10 Flawed TV Shows That Became Great (Then Were Cancelled)
Entertainment

10 Flawed TV Shows That Became Great (Then Were Cancelled)

Summary

  • Mindhunter, a thrilling mix of fact and fiction, was canceled right as it became truly great due to its large budget.
  • Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 was a cult favorite ahead of its time but was canceled just as it was hitting its stride.
  • The OA’s unique blend of genres and narrative development was cut short by cancelation right when things were getting interesting.



It can sometimes take a while for a TV show to hit its stride, and sadly, this became even more disappointing when, once it did, the show got prematurely canceled. This development was nothing new and has been sadly happening for decades as audiences continually voiced their concern that studios and streaming services don’t give TV shows enough time to develop before deciding to pull the plug entirely. It could be low ratings or a challenging style, but it always felt like a tragic turn of events when beloved shows got canceled right as they became great.

This has happened with comedies, dramas, sci-fi, and supernatural series, as viewers were gifted with a fantastic new show only for it to be taken away from them in the blink of an eye. The sting of a quickly canceled series can still be felt years after a show’s been off the air, and it’s a testament to their enduring appeal that viewers still reminisce about their favorite canceled series. It was always hard to accept when flawed TV shows got canceled right on the precipice of becoming great.



10 Mindhunter (2017 – 2019)

2 seasons

Jonathan Groff as Holden Ford holding up a picture and Holt McCallany as Bill Tench in Mindhunter

The psychological crime thriller Mindhunter was a fascinating series executive produced by David Fincher, whose unique concept could have sustained several more compelling seasons. As a story based on the true-crime book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit, Mindhunter tracked the beginnings of criminal profiling in the FBI during the 1970s. With the appearance of actors playing real-life criminals, such as David Berkowitz and Charles Manson, the series was a thrilling mix of fact and fiction.


Mindhunter continued to improve throughout its two-season run and quickly changed from a good show into a truly great one. However, after two seasons, Mindhunter was put on an indefinite hiatus, and as time went on, a potential third season started to look increasingly unlikely. Eventually, Fincher confirmed that Mindhunter had been canceled and cited its large budget as the primary reason it did not continue.

9 Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 (2012 – 2014)

2 seasons

Krysten Ritter in Don't Trust The B-- In Apartment 23


Although Don’t Trust the B— in Apartment 23 may not have been beloved across the board, it was a cult series with a strong fanbase that was canceled just as it was becoming great. With Krysten Ritter as Chloe and Dawson’s Creek alumni James Van Der Beek playing a fictionalized version of itself, in many ways, the meta-referential style of the series was ahead of its time. The cancelation of Don’t Trust the B- after just two seasons was disappointing, as crafting a sitcom that viewers actually responded to was no easy feat.

In an interview on the Inside of You with Michael Rosenbaum podcast, Ritter got candid about the cancelation of Don’t Trust the B- and explained how its haphazard scheduling contributed to its early cancelation. Ritter described the series as “edgy” and said that it “really pushed the envelope,” while adding that the writing was “way ahead of its time.” Sadly, Don’t Trust the B- never got the chance to reach its full potential and was canceled just as it was becoming great.


8 Angel (1999 – 2004)

5 seasons

David Boreanz as Angel

The Buffy the Vampire Slayer spin-off Angel took a while to find its footing and forge a new identity away from the original series. With a focus on the demon with a soul played by David Boreanaz, Angel had the new setting of Los Angeles as Angel worked as a private investigator to help the helpless and save wayward souls who had lost their way. Over the course of five seasons, Angel built up the lore of the Buffyverse and grew into a worthy companion to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, whose storylines would often overlap with one another.


It was in Angel’s final season that the series truly hit its stride and set up a great storyline that will never be addressed due to the show’s cancelation. This was in the series finale “Not Fade Away” which saw an army of supernatural creatures about to attack Angel, Spike, Illyria, and Gunn, as they prepared for an epic battle. Although Angel did continue in comic book form, it was a major disappointment that it did not get another TV season.

7 Reaper (2007 – 2009)

2 seasons

Sam and The Devil in Reaper


Reaper was a supernatural horror comedy that aired on The CW from 2007 to 2009 that focused on Sam Oliver (Bret Harrison), a 21-year-old college dropout whose parents sold his soul to the Devil. The series followed Sam’s work as a “reaper” who, with the assistance of his friends, was forced to retrieve escaped souls and put them back into hell. As a unique series that built up incredibly interesting lore, Reaper was sadly canceled after just two seasons, right when things were becoming interesting.

The fascinating thing about Reaper was the mystery at the heart of its story, as the truth behind Sam’s duties to the Devil was shrouded in secrecy. Although some information about Sam’s parents’ deal with Satan himself was revealed, Reaper never got to fully unveil the truth about why the Devil was so interested in recruiting him as his bounty hunter. Reaper as a series had a huge amount of untapped potential, and its cancelation was disappointing as its unique concept could have thrived for several more seasons.


6 The OA (2016 – 2019)

2 seasons

Brit Marling as Prairie Johnson in The OA

As one of the most unique series ever produced by Netflix, the cancelation of The OA right when things were just starting to get really interesting still stings to this day. This idiosyncratic series blended elements of fantasy, sci-fi, and mystery to tell the fascinating story of a young woman named Prairie Johnson, who resurfaced after being missing for seven years. After Prairie reappeared, she referred to herself as The OA and could see clearly despite being blind before her disappearance.


The first two seasons of The OA were extremely riveting, blending philosophical intrigue with an enjoyable ensemble cast. However, it was the final moments of Part II that introduced a meta-storyline that combined the world of The OA with the real world as Prairie entered a new dimension and was seen on a soundstage, even referred to by her actress, Brit Marling. This unique narrative development meant that Part III of The OA was going to delve even further into its unique style, but sadly, the series was canceled before it had the chance to.

5 Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008 – 2009)

2 seasons

Lena Headey as Sarah Connor holds a gun in The Sarah Connor Chronicles


Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles was a TV spin-off that expanded upon the stories of Sarah Connor and her son John as they tirelessly sought to prevent the creation of Skynet and save humanity from the destruction of Judgment Day. Picking up shortly after Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The Sarah Connor Chronicles took a while to find its footing and even suffered from a reduced episode count due to the 2007 Writers Guild of America Strike. However, once things kicked into gear, it was a fascinating addition to the Terminator franchise’s lore.

Despite a positive critical reception, The Sarah Connor Chronicles did not gain large viewing figures, which sadly led to its cancelation just as things started to get interesting. With many overlapping alternative timelines, The Sarah Connor Chronicles ended with several cliffhangers, including a new timeline where John was no longer the resistance leader. Sadly, viewers never got to see how this all played out and, following the series cancelation, the Terminator franchise was given a soft reboot with the release of Terminator Salvation.


4 Sleepy Hollow (2013 – 2017)

4 seasons

Sleepy Hollow (1)

Despite the first season of Sleepy Hollow being well-received, for many viewers, it felt like the plot was bloated and overloaded. However, things really kicked into gear in the second season as the story, which was loosely based on the 1820 short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving, improved its writing and added depth to its characterization. Sadly, Sleepy Hollow did not maintain its upward trajectory, and the third felt less substantial and failed to build up on the series’ mythology in a compelling way.


Despite being great, Sleepy Hollow fell at the last hurdle as its rating continually declined, and it was eventually canceled after just four seasons. This supernatural drama was plenty of fun but, unfortunately, low on scares and was unable to sustain itself throughout its run. While Season 2 was the point where Sleepy Hollow could have been considered truly great, this was an anomaly when it came to the overall quality of the series.

3 Samantha Who? (2007 – 2009)

2 seasons

Samantha and Chase Chapman talk in the office in Samantha Who?.


The short-lived sitcom Samantha Who? had its fair share of issues, but when the series was at its best, it was truly great. With Christina Applegate in the starring role as Sam Newly, Samantha Who? told the story of a selfish and unlikable woman with amnesia who tried to make amends for her previous wrongdoings. While the quality was often a mixed bag, Applegate excelled in the main role, and the show was consistently funny throughout its two-season run.

However, despite strong viewership in its first season, the second season of Samantha Who? had an issue with declining viewership that led to the show being canceled entirely. In fact, this sitcom lost so much momentum that ABC canceled Samantha Who? while it was still airing and the remaining seven episodes were burned off their schedule (via EW.) A sad ending for a series full of potential as when Samantha Who? truly hit, it was a great show.


2 Veronica Mars (2004 – 2007, 2019)

4 seasons

Kristen Bell smiling as Veronica Mars in front of a group of people.

The mystery series Veronica Mars was an incredible mixture of teen drama and neo-noir themes that placed it among the most interesting television shows of the mid-2000s. With Kristen Bell as the title character, Veronica Mars was of varying quality throughout its run, but when it was great, it was truly great. With series-long mystery arcs, Veronica Mars was a thrilling viewing that sadly got canceled in 2007 after just three seasons, leaving viewers eager for more adventures following the teenage detective.


Luckily, the original cancelation of Veronica Mars was not where this story ended, as the series was revived in 2014 for a movie partly produced using funds from a Kickstarter campaign that gained $2 million in less than 12 hours (via NBC.) The success of this film led to Veronica Mars once again returning for a long-awaited fourth season on Hulu in 2019. Although Veronica Mars had an unusual production history, it was a testament to the greatness of its concept and characters that it returned so many times.

1 GLOW (2017 – 2019)

3 seasons

Alison Brie as Ruth GLOW


The Netflix comedy-drama GLOW was inspired by the true story of the 1980s TV professional wrestling circuit Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling and told a fictionalized account of their history. With a fantastic ensemble cast led by Alison Brie, GLOW was a deeply nuanced story of female friendship, perseverance, and the importance of individualism and acceptance. Over the course of four seasons, this story grew in complexity and built up a deeply compelling narrative that was about to enter its final stage when it was abruptly canceled after the final season had already started production.

Sadly, this cancelation had less to do with the quality of the show and more to do with the global pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus. As a series about female wrestling, GLOW was practically impossible to film while adhering to social distancing legislation, and rather than wait until production could resume, Netflix reversed its renewal. This means that footage of the final season of GLOW existed somewhere out there, but the world never got to see it.


Sources: Inside of You with Michael Rosenbaum podcast, EW, NBC