Posterity's a funny old thing. You watch a show and think "Sweet, funny, cute, no big deal," but then, when it gets cut and you watch mediocre series after mediocre series, you realize, wait a second. That show was downright incredible. Suddenly, you're fuming at the muppet who made that decision. Thus, this list of shows that should have never been canceled. Because my memory is long, and I'm still mad about many of these.
Perhaps that's short-sighted of me, however. After all, many of these shows were given the axe not due to one evil anti-great-television TV exec, but due to factors conspiring against the shows. A writers' strike, for example, or inauspicious timing coinciding with peak baseball season.
Besides which, as many of the below prove, if your show drums up a stubbornly loyal set of fans, goodbye doesn't have to mean saying farewell forever. In many of the cases below, the growing cult appeal of shows have ended up given us reboots a decade later or movie sequels half-funded by the fans themselves. So don't underestimate your power as a viewer. If you're seriously determined and have access to email or writing paper or Twitter, there's still hope.
The grandaddy of shows that should have never been canceled. The "are you kidding me?" of cancellations. For a start, Joss Whedon was involved. For a second, the genre — space western drama — was as awesome as it sounds. For a third, the premise explored ethics and space via a group of people who were on the losing side in a civil war and who now live on the margins of their own society in a spaceship called Serenity. It got nixed after just one season.
2'My So-Called Life'
The fact that this aired for just 19 episodes prior to cancellation is a travesty. While this show had an incredibly strong cast (Claire Danes and Jared Leto, for goodness sake) and great reviews, according to Mental Floss, it also had that a competitive airing slot, playing on Thursday nights at 8 p.m. against Friends, Mad About You, Martin and Living Single.
The very fact that it's getting a 2017 reboot is testimony to the enduring appeal of this show. It was one of the top-rated shows in 1990, but, after ratings plummeted in 1991 following the major mystery of the show being resolved, it got canceled following its second season. These episodes may be a little weird and whimsical, but they're still leagues ahead of most primetime programming today.
After three seasons cooed over by the critics but with low ratings, the CW pulled the plug. Fans campaigned for seven years for a movie sequel and then the show's creator, Rob Thomas, tweeted that if fans would pledge $2 million by 11 p.m. Friday, April 12, Warner Bros. would produce a Veronica Mars movie for limited release and cover the marketing, promotion, and distribution costs. The Kickstarter campaign broke records, raising $1 million just four hours after it launched and went on to raise $6 million in total.
Another Rob Thomas show that got cruelly cut was this one. Boasting the likes of Jane Lynch, Adam Scott, and Lizzy Caplan as a team of caterers in L.A., there's no way this show should have been axed after just two seasons due to low ratings.
6'Freaks And Geeks'
Who in their right mind stops production on this show after just one season? James Franco, Seth Rogen, Busy Phillips, and Jason Segel all star in this show about a mathlete starting to hang out with the slackers in her high school. But according to NME, its time slot was just one of the factors working against it; it played on Saturday, at 8 p.m., when its target audience would probably be out having fun.
Even the best premise ever — a pie maker who can bring the dead back to life just by touching them — wasn't enough to save this show from an early grave. Axed after just two seasons due to low ratings, it still scooped up a whole treasure trove of awards, including six Emmys.
Set round a 19th century South Dakota gold-mine, the show received critical acclaim, mostly for David Milch's writing and Ian McShane's performance as Al Swearengen. Rolling Stone called it one of the best TV shows of all time. So, seriously, why call it a day on this after just three seasons?
9'Clarissa Explains It All'
Weirdly, this cult favorite was never canceled for low ratings, but because, at almost 17, the titular character was getting too old to appeal to Nickelodeon's target audience. Creator Mitchell Kriegman said “In their defense, they had a rigid idea about the age range. In those days, Nickelodeon stopped at 14 and MTV started at 15 or 16, and there was no middle ground... They felt she was way too old for the network. And I just felt like she could’ve kept going, and there wasn’t really a reason to stop from any perspective. I think people would have stuck with her.” Damn right they could have kept going.
10'Buffy The Vampire Slayer'
Given the entire cast appeared on the cover of Entertainment Weekly in 2017, I'd say that 14 years later, we've still got Slayer fever. Yes, there were seven seasons and a whole ton of spin-off material (comic books, video games, novels), but still.
This compelling criminal justice drama focused on two brothers, one sentenced to death for a crime he didn't do and one who devised a plan to get him out of prison and clear his name. While its fifth season is airing currently (FOX brought it back), its return just confirms one thing: it didn't need to be canceled in the first place.
The ultimate tragic TV cancellation story, this post-apocalyptic drama got taken off the air after just one season. When its committed fans rallied for its return, it got brought back for a second season before being canceled anew. Is there any justice in this world?
13'Life On Mars'
The U.S. version of the British show focuses on a police officer who time travels back to the '70s, but it got ditched after just one season. And that sucked, given how much affection critics had for the show (the New York Times called its premiere episode "strange and exhilarating").
These shows had it all: a passionate audience, the love of high-profile critics and a great idea. I still wish they'd never got canceled, but maybe if we keep loving them enough then we can get them all rebooted or remade.