Many great TV shows are marked by Emmy wins, multiple season orders, and plenty of positive critical reception. But this isn’t always the case — some series are simply canceled way too soon, and not given the chance they deserve.
While plenty of terrible shows get picked up over and over again, these series were greatly underappreciated. From unique sitcoms to period dramas, here are 17 accalimed TV shows that you (and the networks) probably slept on.
17. My So-Called Life
Following Claire Danes’s Angela Chase as she navigated the ups and downs of high school, My So-Called Life was, on the surface, nothing special. But it didn’t receive critical praise and cult status following its cancellation for nothing: There was a heart and truth to the series that rang true with so many that it has maintained its place on lists of the best TV series for more than two decades.
It’s hard to believe there was a time before teen-centric programming was a thing, but in the mid-‘90s, this was only just beginning to change. My So-Called Life came about at just that time, and despite the show’s fantastic critical reception, the ratings just weren’t there. It was canceled after one 19-episode season, despite fan efforts to keep it going.
Almost exactly one year before the exposés on Harvey Weinstein ushered in the #MeToo movement and a societal awakening surrounding sexual assault, an MTV series titled Sweet/Vicious premiered. The show followed a college student, Jules, who becomes a vigilante for sex crime victims on campus, who’s soon joined by her unlikely partner-in-crime, Ophelia.
Sounds intriguing? It should — and it did — to so many, resonating with men and women alike. Critics were also enthralled, and after the 10-episode first season was over, we demanded more. But, as they often do, low ratings equals cancellation. Apparently, Sweet/Vicious was just ahead of the times.
15. Make It Or Break It
Before there was Pretty Little Liars, there was Make It or Break It, a tantalizing teen drama about the cutthroat world of gymnastics. It featured a group of girls who were friends one second, and then enemies the next, as they vied for the same slots on the U.S. Olympic team. So it was PLL, but with less murder and more athleticism.
Despite airing first, ABC Family (now Freeform) was all about that other teen show from the get-go, and MIOBI received less love from the network, and thus was shuffled around in the lineup. It received a shortened third season to wrap things up, but was canceled after that.
14. Veronica Mars
The UPN-WB merger was hard on a lot of shows, but few were more deserving than Veronica Mars. This teen drama was part procedural, part noir-mystery, part teen drama, and all-around entertaining. But when the eponymous character went off to college in the third season, the narrative shift caused it to lose some fans, and it was canceled.
There was some redemption for devoted Marshmallows (VM fans): A feature film, funded by a Kickstarter campaign, was released seven years later. And while it certainly delivered, it didn’t completely make up for The CW dropping the ball back in 2007.
13. Pushing Daisies
It’s kind of amazing that, despite winning numerous Emmys, a series can still be so underappreciated by its network. Pushing Daisies was one of the most unique shows to ever air: It was a comedy, a mystery, occasionally a musical, and, on top of all of that, stunningly filmed. It was called “a forensic fairy tale” by some.
It also featured immense talents, such as Lee Pace and Kristin Chenoweth. However, after two seasons and just 22-episodes, it was canceled. There has been talk of reviving the series as a musical, but this has been thus far unrealized. WE’LL WAIT.
12. Freaks and Geeks
In the vein of My So-Called Life, Freaks and Geeks was a teen show simply about surviving high school. But this time, it’s a comedy, and looks at the two teenagers of one family and their very different groups of friends.
The show is responsible for introducing so many frequent collaborators: Creator Paul Feig, executive producer Judd Apatow, and stars James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, and many more of the ensemble cast have gone on to have impressive careers, often in conjunction with one another. So in a way, it’s bittersweet: Despite only getting 18 episodes of the series back in 1999 into 2000, the series paved the way for some of the greatest comedic projects of the last two decades.
11. The Crazy Ones
It seemed like a perfect storm of TV entertainment: A sitcom, starring the hilarious Robin Williams, the incomparable Sarah Michelle Gellar, and up-and-coming talents like James Wolk, who must just look like he works in advertising as he landed this gig shortly after exiting Mad Men. The workplace comedy about a father-daughter duo and their legal associates was fun, snappy, and heartwarming when it needed to be.
But unfortunately, the ratings were only so-so, and the network didn’t have enough faith in the series to give it another go. What’s even sadder about this is that it was Robin Williams’ final small-screen role before his 2014 death.
10. Good Girls Revolt
Speaking of Mad Men, if you ever wondered what a feminist version of the series focused on journalism would look like, then you might want to check out Good Girls Revolt. The drama series was based on the true events of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s during the women’s lib and civil rights movements, chronicling how female researchers began to rebel against the patriarchal systems in place.
Despite having a lot more story to tell, and receiving much acclaim and solid viewership, the series was canceled by Amazon after one measly season. So, why did this happen? Allegedly, then-president of Amazon Studios, Roy Price, wasn’t a fan. Interestingly enough, during the beginning of the Harvey Weinstein reckoning and the #MeToo movement, Price quit — amid sexual harassment claims. Doesn’t seem like a coincidence that he was responsible for axing the show about strong women?
9. Recovery Road
Every so often, a series tries to set out on some seriously uncharted territory. But unfortunately, this more often than not fails to truly take off — as was the case with Recovery Road.
The teen drama series was about a teenage girl who is partying much too hard, and her mother sends her to a treatment center. There, she befriends other teen addicts, and she’s introduced to many other walks of life. The series worked to show the struggle to balance your old relationships with your new ones, the specific struggles facing teens (and a few adults) as they work toward maintaining sobriety, and a lot more. It was met with mostly favorable reviews, but the numbers weren’t high enough to warrant a second season.
What’s interesting about this series is how closely it ties in with many of our favorites today. Dollhouse is a sci-fi drama that takes place in the not-so-distant future, in which the wealthy are able to hire “Dolls” — humans whose memories have been wiped clean and so they are able to be “programmed” to meet various needs. (Yes, there are some serious Westworld vibes to it.)
The series, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon, didn’t do well in the first season, and so an “epitaph” season finale was aired. When it was renewed for a second season (which did considerably better than the first), they had to go back and show how the world was heading toward the one seen in that finale. The final episode of the series was a second epitaph that brought things back around with a satisfying conclusion, but if given more freedom, who knows what else this world could have brought us?
7. Party Down
Following Veronica Mars’ ax, creator Rob Thomas teamed up with Paul Rudd (and a few others) to create a workplace comedy about caterers in Hollywood, most of whom are trying to make it in the industry themselves. Starring Adam Scott, Jane Lynch, and Lizzy Caplan, all just before their biggest TV breaks, the Starz series was a critical hit.
Of course, the ratings don’t always reflect that, as is the case here. And after Lynch left for Glee and Scott was about to leave for Parks and Recreation, it probably felt like time to wrap it up. Still, the series, which also features plenty of amazing guest stars, is very rewatchable, and probably had a couple more good seasons in it if Starz had put the effort in.
Review was a surprisingly dark mockumentary comedy starring Andy Daly as Forrest MacNeil, who wishes to answer this question: “Life, it’s literally all we have. But is it any good?” That really paints the tone of the show for you — the character “reviews” life experiences, some with devastating consequences, with complete and total seriousness.
The series has many ups and downs, but it’s always absolutely hilarious, even when it’s kind of sad. After one nine-episode season and a second 10-episode one, the show went on a year-plus hiatus, only to return for a third season that ended jarringly after just three episodes. It was one of the most unique things on TV, and, chances are, we’ll never see anything quite like it again.
5. Arrested Development
Three season isn’t exactly an unsuccessful run, but for a show as beloved as Arrested Development, it’s still fairly shocking that Fox didn’t renew it for a fourth in 2006. But, as we all know, it was given a second life on Netflix.
The sitcom about a family that bears a striking resemblance to the Trumps was widely acclaimed during its first run, and even won a few Emmys. However, its revival fourth season — which took several years to come to fruition — couldn’t quite match the tone of the original.
As it turns out, Joss Whedon and Fox didn’t mix very well. Before Dollhouse, there was Firefly, a “space western” about a group of renegades living 500 years in the future after the colonization of new star systems and planets (Earth is referred to as “Earth-that-was”). They take up odd (often illegal) jobs transporting cargo, and end up as major government targets due to one very unique passenger.
Firefly has since achieved cult status, but at the time, it was poorly treated. Episodes were aired out of order, and there was a lot of contention between the creatives and the network. It was canceled before all 14 episodes aired, however, it was eventually given a proper send-off — a couple of years later, the feature-length film Serenity wrapped things up.
As with plenty of others on this list, Selfie was misunderstood. The title turned off viewers when, in fact, it was a joke: The series is meant to poke fun at the social media generation, which is cleverly woven into the story of Pygmalion/My Fair Lady. It’s a story that’s been updated before, and it was due for another modern take.
Of course, this wasn’t all completely visible from the show’s marketing on ABC, and so many opted out on what looked like just another millennial sitcom. After only seven of the first season’s 13 episodes aired, it was yanked from ABC’s lineup, and those episodes, along with the remaining six, were released on Hulu.
2. The LA Complex
Dramas about young adults are in abundance, but The L.A. Complex, which aired on the The CW in the U.S., was a little different, as it showed the lives of struggling artists in Hollywood. It was also unique in that both seasons of the show were taped concurrently, and all aired in the same year.
Despite a simple premise, the series was hailed as smart and intriguing and garnered positive critical reviews. However, without ratings to match, it was canceled following the second season.
1. Happy Endings
Ask almost any TV critic what show they want back on air, and they’ll reply “Happy Endings.” The single-camera sitcom aired for three seasons on ABC before it was kicked to the curb, due almost entirely to the poor decisions of the network.
Where to begin? The first season’s episodes were aired completely out of order. In fact, if you try to watch the show on Hulu even today, they’re in the wrong order (here’s how you should watch them). The second season saw even better ratings — and then came the third season, during which there was so much shuffling around by ABC that it’s basically impossible to summarize how ridiculous it was. Unsurprisingly, it was canceled after that, and despite a lot of effort on the part of the fans, it has yet to be resurrected.