One is not always the loneliest number. There are many network shows that couldn’t make it past that first season mark.
Bad ratings, prohibitive costs, heavy on-set dramatics are just a few reasons a TV show might only last one season. Or sometimes it’s just plain terrible.
A few series started with promising premises, well-known stars, and even good ratings. So what could have gone wrong? The network executives make the final decision and it usually has to do with a high budget that doesn’t match up to the loftier ratings the big wigs expect.
Ironically, thanks to streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu, some of these one season shows have picked up a whole new audience and following, living on as cult favorites and garnering new fans year after year.
This “one season club” list is made of American television shows that lasted only one network season.
15. Freaks and Geeks
Considered by many to be the granddaddy of all one season TV shows, Freaks and Geeks made a splash in 1999 and is credited with launching the careers of Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jason Segel, and many more.
Unfortunately, the hour-long dramedy had ratings that were considered low for the times, so, its time slot got shuffled around too much by NBC. The quintessential high school survival stories ring true with generations of fans today, and the way-cool songs in each episode add a touch of timeless nostalgia.
The legend of Freaks and Geeks lives on thanks to Netflix, and is a perfect selection to add to your binge watch list.
Josh Whedon, the king of the geeks (which is meant as a compliment), was still working on Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel when he wrote and created Firefly. The show features a group of renegades in the year 2517 who are trying to escape life on earth after America and China unite to run the whole darn planet.
Firefly was a little ahead of its time in 2002, but FOX didn’t help. The network is notorious for running episodes out of sequence, which confuses viewers. For example, the second episode of Firefly ran before the pilot. The show was also promoted as an action-comedy when it was clearly a serious science fiction show, which, unfortunately for Whedon’s fans, contributed to its low ratings.
13. My So-Called Life
Like Freaks and Geeks, this coming of age dramedy succinctly navigates the trials and tribulations of the drama filled high school years.
My So-Called Life follows the life and times of a teenage girl named Angela played by Claire Danes. Angela drops old friends, dyes her hair a new color, and tries to make sense of the ever-changing world around her amidst the social changes of the early 90’s. The 1995 show was praised for how it deftly dealt with topical issues of the day like homophobia and teen drug use.
Despite low ratings, the creators were hoping for a second season and created a cliffhanger for the season finale. Many fans protested the cancellation, but ABC wouldn’t budge.
The show helped boost Claire Dane’s career, as well as future Oscar winner Jared Leto who played Angela’s love interest. You can stream My So-Called Life on Hulu.
12. The Grinder
This meta comedy follows a rather famous actor who played a lawyer on a popular TV show called The Grinder. When his show gets canceled, the actor heads back to his hometown to catch his bearings. After having some fun in a real courtroom, he decides to join his family’s law firm.
After all, a television lawyer and a real lawyer are the same, right? The series boasted the star power of Rob Lowe and Fred Savage and still couldn’t garner the ratings that Fox wanted. And ironically, the show was later nominated for a Critics’ Choice Award in 2016.
11. The Crazy Ones
Like The Grinder, The Crazy Ones featured a boatload of stars, like the late great Robin Williams and the always charming Sarah Michelle Gellar. It was created by uber television writer and producer David E. Kelly, who is known for producing shows like Ally McNealy, Boston Legal, The Practice, and many more beloved TV series. David E. Kelley hardly misses, so what went wrong?
The show was based on the office antics of an advertising agency. Perhaps it was a combination of far-fetched story lines, or segments that were a little to kooky, but the CBS show failed miserably in the ratings and was sent packing to join the one season club in 2014.
10. Mr. Sunshine
Poor Matthew Perry, ever since the mega-hit series Friends ended in 2004, Perry has been struggling to find another funny sitcom with staying power. (Yes, his Odd Couple reboot of 2015 has astonishingly been picked up for a third season, but it’s not exactly a juggernaut.)
At any rate, remember Mr. Sunshine? Not many do. It was a 2011 mid-season replacement on ABC that centered around Perry, a manager at a small sports arena in San Diego, CA. Co-created by Perry, and featuring the always great Allison Janney, Mr. Sunshine just saw too many cloudy days. This show is the first of his three shows to make the one season list.
9. Go On
Go On was Matthew Perry’s second attempt in his so-called solo career. One of the premise of Go On seemed to have a shot at working for the series; Matthew Perry played the somewhat controversial host of a sports talk radio show, a concept ripe with sports-related story lines ripped right from the headlines.
But for some reason, his character was also getting over the passing of his wife, and that seemed like too much of a bummer for a comedy. The creators might have been going for dark and quirky with the addition of the zany support group that Perry’s character attended, but it just fell flat from a whole lot of “huh?” The series ran on NBC from August 2012-April 2013 and left poor Perry unemployed again.
8. The Good Guys
For a lot of TV viewers, Bradley Whitford might be best known as Josh Lyman on the semi-serious drama, The West Wing. After that show ended, Whitford tried his luck in the sitcom genre but ended up with a couple of misfires and one-season “wonders.”
The Good Guys debuted on Fox in 2010 and starred Whitford himself as well as Colin Hanks as a couple of mismatched Dallas detectives. The characters were polar opposites which made for some funny story moments in this sort of action/comedy hybrid. The chemistry between the two actors was strong, but not strong enough for Fox who pulled the plug after one season.
7. Trophy Wife
A poor lawyer suffers through the many interactions between his wives: two exes and his new younger model wife played by Malin Akerman. Marcia Gay Harden and Michaela Watkins played the ex-wives and the chemistry between the three women made for some funny and heartwarming moments.
Bradley Whitford played a man dealing with a blended family made up of three wives and three children. The show was well received by critics and the few who tuned in.
Many pundits thought perhaps the title was off-putting. ABC was hoping the show would be a companion to the very popular family sitcom Modern Family, but decided to pull the plug.
6. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip 2006 NBC
This much-ballyhooed Aaron Sorkin show followed the trials and tribulations on the set of a Saturday Night Life type of sketch comedy show.
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip debuted the same season as 30 Rock, which was created by Tina Fey of SNL, which also happened to be a behind-the-scenes look at life on a late-night show. And Fey just happened to be an SNL alum.
Many critics were quick to dismiss the 30 Rock, and assumed Sorkin had created a better show than Fey. Sorkin is known for creating the critically acclaimed The West Wing and writing the screenplay for movies like a Few Good Men and The Social Network.
Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford starred as the producers of Studio 60, which also featured a stellar supporting cast that included Sarah Paulson, Amanda Peet and Steven Weber. Despite the star power and the Sorkin pedigree, the show was a little too somber for viewers and they stopped coming back.
This much-anticipated show from Amy Sherman-Palladin, the creator of the quirky/cultish Gilmore Girls begins as the story of a former Vegas showgirl, who after a quicky marriage, ends up teaching ballet in her new hubby’s small town. With his mother. Awkward.
The rapid-fire dialogue and quirky charters that made the Gilmore Girls so beloved was also features of this ABC Family dramedy. It had some funny storylines as well, but the ratings just weren’t making the grade. Most critics raved about the show, but some people said the show’s title didn’t make much sense. Factor in the lack of genuine star power and the show somberly joined the one season list.
4. Square Pegs
Sarah Jessica Parker, who previously starred in the Broadway musical Annie, is introduced to television audiences for the first time. The show was created by former Saturday Night Live writer, Anne Beatts and centered around eight bright and somewhat nerdy freshmen who are just starting high school. It was known for having popular bands and musicians on the show. Some of these included the Waitresses and Devo. The soundtrack also featured songs by Billy Idol, The B52’s and The Clash.
The show addressed the bittersweet moments that accompany high school years and touched on issues that affected teens at the time an approach that fans attribute to the movie maker John Hughes. In 1982, CBS wasn’t interested in the small, younger audience and thus let the show go off into the sunset.
3. Sh*t My Dad Says
What? A show starring William Shatner based on a Twitter feed didn’t make it?
Sh*t My Dad Says started as a twitter feed. In 2009, Justin Halpern was a fledgling comedian who thought the social media platform would be a great way to make a name for himself and publish some of his dad’s funny comments. After writing a book about his dad’s words of wisdom, CBS asked Halpern to write a series with the creators of Will & Grace, David Kohan and Max Mutchnick.
The show fared ok in the ratings but the title proved to be a problem; the Parents Television Council protested against it because they considered it obscene.
The show was cancelled in 2011, but ironically went on to win a People’s Choice Award for Best New Comedy.
2. Terra Nova
The executive producer of the Fox drama, Terra Nova, was Steven Spielberg which helped make it one of the more anticipated series in 2011.
Terra Nova tells the tale of what happens when problems in the environment aren’t taken seriously. The story line follows the Shannon family as they travel back in time to the dinosaur age and have mankind can start over with a clean slate.
Reviews were mixed from the critics and the ratings were not as high as the shows hefty price tag. Eventually Fox decided the show was too expensive and decided to cut it loose.
This Fox comedy was a series about life in the military with a family element thrown in. The premise of the show followed three brothers who were at odds with each other, but find they are all assigned to the same army training unit. The cast of cute, but younger lesser known actors, included Geoff Stults, Chris Lowell, and Parker Young as the brothers.
Unfortunately, many viewers found the plot lines confusing to follow because of the Fox network’s bad habit of running the episodes out of order. So once again, despite critical acclaim, the low ratings caused the show to ship off to the one season club.