Cancelation season is in full swing with TV networks and streaming services currently combing through their slates of ongoing shows and deciding which to renew and which to axe.
Over the last few months, we’ve seen several TV shows that never quite managed to find their footing brought to an inevitable early conclusion. However, we’ve also been stung by confirmed cancelations for some of our favorite new shows such as MODOK and Archive 81.
The current glut of fresh cancelations has got the Tom’s Guide staff reflecting on the shows that we wished were given a little more time. Some of the TV shows on this list were canceled just as they were starting to get into their groove, while others were axed with shocking cliffhangers remaining forever unresolved. Some only got a handful of episodes before being cruelly canned.
From sci-fi action romps to animated superhero shows, these are the 21 shows that were canceled too soon and we wish would come back.
1 season (10 episodes)
“Sigh” was the reaction of Patton Oswalt on Twitter when the voice actor confirmed the news that Hulu’s animated MODOK show wouldn’t be returning for a second season. It’s a sentiment I strongly echo, as I was a huge evangelist for the series.
MODOK (which stands for Mental Organism Designed Only For Killing) is an iconic comic book villain who first debuted in 1967. While he’s yet to feature in the MCU project, Marvel saw fit to allow him to star in his own animated series that felt more than a little reminiscent of Robot Chicken. The two shows even looked the virtual identical thanks to the same animation studio working on both.
The best thing about MODOK was that it felt different from other Marvel shows. Its irreverent comedic tone, ridiculously over-the-top characters and countless gags poking fun at Marvel’s often silly history blended together for a very silly but highly watchable series. Sadly, it never quite managed to gain the traction of its rival Marvel shows on Disney Plus, and Hulu pulled the plug after just a single 10-episode season. — Rory Mellon
1 season (14 episodes)
Think of a lived-in sci-fi setting, and your mind’s eye is likely cast to Star Wars. But mine flips in the direction of Firefly, the short-lived series that blended lo-fi sci-fi with a gun-slinging Western flavor.
Created by writer and director Joss Whedon of Buffy fame, Firefly has a slightly hokey premise by today’s standard. Captain of the Firefly-class spaceship Serenity, Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds — played by Nathan Filion — is a cliche classic handsome rogue with a moral code, while second in command Zoe Alleyne Washburne is an a-typical tough “warrior woman” loved by sci-fi. And Jayne Cobb is a typical tough-guy mercenary who is as likely to betray Mal as he is to have help at the last moment. But the introduction of Companion Inara Serram, who's basically a space courtesan, the experimented-upon River Tam, and devout Chrisitan pastor Derrial Book, gives Firefly’s character roster more depth beyond the cliches.
And set in a multi-social future, which blends Western and East Asian cultures together with added FTL, Firefly gives its characters and their just-trying-to-get-by stories a compelling backdrop. There's an overarching plot, but each episode is mostly self-contained, offering an hour-long yarn that easily captures one’s attention.
Sadly, just as Firefly started building up its setting, characters and story, it ended after 11 of the 14 episodes aired, with the show being canceled apparently due to arguments and production errors. The movie Serenity in 2005 helped tie up some loose ends, but it wasn’t really a satisfying ending for fans. So I’d argue Firefly could have done with at least one more season; that didn’t happen but I’d certainly not say no to a reboot. — Roland Moore-Colyer
Santa Clarita Diet
Hearing Netflix has canceled a show today, in 2022, is no real surprise. But back in 2019 the streamer was only just starting to gain a reputation for killing shows before their time. After already suffering through the cancelation of Daredevil, the four other Marvel Netflix shows and others, hearing that I’d also lost the Santa Clarita Diet was the last straw. My Netflix subscription was canceled shortly thereafter.
The Santa Clarita Diet is still one of my favorite Netflix originals. It was violent and gory, as any good zombie show should be, but also incredibly funny and weirdly wholesome at times. There was also a running mystery of the origin of the zombies, and their role throughout ancient history. It’s a mystery that we’d slowly started getting answers to, only for the show to throw us a curveball and introduce a bunch more in the final moments of the final episode.
We need at least one more season to wrap things up, if only to give Timothy Olyphant and Drew Barrymore more time to get up to their undead shenanigans together. Plus TV needs more Timothy Olyphant, and I will not hear arguments to the contrary. — Tom Pritchard
Glow's premature death may not seem like a huge crime compared to the early axings that Netflix has been taking lately. The wrestling-based comedy/drama got three damn good seasons on the big red streaming machine. In that time, we saw a bunch of aimless and lovable women become actual stars of the squared circle, led by Ruth (Alison Brie) and Debbie (Betty Gilpin) while the men in their lives, such as Sam (Marc Maron) and Bash (Chris Lowell) kept screwing up. They even had a whole season in Las Vegas.
But the big damning issue here is that Glow ended right before when it was about to evolve. Netflix had even approved Glow season 4, giving fans hope that we'd see the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling take the power of their own future, as Debbie's deal with Bash granted them a new opportunity. But, then, something about Covid made Glow season 4 impossible, and it was canceled.
Then, the actresses of color on the show began to speak out, led by Sunita Mani, who shared a letter sent to the executives about how she and other cast members were tired of playing characters who were less fleshed-out on a show with zero writers of color. I bring this up because Mani also noted that Glow season 4 was apparently going to try and fix this flaw, as it opened up a conversation. Alas, Glow season 4 didn't happen, and nothing's quite filled the void since. — Henry T. Casey
Ironically, for a show about bringing people back from the dead, Pushing Daisies wasn’t with us for very long. This clever romance/mystery/magical realist series focused on Ned (Lee Pace), a pie maker who develops the ability to resurrect dead plants and animals — including humans — by touching them once. Touching them a second time, however, kills them for good. Complications ensue when he brings his childhood friend Charlotte “Chuck” Charles (Anna Friel) back to life, and promptly falls in love with her. Over the course of the show, Lee and Chuck team up with private investigator Emerson Cod (Chi McBride) to solve a series of clever murder mysteries.
Although the show was absolutely delightful, its supersaturated color palette, dark humor, frequent musical numbers and general weirdness could attract only a niche audience, and it went off the air after two seasons. At least we got an (extremely rushed) finale that wrapped a few things up. — Marshall Honorof
My So-Called Life
1 season (19 episodes)
Before Euphoria made headlines for its frank depiction of adolescence, My So-Called Life came before it in tackling issues like sex, drugs and guns. One of the best teen dramas ever, it had a short but bittersweet single season — long enough to make stars out of Claire Danes and Jared Leto. And even though it didn’t generate big ratings for ABC, the show made enough of an impact to even have a micro-generation (opens in new tab) named for Leto’s character, Jordan Catalano.
My So-Called Life perfectly captured the awkward, cringe-inducing fumblings of the teen years. Angela Chase is just a bunch of raw feelings dressed in a trench coat pretending to be a grown-up. The world is opening up to her and bringing new friends, new crushes, new experiences. Her explorations of identity becomes messy and complicated in an achingly relatable way. — Kelly Woo
1 season (8 episodes)
If ever there were a show that confirmed Netflix’s muddled thinking on cancellations, it’s Archive 81. Launched in January, it proved popular with audiences and critics, earning an 86% Rotten Tomatoes rating and briefly topping the Netflix most-watched list. The show followed a young archivist tasked with restoring a bunch of old videos recorded in the 1990s, switching between the past and present as he unraveled a deeply spooky supernatural mystery.
We loved it here at Tom’s Guide, naming it the one new Netflix show to watch in January and praising its "fresh, original feel" and the way it blended genres. But none of that was enough to save it from the Netflix chopping block, with the streaming service killing it in March. Worse still, it ended on an almighty cliffhanger, and with the scene neatly set for an even more intriguing second season. If another service decides to pick it up, I’ll definitely be tuning in. — Marc McLaren
Game of Thrones
How could a show that lasted eight seasons be on a list of series that were canceled too soon? It all comes down to the final season. Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Wells were so eager to tie things up that storylines were compressed or chopped altogether. As a result, the final season felt incredibly rushed, leading to a number of implausibilities, such as entire armies being able to traverse the length of Westeros as if they were carried on the wings of dragons. A bigger issue for me, though, was Daenerys’ heel turn in the final episode. Her change of heart just didn’t feel earned. Even just one more season of GoT would have allowed things to progress at a better pace, and would have let the show conclude in a much more satisfying way. — Mike Prospero
1 season (13 episodes)
Almost Human is another canceled Fox show that almost everyone has forgotten except me. I was onboard due to its Robocop-like premise of future police officers dealing with tech-based crimes. But the fact it had Karl Urban, who had just come off playing Judge Dredd in the equally underrated Dredd, sealed the deal.
This show only had a single 13-episode season to its name. Though it was effectively a standard crime drama set in the future, its main characters were endearing. Karl Urban’s John Kennex (what a great name!) was a troubled cop whose rocky history with technology made it difficult for him to accept his android partner, Dorian (played by Michael Ealy). Dorian’s eccentric personality and naivety about humans and Kennex’s cynicism worked well and it was fun seeing the two interact.
Due to its high budget and low ratings, Almost Human was sent to the scrap heap. It’s a shame, considering how slick the show looked and how its cast evolved over the course of the short season. If you have a chance to see Almost Human, I highly recommend it. — Tony Polanco
Freaks and Geeks
1 season (18 episodes)
Created by Paul Feig and produced by Judd Apatow with a cast including Seth Rogan, Jason Segel and James Franco, if Freaks and Geeks was made now it would probably be a smash hit. But in the late 90s, this cuttingly honest portrayal of growing up was canceled before its first season even concluded.
The show starred Linda Cardellini as a nerdy student who befriends a group of burnouts, while her younger brother, played by John Francis Daley, begins at the same high school alongside his two very geeky friends. It’s a simple premise but the show enjoys a stellar reputation to this day for its retable themes and compelling characters.
Freaks and Geek didn’t even last two dozen episodes but it’s still talked about and imitated more than two decades. Plus, it's appeared on lists of the greatest television shows of all time from the likes of Time, Entertainment Weekly, TV Guide and Rolling Stone. Not a bad legacy for a ragtag gang of losers. — Rory Mellon
While I’m sure Iron Fist has a small-but-dedicated fan base, I don’t count myself among them. The first season of Marvel’s martial arts action series was easily one of the worst things to come out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, combining two lifeless lead actors with dreadfully boring corporate boardroom drama. Had Iron Fist ended after one season, I don’t think anyone would have been too broken up.
However, Iron Fist Season 2 was something of a minor miracle. With only 10 episodes instead of 13, the plot felt breezier and more impactful. This time around, Iron Fist (Finn Jones) and Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) have to fight a bunch of mystical ninjas in order to stop a gang war in Chinatown, which is roughly a thousand times more interesting than S1’s premise. Had Iron Fist S3 improved over S2 to the same degree, it could have easily been one of the best MCU projects we’ve seen. — Marshall Honorof
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
This one really hurt. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency was a riot of Day-Glo creativity, (very) loosely based on the beloved books by Douglas Adams. It had everything: a mind-bending plot that just kept throwing ideas at you, a roster of larger-than-life characters, a superb soundtrack and a great cast including Samuel Barnett as the titular hero, Elijah Wood as his reluctant sidekick Todd, and Jade Eshete as their kick-ass minder Farah.
Sure, it didn’t exactly stick to the source material and had a tendency to overdo the weirdness factor, but it was so daring, fun and exciting that you couldn’t help but love it. And indeed, people did: it has an 85% critics score / 95% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and a strong 8.2/10 mark on IMDB.
Unfortunately, it proved too strange for mainstream audiences, with the second season dropping slightly in viewership and leading BBC America to end the show. A petition to bring it back for a third series garnered more than 100,000 signatures, but it didn’t happen and probably never will now. — Marc McLaren
1 season (13 episodes)
Like Almost Human, Terra Nova was a Fox show that consisted of a solitary 13-episode season. The story centers around humans living in a future dystopian wasteland who travel 85 million years into Earth’s past seeking a better life. Of course, this means having to establish a colony in a world teeming with dinosaurs.
Terra Nova premiered two years after James Cameron’s Avatar and even starred Stephen Lang, who was a main protagonist of the show and the first person to travel to the past. Much like the original Jurassic Park films, Terra Nova employed both CG and practical effects to bring the dinosaurs to life. The central cast was also strong and it was fun seeing them adapt to their new world.
The series was slowly revealing a larger mystery regarding the real reason humans were being sent back to the past. Sadly, Fox hurled a meteor at Terra Nova and rendered it as extinct as the dinosaurs. Such a shame. — Tony Polanco
Jericho has the rare ignominy of being canceled twice. The post-apocalyptic thriller series followed the resident of a small town in Kansas in the aftermath of a widespread nuclear attack on the United States. The series interwove the stories of a large ensemble cast along with a constantly twisting core narrative. No wonder it's retained a cult status to this day.
The show was originally canceled after just a single season in 2007, but a massive push from dedicated fans (which infamously included sending 20 tons of nuts to CBS headquarter) saw the show resurrected for a cutdown seven-episode second season.
Unfortunately, despite a large fan campaign to promote Jericho to a wider audience, its rating didn’t improve and the critically acclaimed show was laid to its final rest in 2008. The story of the survivors has continued via graphic novels, but Jericho the TV show remains unfinished. Rumors of a feature film have persisted for over a decade but most fans have long given up hope. — Rory Mellon
Star Trek: Enterprise
A lot of viewers bailed on Star Trek: Enterprise after the first two seasons, and that’s really too bad. While this prequel series took some time to find its footing, Season 3 helped pioneer the “one season, one story arc” formula that many prestige TV shows still use today. Season 4 leaned into fan-favorite stories and characters, sending the characters on two-or three-episode “mini-arcs” that almost never wore out their welcome.
Season 5 would have picked up where S4 left off, with Capt. Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) leading his crew aboard the NX-01 Enterprise on a series of weekly sci-fi adventures. The writers had lots of plans for S5, including a lead-up to the climactic Romulan War and perhaps even a ship refit. Instead, Star Trek disappeared from TV for more than 10 years. — Marshall Honorof
The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes
The Avengers gained worldwide fame thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe but I’d argue that the animated The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes was a better representation of the team.
What made this show great was its faithfulness to the comics. Though it borrowed characters and storylines from all eras of the Avengers, it was clear that much of the inspiration came from the classic runs by Kurt Busiek/George Perez and Roy Thomas. As a comics fan, it was a blast seeing them adapt classic stories and weave them into a coherent plot. Not only were the scripts tight, but the voice talent was top quality.
The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes ended after 52 episodes. That’s an entire run for a lot of series, but the cliffhanger ending left me wanting more. Sadly, the show was canceled shortly after Disney acquired Marvel. We got Avengers Assemble shortly thereafter, but that series was inferior since it was blatantly trying to be like the MCU. Yeah, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes wasn’t the prettiest show around, but it felt like the comics – not to mention that it was more “adult” than its successor. The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is well worth revisiting or checking out for the first time. — Tony Polanco
Mindhunter isn’t entirely dead, with Netflix instead putting it on indefinite hold while showrunner David Fincher works on other projects, but it’s now nearly three years since it last aired and it’s looking increasingly unlikely it will return. And that’s a major shame, because the first two seasons were absolutely gripping. Based on real-life and treading the line between true-crime documentary and drama, it tells the story of how the FBI’s first Behavioral Science Unit was formed in the 1970s. With a superb cast including the always-excellent Anna Torv and Holt McCallany, and with chilling depictions of serial killers Ed Kemper, Charles Manson and David Berkowitz, among others, it was must-watch TV while it aired; here’s hoping Fincher finds the time to revisit it. — Marc McLaren
My Name is Earl
We probably didn’t need more My Name is Earl, but the sitcom is another show that was canceled after its last season ended on a major cliffhanger. Earl had just discovered that he was actually the father of his ex-wife's first child, but audiences never got to see the fallout of his revelation as Earl was axed abruptly just days after airing its fourth season finale.
The show followed a small-town crook who tries to change his ways after discovering the concept of karma. In an effort to reverse his fortunes, he makes a list of everything bad he’s ever done and attempts to make amends. It’s a fun concept and the unashamedly goofy show was elevated by strong performances from Jason Lee as Earl, Ethan Suplee as his dopy brother Randy, Jaime Pressly as fiery ex-wife Joy and Eddie Steeples as the loveable Darnell.
The biggest disappointment after My Name is Earl’s unexpected cancelation is that viewers never got to see Earl actually finish completing his list. At least, creator Greg Garcia snuck an easter egg into his follow-up show, Raising Hope, which indicates that eventually, Earl did make up for all his past mistakes. — Rory Mellon
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
I don’t say this lightly, but Lena Headey may be the best actress to ever play Sarah Connor. In two seasons of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Headey brought a new depth to the character, exploring both the “tough-as-nails warrior” and “caring mother” sides of her personality, and how they often clashed.
The premise is typical Terminator stuff: Sarah and an almost-adult John Connor (Thomas Dekker) are on the run from yet another time-traveling Terminator. This time, however, the Terminator sent back in time to protect John is not the T-800, but Cameron (Summer Glau): a nearly human model who may be in love with John — or maybe just needs him to think that she is. The show did some fascinating stuff with the Terminator mythos and had a killer setup for Season 3, where John would have traveled to the future and taken the fight directly to Skynet. What might have been? — Marshall Honorof
Stargate Universe was the franchise’s answer to the then-popular Battlestar Galactica remake. Unlike Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis, Universe was a darker show filled with flawed characters stuck in a horrifying situation that only served to bring out their worst characteristic. It was a nasty and ugly show, but it was extremely compelling.
I’ll be the first to admit that Stargate Universe basically aped the premise of Star Trek: Voyager, which had the central cast desperately trying to find a way back to Earth after being flung to the furthest reaches of space. We see the crew’s struggles – both from antagonistic forces and one another – over the course of two 20-episode seasons and how their situation evolves. You got the sense that the show was leading somewhere significant as each episode gave you small hints of a larger plan unfolding. But alas, that was never meant to be. As far as the audience is concerned, the Stargate Universe crew remains lost forever. — Tony Polanco
The Spectacular Spider-Man
A victim of Disney’s purchase of Marvel, The Spectacular Spider-Man was canceled due to a rights dispute. Even a decade on, this amazing animated series getting canned because of behind-the-scene drama is a crying shame.
Across its two-season run, The Spectacular Spider-Man spun a portrayal of the webhead that arguably hasn’t been bested since. The show incorporated material from across the hero's lengthy comic book history and balances action, comedy and some genuinely compelling drama.
The animation quality wasn’t always fantastic, but the strength of the writing easily carried the series regardless. In fact, The Spectacular Spider-Man is the closest an animated Marvel show has ever got to the high benchmark set by Batman: The Animated Series. If only Disney and Sony could have worked things out and allowed season three to enter production. — Rory Mellon