TV shows get canceled all the time, usually because of poor reviews and poor ratings. But often, there are instances when a poorly reviewed series will become a huge hit with audiences, while a critically lauded show will fail to find viewers and get the axe.
We'll always hold a special place in our hearts for our favorite canceled shows, especially those that left the airwaves after only few seasons. Most of us cope by commisserating with fellow fans whenever the subject comes up, or by buying the DVD box-sets to watch over and over again. The most hardcore fanatics, however, are always hoping that these cult TV shows will somehow resume filming (and in very rare cases, it's actually happened).
Check out a few fan-favorite shows that left our airwaves prematurely — along with a few that eventually came back — then vote for your favorite below.
The plot of "Twin Peaks" centered around the murder of a small-town homecoming queen, but it was the left-of-center townsfolk that made this show a hit when it first aired in 1990. Creators David Lynch and Mark Frost introduced an increasingly eccentric array of characters as the series progressed, but viewership began to decline after the major plot-line was resolved. After two seasons on the air, "Twin Peaks" was canceled. In 1992, co-creator Lynch released the film "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me" to serve as somewhat of a prequel to the series.
Joss Whedon's "Firefly" followed the crew of a spaceship named Serenity and featured an ensemble cast including Nathan Fillion and Summer Glau. After only 14 episodes were produced (and only 11 of which aired), FOX pulled the plug on the ambitious space-western in December of 2002. Strong post-cancellation DVD sales and a rabid fanbase led to a 2005 feature film continuation called "Serenity" which earned praise from critics and fans but performed poorly at the box office.
In "Arrested Development," do-gooder Michael Bluth struggles to keep his dysfunctional family afloat after his father is thrown in jail for fraud. It may not sound like the ideal setup for a sitcom, but critics praised just about every element of Mitchell Hurwitz's quick-witted series. The show didn't fare as well in the ratings, however, and FOX canceled "Arrested Development" after its third season in 2006. (DVD sales and syndication ratings eventually prompted Netflix to pick up "Arrested Development" for a fourth season in 2013, with a fifth reportedly in the works for 2015.)
"My So-Called Life" chronicled the trials and tribulations of 15-year-old Angela Chase (Claire Danes) as she dealt with friends, family and a love interest by the name of Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto). The show was lauded for its honest portrayal of teenagers, but struggled for ratings. This lack of viewers, as well as Danes' reported reluctance to reprise her role for a second season, contributed to the cancelation of the series. Six months and 19 episodes after it began, ABC's "My So-Called Life" officially reached the end of its lifespan in early 1995.
Originally airing on UPN and subsequently The CW Network, "Veronica Mars" starred Kristen Bell as a high-school student who counted crime-solving among her extra-curricular activities. The show lasted a whole three seasons before getting the ax in 2007, but series creator Rob Thomas went on to create "Party Down," a Starz sitcom which reunited much of the recurring cast from "Mars." Unfortunately, "Party Down" was also canceled despite rave reviews.
If you weren't a jock or a cheerleader at McKinley High in 1980, you belonged to a tight-knit group of slackers or nerds. That was the premise of Paul Feig's hilarious and often heartbreaking NBC series "Freaks and Geeks." The show centered around Lindsay Weir (a freak) and younger brother Sam (a geek), as well as their all-too-real parents, friends and teachers. It was canceled after only 12 episodes were aired (18 were produced in total), but not before it launched the careers of just about everyone involved with the show, including James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Linda Cardellini, John Francis Daley and executive producer Judd Apatow.
ABC's "Sports Night" explored the behind-the-scenes happenings of a "SportsCenter"-like program, focusing on the anchors, producers and analysts that made the show tick. Created by Aaron Sorkin ("The West Wing," "The Newsroom"), this half-hour comedy-drama had all the elements of a Sorkin production: fast-paced banter, ultra-witty dialogue, and lots of simultaneous walking and talking. Critics loved it (save for a jarring laugh track that was eventually phased out), but the show failed to gain an audience. "Sports Night" was canceled after its second season in 2000.
Seth MacFarlane's animated sitcom "Family Guy," though still currently on the air, was originally canceled back in 2000 … and then again in 2002. After debuting in 1999 and enjoying success with viewers, FOX executives experimented with airing "Family Guy" in different time slots. Ratings began to drop, and the show was canceled at the end of its second season. A change of heart led to production on a third season, but the show was axed again soon afterward. It wasn't until 2005, after record-setting DVD sales prompted FOX to reconsider their decision, that "Family Guy" officially returned to the air. It's remained on television ever since.