5 TV shows that died too soon (and 5 that should be killed)



Whistling through the TV graveyard

TV isn't always a meritocracy. With that in mind, here are our picks of five shows that were canceled way before their time, and five more we wish would vanish into a black hole, never to be seen again.

Which ones made the list? Check out the gallery above to find out.

The good: Firefly

When it comes to shows taken from us too soon, there’s nothing that compares to Firefly. The brainchild of Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator and Avengers director Joss Whedon, this superb sci-fi/Western series only crawled to 14 episodes before Fox pulled the plug due to subpar ratings.

The show's cult fan base sounded off so loudly that the series was sequelized a few years later in 2005 movie Serenity, which picked up with the same cast after the events of Firefly's final episode. The movie was critically acclaimed, but flopped at the box office. This is why we can’t have nice things.

Star Trek

It sounds crazy to suggest that a franchise which is coming up to 50 years of age was canceled too soon, but the original Star Trek television show was kicked off the air after just three seasons!

Revived after posting strong syndication numbers, the sci-fi franchise spawned more than a dozen films and four spinoff TV series, but there was definitely a time when James Tiberius Kirk and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise genuinely seemed to have reached the final frontier. “You Star Trek fans have fought the good fight, but the show has been canceled and there’s nothing to be done now,” wrote a TV critic in 1969. Truly illogical, captain!


I narrowly avoided including Buffy spinoff Angel on this list for fear of including yet another Joss Whedon project. Then I remembered Dollhouse, his short-lived sci-fi show about a mysterious organization that implants false memories and skills in mind-wiped humans known as Dolls so they can take on various missions.

The premise sounded like it could simply be a show in which its star, Eliza Dushku, got dressed up in various outfits (that alone should have guaranteed a minimum of three seasons). But Dollhouse was packed full of Whedon-y goodness and grew to become one of the most intriguing sci-fi shows in recent history, even though it only lasted two seasons.


Set in the late 1800s and revolving around the residents of Deadwood, South Dakota, this foul-mouthed HBO Western was beloved by virtually everyone that saw it. Everyone, that is, except for HBO executives, who canceled it after Season 3.

While there were initial plans to give Deadwood a proper sendoff with two TV movies, those plans now seem to have fallen by the wayside. We hold out hope that someone comes to their senses.

Pushing Daisies

A pie-maker imbued with the power to bring the dead back to life solves murders with his resurrected childhood sweetheart, a private investigator, and a love-struck waitress. What’s not to love? Seemingly nothing, which is why Pushing Daisies received 17 Emmy Award nominations, with seven wins. Then it was canceled, presumably by someone who won’t be brought back from the afterlife anytime soon.

The bad: Two and a Half Men

There are some events so shameful that you have to wonder if there’s something deeply wrong with the human psyche -- the kind of thing Arthur C. Clarke was alluding to in 2001: A Space Odyssey when he suggested that civilization was inextricably tied to murder and bloodshed.

The inexplicable popularity of Two and a Half Men is one such example. I've never actually met a fan of this show, but they must exist unless 4.8 million people leave their TV sets on every week as some kind of situationist meta-prank.

Here’s how awful the show is: CBC recently announced the series will end after its next season, and I’m still including it here. Why? Because they shouldn't even let it finish out with a flourish of human decency. Just cut to black in the middle of an episode and never mention it again.


The Big Bang Theory

I should love The Big Bang Theory. As a nerd who loves tech, comics and pretty much anything else that used to mark you as a potential lunch-money theft target in high school, a show that features geeks (as opposed to, say, five unfeasibly attractive friends living in apartments they could never possibly afford) should be right up my alley.

So why should The Big Bang Theory be canceled immediately? There are a bunch of small reasons: The jokes aren’t funny, the characters are unlikeable, and a laugh track in 2014 is all kinds of lame. The real reason, though, is that it’s in no way an accurate portrayal of geek culture, but rather the same kind of dumb pocket-protector brainiac jokes we’ve been suffering through since the 1950s. HBO's Silicon Valley is roughly a billion times better.

The Simpsons

The Simpsons is, at this stage, essentially a zombie. It looks a little bit like the entity you once knew, but the spirit is gone, and now it just lurches around the wilderness looking for brains to feast upon. Even the most ardent Simpsons fan will readily admit that things haven’t been the same since the late '90s, when the show lost its zing and began its steep decline.

It’s not even like you can just blame the show’s age, though: While 25 seasons is a long time by anyone’s reckoning, South Park has been on the air for 17 years and can still raise a good laugh every episode. It’s sad to say, since I once loved The Simpsons, but creator Matt Groening has basically undone all his good work at this stage. Boo-urns!

Beauty and the Beast

“What, that great 1991 Academy Award-nominated Disney movie?” If that’s genuinely what you thought when you read this, then skip to the next slide and don’t sully your mind with knowledge about this abomination of a show, which has been soiling the airwaves since 2012. A loose remake of the 1987 CBS series of the same name, this sci-fi police procedural is woeful on just about every level. Oh, and the “Beast” character is basically an underwear model with a blemish on his cheek. The horror, the horror!

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

It would have been very easy to pick, pretty much at random, a reality show from E and hold it up as the final example of a show that we’d like to have scrubbed from our brains using neuroscience’s answer to bleach. That would have been too easy, though. Instead, how about the crushing disappointment of a show that is Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?

They've done so much right with the Marvel Cinematic Universe that it seemed they should certainly be able to transfer some of the magic of Joss Whedon’s Avengers movie to the small screen. Sadly, they haven’t.

What we’re left with is a show straight out of the formulaic '90s that lacks any of the recognizable characters or compelling plotlines of big-screen Marvel tales. With Marvel already running the risk of burnout with the number of flicks it’s pumping out, it should forget about this misstep and focus on completing its Hollywood takeover.

Agree? Disagree?

Did we miss out your favorite hidden TV gem, that was taken from us before it had the chance to find its audience? Or did we want to send a show you love off to the Sarlacc pit that is TV hell? If you have strong thoughts on this topic let us know what they are in the comments below.

Deals of the Day

  • joao pedro

    I disagree with the big bang theory. I also watch silicon valley but I laugh a lot with big bang

  • John Henry

    disagree with big bang theory…it is still very much amusing..

  • Anthony Scouras

    seriously two and a half men and big bang theory are two of the funniest shows in the past 15 years

  • magicmn717

    I still think it is weird that there is a TV post on CoM, or why Luke is supposed to be a reputable source on TV quality.. That said, I agree with most of the Good, but not many of the Bad. Simpsons is still great for those that watch (which is a lot). Sure there were great episodes in the 90’s but I still watch weekly and it is by far “lurches around”. And comparing to South Park isn’t fair. I love south park, but they have done merely 247 episodes. Half of the Simpsons, and they aren’t always great either. And Shield also has been great at the end of the season. Started great, plummeted, then got really good towards the end. There are SO many worse TV shows out there right now. And not even the reality ones. Almost any comedy on CBS (all have “laugh tracks”) would fit better.

    • Rafterman00

      I agree about the Simpsons and South Park. And even South Park follows the same “formula” every week – something happens, usually relate to current events, the adults exaggerate it to stupid levels, usually led by Randy, Stan and Kyle are the voice of reason and Cartman tries to take advantage of the situation. I still love watching the show, but its not any better or worse than the Simpsons or a bunch of other shows.

    • Luke Dormehl

      I thought about the South Park analogy, but I’d say it’s perfectly fair because South Park now is leagues better than The Simpsons was in, say, 2005, when it was of a comparable age.

      • magicmn717

        I think there have been quite a few really bad South Park episodes lately. And several really good Simpsons ones. Like the Lego episode was great. I think Simpsons is like SNL. Every 5-10 years, everyone always says it was better 5-10 years ago. Yet objectively compared to what else is on at the time, it is still better than the average.

  • lowtolerance

    I think you might have published this to the wrong blog.

  • I disagree with posting this to the CoM blog :) Also disagree with Marvel: AoS. It may not have quite the writing talent that the big movies have, but I find it an interesting look at what’s going on during the shakeup at SHIELD, with Hydra etc. I like the characters too.
    Also, Big Bang Theory = Penny… ’nuff said.

  • Adrayven

    I watch Big Bang just for the hot blond.. I thought that was why most guys watched it.. lol

  • Rafterman00

    I think its just become the “in” thing to bash the Simpsons. Maybe its not what it used to be, but its still better than 95 percent of the crap on TV.

    • Luke Dormehl

      I definitely think the amount of Simpsons bashers have increased, but I think it is fair to hold some shows/movies/companies etc. to a higher standard than others. Would you expect more from a new Apple product than you would from a Kickstarter project? Sure. If you’re a film fan, do you have higher expectations when you walk into a Martin Scorsese movie than you do when you watch a random action flick on Netflix with a beer and some pizza? I’d say so. The reason The Simpsons is notable is because it could once hold a very real claim to being the funniest thing on television. Now it’s not even close. I was a massive fan of the show, which is why it may hurt that much more.

  • tornacious

    Firefly, ah yes. Such a great show caught in a bad situation. I still go back and watch episodes from time to time.

  • Props for mentioning Pushing Daisies, don’t think I ever hear anyone talking about that one.

    And yes, HBO’s Silicon Valley is roughly a billion times better, ha.

  • Benjamin Ferguson

    Props for putting up another stupid post that has nothing to do with Apple. 2nd TV Post in a day. Wtf?

  • CelestialTerrestrial

    I’m wondering what this article has to do with Apple/Macs. I see no relevance.

  • TheMadTurtle

    I don’t disagree with The Big Bang Theory, but believe they should end it for different reasons. I think they’re running out of material. The earlier seasons were much better. Now, all the guys except Raj have girlfriends and they’re just running out of good situations to put the characters in. This last season reminded me a lot of the last couple seasons of Friends – just no where left to go.

    • Luke Dormehl

      That’s a large part of a lot of the shows that have declined significantly, and one of the main reasons we look on shows like Breaking Bad and The Wire so fondly. Does anyone think Breaking Bad season 25 would have been as good as season 3 or 4? Almost certainly not. Shows need to know when to quit.

  • Barzuma

    + on Firefly and Pushing Up Daisies. Might I add another obscure series: Wonderfalls. Though luckily the original run has a good closure to it.

    I’m on the fence about Mixology, though :-)

    • YodaMac

      YES! I was going to recommend Wonderfalls as well. Loved it, Pushing Daisies, and Firefly. Also was into Dollhouse too. (and Dark Angel!)

      I still enjoy Simpsons and Big Bang Theory plenty as well. (but yes, please lose the laugh tracks!)

  • Vimal Mohan

    Considering the comparison of Star Trek with two and a half men and the Big Bang theory, this is the most amusing and idiotic review I have seen since my birth. Please fire this reviewer right away for good!!

    • Luke Dormehl

      A slightly unnecessarily angry response, perhaps? In what sense was I comparing Star Trek and Two and a Half Men? Other than saying that one was good and taken off the air, while the other was bad and remains on it.

      • Vimal Mohan

        Two and a half men and Big Bang theory are comic stuff and when you say they should be taken out of air, I doubt your sense of humour and I am shocked by your mixture of genre.. For example, I will not put James Cameroon movies in a list with rio series and say the former is best and latter should be thrown out..

      • EKIMMMMM

        you think big bang theory and two and a half men are great comedies? they both use the same jokes over and over that sitcoms have been using since their inception. stuff that a lot of shows clearly mock. any show with a laugh track (‘live’ or recorded) is a sign that its not very good. i’d say he probably has better taste in comedies than you do simply because he discredits those shows & sees them for what they are

      • Vimal Mohan

        What is a good comedy show according to you ? Name one pls

  • The Gnome

    Agree. Also, cancel all reality, dating, talent and other shows while we’re at it. Its embarrassing for the US. (except for Top Chef. Thats a keeper)

    I’d give my right nut to get Firefly back. Left one for Deadwood.

  • Jason Autry

    Ahh pushing daisies was so good! All live comedies are terrible (big bang theory and two and half men), pumped up fake laugh tracks must go away!!

  • Kate

    How many times do I have to tell people, the Big Bang Theory is filmed in front of a live audience. I know because I’ve been in the audience. You’ve been on Reddit too much if this is what you’re complaining about.

  • BusterH

    Deadwood, hell yes. One of HBO’s best series ever, but it didn’t live as long as True Blood, wtf?
    Not sure about keeping Dollhouse and Pushing Daisies but I wish Two and a half men died mid-season 2 and the world would be a better place without Big Bang Theory.

  • freemdoom

    What is this, Mushfeedable?

  • San Diego Dave

    Ok, I’m finally sympathizing with the haters. Why is this pointless listacle on cult of mac?

  • Gretchen Troop

    Man do I disagree about Big Bang Theory! I love that show, it’s not true to life in any scenario, but has quirky fun characters that I have grown to love. Silicon Valley is great too, and my husband who is a certified nerd loves both as well. As far as shows that should have stayed around “My Name is Earl” that show was freaking hilarious. Makes me angry it’s not on still.

  • mgg

    I actually enjoyed Two and a Half Men when Charlie Sheen was on it. I know it’s a dumb show but he was entertaining. The show should have been killed when he was fired, though. It’s almost like they are simply continuing out of spite. The Big Bang Theory is also funny. I hate the laugh track and it’s not exactly an accurate portrayal of nerd culture, but sometimes it’s downright hilarious! Oh and Firefly was over-rated. It wasn’t really that good, sorry.

  • The Big Bang Theory isn’t a laugh track, it is a live audience, and it is still witty and engaging. Agents of Shield had a rocky patch, but is awesome. Dollhouse didn’t know what it wanted to be. Two and a Half Men should have just had a final season after Charlie left, but it isn’t the worse show on Television, for that you simply need to look at ABC and NBC, which can’t seem to find quality, even if it bites them in the ass.

  • Ameer Gittens

    The author pans “Two and a Half Men” and, perhaps, deservedly so but he offers no explanation. I agree with his assessment of “The Simpsions.” I ditched that show in ’05.

  • If anything Big Bang Theory has gotten better over the years

  • BucTroop

    The author mentions Joss Wheadon at every turn. That’s suspicious.

  • NewLifestyleMentor

    And that was CBS, not the CBC. Somebody must be catching up on their Canadian TV again. ‘Nuff said …

  • Disagree with the Big Bang Theory, I think it is the funniest show on television now

  • Randam

    Go …. yourself for putting Two and a Half Men (w/ Charlie Sheen) up here.

  • Geoffry W

    Surviving Jack should have been on the WTF why did you cancel this list. I threw away all of my Fox made videos, and blocked the channel … I am still pissed.

  • Anam Hoque

    you should of added Heroes into the show they should not have canned!

  • Artem Tkachenko

    Bring “My name is Earl” back!

  • Out5poken

    I agree re: Simpsons. Ruining its own legacy, should have been canned years ago when the jokes were witty and side splittingly funny… Would have gone down as an all-time classic, instead it’s now long in the tooth and dull.