*NOTE* – Contains spoilers for some of these TV shows, continue at your own peril.
The American system of making television is one that is very different to over here in the UK. It is a much more commercial system which, for better or worse, is mainly interested in making money through selling advertising slots. This can mean that successful TV shows are dragged out long by their natural sell by date – just look at CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and its numerous spin offs as a prime example. However, it can also mean that shows which are perhaps more of a slow burner are for one reason or another cut down in their prime. Ratings are the dictating force on US networks, and if a show is failing to hit high levels of viewership it will be axed – a fate that has befallen many a good show. Here are five examples of American shows that were cancelled too soon…
5 – CLONE HIGH
What do the guys behind The Lego Movie (2014) and the creator of Scrubs have in common? The answer is Clone High – an animated MTV series that lasted for one season back in 2001-02. Phil Miller, Christopher Lord and Bill Lawrence all worked on the highly inventive series, which focused on a high school populated by clones of famous historical figures including Cleopatra, Abraham Lincoln, Joan of Arc and John F Kennedy.
It was an interesting premise, and the show was since gained a cult following, but upon its original airing it was dogged by a controversy over its depiction of Gandhi, which saw groups of people in India go on hunger strike in protest. The show never fully recovered and was hit with low ratings, leading to MTV cancelling the series in the face of mounting pressures.
4 – FREAKS & GEEKS
Freaks and Geeks is one of those shows that is hysterical to watch now because it features such a range of some of the biggest stars in comedy before they made their names. James Franco, Jason Segal and Seth Rogen all started out in Judd Apatow and Paul Feig’s (two of the biggest comedy directors in Hollywood today) sitcom set in the an early 1980’s American high school. It is also really worth watching because Biff from Back to the Future is in it (Thomas F Wilson plays Coach Ben Fredricks).
The show followed the lives of ‘freaks’ Lindsay (Linda Cardellini) and co. and her brother Sam (John Frances Daley) and his friends, the ‘geeks’. Whilst it might seem crazy now that the show was cancelled after only one season consisting of 18 episodes, back in 1999-2000 these comedy giants were still small-time, though it is arguably Freaks and Geeks that set most of them on the path to success. The entire first season is available on Netflix and is well worth your time (I repeat, Biff from Back to the Future is in it).
3 – PUSHING DAISIES
The 2007-08 Writers Guild of America Strike has a lot to answer for – it played havoc with a whole host of shows – but perhaps one of the worst outcomes us the fate of Pushing Daisies, ABC’s ‘forensic fairy-tale’ that aired right in the midst of the strike. The show followed the life of pie-maker Ned (Lee Pace), who has the ability to bring people back to life by touching them. The downside is that if he touches them a second time, they will return to being dead permanently. This causes chaos when he brings back to life childhood crush Charlotte ‘Chuck’ (Anna Friel) and then enters into a romance with her.
The show was met with huge critical acclaim and was nominated for a total of 12 Emmys in its first season. However the first season was cut short by the strike, and attention had waned by the time it returned, with ratings dropping. The show was cancelled at the end of the second season, breaking the hearts of the shows cult following as they never got to find out if Ned and Chuck were able to make things work.
2 – TWIN PEAKS
Twin Peaks is never far from anybodies lips when the subject of TV shows cancelled too soon comes up. The CBS show came from the king of the surreal, David Lynch, along with Mark Frost, and was based around the mystery of who killed Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). Airing from 1990 to 1991, the show – like much of Lynch’s work – looked at what lurks beneath the veneer of idyllic small town life and saw Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) become further entrenched in the fictional Washington town as he investigates Palmer’s murder.
The show was met with huge success in its first season, but things took a nosedive as the second season began in 1991. CBS worried about the fact that Laura Palmer’s killer had not yet been disclosed, and placed pressure on making the reveal. This led to the mystery being solved in the middle of the second season, which along with various timeslot changes led to a sharp decline in ratings. The show was cancelled at the end of the season, leaving the plot on a frustrating cliffhanger.
Lynch returned to Twin Peaks in 1992 with the prequel Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, but he has since expressed huge regret at the Laura Palmer reveal. He claims that they never originally intended to tie up the mystery, and that in doing so they “killed the goose that laid the golden eggs.”
The show is set to be revived in 2017 with many members of the original cast returning and Frost and Lynch once again at the helm, so here’s hoping they can tie up those loose threads and return Twin Peaks to it’s former glory.
1 – HAPPY ENDINGS
Happy Endings was a fantastic ensemble sitcom that aired on ABC from 2011 to 2013. Lasting for a total of three seasons, the show charted the lives of a group of friends living in Chicago. The gang consisted of married couple Brad (Daymon Waynes Jnr) and Jane (Eliza Coupe), Jane’s sister Alex (Elisha Cuthbert), Dave (Zachary Knighton), Max (Adam Pally) and Penny (Casey Wilson). The show quickly became popular with critics for its quickfire wit and outrageous antics.
Originally airing on Wednesday nights following ABC’s sitcom juggernaut Modern Family, the first signs of trouble for the show came when ABC decided to change their timeslot to Tuesday nights in season three. Ratings immediately deteriorated and attempted damage control saw the timeslot make another change to Friday nights, which acted as the final nail in the coffin. Further drops in ratings led to the shows cancellation at the end of season three.
Happy Endings felt like it still had a lot of steam left, and this wasn’t helped by the fact that the show was cancelled quite suddenly, robbing fans of any real sense of closure as the series ended on a cliff-hanger of sorts, with viewers finding out that Alex and Dave had broken up for the second time. A huge part of the shows success was down to it’s excellent cast, something other networks obviously picked up on – as soon as the show was cancelled Fox brought Waynes Jnr back to New Girl, as well as enlisting Pally for their other sitcom The Mindy Project.
Which shows do you think were cancelled too soon? Let me know in the comments section!