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Top 10 Best TV Shows That Only Lasted One Season

VO: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Mark Sammut
Gone too soon, but never forgotten. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Best TV Shows That Only Lasted One Season. For this list, we’re looking at TV’s greatest series that, for one reason or another, burned out after a single season.
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Gone too soon, but never forgotten. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Best TV Shows That Only Lasted One Season.

For this list, we’re looking at TV’s greatest series that, for one reason or another, burned out after a single season.


#10: “Terriers” (2010)



If the guy who wrote "Ocean's Eleven" and worked on "The Shield" cannot score more than one season for a highly-rated crime series, what hope is there for new television? Executive produced by Shawn Ryan, "Terriers" was a quirky comedy-drama about a pair of unlikely private investigators who end up getting involved in all kinds of trouble across the beaches of San Diego. Despite being hailed as one of the best releases of 2010, FX was left with no choice but to cancel "Terriers" due to people simply not tuning in to watch Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James' misadventures. At that point, "Terriers" was FX's lowest-rated show of all time.


#9: “Profit” (1996)


Occasionally, a project comes out that is simply ahead of the curve; unfortunately, such an impressive feat rarely leads to a long and satisfying run. Pre-dating "The Sopranos" and "Mad Men,""Profit" focuses on the vicious lengths that amoral protagonist Jim Profit is willing to go to move up the business ladder. Frequently breaking the fourth wall to speak directly to the audience, Adrian Pasdar delivered the performance of a lifetime as the - frankly - sinister main character. Created by John McNamara and "Angel"’s David Greenwalt, "Profit" was incredibly controversial for the time and would have surely been a hit if it was released a decade later.


#8: “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” (1974-75)


Spooky and influential, this series deserved to make the headlines. Fueled by the success of two TV movies, "Kolchak: The Night Stalker" centers around a journalist who investigates crimes with a supernatural twist. Considered to be a huge inspiration for “The X-Files," ABC's series hit the right balance between horror, drama, and mystery. Aging surprisingly well and considered a cult classic, a follow up was created in 2005, but "Night Stalker" lacked the charm of the original. Arguably among Darren McGavin's best work, "Kolchak: The Night Stalker" and its preceding movies are worth seeking out.




#7: “Clone High” (2002-03)


A weird premise can make or break a series; sadly, the former proved to be the case with this Teletoon/MTV cartoon. An adult comedy set in a high school populated by clones of historical figures, including the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, JFK, and Cleopatra; "Clone High" delivered more than enough heart and humor to elevate the content beyond a simple gimmick. Created in collaboration between the writers and directors of "The Lego Movie"’s Phil Lord and Christopher Miller and "Scrubs”’ Bill Lawrence, "Clone High" struggled to gain much traction upon release but is recognized today as a minor masterpiece of animated comedy.


#6: “Terra Nova” (2011)



Time travel, dinosaurs, and Steven Spielberg; Fox's sci-fi epic appeared to possess all the right ingredients to forge a truly mesmerizing experience. With a high production value and a strong opening, "Terra Nova" saw the last remnants of humanity migrating back to prehistoric times in an attempt to start over. In hindsight, the idea of "Terra Nova" was arguably more appealing than the season that was actually produced, but the series seemed to be picking up momentum during its final episode. After "Terra Nova's" cancellation, Fox attempted to shop the series around to other networks, but nobody took the bait.


#5: “Vinyl” (2016)


Though this series was initially renewed for a second season, HBO proved to be a bit of a tease after reneging on the announcement. A celebration of the 1970s rock n' roll scene, "Vinyl"’s pilot episode was directed by Martin Scorsese and boasted a genuinely great turn by Bobby Cannavale as a washed-up record exec who experiences something akin to a reawakening. Driven by nostalgia and praised for its great direction, "Vinyl" peaked during its opening couple of episodes, with reviews becoming less favorable as the season continued. While far from HBO's greatest work, "Vinyl" might have just needed some more time to find its groove.


#4: “My So-Called Life” (1994-95)



Modern teen TV dramas owe a LOT to Winnie Holzman's short-lived ABC series. Starring "Homeland's" Claire Danes, "My So-Called Life" tackled hard-hitting social issues like alcoholism, adultery, drugs, and homophobia; more importantly, these topics were ingrained into the narrative, rather than isolated within the context of an after-school special. Back in the '90s, high school was often depicted as a fun and almost sterile landscape, but "My So-Called Life" painted a much harsher and realistic portrayal of teenagers. Despite the first ever online campaign to save the show, "My So-Called Life"’s poor ratings and Danes' reluctance to return buried any chances of a second season.


#3: “Police Squad!” (1982)


This might come across as pretentious, but "Police Squad!" was simply too clever for the early '80s. Canceled by ABC after only airing four episodes, the precursor to "The Naked Gun" trilogy features all of the clever wordplay and brilliant visual gags that define the best films created by the Zucker Brothers or Jim Abrahams. Serving as the first taste of Leslie Nielsen as Frank Drebin, "Police Squad!" has not lost a beat after all these years, and would have been a huge success in a post-"Simpsons" world. On the bright side, "The Naked Gun" was a pretty decent consolation prize.


#2: “Freaks and Geeks” (1999-2000)



Studio meddling is often cited as a primary reason for a project's failure, and "Freaks and Geeks" is the perfect example. Executive produced by Judd Apatow and created by Paul Feig, NBC's teenage comedy went against the grain by refusing to depict the characters as winners or to sugarcoat the problems faced by adolescents. The show lampooned the typical high school cliches while still making its characters remarkably relatable. Starring the likes of James Franco, Seth Rogen, and Jason Segel; it’s almost laughable that "Freaks and Geeks" failed to become popular. In 2001, Judd Apatow returned with "Undeclared," which was also canceled after a single season. Both are now considered cult classics.



Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.



“Garth Marenghi's Darkplace” (2004)



“Over the Garden Wall” (2014)



“Wonderfalls” (2004)






#1: “Firefly” (2002-03)



So, who saw this coming? Joss Whedon's "Firefly"could have and should have been massive, but Fox decided to mess with its own show! By airing the show’s first season erratically and out of order, Fox made it impossible for the show to get the viewership it needed to satisfy their need for ratings. By 2002, Whedon had already created "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel," so it is genuinely puzzling that Fox showed so little confidence in "Firefly." Lasting for 14 brilliant episodes, Firefly’s entire run feels like a ‘best of’ compilation. "Serenity" was a fine-enough conclusion, but there is no such thing as too much Malcolm Reynolds.


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