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Gone Too Soon: TV's Best Cancelled Shows

Updated on April 18, 2011

The worst part of the medium of television is how many highly regarded programs, critically acclaimed, are cancelled after only one or two years.

The way that certain shows spend ten seasons on the air despite being stupid has always bothered me.

These four series, in chronological order, are perfect examples of good shows that left the tube far too soon:

SQUARE PEGS, (CBS), 1982-1983: 1 season, 20 episodes

This sitcom about two nerdy girls trying to socially find their way in high school quickly became the rage among me, my peers, and millions of others because it fitted perfectly with the times, complete with the preppy/Valley Girl speak ("Oh my god, like for sure!") and the new wave music ("Totally different head - totally!").

Even though she was already famous for playing Annie on Broadway, who would have thought that Sarah Jessica Parker, who played the wallflower among the nerdy girls, complete with the thick glasses, would go on to win two Emmy awards as Carrie Bradshaw in Sex And The City and become an international icon?

To say that Parker became a huge star would be an understatement.

And if that wasn't enough, any TV show that had as guest stars John Densmore of the Doors and new wave icons Devo automatically makes it a classic; it was most unfortunate that there were reports of alleged drug use on the set, which helped to kill the series.

BROOKLYN BRIDGE (CBS), 1991-1993: 2 seasons, 34 episodes

Set in Brooklyn in 1956 and '57, this was one show that should have stayed on the air for at least five seasons instead of having its time slot constantly being moved around and ultimately dumped; it was that excellent.

This sitcom, winning a Golden Globe award in 1992 and being nominated for an Emmy that same year, exquisitely depicted growing up in that New York City borough in the 50s; playing stickball in the streets, going to the candy store, and nurturing an extreme passion for the Dodgers, who were an institution there - at least until they moved to Los Angeles in 1958.

My favorite episode was the one where Alan Silver (the main character) and his family met his girlfriend and her family in a Chinese restaurant, the twist being that Silver was Jewish while his girlfriend was Catholic; inter-religious dating, much like interracial dating, was a big taboo in those days, and that episode was brilliant in showing those two families finding common ground.

Marion Ross, who played Silver's grandmother, was outstanding in her role as the family's matriarch. The fact that only 34 episodes were made just goes to show that there was no accounting for some people's tastes.

MY SO-CALLED LIFE (ABC), 1994-1995: 1 season, 19 episodes

The fact that this hour-long drama about adolescent angst was dropped after only one year was proof that ABC didn't give a care nor gave this show a real chance, despite much critical acclaim.

It also proved that the mainstream networks consider ratings, and the revenue that generates, as the only thing that matters, giving that far more importance over the quality of a show; Time Magazine named this one-year wonder among "The 100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME" in an issue.

As the main protagonist Angela Chase, Claire Danes was tremendous in her portrayal of a teenager trying to figure things out. Like Sarah Jessica Parker, she went on to star in various films and win an Emmy and a Golden Globe for HBO's Temple Grandin, playing the autistic academic who revolutionized the way cows were treated in slaughter houses.

This show was so well regarded, there was a big campaign among its fans to stop the cancellation, with folks writing letters and things like that. It unfortunately didn't work, however, as like the mean girl winning homecoming queen over the sweet and shy girl who deserved it more, good sense did not triumph.

FREAKS AND GEEKS (NBC), 1999-2000: 1 season, 18 episodes

This high school drama, set in a suburb outside of Detroit during the 1980-81 school year, should have lasted 80 episodes instead of 18 but for the fact that NBC, in its wisdom, didn't care at all that Freaks And Geeks had a dedicated group of fans and was adored by critics.

It ranked number three among the greatest TV shows of the 2000s by Time Magazine, and was #13 among the best series of the past 25 years according to Entertainment Weekly.

Add to that the names that this series produced, which included among the "freaks" Linda Cardellini, who went on to star in ER for six seasons and played Velma in the Scooby-Doo movies, and James Franco, who earned an Oscar nomination for "127 Hours" and co-hosted the recent Oscar telecast, and you had a very entertaining program which didn't deserve its fate.

I understand that it's a fact of television life that ratings and money rule the day in the world of networks, but it still bugs the hell out of me when I think about what might have been if these quality shows were given a chance to grow and not get dumped because it failed to get a 55 share in the first week.

It's a good thing that HBO and other cable stations care about quality - The Sopranos was a true classic, and I can't wait for the new season of True Blood, highly anticipating its arrival.

Meanwhile, it's my hope that these great shows that were listed here will be shown as reruns on TNT, Nick At Nite's TV Land, or some station like that one day - MTV famously showed My So-Called Life a few years ago and Freaks And Geeks is currently being shown on the Independent Film Channel - so I'll have something enjoyable to watch instead of the crap that's on the air today.


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    • pelt545 profile image

      pelt545 6 years ago from Hampton Roads, VA

      Of course, I hated when Cold Case (CBS, 2003-2010), Charlie's Angels (ABC, 2011), Lopez Tonight (TBS, 2009-2011), and other darn good shows went off permanently.

      I realize that this happens because of tired actors, low ratings, etc.

      What can I and other viewers do about it? Just embrace and appreciate what we receive.