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Top 10 TV Shows Cancelled Too Soon

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Craig Butler. Hell hath no fury like a TV fanatic scorned: sometimes, TV series last well past their best before dates. But other times, networks simply decide what’s best for audiences – and audiences decide to fight back. In honor of the return of “Arrested Development” on May 26th, 2013, counts down our picks for the top 10 TV shows that were cancelled too soon. For this list, we’ve chosen shows that lasted three or fewer seasons before they were unceremoniously cancelled by their networks, but that have since been hailed as excellent. If they developed a cult following; even better. Special thanks to our users bigpapazagon, Deathmatch1959, tnblkbear, jeffhardybacon, PowerCosmic901 and Gj_film for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page!

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Top 10 TV Shows Cancelled Too Soon

Hell hath no fury like a TV fanatic scorned. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 TV shows that were cancelled too soon.

For this list, we’ve chosen shows that lasted three or fewer seasons before they were unceremoniously cancelled by their networks, but that have since been hailed as excellent. If they developed a cult following; even better.

#10 – “Star Trek: The Original Series” (1966-69)

Boldly going where no show had gone before, this Gene Roddenberry classic made a cultural impact few shows can match: it spawned TV and film sequels, and contributed dozens of memorable catchphrases to pop culture – not bad for a series that only lasted three years. Actually, the Starship Enterprise would’ve flown its final voyage even earlier had it not been for a massive letter-writing campaign from its ardent fanbase.

#9 – “Sports Night” (1998-2000) and “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” (2006-07)

Writer Aaron Sorkin took home a truckload of Emmys for his long-running “West Wing” series; however, he wasn’t so lucky with “Sports Night,” which eked out a two-year run, and “Studio 60,” which managed only one season. Sure, both shows were flawed, but each offered healthy doses of Sorkin’s social consciousness and wit – not to mention his trademark caustic speeches and high-impact soliloquies.

#8 – “Party Down” (2009-10)

Airing on the Starz network, this raucous series lasted a scant two seasons, but delivered a lifetime of laughs during that period. A workplace comedy that never followed the characters outside their catering jobs, the show shadowed a group of Hollywood wannabes awaiting their big breaks. Filled with quirky but engaging characters, a dry sense of humor, and a stellar cast, “Party Down” was totally captivating.

#7 – “My So-Called Life” (1994-95)

Ending with an unresolved love triangle that left die-hard fans reeling, this series had an unfairly short so-called lifespan of one year, but has had a lifelong impact on followers. Aside from introducing the remarkable Claire Danes, the show’s attitude made it stand out: finally, teens could watch a TV drama about themselves that didn’t come with overt moralizing. No, the lessons taught by “Life” were more along the lines of: “If only there was a button somewhere that I could just push to force me to stop talking.”

#6 – “Pushing Daisies” (2007-09)

Ned can bring people back to life simply by touching them. This cool premise, along with its sterling cast, vibrant candy-colored storybook look, and witty repartee, helped “Pushing Daisies” premiere to good ratings. Then, its first season was interrupted by a writer’s strike, interest dwindled, and the show was scrapped after its return the next year. Unfortunately, Ned’s magic worked only on people, not on cancelled TV series.

#5 – “Twin Peaks” (1990-91)

The question on everyone’s lips in the spring of 1990? Who killed Laura Palmer? David Lynch’s weird, wonderful, disturbingly surreal mystery-slash-soap opera was a genuine cultural phenomenon, and the only topic of water cooler conversation for its entire first year. But, the oddness and endless unanswered questions wore thin and the show abruptly ended after its second season; but it remains a one-of-a-kind series with stunning visual appeal.

#4 – “Veronica Mars” (2004-07)

She may have been a girl detective, but Veronica Mars was a far cry from Nancy Drew: her mysteries were more dangerous and her dialogue more hardboiled. This smart, gritty, sharp exercise in teenage TV noir provided three seasons of mysteries: but alas, the only one it couldn’t solve was why the show didn’t run longer. Maybe the upcoming fan-funded film version can crack that case.

#3 – “Freaks and Geeks” (1999-2000) and “Undeclared” (2001-02)

Before Judd Apatow started cranking out drop-dead funny films, he produced a pair of undeservedly short-lived TV series with devoted cult followings. These two one-season wonders showcased tons of future stars, as well as Apatow’s ability to create off-kilter, fascinatingly flawed characters and draw comic blood with mercilessly on-target laughs. These people were just like you in high school or college – whether you wanna believe it or not.

#2 – “Arrested Development” (2003-06, 2013)

Brought back in 2013 by Netflix, this Fox show was highly acclaimed during its initial three-year run, taking home Emmys by the carload and nurturing a small but fiercely devoted following. The Bluth family gave new and hilarious meaning to the word dysfunctional; while seasoned and newbie actors alike lit up the screen. Needless to say, when Fox cancelled this show, they made a huge mistake.

#1 – “Firefly” (2002)

Set in the 26th century, this offbeat Joss Whedon space-western followed the crew of the spaceship Serenity as they left Earth to seek new lives because of a crushing civil war. Along the way, they encountered situations typically found in the Wild West – but with a space-age twist or two. Wildly imaginative, perfectly cast, and impeccably directed, “Firefly” was too unusual for mainstream success; but its one season left an indelible impression on fans.

Do you agree with our list? Which series’ cancellation had you writing angry letters to the network? For more top 10s about your favorite shows, be sure to subscribe to

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