What's the deal with network executives, anyway? Can they simply not handle awesome television? Why must they tease us with one or two seasons of quality programming, then cancel good shows in favor of idiotic reality replacements? Is that really the way the world works now?
We sure hope not. But with fall premieres rapidly approaching, we're always wary of getting too attached, for fear of grave disappointment. And so we'd like to take a moment to reflect on our favorite TV short-timers. Because if it can happen to these gems (and Popular and Life on Mars and Dirty Sexy Money and Dark Angel and... ), it can happen to any of them.
Read 'em and weep.
This high school sitcom had all the makings of a hit -- Scott Patterson from Gilmore Girls, Christopher B. Duncan from Veronica Mars, and two mega-talented kid actors, Lindsey Shaw and Dan Byrd. Shaw and Byrd were hilarious, and now they're showing major promise on 10 Things I Hate About You and Cougar Town, respectively. But maybe the show's deceptive title sealed its own fate. Or maybe it was the geeky look of the main characters -- the CW is notoriously a "pretty people" kind of network. We'll never know.
9. Firefly(FOX, 1 season, 15 episodes, ended in 2002)
This multi-genre show never really got to spread its wings, even with a writer like Joss Whedon behind it. He assembled one hell of a cast -- including Adam Baldwin, Summer Glau, Nathan Fillion, and Sean Maher -- but it wasn't enough to keep the Serenity flying through space.
8. Sports Night(ABC, 2 seasons, 45 episodes, ended in 2000)
Aaron Sorkin found much success with The West Wing, but his two other pet projects barely got off the ground. Both shows cast talented actors (Felicity Huffman and Josh Charles on Sports Night; Matthew Perry and Amanda Peet on Studio 60), but neither had a real chance to show them off. Did viewers mistake Sports Night for an an ESPN rip-off? Did Tina Fey's 30 Rock steal Studio 60's spotlight? Sigh.
7. Jericho(CBS, 2 seasons, 29 episodes, ended in 2008)
Jericho probably has the saddest story of all the shows on this list -- not even a fan campaign and subsequent revival could save it. After the first full season ended in cancellation, fans protested in outrage, earning a second-season run. But CBS pulled the plug on this post-nuclear attack drama after a feeble seven episodes in Season 2.
6. Wonderfalls(FOX, 1 season, 13 episodes, ended in 2004)
and Dead Like Me(SHO, 2 seasons, 30 episodes, ended in 2004)
and Pushing Daisies(ABC, 2 seasons, 22 episodes, ended in 2009)
Poor Bryan Fuller. He just can't catch a break. Waterfalls, his first collaboration with Lee Pace, didn't even air all its episodes. Dead Like Me embraced the undead just a few years before vampires became popular -- but it didn't live on for very long. And Pushing Daisies? Who wouldn't want to watch Lee Pace ... and pie?
5. Roswell(WB, 3 seasons, 61 episodes, ended in 2002)
This WB classic mixed aliens and humans long before District 9 was around -- and the aliens were a lot cuter, too. Katherine Heigl, Shiri Appleby, and Colin Hanks all got their big breaks on Roswell, but the honeymoon lasted only three seasons.
Despite winning Satellite Awards, Saturn Awards, and Teen Choice Awards, this adolescent-angled Law and Order never earned very high ratings -- and Kristen Bell hasn't really caught a break since. Maybe that Gossip Girl voiceover gig will pan out into a real character someday?
The cancellation of this angst-y teen show was especially bitter, because the first and only season ended on a cliffhanger. We'll never know whether Angela (Claire Danes) and Rayanne (A.J. Langer) became friends, or if Angela stayed with Jordan (Jared Leto) -- and that's just plain cruel.
and Undeclared(FOX, 1 season, 17 episodes, ended in 2002)
It would appear that Judd Apatow never really got the hang of serial narration -- Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared, his pet "cult classics," lasted no more than a season apiece. But maybe NBC and FOX never really got the hang of him. At least we can still count on the release of an Apatow-branded comedy every 18 months or so to provide dude jokes and sappy moments and screen time for every actor Apatow helped make famous. Movies are his "thing" now. But we'll never forget those one-season wonders.
There's only one way to say it: FOX made a huge mistake when they canceled this brilliant comedy. Though the 2010 movie may temporarily satisfy our cravings for cornballs and hot ham water, nothing can replace that ensemble cast and that magnificent, absurd script.