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TV shows can be an excellent medium to tell complex stories, including those on which blockbuster films have been based. However, such storytelling assumes the continuation of the TV show for a number of seasons. That kind of longevity depends on the show getting a decent number of viewers per week. Sadly, even the best writers can’t guarantee it. When fluctuating popularity is coupled with poor management decisions, the result is the premature termination of some truly entertaining TV. Let’s take a look at 10 TV shows cancelled too soon.

1. Arrested Development (4 seasons – 2004-06, 2013)

Arrested Development – 4 Seasons (2004-06, 2013)
Arrested Development

Known for its intricate, witty, off-beat humor and sterling cast, Arrested Development was a revelation in comedy television when it first appeared in 2004. Each episodes had a dynamic that focused on every character equally, rather than on a few at the expense of others. It came as a shock when the show was cancelled in 2006. Netflix tried to resurrect it in 2013, but the original humor was gone.

2. Undergrads (1 Season in 2000)

Undergrads – 1 Season (2001)

Teenagers today may not remember the animated show since it only ran for one season on MTV, way back in 2000. The show never gained popularity during its original run, receiving mixed reviews and a limited audience. The irony, however, is that the axed show gained lots of viewers during syndicated reruns, but by then it was too late to resurrect it. Although it gained momentum too late, Undergrads was one of the few shows that realistically focused on the life of freshman college students. This makes it a good candidate for resurrection in the near future.

3. The O.C. (4 Seasons, 2004-07)

The O.C. – 4 Seasons (2003-07)
The O.C. cast

Though The O.C. started out as the typical teen soap featuring beautiful characters with lots of money, it quickly became a cultural phenomenon. This is due to its early adoption of the “cool geek” phenomenon with its Seth Cohen character. The O.C. featured many indie rock bands like Death Cab for Cutie, which would later become a pop culture phenomenon in their own right. However, the show’s popularity began to decline and it never got the fifth season that it deserved.

4. “My So-Called Life” (1 Season in 1994-95)

My So-Called Life – 1 Season (1994-95)

Starring a 13 year old Claire Danes as Angela Chase, My So-Called Life was one of the first teen dramas that actually had a realistic take on a teenager’s life. It was one of the rare shows in which the parents of the teen protagonist had meaningful stories of their own, which helped add depth to the storyline. The first season ended on a note of suspense, the writers probably assuming that the show would be picked up for another season. Sadly, this was not the case and the fans of the level-headed sophomore were left feeling disappointed.

5. Veronica Mars (3 Seasons, 2004-07)

Veronica Mars – 3 Seasons (2004-07)
Veronica Mars

A contemporary of The O.C., Veronica Mars delved into the teen detective genre through a storyline of Mars trying to solve her best friend’s murder. Kristen Bell gave the female lead a powerful personality. Its “one case for one season” scheme, in which Mars got onto a case at the start of a season and spent the rest of it solving the crime, was a great set-up. Waning popularity forced the writers to shift to a “one case for one week” scheme in the third season, but this could not save the show. In 2014, Veronica Mars was resurrected as movie.

6. Undeclared (1 Season in 2001-02)

Undeclared – 1 Season (2001-02)

Created by Judd Apatow as a successor to Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared showed the life of seven college freshmen with refreshing realism. Coupled with powerful performances by rising stars like Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel and some very witty writing by the show’s creative team, Undeclared was supposed to be one of the ground breaking shows of Apatow’s career. Sadly, Fox producers hurt the show’s popularity by shifting time slots again and again and the show went off the air after the first season.

7. Terminator : The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2 seasons, 2008-09)

Terminator-The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Although one of the worst show titles ever, T:TSCC proved to be quite entertaining, thanks to great performances by the likes of Summer Glau (who plays the deadly terminator Cameron), good story lines and suspenseful cliffhangers. Sadly, the show’s budget outpaced its popularity by a mile, and the show ended on a nail-biting cliffhanger that is not likely to be solved, ever. Still, the show remains a popular alternative to some of the more recent movies of the Terminator franchise.

8. Firefly (1 Season in 2002)

Firefly – 1 Season (2002)

Firefly had a good storyline and excellent character portrayal by the cast, but had to die a quick death (after just 14 episodes!) thanks to Fox’s bungling up of the episode sequence. Still, the show gained a small fan following whose affectionate reminiscences of show eventually allowed Firefly to get a movie adaptation (Serenity, 2005). Though the film did give the characters the swansong they deserved, many remain hopeful that the show will be resurrected in its original form someday.

9. Deadwood (3 Seasons, 2004-06)

Deadwood – 3 Seasons (2004-06)

One of the most famous Western TV shows ever made, Deadwood, made liberal use of violence, strong but witty language and had good performances by the lead actors (Timmy Olyphant and Ian McShane). However, despite its popularity, HBO refused to create a fourth season, and the two movies that were promised to be in the works have yet to see the light of day.

10. Freaks and Geeks (1 Season in 1999-2000)

Freaks and Geeks – 1 Season (1999-2000)
Freaks and Geeks

If Undeclared went down courtesy of bad management, Freaks and Geeks was a brilliant show that was simply ahead of its day. Having a plot centered around two sets of outsiders in high school, this drama was as hilarious as it was emotionally honest. Thankfully, the Freaks and Geeks cast has gone on to shine, and the show’s legacy continues to inspire works in various formats. That said, we still wish NBC had persevered the show for a little longer than 18 episodes.

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