10 of the best TV shows to have only one season

By 03.17.12  •  60 Comments
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one season tv shows


There are plenty of great TV shows out there that never got a chance to build the audience they deserved. Below are ten of the best TV shows that only aired for one season.

Comedy Central

Stella is one of the most refreshing and offbeat sketch shows to air in quite some time. Unfortunately, it is partially because the show was so off the wall that it struggled to bring in solid viewership. Starring Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter and David Wain, the show was exceptionally absurdist and featured cameos from Paul Rudd, Topher Grace, Rashida Jones and many more. Sadly, the show was canceled after 10 episodes and replaced by the abominable Mind of Mencia.


Before moving on to movie success, Judd Apatow had a string of television shows that were simultaneously amazing and under-appreciated. One of his last attempts was Undeclared... a show that sought to show an authentic version of college life. With the inclusion of improvised dialogue and a focus on multi-dimensional characters, this was one of the smartest comedies of the early 21st century. Too bad it didn't matter -– Fox canceled the show after 17 episodes.


Police Squad! was a cop show parody that starred Leslie Nielsen. Much like Get Smart, the show was chock-full of silly puns and sight gags. Sound familiar? That's because the show is directly related to the Naked Gun movie series. Following cancellation (after just six episodes), Leslie and friends got a second chance on the big screen. As you likely know, this film version proved wildly more successful.


Terriers is one of the more recent one-season wonders to get the boot. Starring Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James, this witty show found a new and clever way to tell the classic detective story. Despite the well-rounded characters and sharp writing, FX didn't think the show brought in the necessary numbers to prolong production.


It's hard to believe that Mission Hill only managed two episodes on the WB before being put on hiatus (the WB showed four more episodes in 2000 before officially canceling the show). Thankfully, the show was picked up by Cartoon Network and aired during Adult Swim –- giving us 13 episodes of the humorous cartoon.


In case you're unaware, Summer Heights High is an Australian mockumentary in which actor Chris Lilley (a 36 year-old man) plays the role of all three main characters (including a teenage girl, Tongan boy and effeminate theater teacher). With a documentary style similar to The Office, the show brilliantly lampoons a number of hot-button high school issues, including racism, homophobia and bullying. Despite being a massive ratings success, the entire series consists of just eight episodes.


Based on a comic book, The Middleman mixed elements of humor and sci-fi to create a fully enjoyable fictional world. With a storyline that includes a grumpy robot, evil scientists and oodles of pop culture references, the show had plenty of potential. Unfortunately, ABC Family just didn't seem like the right network for this innovative premise.


Clone High is a Canadian animated show that got picked up by MTV in 2002. The show's premise was that a military-run high school had cloned various famous people through history. These notable clones -– including Abe Lincoln, Ghandi, Cleopatra, JFK and Joan of Arc -– were all of high school age and attending classes together. Despite solid humor and decent ratings, MTV scrapped the show (in fact, the last five episodes never aired in America).


Of all the Judd Apatow "failures," Freaks and Geeks is hands down the most memorable. With an unflinchingly realistic take on the awkwardness of high school, Freaks and Geeks was arguably ahead of its time (released just a few years later, the success of the British Office and Curb Your Enthusiasm found success with a similar style). Despite its limited airtime, this show influenced countless showrunners and went on to inspire a number of successful TV series. Of course, Apatow, Seth Rogan, James Franco and Jason Segal have all gone on to enjoy massive success, so at least the show wasn't a total loss.


If there is one true injustice in the world of broadcast television, it's that Firefly only lasted 14 episodes. As with many of the shows created by Joss Whedon, the brilliance of the storyline just couldn't seem to break through to mainstream audiences. In retrospect, the idea of a sci-fi Western genre bringing in huge ratings on Fox seems like a tall order. However, the show still managed to earn a rabid fan base that pleaded desperately to keep the show on the air. With a long history of canceling shows before really giving them a chance, Fox canned Firefly without a blink of the eye.

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TAGSArbitrary Rankingscanceled TV showsfeaturedFireflyFreaks and GeeksListsone season television showsone season tv showsStellaUndeclared

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