19th century. Sent by President Thomas Jefferson, Jack works with British spy Emilia Rothschild to stop the advances of Napolean Bonaparte in that region. Jack of All Trades was a comedy/action show with 30 minute episodes and features a number of recurring gags, such as deliberate historical inaccuracies, and Bruce Campbell’s own special brand of wit.
Episodes: 22 (2 seasons)
Nobody knows who John Doe is, including himself. He literally fell from the sky one day with no memory of his identity or past. However, he has a vast encyclopedic knowledge about every other subject. While on a quest to learn his own past he aids the police in solving a number of bizarre crimes.
Premiere: September 20, 2002
Premiere: September 24, 2007
Premiere: June 3, 2003
Kings is a modern, alternate-reality drama based on the Biblical story of King David. King Silas Benjamin is the popular but ruthless monarch who reigns over the fictional kingdom of Gilboa. A farm boy, David Shepherd, rises to prominence in the kingdom when he rescues the king’s son and destroys a Goliath-class tank. The show received critical acclaim, but never developed a strong enough following to make it.
Premiere: March 15, 2009
The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.
Premiere: August 27, 1993
Premiere: March 4, 1982
Premiere: March 12, 2004
Episodes: 13 (including the unaired pilot)
Most of these shows are tough to find on TV anymore. Firefly is available on Netflix streaming, but for the others you're probably out of luck. You might check your local library to see if they have them available for checkout. If you're willing to spend a few bucks you can buy them on dvd at Amazon.com.
Is there a short-lived TV series that you loved but isn't on this list? Go ahead and add it to the comments!