5 Television Shows That Shouldn’t Have Been Cancelled


Sometimes it feels like good things have to die, doesn’t it? When a critically-lauded television show gets axed, it can earn immediate respect in the way that Freaks & Geeks, My So-Called Life and Arrested Development did. It reinforces the idea that America has no taste when something like King of Queens can run for years with high ratings while another quietly brilliant show can fade into oblivion. These days when a TV show gets cancelled, it receives a seal of approval that says, “Congrats! You were too subversive and witty for America!” And thanks to the wondrous invention of TV shows on DVD, the series can develop a cult following and get the kind of icon status it so rightfully deserves.

The following shows made a smaller impact on pop culture, but they’re still entitled to some major recognition. R.I.P., my brilliant babies!

1. The Comeback

On paper, it seemed like The Comeback would be a surefire ratings hit. It heralded the return of the hilarious Lisa Kudrow to television and was also created by Michael Patrick King—HBO’s golden child and the man responsible for a little show called Sex and the City. Kudrow starred as a washed-up actress named Valerie Cherish who was participating in a reality show about her return to the spotlight. It was a show-within-a-show, the kind of mockumentary that was popularized by the filmmaker Christopher Guest with movies like Waiting For Guffman. The Comeback was darkly funny, almost to a degree of uncomfortableness, which may be why viewers were turned off. Seeing the narcissistic and delusional Cherish navigate the shark-infested waters of Hollywood came off as almost too realistic, and made it feel like an actual reality show as opposed to the scripted comedy it actually was. Whatever the reason, it’s a shame the show never resonated with a wider audience because it had such a sick and smart sense of humor. Lisa Kudrow was also in top-form, making her character seem sympathetic and completely unlikable at the same time. Watch the series on DVD and understand the quote, “Note to self: I don’t need to see that!”

2. Popular

Before Ryan Murphy created Glee, he made an absurd high school dramedy called Popular, which included story lines about a long lost twin sister from The Bronx named B. Ho, exorcisms, and giving someone your literal kneecap for a spot on the cheerleading squad. It was originally advertised as a formulaic teen series about the war between the popular and unpopular crowds. As things progressed, however, the show took a major detour into campiness, prominently featuring a Southern “retarded” rich cheerleader named Mary Cherry and a promiscuous evil bitch named Nicole Julian. The tone was always schizophrenic—one episode would be centered around the gravity of teen eating disorders while the next would be full of bulimia jokes—but that probably had to do with interference from the network than anything else. When the show ran for two seasons from 1999-2001, it was the most absurdly hilarious television show about teen life that had ever aired. Watch it on DVD, but fast-forward any of the serious scenes or the ones featuring the parents.

3. Action

Action was essentially the television show, Entourage, but wittier and more insane. It starred Jay Mohr as a movie producer named Peter Dragon who’s in dire need of a hit film to resuscitate his career. After picking up a hooker {Illeana Douglas) on the way to his movie premiere, Dragon decides to give her an important job at his movie studio and begins production a film called Beverly Hills Gun Club. Unfortunately, the movie is plagued with problems from the start. Their lead actor has overdosed on drugs, the sexy female actress gained 50 pounds and has to go to the Valley for fast liposuction, and Dragon even contemplates selling his 12-year-old daughter to Middle Eastern royalty to secure financing. It’s twisted, it’s perverse, it’s perhaps the realest depiction of Hollywood. Action premiered on Fox, which is probably why it had a premature death. Its content was too explicit and controversial for primetime television and would’ve fit much better on a network like HBO. Oh well.

4. Party Down

Party Down—a comedy about a catering team in Los Angeles, California—aired on Starz (what?) for only two seasons before going to the TV graveyard. Even though it was produced by heavy hitters Rob Thomas and Paul Rudd and had a hilarious cast, it still failed to catch on with viewers. It also didn’t help matters that Jane Lynch left after Season 1 to join Glee.  But all’s well that ends well, I suppose. Although the show’s only been off the air for less than a year, it’s already been generating that post-cancelled buzz. People are tuning in to see what they missed out on and perhaps feel guilty that they didn’t watch it when it was on the air and improve its ratings. One thing’s for certain though: Lizzy Caplan needs to be a big time star, like, yesterday. She does an amazing job in Party Down, just like she did in True Blood, Mean Girls, and anything else she’s ever been in. Why she hasn’t taken over Hollywood yet is beyond me.

5. Your Choice

This slot is for you to pay tribute to any show you had to say goodbye to. It could be anything from Veronica Mars to Roswell. There are a lot of extinct TV shows out there that aren’t as celebrated as the aforementioned Freaks and Geeks, proving that all cancelled TV shows were not created and killed equally. So tell us. What TV show of yours unfairly got the axe? This is a safe space. We can talk about it here. Whenever you get bummed out about one of your shows ending, just think of it this way: At least it never had the opportunity to jump the shark and start sucking. Imagine that betrayal! Be thankful that it died in its prime.

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