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.



“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.



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.



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.



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.



Dr. Molly Caffrey is the Type A who plans and over-plans for every permutation of every possible contingency. One of her plans, Threshold, is activated in order to handle first contact with an extraterrestrial species. A team is assembled and they get crackin’, each episode uncovering a little more of the mystery while exploring all the quirky personalities in the office. It differs from CSI in very few ways save the larger special effects budget and nerd sector appeal, but scores a little higher for having a really good energy between the cast members as well as having exciting personalities like Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) and Brent Spiner (Star Trek: TNG). Oh, and because Carla Gugino. Purrs

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

Clone High

Clone High

This animated teen dramedy parody went full bore to press every button and hit every note it could, like an ADHD kid left alone in an orchestra pit. It is so off the wall and so unexpected and so…rich. Rich like Family Guy was in its first three seasons. Every show ever is experimental at its outset, sure, but Clone High was cranking out the chemistry set and coming up with dark matter where every other comedy is just making vaguely fart-smelling gases. So long as you skip episode 11, the whole series is a symphony of good ideas, especially the decision to put the love quadrangle between Abe Lincoln, Joan of Arc, Cleopatra and JFK as the centerpiece. In the final moments of the final episode, you end up feeling for these incredibly nutty characters in a way that you just don’t expect, and so from beginning to end I can say it’s a ride worth taking.

Way to watch: Buy on Amazon.

The 10th Kingdom

The 10th Kingdom

Burly: This could be a long torture session.
Virginia: I’ll tell you anything you wanna know.
Burly: Torture first, then you talk. It’s better that way. Rush a torture, ruin a torture.

Another series that would have fared better in the current television fantasy fad culture, The 10th Kingdom is television’s answer to Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods, a mash-up of fairy tale stories with a little of the ol’ Grimms’ darkness thrown in for good measure. While definitely lighter and altogether less sing-y than Sondheim’s work, Kingdom is likewise easy to get sucked into, the multi-hour miniseries passing in a breeze. Highly recommended for friends and families (though elementary age kids will probably get spooked by it), it’s a fun story that’s easy to come back to every few years, like a friend from out of town.

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



Christopher: “Bad news has never been broken gently in my family. Because breaking it gently takes an few extra seconds. And who’s got that kinda time? Hey, we may be failures, but we are very busy.”
Ken: “I’ve got a little story I wanna tell you. Once upon a time, your dog got hit by a truck this morning.”

This is the best sitcom. Right now I really want to purchase a microphone, throw up my hands and drop it (on a soft bed of pillows because microphones are expensive why oh why would you drop them). It is so different from any, I mean any, sitcom you have ever seen. Starring and based on the real life of comedian Christopher Titus and his hyper-flawed family, each episode takes place on a single set in front of a live studio audience. Interspersed throughout are flashbacks and a black and white room inside Christopher’s mind where he dismantles the fourth wall to talk to the audience. The show utilizes some serious mood whiplash to switch from literally laugh-out-loud comedy to perspectives on real-life subject matter including, as per Wikipedia, “death, attempted and committed suicide, rape, child molestation, mental illness, road rage, violence, drug abuse, domestic abuse, alcoholism, and terrorism.” There is even an entire episode that revolves around the hate crime murder of Matthew Shepard. What this show accomplishes seems impossible, but has been true every time I have watched it in the last 13 years: it is unbelievably funny, fast and clever, and it is unbelievably honest about the world around us. This show is one of my single favorite things on Earth.

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

Touching Evil (U.S. version)

Touching Evil

Susan: “Only neighbor we found at that place had a needle sticking out of her arm, and she pissed on Rivers.”
David: “Seriously?”
Susan: “Yeah.”
David: “Nice girl, claiming him for herself.”

This is the show that started my desire to defend series that fell through the cracks, so imagine me being misty-eyed and shaking my fist at the heavens as I write this. Touching Evil centers on Susan Branca (Vera Farmiga) and her partner David Creegan (Jeffrey Donovan), who was shot in the head some years ago, depriving him of shame and impulse control but gifting him with a knack for pattern recognition. The show had several things going for it that made critics all weak in the knees. One, Branca and Creegan had the kind of loving relationship Scully and Mulder had during the best years of The X-Files, like two stalwart bunnies paddling through the bloody sea of human depravity, paw in paw. Two, the writing and direction felt improvised and original, characters being allowed to stutter and form incomplete sentences like people do all the time every day but never on TV. Three, that writing continued with its criminals, who all had serious mental iniquities rather than simply being black and white evil. Which, four, made the show feel much darker than other procedural crime shows, since the villains were always as mysteriously terrifying as Iago at the end of Othello. So, a happy show it is not, but from the striking two hour pilot to the final scene of finale “Mercy,” which I contend to be one of the best things to ever happen in front of a camera in human history, you will feel big, worthwhile feelings.

Way to watch: Buy on iOffer.

For more great lost programming (like The Middleman), check out TVTropes.org’s Too Good To Last archive. Have a favorite you want to scream out and praise? Scream in the comments, children. Scream!

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Morgan M

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.



    jk that show was terrible. jk I loved that show. jk it was really the worst but I MISS IT and also Birds of Prey.

    • Women’s Murder Club. Rizzoli and Isles before Jane came out and moved to Boston.

      In my head anyway.

        • Emily, you are so flipping right. The Geen, Harry J. Lennix, Donald Sutherland? It was like a more down-to-earth West Wing with less snappy writing but lots of fun intrigue.

    • I wish they would do a reboot of Birds of Prey. I think it would fit in well opposite Arrow. The only problem being that Dinah is already on Arrow and I don’t particularly like what they are doing with the character or the actress.

    • I sometimes wonder what has happened in their lives since that last episode as if they were old friends that I has left back home or something.

      • AGREED. I wish with every show that has ever ended they would recap us on where they are now, but maybe I am too invested in fictional characters lives.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

        • i am here to give it all the love. admittedly the first season got off to a slow start, but the ideas are fascinating. i really enjoy seeing how whedon obviously extended some of the ideas he had in buffy with warren/rape/mind-control into the full series of dollhouse, and i’ve also heard some interesting theories re: firefly taking place in the future world that was able to happen because of the work done by rossum corporation in the dollhouse universe. ugh i could talk about this stuff forever…

  4. 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.

  5. Ack, you know what I forgot? “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles”! Here’s my mini-review:

    Summer Glau. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

  6. Out of Practice. Exactly my kind of humour. It also has a lesbian character and Stockard Channing.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.


    • It was supposed to get a second season, but the ratings weren’t there. *pouts* *folds arms* *huffs*

  9. 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.

      • Yay! Thank you, too. I never thought I’d see Touching Evil on a list of any kind. It was one of those shows that come and go with hardly anyone noticing.

        You obviously have excellent taste, so I will definitely check out some of the shows on this list that I haven’t seen.

        • You obviously have excellent taste yourself, and any recommendations *you* wish to shove down my brain pan I will happily accept.

      • Pro-tip: get really hammered and stop at a 24 hour shop on the way home. Drunk Shirley frequently purchases surprise breakfasts for Sober/Hungover Shirley.

  10. 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.

    • Just pointed this out to my labmate who is sitting next to me and said “this is why I love Morgan.”

        • <3 This was supposed to be directly in response to the breakfast comment but clearly I love you too much to pay attention to the reply buttons.

  11. 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.

  12. It’s TV show prejudice that Glee gets 18 months to wrap up their storylines and these shows get never months. #fightthepower

    • I know!! I’ll never get over how cruelly My So Called Life was ripped away from us!

      By the way, this article is the best thing of life. Hats off.

      • 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! :)

  13. Better off Ted, Action!,Young Americans (young Kate Moennig and young Ian Ssomerhalder)…

  14. 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!)

    • Plus apparently Sam was going to come out as a lesbian if there was a 3rd season of Popular. I already had a huge crush on her.

      • carly pope (sam) was one of my biggest crushes before i knew i was gay…like, i loved her SO MUCH but i figured i just wanted to BE her…


        • I know right! Because she was so cool and argumentative. And when she was clever and sassed the teachers/parents/popular kids, she won! Never in all my angsty teen years, did one of my caustic quips go over as well for me. So at the time, to my pre-gaylemma brain it made perfect sense that I would really want to BE this super cool girl.

          Retrospectively, replace BE with DO and that sentence is correct.

    • Bomb Girls is one of my favorite Canadian Television Shows of all time, and I have a particular addiction to shows either made in or set in Canada. X___X and I wanted Betty & Kate (AKA Bates Homotel, Katty, Bate, BetKat Missiles,etc.) to happen so badly I just can’t.

  15. I LOVED Jack and Bobby. To this day I still think about it every once n a while and wish that it had continued. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one!

  16. 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.

  17. 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!”

    • Scudworth was amazing. My friends and I quote him constantly.

      “Did you see the pool?! THEY FLIPPED THE BITCH!”

  18. 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?

    • okay, so I spotted Happy Endings in Netflix and after it being mentioned a few times in the comments here, I felt compelled to check it out.

      Three minutes into the pilot and we have an Indigo Girls song already?!? Autostraddle FTW!!

  19. THANK YOU FOR MENTIONING WONDERFALLS! Sometimes I’m convinced I’m the only person who ever saw it.

      • Oh, that was a pretty good show. I really loved the first half of the (only) season, when there were too many characters and the tone was a little mean and sarcastic. But I really hated the character that was played by that guy from modern family. He almost ruins the show for me.

        • He could be a bit much to take, but then I think of wonderful lines the show would generate, like:

          “Penguins are cute and all. But, if you cooked one, I’d eat it.”


          “What do you think?” [looking at a massive bouquet of flowers]
          “I think that she’s gonna dump your ass.”
          “Dude, will you look at that thing? That is too much too soon. You’ve been with her what, like, three days?”
          “You really think it’s too much?”
          “Well, that depends. Did she win the Kentucky Derby?”
          “I think they’re nice.”
          “Oh, they’re nice. They’re restraining order nice. They’re ‘I want to make a jacket out of your skin’ nice.”

          And then I feel okay. Especially cuz Lizzy Caplan said ’em.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

    • Hellcats was a total guilty pleasure for me! I remember there being hype about the lesbian cheerleader character, and then her character was dropped after episode 2.

  22. 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.

  23. 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
    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!”) :)

  24. ” 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

    • Autostraddle comments section is loveliness as far as the eye can see. Also, me writing something that inspired you to join in? Made my whole darn day. Welcome to the show!

  25. 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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