Not every TV show is like “Grey’s Anatomy” (15 seasons and counting). Some of our favorite shows are lucky to get a sophomore year — and many of them end long before that.
In most cases, TV shows are canceled because ratings aren’t high enough to justify the cost to the network of keeping them on air. But that doesn’t make it any easier to say goodbye to a show that’s been the highlight of your TV viewing, week after week.
Here are some canceled TV shows that deserve another chance. Get ready for a nostalgia trip.
‘Better Off Ted’ (2009-2010)
ABC’s satirical sitcom “Better Off Ted,” which starred Jay Harrington, Portia de Rossi and Andrea Anders, received critical acclaim, but the viewing figures didn’t match up.
The show’s creator told Vulture, “I still feel there’s an audience out there for it, because I know that the people who liked it, liked it a lot.”
One devastated fan, who describes it as “the greatest TV show that has ever aired,” even started a petition to bring it back.
In 2015, NBC canceled “Hannibal” — based on Thomas Harris’ novels “Red Dragon,” “Hannibal” and “Hannibal Rising” — after three seasons due to low ratings. Nonetheless, it remains a firm favorite of fans of horror TV, who may be thrilled to learn that not all hope is lost. Lead actor Mads Mikkelsen told Bloody Disgusting in early 2019 that the show’s creator, Bryan Fuller, was in talks to bring it back.
Fans of the feature film reboot “Limitless” only enjoyed one season before it was canceled, with CBS chief Glenn Geller claiming it “didn’t connect” with audiences. However, there was such a buzz around the comedy-drama series that the network offered it to Amazon and Netflix in the hope it would get picked up for a second season. Alas, they both passed, and the fate of “Limitless” was sealed.
‘Pushing Daisies’ (2007-2009)
Bryan Fuller’s comedy-drama series “Pushing Daisies,” starring Anna Friel and Lee Pace, was a hit with critics and won a slew of awards, including seven Primetime Emmy Awards. But after its initial success, it was canceled after two seasons due to falling ratings. Since 2010, rumors of a comic book series, a graphic novel and a spin-off movie have circulated, but the show has yet to be revived.
The cancellation of Joss Whedon’s “Firefly” — after only 14 episodes — way back in 2002 is still a sore spot for sci-fi fans. The show was supposed to run for years, but it never really had a fighting chance due to poor promotion, episodes being aired out of sequence and being given the Friday night “death slot.” In spite of all this, “Firefly” had huge potential due to a strong cast (including Nathan Fillion and Morena Baccarin) and a unique premise (a Western sci-fi).
‘Santa Clarita Diet’ (2017-2019)
After three seasons, Netflix canceled its original series “Santa Clarita Diet,” which stars Drew Barrymore as realtor-turned-zombie Sheila Hammond. Millions of fans demanded to know why, because it wasn’t due to quality — Rotten Tomatoes gave the third season a ranking of 100 percent. It may simply be an example of Netflix’s tendency to run shows for only two or three seasons. Timothy Olyphant, who executive-produced and starred in the show (he played Sheila’s husband Joel), remained defiant, saying in a statement posted on the show’s official Instagram page: “I loved working on this show. I’m going to continue coming in and doing scenes. If they don’t want to film it, that’s up to them.”
‘Freaks and Geeks’ (1999-2000)
Another cult classic, “Freaks and Geeks” was canceled after only one season on NBC, much to the disappointment of a new generation of fans who discovered it on Netflix and despite glowing reviews from critics. Screen Rant said its Saturday night time slot and lack of consecutive weekly time slots meant it was “basically destined for failure.” It was only after a huge outcry from fans that NBC even aired the last few episodes.
‘The Finder’ (2012)
A spin-off of “Bones,” Fox show “The Finder” starred Geoff Stults as Walter Sherman, a man with the unique ability to find anything due to a traumatic brain injury. It impressed fans with its interesting characters but left them frustrated with its bizarre cliffhanger finale. This was definitely a show that could have been explored on a deeper level over at least three seasons.
‘The Grinder’ (2015-2016)
Fans of Fox’s legal comedy series “The Grinder” loved the chemistry between Fred Savage and Rob Lowe, but the show was canceled after only one season. However, Lowe gave devotees a reason to be hopeful in 2017 when he told The Huffington Post that the show could return in some capacity.
“Too many people liked it,” he said. “It was such a good show.”
When asked if he’d be up for starring in a remake, he replied, “In a minute.”
‘Emily Owens, M.D.’ (2012-2013)
The medical drama series “Emily Owens, M.D.,” with Mamie Gummer in the titular role, was canceled after only 13 episodes on The CW. Without even getting a full first season, fans understandably felt short-changed, wondering what the future held for Owens and her fellow Denver Memorial Hospital interns.
“There were so many undeveloped plotlines and characters that seemed so promising, but that were squandered before they got their chance to shine,” wrote Sydney Bucksbaum on Hollywood.com.
‘My So-Called Life’ (1994)
After only one 19-episode season, ABC canceled “My So-Called Life” due to low ratings. It had fierce competition in its Thursday 8 p.m. time slot with “Friends” and “Mad About You.” Not only that but Claire Danes, who won a Golden Globe for Best Actress – Television Series Drama for her role as angsty teenager Angela Chase, was reportedly reluctant to sign up for another season. According to Bess Armstrong, who played Angela’s mom Patty, the creators “didn’t know what to do with the show.”
“I felt like Cassandra in Troy running around saying ‘I know this is great! You’re going to regret this!’” she told Vanity Fair.
‘Kyle XY’ (2006-2009)
A slump in ratings during the third season spelled the end of the teen sci-fi series “Kyle XY” on ABC Family. Viewers left disappointed by its cancellation were dealt another blow: The final episode didn’t wrap up all the loose ends, leaving several unresolved plotlines. Some consolation came via Julie Plec, who revealed what had been planned for future seasons (Andy and Josh would have finally gotten married and lived happily ever after). But that wasn’t enough for the show’s loyal fan base, who launched several petitions to bring it back.
‘Lie To Me’ (2009-2011)
After three seasons, Fox canceled its crime drama series “Lie to Me,” starring Tim Roth as Dr. Carl Lightman, “the world’s leading deception expert.” This deprived fans the chance of enjoying a crossover with “Bones” or “Castle” — something Roth was enthusiastic about in a 2010 interview.
“If we get to a fourth season, it might be a fun time to do that, just to see who’s around and who we can play with,” he said.
Sadly, that fourth season wasn’t to be.
‘The Mick’ (2017-2018)
Fox sitcom “The Mick,” starring Kaitlin Olson, was canceled after two seasons for the same old reason: ratings. The show was “new enough to have plenty of room to grow,” argued The Wrap, and fans agreed. The general consensus was that “The Mick” was funnier than “Two and a Half Men,” which aired for 12 seasons. Go figure.
After Judd Apatow’s “Freaks and Geeks” was canceled, he was determined to keep the cast and crew employed, and the result was “Undeclared.” When it was also binned after only 17 episodes, Apatow didn’t take the news well. He framed a glowing review of the show and sent it to Fox, together with a note containing some pretty choice language.
Fans of action sci-fi drama “Jericho” didn’t take its first cancellation well. In fact, they were so angry, they sent various CBS executives in both Los Angeles and New York nearly 40,000 pounds of peanuts to protest — inspired by the season one finale cliffhanger, which ends with one word from the protagonist Jake Green (played by Skeet Ulrich): “Nuts.” This made the network reconsider their decision and “Jericho” returned for a shortened second season, but its fans couldn’t stop it from facing the chop the next time around.
‘Party Down’ (2009-2010)
“Party Down,” the comedy series following a group of Los Angeles caterers trying to make it as Hollywood stars, was well-received by critics but suffered from low ratings. Lizzy Caplan, who played struggling comedian Casey Klein, expressed her frustration in an interview with Uproxx.
“We were always kind of told ratings didn’t matter, that we were making a tiny, low-budget show,” she said. “You would think acclaim made up for a lack of ratings.”
WB’s sci-fi series “Roswell” ran for three seasons but might have ended sooner had it not been for its devoted fan base. Various campaigns kept the show on the air, such as “Roswell is Hot!” Fans started an online petition and sent over 3,000 bottles of Tabasco sauce (a favorite of the alien teen characters) to the network. Unfortunately, all the hot sauce in the world couldn’t secure a fourth season.
‘Ugly Betty’ (2006-2010)
Four seasons of “Ugly Betty” weren’t enough for the show’s hardcore fans, and today it still has a huge cult following. Rumors of a spin-off movie persist, with several of the show’s stars responding positively. In 2011, America Ferrera, who played Betty, said on perezhilton.com that a movie was “something that’s always a possibility, and it’s wonderful to know that the fans want it.”
‘Being Erica’ (2009-2011)
“Being Erica,” starring Erin Karpluk as Erica Strange, wasn’t officially canceled by CBC. The show’s creator, Jana Sinyor, simply felt that the storyline had reached its natural conclusion. She told TVLine.com that the fourth and final season was intended to “tie up any loose ends and to give the audience closure.” The show’s legacy lives on, however. In 2017, CBC celebrated “Being Erica” for continuing to dismantle “myths of young womanhood.”
‘Dead Like Me’ (2003-2004)
Comedy-drama series “Dead Like Me,” starring Ellen Muth and Mandy Patinkin as Seattle-based grim reapers, was woefully short-lived. But it made a huge impact in a short time, and fans continue to ask for a reboot. Film Daily described it as “easily one of the most undervalued and unique TV gems of its time.”
‘Almost Human’ (2013-2014)
“Almost Human,” Fox’s cop-drama series set in 2048, couldn’t sustain its early high viewing figures and was canceled after only one season. CinemaBlend echoed the thoughts of the show’s dedicated fan base, writing that it was one of Fox’s “most promising and entertaining series.”
Acknowledging that “we long for an era when networks would allow shows to grown,” Screen Rant added that “in this climate, big projects need to get big results and that just didn’t happen with ‘Almost Human.’”
‘The Mysteries of Laura’ (2014-2016)
Comedy-drama series “The Mysteries of Laura,” starring Debra Messing as NYPD homicide detective Laura Diamond, was canceled by NBC after two seasons. Despite mixed reviews, the show had a strong fan base — in a TVLine poll, 50% begged the network to bring it back. After its cancellation was announced, Messing tweeted a heartfelt message for the fans, writing, “Our story has ended but it was a joyous story to tell. We are all so grateful to you for your love.”
Joss Whedon, the creator of Fox’s sci-fi series “Dollhouse,” spoke at length about why the show was canceled before the second season had even ended, and he placed the blame firmly at Fox’s door.
“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 told SYFY.
In an interview with Assignment X, executive producer Tim Minear gave fans a glimpse of what a third season of “Dollhouse” could have delivered.
“It would have been a little bit more like ‘Buffy’ in some ways,” he said.
‘Veronica Mars’ (2004-2007)
You know a TV show has a seriously loyal following when its fans give themselves a name. In the case of Rob Thomas’ “Veronica Mars,” starring Kristen Bell as the titular teen sleuth, the “Marshmallows” were truly devoted. But their passion for the mystery drama had less power than its disappointing viewing figures, and it was canceled after three seasons.
Fans weren’t willing to give up, however, and when Thomas started a Kickstarter for a “Veronica Mars” film, they made it happen. The movie was released in 2014. Then, in 2018, rumors of a “Veronica Mars” revival picked up steam. The long-awaited fourth season was recently released on Hulu.
Which just goes to show that, hey, there’s always a chance!