Many excellent TV shows have been axed before their time, and these 10 best cancelled TV shows are testament to the general unfairness and lack of common sense in the entertainment industry. In a world where Survivor and American Idol still exist after what seems like an infinite number of equally awful seasons, it’s a travesty that the following shows were not allowed to live.
- “Freaks and Geeks.” This show made the careers of so many different people: producer Judd Apatow, pudgy everyman Seth Rogan, “General Hospital’s” James Franco. It was also darkly funny, tremendously well-written, and just one of the best all-around shows to ever exist. And yet, despite being fiercely loved by a dedicated group of fans, “Freaks and Geeks” was cancelled after just 12 episodes.
- “Arrested Development.” Easily one of the funniest sitcoms of all time, “Arrested Development” left a particularly rabid fan base in its wake that was none too pleased when it got shifted between time slots and then killed altogether by the Fox network. There have been rumors of a movie for years now, but it seems less and less likely the more time passes.
- “Party Down.” “Party Down’s” ensemble cast included actor Martin Starr, who played loveable dork Bill Haverchuck in “Freaks and Geeks.” This makes two very funny sitcoms he’s been in that have been critically beloved but unceremoniously dumped by their respective networks. Is he under some sort of terrible curse? Perhaps. How else can you explain him being in two of the ten best cancelled TV shows of all time?
- “Firefly.” This one is a particular sore spot for sci-fi nerds. “Firefly’s” Wild West in outer space conceit, snappy dialog, and compelling plot made it a breath of fresh air in a TV landscape that had largely forsaken science fiction, and so when it was cancelled during its second season it was especially hard to take. It was briefly resurrected for the big screen with “Serenity,” but now creator Joss Whedon has gone on to other things (like the also-cancelled “Doll House”).
- “Futurama.” This may come as a surprise to some of the newer viewers now watching the show on Comedy Central, but “Futurama” spent several years on hiatus after being cancelled by Fox. Following in the footsteps of “Family Guy,” though, it continued to have such a rabid fan base that it eventually got a second life. Now it is simultaneously one of the best cancelled TV shows and one of the best TV shows still on the air.
- “Mr. Show.” The most beloved sketch comedy show that remarkably few people have seen, “Mr. Show” featured so many talented comedians it was frankly kind of ridiculous. It got shuffled around between awful time slots, though, until finally HBO pulled the plug on it altogether.
- “Undeclared.” Judd Apatow’s next short-lived series after “Freaks and Geeks,” “Undeclared” was an hilarious and true-to-life depiction of college life that was every bit as funny as its predecessor. Unfortunately, it took two cancelled TV shows before Apatow finally made the leap to being a successful film director.
- “Twin Peaks.” No list of the best cancelled TV shows would be complete without “Twin Peaks.” One of the most bizarre and intriguing shows of all time, perhaps it was just a little too crazy for network executives to let it live. Like “Firefly,” “Twin Peaks” saw some of its plot lines resolved on the big screen, but in this case the transition to film was largely a dud.
- “Deadwood.” Pitched as a sort of Wild West version of “The Sopranos” in the wake of the massive success of said series, “Deadwood” won over many fans with its gritty, profanity-laden depiction of 1870s South Dakota. The show sputtered out after the fourth season, though, and talk of wrapping it up with a mini-series never panned out.
- “Invader Zim.” The most subversive cartoon series on Nickelodeon since “Ren and Stimpy,” “Invader Zim” was uncommonly smart for its target demographic. Unfortunately, it was cancelled during its second season, and it has been all downhill for the kids’ network since then.
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