Just imagine — you become entirely invested in a world and feel emotionally attached to its characters… only to find out that you'll never know what happens beyond this current storyline because the show has been canceled. These characters that you root for and this world that you've come to embrace as your own is suddenly taken from you without warning — likely due to low network ratings. Such was the cruel reality so many of us faced when our favorite series were pulled from their time slots. Join Wonderwall.com as we lament some of the television shows that met an unfair fate: This is our list of shows that were gone too soon… starting with this one created by Winnie Holzman. "My So-Called Life" debuted on ABC in 1994 and starred Claire Danes as Angela Chase, an angst-ridden teenager who navigates life, love and friendships in '90s suburbia. The show was absolutely ahead of its time — not only did the dialogue authentically reflect the way teenagers actually speak, but it was also the first TV show to include a gay person of color (played by Wilson Cruz) in the main cast. But the series, which was known for addressing topics like sexuality, drugs and infidelity, scored low ratings. Coupled with Claire's reluctance to reprise her role (after all, she was only 14 at the time), ABC ultimately made the decision to cancel it after 19 episodes. "My So-Called Life" — which also memorably starred Jared Leto, A.J. Langer and Devon Gummersall — has since acquired quite the cult following and remains, to many, one of the best coming-of-age series ever. Keep reading to see which other TV shows were gone too soon…
I don't give a damn 'bout my reputation! We loved its memorable Joan Jett-inspired opening credits and we loved "Freaks and Geeks," another coming-of-age television series that was taken from us too soon. The show, which was executive produced by Judd Apatow (who also wrote and directed some episodes), was set in the '80s and followed the lives of the Weir siblings, Lindsay (played by Linda Cardellini) and Sam (John Francis Daley), as they go through the motions of high school. Bookish older sister Lindsay is in the midst of a major social transition as she increasingly cuts class and spends time with the burnouts while younger brother Sam finds dating girls and dealing with bullies especially difficult given his lack of height and popularity. The show was credited with giving big breaks to many beloved actors including James Franco, Seth Rogen and Martin Starr. Unfortunately, "Freaks and Geeks" wasn't a hit with everyone — NBC canceled the show due to low ratings and only aired 12 of its 18 completed episodes. At the Paley Center for Media in 2014, creator Judd Apatow spoke about the cancellation. "Even to this day, I think I didn't want to admit that 'Freaks and Geeks' was canceled," he said. "Everything I've done, in a way, is revenge for the people who canceled 'Freaks and Geeks.' It's really demented, but it's just like, 'You were wrong about that person, and that person and that person. And that writer and that director.' And I really should get over that."
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Who doesn't love a "Sex and the City" prequel? More people than you think. "The Carrie Diaries," which starred AnnaSophia Robb and was based on the book of the same by Candace Bushnell, debuted in 2013 on The CW. The show followed Carrie Bradshaw as a teen — fresh-faced, wide-eyed and ambitious as ever — as she took her first steps into the world of journalism in bustling New York City. From the eclectic '80s fashion to the endearing will-they-or-won't-they relationship between Carrie and her series-long love interest, Sebastian Kydd (played by Austin Butler), the show was an absolute delight to watch. Unfortunately, due to the substantially lower viewership from the first to the second season, The CW decided to pull it from its lineup. But much can be said about AnnaSophia's portrayal of the iconic character — she gave Carrie this youthful ambition and had us wishing we could have interned at Interview Magazine as a teen!
Sheesh, can Judd Apatow catch a break? "Undeclared" followed a group of teens as they navigated through the trials and tribulations of college life. The FOX series, which starred Jay Baruchel and Seth Rogen, was tragically cut short after its first season, which consisted of 17 episodes during the 2001-2002 season. Much like beloved predecessor "Freaks & Geeks," at its crux, "Undeclared" was about the complexities of self-discovery and the path young adults venture on in pursuit of it. Its charm was undeniable, but sometimes even the best storytelling isn't enough to save a show from cancellation.
Two seasons and 20 episodes just wasn't enough. Created by John Enbom, Rob Thomas, Dan Etheridge and Paul Rudd, "Party Down" followed an eclectic group of Los Angeles cater waiters who hoped to bring their Hollywood dreams to fruition. The catering team played by Adam Scott, Jane Lynch, Ken Marino, Lizzy Caplan, Martin Starr and Ryan Hansen hilariously depicted the struggle of wanting to break into Hollywood while having to maintain a day (or night) job. While the show was well-received by critics, its ratings were too low to give Starz any reason to renew it. There was also speculation that Jane joining "Glee" and Adam joining "Parks and Recreation" were contributing factors.
After the conclusion of "Gilmore Girls," fans wanted to see beloved actress Kelly Bishop light up the screen again. They got their wish with Amy Sherman-Palladino's "Bunheads," the television series starring Kelly Bishop as Michelle Simms, a once-promising classically trained ballerina-turned-Las Vegas showgirl. After relocating to a small California town, Michelle begins teaching alongside her mother-in-law at a dance academy where she reinvigorates her love for dance. The show received rave reviews from critics, with Amy earning particular praise for her quick-witted and smart writing style. "Bunheads" was charming and leads Kelly and Sutton Foster offered up exceptional performances. The series had a multigenerational appeal filled with snappy quarrels and pop culture references, but due to its less-than-impressive ratings, ABC canceled the show after its first season.
When we think "quintessential teen drama of the late '90s and early '00s," this show is among the handful that come to mind. "Popular," which aired on The WB and was created by Ryan Murphy and Gina Matthews, followed the lives of two teenage girls at completely opposite ends of the popularity spectrum who are forced to live together when their parents become engaged. As a result, these dissimilar soon-to-be stepsisters must attempt to find a balance both in school and at home. The series, which starred Leslie Bibb as popular cheerleader Brooke McQueen and Carly Pope as bookish journalist Sam McPherson, was actually a massive hit among teens at the time — it earned the Teen Choice Award for favorite breakout TV show in 1999. Along with deeming it one of the best cult television shows ever, Entertainment Weekly also applauded the way the series approached typical high school topics like sex, deception and cliques "through an absurdist lens." Creator Ryan told EW the network became increasingly difficult to reason with over the show's run. "They never got me and they kept trying to turn me into something else," he said. "And they were very homophobic even though they would have gay characters on the air." The series, which ran for two seasons, was canceled in 2001.
We won't be offended if you've neither seen nor heard of this one. Starring Victoria Justice, "Eye Candy" followed the life of 21-year-old technological whiz kid Lindy Sampson, whose skills often found her aiding in missing-persons cases. After Lindy was persuaded to give online dating a shot, she started to suspect that one of her suitors might be a serial killer on the loose. What ensued was a chilling and suspenseful pursuit of the dangerous unknown man in question. While the concept might seem a bit silly, the show was pretty entertaining to watch — it provided intriguing (albeit incredibly dramatic) commentary on online dating and left you wanting more after each episode. Still, it seemed to lack a true understanding of the type of show it was — in many respects, "Eye Candy" had failed to establish a solid identity, which seemed to contribute to its ultimate demise. The 2015 series ran for one 10-episode season on MTV. As with all the picks on our list, "Eye Candy" was canceled due to low ratings.
Set in Seattle, Washington, "Dead Like Me" followed the life of 18-year-old Georgia "George" Lass — a grim reaper tasked with removing the souls of people right before they die and escorting them until they enter the afterlife. The Showtime series, which premiered in 2003 and ran for two seasons, explored the impact of George's death on her surviving family members as well as the dynamic between the small collective of reapers. "Dead Like Me" was a quality series — which was to be expected, as it was created by acclaimed writer Bryan Fuller. Critics praised the show for its quirky concept. From the peculiar causes of death to the witty dialogue, "Dead Like Me" had a distinct and unique point of view that was executed unapologetically. Following Brian's departure partway through the first season due to repeated friction and disagreements with MGM, the TV studio behind the project, Showtime canceled the series after two seasons. Brian told MediaVillage.com that the network scrapped the show because of "a loss of quality and a sense the problems would continue."
Joss Whedon took his world-building to outer space with this series. "Firefly," which was set in the year 2517 after a universe-wide civil war, followed the nine-person crew aboard Serenity, a Firefly-class vessel. When pitching the show, Joss famously referred to it as "nine people looking into the blackness of space and seeing nine different things." The Western-meets-outer space drama series only ran for one season between 2002 to 2003 and was canceled due to low ratings that were in part because of poor promotion, disorganized air dates and an unfortunate time slot. What made this abrupt cancelation more palatable, however, was the fact that fans did get a conclusion to their beloved space Western in the form of a feature film. 2005's "Serenity" offered a satisfying, epic end to the series that likely wouldn't have had the same impact if done in episodic form.
Not all Joss Whedon shows had the same longevity as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel." "Dollhouse," which premiered in 2009 on FOX, followed the life of Echo — an "Active" whose original memories are completely surrendered to a secret facility that uses her as a blank slate to further its own agenda. But their plans go awry when Echo suddenly grows cognizant of who she is and what's been happening to her. It was a pretty intricate concept, but what resulted was a stellar season full of thoughtfully woven stories and well-rounded characters. Whedonverse alum Eliza Dushku showed off her acting chops and proved that she could be more than just a bad-girl slayer. In a 2012 interview with syfy.com, Joss explained why the show was ultimately canceled after its first season. "Basically, the show didn't really get off the ground because the network pretty much wanted to back away from the concept five minutes after they bought it," he said. "And then ultimately, the show itself is also kind of odd and difficult to market. I actually think they did a good job, but it's just not a slam-dunk concept."
Don't let the name put you off — this was an exceptional series that had the misfortune of coming to a premature end. Based loosely on the acclaimed musical "My Fair Lady," 2014's "Selfie" aired on ABC's primetime schedule for seven episodes and starred Karen Gillan and John Cho as, respectively, a self-absorbed social media influencer whose way of thinking is completely turned upside down after she meets Henry, a marketing whiz who helps her experience life beyond the digital world. If you've ever seen "My Fair Lady" then you likely know what ends up happening between our two leads — but even so, the show was still endearing and charming. It's cancellation was a particularly disappointing one as it was the only show at the time that featured an Asian American actor as a romantic lead. This was huge, because the series not only normalized the idea of an interracial couple but also put an Asian actor in a role that wasn't typecast.
"Everything Sucks," a coming-out comedy set in the '90s, followed the life of Kate Messner, a young teen journeying toward self-acceptance after coming to terms with her sexual identity. Created by "Like Crazy" and "Save the Date" filmmakers Ben York Jones and Michael Mohan, the 2018 show had the makings of a long-lasting television series — a thoughtful concept, talented young actors and well-written storylines. Still, it was short-lived and came to an unfortunate end after just one 10-episode season. According to Netflix, the show had to go due to the lack of audience commitment to finishing it. Netflix's original content VP Cindy Holland explained at one of the Television Critics Association events that year that "because we were seeing a much lower completion rate of the whole season, we realized that it is very unlikely that we would be able to grow the audience, move a whole new audience through the show and have a large enough audience to justify a season 2."
Before she was Renata Klein on HBO's "Big Little Lies," Laura Dern was Amy Jellicoe — a self-destructive corporate exec, who, after suffering a humiliating mental breakdown, checks into a treatment center where she develops a more enlightened approach to life — on the network's "Enlightened." The only problem? Amy's new perspective seems to stir up the lives of everyone back home. While it was met with critical acclaim and even resulted in a best actress in a TV musical or comedy series win for Laura at the 2012 Golden Globes, HBO ultimately pulled the plug due to low ratings. The Mike White-created series premiered on HBO in 2011 and ran for just two seasons.
"Watchmen," which was seen as a modern-day continuation of the graphic novel with the same name, premiered on HBO in October 2019 and completed its nine-episode run that December. The series picked up in a modern-day, racist Tulsa, Oklahoma, and was set in an alternate history where superheroes are seen as criminals. Following a brutal white supremacist attack on the town's police department, the two surviving cops are granted the ability to conceal their true identities behind masks — allowing them to protect themselves as well as bring back vigilantism. The show, while an utter success with critics and fans, isn't returning for a second season because creator Damon Lindelof was hard-set on telling a story with a complete and definite end. Fans who mourned the exceptional series when it concluded can take solace in the fact that as far its creator is concerned, it played out exactly how it was meant to.