11 TV Shows That Were Too Good To Last

If you search online for the great canceled TV shows, you’ll see a lot of mine and your favorites: Firefly, Freaks & Geeks, Everwood, Twin Peaks, Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies and of course My So-Called Life. There are so many fabulous short-lived titans of quality out there, though. Here are a few names you might not find familiar, but are worth familiarizing yourself with.

Profit

Profit

“When you want someone to love you, open your heart. When you want someone obsessed with you, close it.” – Jim Profit

Some shows are special because they teach us how to better live our lives. Some shows are special because pretty women and high Bechdel Test scores and things. Profit is special because it is evil. Not in the wishy washy Soprano’s or Dexter evil, where they’re “kinda sorta good and/or well-meaning.” I mean evil-evil, I mean if they ran a Chili’s they would serve baby back ribs made from actual babies.

Adrian Pasdar stars as Jim “Wants To Watch The World Burn” Profit, a sociopath with eyes on climbing the corporate ladder at any cost. While he’s not above murder, it’s his mind that’s his scariest asset. Not only do his plots-within-plots scratch the ears of the sadistic kitten in all of us, but he also has a mesmerizing way of talking to the audience before going to bed at night, offering anti-Aesops like the quote above in an effort to teach us his worldview. It was canceled after scores of viewers in the Bible Belt called in to protest a show about “Satan in a suit,” and so while Profit may not have been for the faint of heart it was for the lover of writing. For dark and smart television aficionados I have got just the mad man for you.

Way to watch: Buy on Amazon or rent on Netflix.

 

United States of Tara

United States of Tara

Tara: “What are you putting everywhere?”
Dr. Hattaras: “Rat traps.”
Tara: “What? I don’t wanna know there are rats in here!”
Dr. Hattaras: “Then don’t think of them as rat traps. Think of them as mice traps or rabbit traps or…or kitten traps. When the kittens eat the bacon, this bit will just come over and stroke its back, and they will live forever.”

If the 2009 Emmy’s had decided to give Toni Collette five Best Actress awards for each of her many personalities, I can’t imagine anyone blaming the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Created, written and produced by Diablo Cody (Juno), it is purely perfect dysfunctional family comedy. Starring Ms. Collette as Tara, this married mother of two struggles to handle the many women (and men) inside her head that want to come out and dance in her meat suit. Couldn’t be as perfect as it is without a fabulous ensemble cast in the form of her family. Banter of the highest order found herein, this show is a giver of gloriously shit-eating grins. Bonus: if you’re like me and get vicarious embarrassment for on-screen awkwardness, prepare to hide under your blanket a lot.

Way to watch: Buy on Amazon or stream or rent on Netflix.

 

Drive

Drive

If you’re a fan of canceled TV, whether you know it or not you’re a fan of Joss Whedon co-conspirator Tim Minear. @CancelledAgain on Twitter, he has served as executive producer and writer on a number of exceptionally well-constructed shows that were critical and/or geek darlings but were unable to find a lasting audience. You may recognize some: Firefly, Angel, Terriers, Dollhouse, Wonderfalls, The Chicago Code, The Inside. One such show is Drive, about dozens of strangers thrust into an illegal cross country road race for $32 million, or in some cases their heart’s desire. Nathan Fillion and Emma Stone were definitely compelling notches in its belt, but brass tacks: it’s fun. Action series are so hard to do right in television because of budget constraints, but visually and viscerally Drive manages to deliver the distilled joy of the Fast & Furious franchise without stepping too hard in an angst cow pie. So if you’ve ever wanted to see Firefly’s writing chocolate in Top Gear’s peanut butter, then welcome home.

Way to watch: Stream on Amazon.

 

Brimstone

Brimstone

Ezekiel Stone, a name for whom his parents should receive a citation for practically cursing their child to be a hardboiled detective, died and was damned to Hell for killing the man who raped his wife. Stone is returned to Earth by the Devil when 113 damned souls escape, tasked with executing each of them in exchange for a clean slate and a second chance at life. Immediately stands out for its saturated visual style and being sweet and hopeful despite painting with wide cynical brushstrokes. I think if Brimstone had come out now during our current buzz for fantasy action series it would have lasted a lot longer.

Way to watch: YouTube.

 

Journeyman

Journeyman

Livia: “You don’t even seem like Katie’s type.”
Dan: “What’s her type?”
Livia: “I don’t know; Jack’s a cop — edgy commitment-phobic, a bad boy — you’re not.”
Dan: “I’m a recovering gambling addict who travels through time — I have some things going for me.”

A Quantum Leap-esque series about a man pulled against his will through time and space to help people, Journeyman does sci-fi right and strives for one better, a strong romance. Watch the first episode, “A Love of a Lifetime.” By 3/4 of the way in you’ll be sold on the notion that lead Dan and his wife Katie are doomed, and by 4/4 you believe again in the indomitable power of love to conquer all. This is the show’s greatest strength, and perhaps too its greatest failing in maintaining a mainstream audience: it’s so hard. Dan and Katie and everyone fight so hard to be happy over the course of an episode’s 44 minutes that by the time they find some sliver of joy at episode’s end you, my friend, are emotionally drained. But for those willing to take the plunge, Journeyman pays back in dividends for your time.

Way to watch: Hulu.

Jack & Bobby

Jack & Bobby

“Is sarcasm your only mode now, Jack? I mean, I know you’re only a teenager but it might be time to mix things up a bit.”-Grace McCallister (played by the always excellent Christine Lahti)

This is a show for people who like teen dramas but need equal time given to check-ins with the adult population, ala Everwood. Add an extra star to your mental score if you also crave a little of The West Wing’s starry-eyed political musing. Centered around two brothers, one of whom will become President of the United States in the year 2040, J&B intersperses decisions the brothers make in real-time with political commentary from friends, running mates, competitors and pundits in the future, monologuing about how a choice in their youth affected political motivations in their adulthood. It’s weird, right? But it’s also the kind of brilliant genre-meshing I think we would all benefit, intellectually, from seeing more of.

Way to watch: Stream on Amazon or rent from Netflix.

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Morgan is a gay ginger transgirl gamer hailing from North Carolina. She's been fortunate enough to be Autostraddle's Miss April 2013 as well as an A-Camp counselor (go Battlestars) and a writer and speaker at various outlets and events. Currently, she lives in sin in the Bay Area.

Morgan has written 7 articles for us.

100 Comments

  1. Women’s Murder Club. Still the only cop drama to focus on a group of women who got the job done, formed connections with each other in the private and professional context. Run by two women until the network messed up big time and replaced them with a male showrunner who ended up decontructing the characters, then cancelled the show. This was the only time I was ever involved in a “save the show” effort. Still miss it, still haven’t forgiven TPTB–and there are still no DVDs.

  2. omfg i loveeeeeeeeeee united states of tara. it’s so entertaining and heartwarming and funny and super weird and dramatic all at the same time. i’m sad that after 3 seasons it got cancelled, but also happy that it didn’t get ruined by going on for too long. it’s like a little glimpse into the gregson family and all the weird shit they do.

  3. I was a huge fan of “Defying Gravity” – the Canadian/German/US/BBC multicultural co produced show. ABC marketed SO wrong – they wanted to sell it as “Gray’s Anatomy” but in Space – in reality it was way more like Lost or Alias – a big, central mystery that helped us get to know interesting and dynamic characters.

    It had a really diverse cast and amazing world building. It was a US that was somehow something familiar and also terrifyingly different. It’s implied a lot more weather events like Katrina had happened and the US had gone really conservative in response (abortions are illegal for instance). I’m really sad it was only 13 episodes.

  4. I will never not screech BETTER OFF TED in conversations about shows too good to last. Everything about it was too perfect–the corporate/research satire, the straight-faced absurdity, pretty much all of Portia de Rossi’s lines…

    Oh Better Off Ted, the Stefon nightclub of workplace sitcoms, how I miss it.

  5. Clone High, 10th Kingdom, and Titus were things that I loved when I watched them. I didn’t realize 10th Kingdom was cancelled? I thought it was a mini-series.

    ALSO: OBLIGATORY INCLUSION OF FIREFLY AND BOMB GIRLS BECAUSE REASONS.

  6. Thanks for reminding me about Titus. I have vague memories about that show being pretty great, but it was so far in the back of my mind, I’d practically forgotten the name of it.

    I am such a huge fan of Touching Evil! Everything about it was so good. I remember the music especially. I think maybe Trent Reznor had something to do with it, the pilot episode at least? It was very beautiful and atmospheric.

  7. I love Freaks and Geeks so much! And many of the ones listed are on my netflix list at the moment. Did anyone else see Mercy? It was a NBC show a few years back that only had one season, Taylor Schilling, played a nurse back from the war with PTSD. It was really good I was sad they cancelled it.

  8. US of Tara was perfection. Really intrigued by Drive, would like to check it out!

    Also back in the day IN THE YEEEEAAAARRRR TWO THOUSAAAAND, when 10th Kingdom was running, oh my god my 12 year old self was soooo into it. Amazing. I think I had a little crush on Wolf AND on Virginia. In retrospect, I think I wanted to be Wolf and do Virginia.

    also yessss Clone High was great.

      • D’aaww, thanks. <3 I don't have a hat but I do have what my queer friends refer to as my "tasteful lesbian footwear," so in lieu of head covering I'll slip out of these.

        Also I like this comment thread even more than the article, because I had kinda figured I was alone on a lot of these. Community!

        • I know – it’s the best feeling! Especially after years of blank faces when you tell someone you used to love this one show, it was only on for a season, it was about this, this person was in it, it was set in this place, the theme song was like this, they had this one episode where… Nope? Nothing? Guess it was just me then.

          Community! :)

  9. Jack and Bobby! I was just thinking of that show the other day. Loved it.

    Also, also, also:
    1. My So Called Life (obviously)
    2. Popular (controversial I know but there is nothing I don’t love about this show)
    3. Bomb Girls (Can’t dwell on this one. Too upset.)
    4. Caprica (Cylons, Spike, gay gangster whose sexuality was neither concealed nor dwelt upon)
    5.Three Rivers (okay, to be fair this show was pants, but can we get Kate Moennig a lead role somewhere please?!! Come on!)

  10. Okay, but 10th Kingdom was planned as a miniseries, so even if there was no series 2, there’re lots of movies/shows/miniseries that never get the Part 2 off the ground, it doesn’t really count as *cancelled* per se, so…so…

    …so I really don’t care because it’s here on the list and one of my favourite things ever and :P. I must dig out the DVD now.

  11. Ahh, Clone High! Principal Scudworth’s jumbled tirade about John Stamos is still one of my favorite scenes. Once upon a time someone even made a poster of the whole thing, too. “You should see my car, it’s a mess!”

  12. I made so many friends in uni because of our shared love of Clone High.

    HAPPY ENDINGS, THOUGH! I’m still not over its cancellation. :(

    Also, did anyone ever watch a show called Miracles?

  13. My list of things I need to watch has grown tremendously from reading this/reading the comments. Grad school isn’t that important… right? I can just spend the rest of my life watching Netflix? perfect.

  14. you guys what about breaker high? was it a canadian show? they were high schoolers, on a cruise ship? max and cassidy were a couple? once they crushed grapes with their feet to help make wine? am i crazy, did this show really happen? pretty sure i spent countless afternoons from the ages 7-10 watching this show…i still miss it.

  15. The new season of American Horror Story brought back memories of another 1 season wonder.

    American Gothic was on way past by bedtime because I was far too young to be watching it but I usually did the stealth, youngest child move of sitting in the corner silently and hoping nobody notices until the credits roll that you didn’t go to bed when you were sent.

  16. There is a whole cluster of shows which may have ran endlessly or may have been cancelled but Irish TV for whatever reason would just air sort of random episodes in no particular order to fill this timeslot in between cartoons and older teen dramas/Aussie soaps.
    (If you’re Irish, I’m talking about RTE2 after The Den and before Home and Away)
    Shows that fell into this category were:

    Saved by the Bell
    California Dreams
    Sabrina the Teenage Witch
    The Tribe
    Moesha
    Hang Time
    Breaker High

    and heaps of others that never got any closure because we would just get endless re-runs of the same episodes.

    • No no, this post is to support and celebrate our fallen televised friends, whichever they are! Also Everwood is one of the best of all possible things. (Plus it gives me something to say to you other than “Yay, podcasts!”) :)

  17. ” Bonus: if you’re like me and get vicarious embarrassment for on-screen awkwardness, prepare to hide under your blanket a lot.”

    THIS. Seriously, I am so happy someone else has this same reaction to awkward situations on screen. In the spirit of shows canceled too soon – the IT Crowd. I know it technically had four seasons but they were only four episodes each. And full of hide-under-your-blankets-awkwardness.

    Also – this is my first time commenting here, though I’ve been reading for awhile. I just want to say that the comments section of this website is literally the best of any website, anywhere. Like, it’s the warm and cuddly corner of the internet. So thanks, Autostraddle. Keep being awesome. <3

  18. Profit. Profit is always the one that comes to mind when I start talking about shows I wish hadn’t ended so soon.
    Coincidentally, I have been talking about it a lot lately… So this made me happy. :)

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