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Best Cancelled Shows… Ever

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As I was randomly hopping around the internet, I came across this article, in which a bunch of people I don’t know lay down their picks for the top five cancelled TV series. Well, I figure I’m just as qualified to compile such as list as anyone, so here are my picks, in reverse order:

5. Probe (ABC, 1988) — 10 bucks says you’ve never even heard of this series, which only aired 7 episodes. This show was the brainchild of Isaac Asimov, in which a scientific genius and his secretary go around solving seemingly paranormal crimes–all of which turn out to have rational, scientifc explanations. Think The X-Files, but with no conspiracies, aliens, or supernatural beings.

4. Nowhere Man (UPN, 1995-1996) — Greatest conspiracy show ever. The first season featured Thomas Vail, whose life has been seemingly “erased” after he displays a disturbing photograph. The series chronicled his attempts to get his life back, while simultaneously helping the people who come across his way. Think The Prisoner combined with The Incredible Hulk–only with no psychedelic effects or green-skinned monsters. Also, it may have had the most mind-blowing season ending moment of all time. And we never got another episode.

3. The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (Fox, 1993-1994) — Bruce Campbell in the Old West as a bounty hunter, with John Astin as his nutty scientist friend. What’s not to love?

2. The John Larroquette Show (NBC, 1993-1996) — The first season of The John Larroquette Show was one of the best sitcoms ever. It was dark, cynical, intelligent, witty, and hysterical. Although the show spanned four seasons, it was essentially cancelled after the first when network execs took out everything that made the show unique.

1. Firefly (Fox, 2002) — The best gorram space opera. Ever. Gone, but not dead yet–it’s currently #6 in DVD sales on Amazon, and the movie based on the show hits theaters on September 30. Mark your calendars, browncoats!

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Quantum Leap, Angel, Crusade, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, Get a Life, Clerks: The Animated Series, and no doubt a host of others. What would you put on the list?

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About Alex Knapp

  • Any top five has to include Freaks and Geeks, the only cancelled series that could conceivably push “Firefly” from the top position.

    Honorable mention: “The Lone Gunmen” and “Brimstone”

  • I always remembered Kindred: The Embrace for some reason. It only lasted 8 episodes, but I loved it.

    And I thought I was the only one who seemed to like “Nowhere Man”.

    Oh, and does “Futurama” count? It ran for 5 seasons but I still think it was canceled prematurely.

  • Ever heard of Get a Life, starring Chris Elliot? Hilarious sitcom on Fox, axed by their head asshole Barry Diller, who hated it. One of the funniest shows ever.

  • Oops — just noticed the Honorable Mention. Well, that’s better than nothing.

  • Oh, I just remembered a few more:

    Phenom” (1993) – it was a sitcom about a tennis phenom. Hilarity ensues.

    “The Ben Stiller Show” (1992-1993) – It only lasted 12 episodes.

    My So-Called Life” (1994) – It was a show that a lot of teenagers could relate to I think. Perhaps it was just ahead of it’s time.

  • Ed!

  • Anyone remember Manimal?

    It had that guy that was the shark hunter in Jaws 3-D. Actually, I don’t remember much about it… other than I thought it was extremely cool as a kid.

  • Back again with a few more:

    “Sports Night” (1998-2000) – This show had a lot of heart. Loved every episode.

    “The Job” (2001-2002) – I was never much of a fan of Dennis Leary but I realized the brilliance of this show.

    “Popular” (1999-2001) – Maybe it was teenage hormones coupled with Leslie Bibb and Carly Pope, but I enjoyed this show. It was sort of dark and satirical.

  • Nothing Sacred ” (1997-1998) – This show was the best publicity the good side of the Roman Catholic Church had had in ages. Too bad the Catholic League couldn’t grok that and viewers didn’t catch on. Among my favorite TV dramas ever.

  • i remember being severely bummed out when they cancelled The Paper Chase.

    but when was that? the late 70’s?

  • Oh, Firefly… I recently got turned on to this and spent two hours last night tracking down the DVD here in Little Rock. Finally found it at a Hastings. I’m so happy to see this here today!

  • “The Paper Chase” was another superb show; based on the 1973 film (which won John Houseman an Oscar), the TV series ran from 1978-1979. I was sad to see it go, and the Showtime re-do that ran from 1983-1989 wasn’t nearly as good as the original.

    Does anyone remember an NBC hour-long dramedy called “Tattinger’s” that ran in 1988 (the show had great writing and hunor, boasted fine performances, and projected a real sense of NY flavor, but after it didn’t catch fire with viewers, NBC turned it into a quite clever and witty half-hour show called “Nick and Hillary” that was really quite good, but at that point, the public just didn’t care. Too bad; I really enjoyed that one). It starred Stephen Collins and Blythe Danner.

  • the thing about the paper chase was that, because i had no experience i such matters, i thought that ALL college professors were going to be like that.

    i was worried sick on my first day of classes.

    then i found out, hey, they don’t give a crapola if i’m here or not!

    i vaguely remember tattingers. i used to have a thing for blythe danner.

  • Heh, I still do. Gwyneth is gorgeous, but she has nothing on her mom, who glowed like the stars in her dewy youth and still radiates incredible beauty today.

  • I think any fan of good TV who takes a look at the first several episodes of Firefly (which were never broadcast in the correct order during its run on Fox!) will agree that Firefly is “best cancelled” show of all time.

    Damn, is it September 30th yet?

  • Farscape is the best canceled show of all time.

  • Nick Jones

    Brimstone, starring Peter Horton as a detective released from Hell to be the Devil’s bounty hunter, chasing down damned souls who have escaped. With John Glover as the sometimes goofy, sometimes menacing Devil, the scripts took unexpected twists and turns, and threw the audience curveballs out of nowhere, like the Dutch Nazi who wants to be sent back to Hell, because he hasn’t paid enough for his sins. Also costarring the ever-yummy Teri Polo.

  • Among my picks are Brimstone, The Job and The Brotherhood of Poland, New Hampshire. The best show, however, has to be Farscape. That was so interesting on so many levels. Honorable mention goes to Twin Peaks. There were more tales to tell in that fascinating little Northwestern town.

  • I say the funniest show I ever saw was Hermans’ Head on Fox…

  • Are you referring to Roy Scheider when you spoke of Manimal? One small snafu. The star was Simon McCorkindale. That one role, however, was not one for the record books as a launch into viewing memory megahit.

  • We’re forgetting the greatness of Hello Larry! The show featured my first crush, Kim Richards, who is better known as Tia from Escape to Witch Mountain.

  • Well, I had been trying to forget. Thanks a lot, Mr. Battista.

  • Glad to see Sports Night and The Job get a mention

    Undeclared, freshman at college by Apatow

    Bakersfield PD, very funny, can be seen often on Trio

    Gideon’s Crossing, too smart for TV medical show, starring Andre Braugher

    Did Thirtysomething get cancelled?

  • billy

    in living color

  • remind me of firefly please someone?

    for about half the thread i was horrifically thinking you guys were pining for what i finally remembered as The Tick

  • Futurama. Hands down, the wildest thing ever to make the airwaves – it’s everything The Simpsons was in its first two years, squared. With mint sauce and an alien lobster.

  • godoggo

    Night Music and TV Nation

  • godoggo

    And the Richard Pryor Show

  • Another good one, cancelled too soon, was Max Headroom. Viewed with a squint, it might even be talking about the blogosphere…

  • I loved Philly, which was canceled after one season. My wife has hardly watched television since, she was so disappointed.

    But I would put Firefly at the top (er, bottom) of my list as well.

  • Did Max Headroom help some other (real life) dude solve crimes? I remember “him” much more as a cultural icon than as the actual television show.

  • Agree on Sports Night as well. Great show, funny, interesting, great writing, great cast. I’m glad that Peter Krause, at least, went onto greater fame on Six Feet Under.

  • they should bring back Cop Rock.

    c’mon, you KNOW you wanna see that again!

  • A few: Heartland which only lasted a few episodes on CBS back in the 80’s.
    Square Pegs which was a “totally different head”. It’s Your Move starring Jason Bateman as the ultimate brat kid. Quark with Richard Benjamin. More recently: Joan Of Arcadia. Definitely agree with Sports Night – my wife and I both enjoyed that show which is rare for us.
    I’ve also got to throw in a vote for Lobo.

  • Nick Jones

    The show with Chi McBride as a black member of Lincoln’s cabinet (The Something Something of Desmond Somthing).
    In one episode, Desmond catches Lincoln having ‘telegraph sex’ in the Oval Office. “Why…you’re just like some horny hillbilly…from Arkansas.” I busted a gut over that one.

  • Nick Jones

    Highcliff Manor. What Soap was to regular soap operas, Highcliff Manor was to Dark Shadows. Satirical and out there, it really pushed the envelope with some of its humor – which is probably why it only lasted 3 or 4 episodes.

    The same could probably be said for Good and Evil. Beyond starring Terri Garr as the Evil sister and some risky humor, I don’t remember much about this show.

  • jamesbondage

    I would have to say Futurama tops my list. I thought it was one of the smartest satirical shows on tv.

  • Nick Jones

    Definitely Farscape for me, too.

    Wonderland, set in a prison hospital for the criminally insane, a venue, to my knowledge, never before visited. Had a lot of potential. Two episodes.

    And The Tick. But not the live action version: I saw one episode, about a superheroine not being allowed into an all-male superheroes club, and I sat there asking myself, isn’t this issue about 25 years old? And that was enough for me.
    God(dess) grant that the animated The Tick is released on DVD someday, if it hasn’t already.

  • ‘Night Court’ was one of my favs.

  • Shark

    Colin Powell’s Powerpoint presentation before the U.N.

  • I agree with Freaks & Geeks and Undeclared. Judd Apatow makes great TV, although I was a little shocked to learn he was a producer for that horrible Anchorman movie with Will Ferrell. He’s making his directorial debut with the “40 Year-old Virgin” movie, which looks decent.

    One show from recent memory that was good and too brief was “The Job” on ABC, a cop comedy with attitude starring Dennis Leary.

    I can’t really remember any other good shows that had short runs.

    That is all.

  • JB

    Nowhere Man, Firefly, and QUANTUM LEAP. That episode where Sam goes back to try to save his brother in Vietnam was one of the best episodes of television!!

  • Baronius

    I think there were two Max Headroom shows. One was a hip interview show, the other was a dark futuristic adventure. The second one was clever and short-lived.

  • One show from recent memory that was good and too brief was “The Job” on ABC, a cop comedy with attitude starring Dennis Leary.

    That was a great show, but if it wasn’t cancelled would we have gotten the even better Rescue Me?
    Sometimes cancellations lead to better things….

    Same with castings, if Bruce Lee had gotten to do Kung Fu, we may not have gotten Enter the Dragon.

  • Dark Angel

    Also, I must put in a small plug for my hero Al Franken and Lateline.

  • Nick Jones

    Worst recent cancellation: Peter Jennings. R.I.P., eh?

  • nickel

    does anyone remember a show called midnight cafe??? im not even sure about the title of it. but it was on after wwf on the USA network in the early 90’s. i used to love the show but drugs have helped in removing it from my memory… til today. i remember the dude used to time travel thru the cafe doors or something… it was awesome.

    Firefly is rad. the movie Serenity comes out this month! im pumped

  • grizzam

    Undeclared, Freaks and Geeks, and My So-Called Life are all fantastic, so was Wonderfalls which aired four episodes on FOX a couple years ago, but you can now buy all thirteen episodes on DVD which I reccomend doing strongly.

  • Chris

    I can’t believe Love Monkey only ran 3 episodes. NBC execs seem to jump the gun on everything lately, including Three Wishes and a handful of other shows that lasted a max of 5 shows…how is a show supposed to find an audience when it barely lasts a month?!

  • Al

    Dead Like Me.

  • Angela

    Glad to see somebody else remembers “Probe”. This show has *such* potential and was cancelled after only a handful of eps.

  • Herman’s Head and Wiseguy…oh yeah…Miami Vice!

  • Patricia Hatt

    You silly people, you say the best EVER and if someone recalls a show from more than five years ago, you stare blankly. Yes, “Highcliff Manor” was one of the best sitcoms ever, and thus doomed to an early death. Who remembers “Unsub”? It was way before its forensic time, and even David Soul and M. Emmett Walsh couldn’t save it. And what of “Lucan”? Any thoughts on that?

  • Patrick J

    Greatest American Hero,
    Now and Again,
    (and now tragically) Journeyman

  • natalie

    1. Veronica Mars <<--Best Teen show in history, no lie!!!! 2. My So-Called Life 3. Popular 4. Once and Again 5. Freaks and Geeks 6. Nurses (only aired one episode, but had A LOT of potential. can be found on YouTube. Stars Eliza Dushku who also played Faith on Buffy and Missy in Bring it On) That's all I could think of right now.

  • chandler

    freaks and geeks
    arrested development
    pushing daisies
    the lone gunman

    hopefully i wont have to add chuck to this list.

  • Bryan Madison

    Sports Night.One Of The Greatest Half Hours in Television History!!