5 cult TV shows that were cancelled too soon
'High Fidelity' joins these classics that ended after only one season, but luckily you can stream most of them over and over.
Photo by Phillip Caruso/Hulu and NBCU Photo Bank.
"Break ups suck," says Zoë Kravitz, about her Hulu show High Fidelity_’s cancellation after just one season. It may be worth arguing that parting ways with your favorite TV show is even worse than a romantic break up. Yet there are plenty of shows that were cancelled way too soon: Veronica Mars had only three seasons, Arrested Development was cancelled in the middle of its third season and we recently found out that part four of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina will be the last. But beyond that, there are a select few shows that didn’t really have a fair chance. Some of the best shows ever made didn’t make it past their first season. A short and sweet series can lead to a cult classic like Freaks and Geeks or _Firefly, but sometimes it leaves us hanging, waiting for more like High Fidelity or The Get Down. From wondering what the next two years of high school held for Angela Chase to the most recent heartbreak of not knowing what’s next for Rob Fleming, here are our top five TV shows that were cancelled too soon.
This take on Nick Hornby’s 1995 novel also pulls from the 00s romantic comedy of the same name, featuring John Cusack as every elitist record store guy you’ve done your best to avoid. But the show flips everything on its head—allowing Zoë Kravitz to give Rob Fleming a new life by shaking off the white male hipster stereotype that Cusack’s Rob championed. She’s not without flaws though. The show follows Rob as she details and revisits her top five desert island heartbreaks of all time, but there are some conflicting narratives including those from her ex-boyfriend Mac (Kingsley Ben-Adir), and her best friends/coworkers Simon (David H. Holmes) and Cherise (Da'Vine Joy Randolph), which show that Rob is an unreliable narrator and her victim complex may not be completely earned. She can be messy, rude, self-involved, but somehow it’s hard not to want her to find happiness. The new Rob still owns a record store, but this version is set in the rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. Although the show went through all five of Rob’s desert island heartbreaks in it’s ten episode run, its developers Veronica West and Sarah Kucserka had previously stated they would be more than happy to expand the story for a second season if given the chance. Sadly, they weren’t given that chance (and Kravitz even called out Hulu for its lack of diversity in the wake of the cancellation). Now we will just have to imagine all of the incredible looks, witty banter and romantic turmoil that could have been.
Freaks and Geeks
It would be absolutely criminal to talk about shows cancelled before their time without mentioning this cult classic. Freaks and Geeks engendered a slew of successful actors including Linda Cardellini, Seth Rogan, Jason Segal, James Franco and Busy Phillips. The crew was equally talented: Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) created it and Judd Apatow was the executive producer. While the cast and crew went on to do great things and sometimes even did them together, the original show barely cracked the Nielson top 100 that year and NBC didn’t even air the last three episodes of the season. Freaks and Geeks follows Lindsay Weir, a gifted high schooler who has decided to hang out with the “Freaks,” and her younger brother Sam, who is decidedly a part of the “Geeks,” as they navigate the social perils of high school in the 80s. Feig set out to make a show for the kids who weren’t constantly dating or having relationship drama. Its relatability and rawness helped seed a resurgence in popularity when it was added to Netflix in 2015, but it hasn’t been available to stream online since 2018.
My So-Called Life
This show is evidence that Claire Danes has always been immensely talented. Though it first aired in 1996, My So-Called Life covers some pertinent topics such as sexuality, gender roles, substance abuse and the difficulty of trying to both fit in, and stand out, in high school. It’s a little less gritty than Freaks and Geeks, but the tone is similar. It makes us miss an era when shows weren’t so stylized and characters didn’t have perfectly clean rooms all the time. Angela is a wildly relatable angsty high-schooler and Danes delivers her poignant voiceover lines of wisdom in a realistically dramatic way. She’s a teenager, but a smart one who spends a lot of time thinking about her place in the world. Jared Leto’s Jordan Catalano is the perfect depiction of a 90s bad boy with a soft side, and it’s pretty obvious he’s heavily modeled after Kurt Cobain. My So-Called Life depicts teenagers as people instead of obvious TV stereotypes, with its characters having deep and meaningful story lines and intersections of identity. Enrique “Rickie” Vasquez (Wilson Cruz) was the first openly gay teenager on American network television, but he is also often the voice of reason and his two best friends never make his sexuality the butt of any jokes. The show was cancelled after a single 19-episode season due to low ratings and Danes’ reluctance to reprise her role as Angela Chase. Some fans were so upset about the cancellation that they launched “Operation Life Support,” which was the first ever online campaign to try to save a TV show.
The Get Down
While The Get Down technically had two parts, they only put out 11 episodes before getting the axe. Baz Luhrman stayed true to his extravagant style in this retelling of the hip-hop and disco scene in the Bronx in the late 70s. While the plot loses its way a few times, the cast carries it through. The story primarily follows poet and rapper Zeke (Justice Smith), Shoalin Fantastic (Shameik Moore) and the other members of “The Get Down Brothers,” including Jaden Smith as graffiti artist and rapper Dizzy, through their attempt to realize their dream of becoming famous musicians. Musical performances are the core of the show and with Nas, GrandMaster Flash, Kurtis Blow and DJ Kool Herc as producers, the music definitely rises to the challenge. “The Get Down Brothers” performances find ways to highlight each of their strengths both as performers and as rappers, but they aren’t the only characters trying to make their musical break. Mylene Cruz (Herizen F. Guardiola) is also pursuing a career as a disco singer and her performances get better and better as the show goes on. The Get Down explores the rampant exploitation of young Black musical artists at the time through a visually extravagant lens, not unlike Lurhman’s previous work in Moulin Rouge! Sadly, it was the first Netflix show to be cancelled after only one season.
If you’re still very upset about the cancellation of this sci-fi gem, there are plenty of online forums for you to air your grievances. The loss of Firefly is still a sore spot for many and with good reason. Joss Whedon’s gritty space Western follows nine crew members and passengers onboard the Serenity, a “Firefly-class” spaceship, as they scavenge the galaxy after being on the losing side of a war. It has it’s campy moments, which is to be expected from anything that came out in the early 00s, but overall the acting and the intricate storyline allow it to keep from getting out of hand. It’s full of drama, quality sci-fi shoot outs and lots of great one liners from Serenity’s captain, Mal (Nathan Fillion.) The show was almost doomed to fail as it met resistance from Fox executives at every turn. They bungled the time slot -- Friday nights have notoriously low ratings -- fought Whedon on key plot points -- like Zoe (Gina Torres) being married to Wash (Alan Tudyk) and Inara (Morena Baccarin) being a sex worker -- and even aired the episodes out of order -- waiting until the end of the run to air the pilot. In 2005, three years after the show’s cancellation, Whedon released the film Serenity, which worked to satiate the distraught fanbase. It was well received by critics, but sadly this didn’t translate to box office numbers. Still, _Firefly_’s loyal following had people talking about the possibility of a reboot as recently as January 2020.