September 2004 - May 2007
Some may quibble that this series' third season wasn't as good as its first two. They may be right, but all that network meddling and attempts to make this highly stylized noir thriller more accessible to viewers without the attention span for serialized drama didn't help matters. Besides, the plan for the fourth season in which the snarky title character heads off to the FBI sounded pretty genius. Plus, those first two seasons were insanely good, which made this untimely cancellation a bitter pill to swallow. On the plus side, we discovered the amazing talent of star Kristen Bell and got to see Enrico Colantoni doing something other than Just Shoot Me, so we'll console ourselves with that.
March 2000 - April 2000
A bleak, depressing and gut-wrenchingly realistic look at a mental health institution in New York City and the complex and twisted lives of the patients and the staff, Wonderland was ahead of its time in many ways. It is kind of not so surprisingly that this show only survived two weeks on network TV before it was unceremoniously yanked from the airwaves. The unaired episodes are just now trickling out on DirecTV nearly a decade later thanks to the critical success of creator Peter Berg's other series Friday Night Lights.
May 2007 - July 2007
A little like the Bourne Identity or any of those high-action chase thrillers, but in weekly installments, Traveler centered on two best friends who go on the lam after their other college pal, Will Traveler, sets them up to look like they bombed a museum. Confusion and chaos abound, with them never knowing who to trust, or if Will actually ever even existed. Since the ABC show was yanked from the airwaves after eight episodes, we never really got to see how this drama played out, but it was fun while it lasted.
June 2008 - September 2008
The shagadelic '70s were back for one hot summer on CBS, spotlighting a naughty suburban neighborhood filled with sex, drugs and ménage a trois (or more). With key parties all the rage among the adult set, the teen stars weren't the only ones with raging hormones on this racy (at least by CBS standards) period drama. However, the allure of Grant Show with a pornstache didn't bring about a mass appeal and CBS decide to cut the sexual revolution short after one brief season.
September 2006 - June 2007
When two shows are simultaneously rolled out that take a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a live sketch comedy show (like Saturday Night Live,) it was only a matter of time before one of them flopped. And Studio 60 did just that when compared to the wickedly funny 30 Rock. Too bad that Studio 60 never really had time to find its footing, because Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford were a dynamic duo together, even when working with the most implausible and bizarre storylines to come out of Aaron Sorkin's twisted genius mind.
August 2005 - March 2007
Here's another one of those visually stunning historical pieces that HBO does so well. It's just a shame that they all seem to get cut short because of low ratings and expensive production costs. Who'd have thunk? Featuring the dashing Kevin McKidd in a toga, this epic undertaking tried to hail Caesar but even though it looked stunning and had engaging plots, it was buried under the costs of its elaborate sets.
September 2005 - December 2005
A clever premise in which a graduating class celebrating a reunion finds out a classmate has been murdered. Each episode revealed one year of their lives post-high school leading up to present day. Starring Chyler Leigh, David Annable and Amanda Righetti, this series only aired nine episodes, leaving fans wondering whodunit.
April 1996 - April 1996
Think Adrian Pasdar is badass on Heroes? Nathan Petrelli has nothing on Jim Profit. Pasdar brought this ruthless corporate businessman to life in a compelling and sometimes terrifying way. It was hard to root for a character so dastardly, but he was so deliciously evil -- complete with daddy issues and a troubled backstory -- that you just couldn't take your eyes off his rise to the top at any cost. Who needs ethics? Apparently some people, since the show didn't last more than a month on Fox.
September 2001 - November 2001
If you blinked then you probably missed this soapy saga that aired on Fox for a hot minute back in the early part of this decade. Timing (right after the September 11th terrorist attacks) was blamed for audiences' lack of interest in the wealthy world of money, murder and mayhem. But the star-studded (Dana Delany, Alison Lohman, Balthazar Getty, Mark Valley and Natasha Gregson Wagner) twisted drama from writer Mike White was a precursor to the likes of Dirty Sexy Money. One of these days, a primetime soap is going to stick again.
September 1999 - April 2002
This blended family saga lasted longer than the majority of shows that made this list, but that didn't make its cancellation any less painful. In fact, it only gave fans more time to become attached to the characters, headed up by Sela Ward and Billy Campbell as two divorcees who fall in love and take a second chance at marriage, dragging their kids (including breakout stars Shane West and Evan Rachel Wood) and exes along for the ride. It was a well-done, honest look at a very realistic familial situation from the creators of thirtysomething and My So-Called Life, set apart from many other shows with character interviews done in black and white and interspersed at various points in the episode. And while Gary Unmarried and New Adventures of Old Christine (the sitcom-y spins on this situation) will probably run forever, this carefully crafted tearjerker only lasted for three seasons.
March 2007 - March 2008
This ABC series wasn't exactly complex or ground-breaking, but its sweet characters were engaging enough and we soon got sucked into the relationship drama. The plot centered on Nick (Brian Greenberg), a hotshot 20-something who returns to his hometown in the hopes of shaking off his case of writer's block. Once there, he's confronted with all the people he left behind, including his high-school sweetheart (Laura Prepon) and her son, who may or may not be his. Whether the boy was Nick's is something fans are still wondering about since the show was canned after its second season.
August 1994 - January 1995
From the instant Angela Chase dyed her blonde tresses a vivid red and ran through the streets to a nightclub, this teen angst series earned its place in the annals of television. Audiences fell in love with its doe-eyed star Claire Danes as the aforementioned Chase, and mooned over the school's most beautiful (if a bit dense) boy Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto) right along with her. Their fledgling relationship was the heart of this series, which was rounded out by a cast of fully-formed and intriguing teenagers. Not the norm for your average drama. This memorable series lasted but one short season -- and left fans chomping at the bit to find out if Angela chose the dreamboat or the boy next door -- but has lived on in the collective minds of its fans.
September 1995 - May 1997
In a sea of legal dramas, Murder One certainly stood out. Instead of tackling a case of the week, this highly-serialized Steven Bochco series opted to spend an entire season focusing on one high-intensity criminal case, much like how the insanely addictive Damages works now, but with less puppy killing. This series only lasted two seasons, and a cast shake-up after season one didn't help viewers who were trying hard to keep up with the elaborate twists and turns.
September 2006 - August 2007
Jeremy Sisto headed up a team of investigating a high-profile kidnapping case. The subject in question was the son of well-to-do parents Dana Delany and Timothy Hutton. Engaging with interesting twists and some fine acting, this series was cancelled before it ever had to deal with the issue that in season two there would have to be a major cast upheaval and a new kidnapping case to solve.
October 2003 - November 2003
Remember Jennifer Lopez in her best role to date? No, not The Wedding Planner. As Karen Sisco in Out of Sight. That lively Federal Marshal character was given her own life (based on the Elmore Leonard books) and a new actress (sexy Carla Gugino) for the small screen. But this steamy Miami-set crime drama never caught on and it was cut short.
September 2003 - April 2005
This one might be a better fit for our sci-fi/supernatural list, but aside from the fact that Joan (Amber Tamblyn) had conversations with God, it was pretty grounded in reality -- a typical family drama (with Mary Steenburgen and Joe Mantegna as her parents and Jason Ritter as her paraplegic brother), with a twist. Joan was a teenager with a mission, who tried hard to be normal despite being dispatched on do-gooder errands by a higher power. After one highly rated season and one not-so highly rated one, the show was pulled from the air, just as an evil character arrived to try and pull Joan from her chosen path. Why do they always cancel stuff when it is getting really good?
September 2006 - March 2008
Fans were nuts about this show. Literally. When CBS tried to cancel it the first time, viewers banded together and bombarded the net's office with bags of peanuts, and their efforts helped earn the series a second abbreviated season to tie up loose ends. Set in a small town during the aftermath of nuclear attacks on the country, it focused on personal reactions to the tragedy and the triumph of the human spirit, with some conspiracy theories and territory battles thrown in for good measure. Skeet Ulrich and Gerald McRaney starred as the town's leaders with some long-standing issues between them.
September 2004 - May 2005
This ambitious series was probably doomed from the start, focusing on two brothers, one of whom would grow up to become President. Not based on those Kennedy brothers of the same name, but with a lot of similarities, one brother dies young while the other is pushed into office after his brother's death, and political scandals, etc. ensue. It was set in present day, but with interviews from folks who were involved in the future McCallister presidency. It was axed after one season, but at least the name Robert McCallister lives on in Greg Berlanti's other politically themed drama Brothers & Sisters.
October 1991 - February 1993
This moving critical darling was set in the late '50s and focused on the Civil Rights Movement through the eyes of bright maid Lily Harper (Regina Taylor) who worked for to a high powered district attorney (Sam Waterson). A true look at race relations, it gave fans at least a bit of a resolution to its burning questions with a TV movie that aired on PBS.
September 1991 - April 1993
Friday Night Lights head coach Kyle Chandler got his first big break on this period series focusing on a small town during the '40s. Set after the end of World War II, this drama dealt with the multitude of issues surrounding returning soldiers, from those bitter about their time at war to those who were happily returning home to be married. But it also capably captured the emotions of the waiting family members who kept the homefires burning when their boys were away, as well as thouse who had let their hearts stray. Dealing with everything from equal rights to other timely issues like divorce and social struggles, these two seasons were often heart-wrenching, but well worth the tears.
October 1996 - April 1997
Noir crime dramas have a hard time finding their footing on network TV, where audiences tend to like their crimes pretty and shiny, with more procedural bent. This gritty drama rife with corrupt characters that you loved and sympathized with was cancelled after a telefilm and one episode, then "relaunched" mid-spring, further confusing those trying to follow its layered story. Ken Olin, Joe Pantoliano, Jason Gedrick, Debra Farentino and Carl Lumbly were among the talented cast members.
March 2005 - April 2005
Pretty much your typical crime-solving procedural, but it starred Tim Daly as a private eye with a love of gadgets, which he used in his investigations. The one mystery he couldn't solve? Why this show only lasted six episodes.
September 2002 - June 2006
Despite the best efforts of this show's fans, who went to great lengths to keep it on the air (they rented a freakin' Ferris wheel to put in front of the WB offices), TPTB thought it would be a better idea to bring back 7th Heaven for a millionth season or something instead. So we just have to imagine that Amy and Ephram lived happily ever after, and we can always sit and wonder what happened with Hannah and Bright, recalling what it was like in that quaint and lovely little town where people were actually nice and actors could actually act.
January 2008 - December 2008
Once you got past the randomness of Jonny Lee Miller singing and dancing to George Michael songs, this was a pretty decent legal series, albeit with some quirk. And really, were Eli's brain tumor-induced musical visions any more crazy than Ally McBeal's dancing baby sightings back in the day? Hardly. Sadly, this show never quite found an audience and was snuffed out by ABC in the midst of its second season, with episodes in the can that still haven't aired.
April 2007 - April 2007
Silly action fluff for sure, but it starred Nathan Fillion, so it deserves some credit. This high-speed adventure had Fillion's Alex Tully in a cross-country illegal road race that harkened back to the good old days of Cannonball Run. It was driven off the air after four episodes, and we never found out why half of these characters were racing, who was pulling the strings, or, most importantly, who won.
September 2007 - ?
This dirty, sexy series was poised to bring the nighttime soap back into vogue, and with a stellar cast headed up by Peter Krause and Donald Sutherland, it seemed set to just do that. But a little thing called a writer's strike caused the series to get put on hold during its first season, and when it returned months and months later, it had lost some of its momentum. But this delicious guilty pleasure which focused on the wealthy Darling clan and all of its insane rich-people-problems was fun while it lasted, thanks especially to the Darling family rival Blair Underwood.
March 2004 - August 2006 This landmark HBO series might not have had the legions of fans that Six Feet Under or The Sopranos did, but its fine craftsmanship and profanity-flecked, quasi-Shakespearean dialogue was appealing to true TV devotees. We're still angry at the C*#@$^*%#rs who decided that they'd rather greenlight a new series from creator David Milch than keep this stylish Western on the air, then lamely promised that there would be several follow up movies made to tie up all the loose ends. We all know now they lied, and loyalists got nothing except a heaping pile of disappointment.
September 2003 - March 2005
This beautiful period drama, set during the great Depression, sank deep into the never-ending battle between good and evil, all against the backdrop of a traveling carnival. It boasted the most unique set of characters we'd seen since Twin Peaks, and some of the most confusing storytelling we'd seen since that show as well. But just because we were sometimes baffled doesn't mean it wasn't compelling TV. This ambitious, artistic series set out to unfold its complete drama over six seasons but was cut short after only two, leaving us scratching our heads even more.
September 2002 - December 2003
This ambitious series showcased criminal investigations like no other, with a Rashomon-like look at the scene from all the various parties involved. The show aired a short first season and was renewed for a second, but lost its flashy format. So despite its solid cast (Jason Gedrick, Neal McDonough, Lana Parilla, Donnie Wahlberg and Mykelti Williamson), it was shelved shortly after getting its reboot. Way to loose your core fanbase trying to appeal to new viewers. Good plan, right?
February 2007 - April 2007
Another one of those series that you may have missed, this midseason replacement started off with a bang but soon fizzled out in the ratings. Dealing with organized crime, this sibling-centric series set in Hell's Kitchen focused on four brothers fighting for control and loyalty and a chance at the good life, all under the watchful eye of the family matriarch (Kate Mulgrew). It didn't even make it through its 13-episode season before NBC tired of the saga. We'd like to blame Olivia Wilde for its untimely demise, but that's probably just us projecting our hatred of her House character onto this show.
September 2002 - March 2005
Using American Bandstand as its setting, this family drama encapsulated the life and struggles of teens in the '60s. From going off to war or to college, to the search for fame, to the draft, to post-traumatic stress, to the intense riots in Philadelphia, it pulled no punches and covered all the bases. Only on for three years, it served as a launching pad for young stars like Brittany Snow, Rachel Boston and as a showcase for Gail O'Grady.
April 2009 -- May 2009 This cancellation was painful enough, made worse by the way that NBC decided to handle it. After the engaging and largely critically adored initial seven episodes of the midseason show, they announced fans would get a new season in the fall. Then only weeks before the show was set to premiere, they pulled it from the schedule claiming it was too gritty (which was the point of the intense cop drama set on the mean streets of Los Angeles in the first place). The six episodes that were filmed are in limbo, and the show does stand a small chance of being resurrected in some form or another, but the treatment from NBC was just unacceptable.