There are few things more frustrating than getting hooked on a TV show that studio executives later decide to cancel. The rise of streaming services like Netflix often being quick to pull the plug on a series that, as far as we’re concerned, should have continued for many more seasons.
35. The Wonder Years
The official reason given for the cancellation of The Wonder Years was that its cast was simply getting too old to be playing the characters in this coming-of-age drama. The reality of it, though, is a little different…
34. Roseanne (2018)
As soon as she rose to fame in the 80s, comedian and actress Roseanne Barr had always courted controversy.
The final straw came when Barr directed a racist tweet at Valerie Jarrett, former advisor to Barack Obama during his time at the White House. (Barr would later say she tweeted under the influence of the prescription medication Ambien.)
33. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo
Even in this age of sensationalist reality television, few such shows raised quite so many eyebrows as Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. Premiering in 2012, the reality show centred on child beauty pageant contender Alana ‘Honey Boo Boo’ Thompson and her family.
Early on in production of the show’s fourth season, it came to light that ‘Mama’ June Shannon’s boyfriend, who had featured on camera on the show, was a convicted sex offender. Out of concern for the safety of the children involved in the show, network TLC immediately pulled the plug, leaving an entire season unaired.
32. Man Finds Food
A follow-up series to the popular Man Vs. Food, starring Richman, Man Finds Food, was a more grounded travel show with a foodie angle.
The show was pulled from the airwaves late in the day in 2014, after Richman caused widespread controversy on social media using the hashtag #thinspiration. Richman suggested that that those who criticised him should consider killing themselves. The show was initially indefinitely postponed.
Initially, the helicopter-based TV show went in for fairly dark storylines dealing with espionage and Cold War politics, but as it became clear kids were tuning in just for the action, the producers insisted on toning things down.
Unfortunately, these changes completely backfired: not only were they unpopular with audiences, but the show’s creator Donald Bellisario was so angry that he quit the production for good. Another significant problem was leading man Jan-Michael Vincent, a troubled man whose struggles with drugs and alcohol frequently made things difficult behind the scenes.
30. The Ren & Stimpy Show
With its extreme violence, grotesque imagery, jet-black humour and adult themes, The Ren & Stimpy show alarmed many critics and viewers, as well as the network executives themselves.
The Ren & Stimpy writers and animators were frequently at loggerheads with Nickelodeon over the show, with the network constantly pushing back over provocative and violent content. One episode, Man’s Best Friend, was not broadcast at all after the network deemed it too extreme.
While the show continued to command a cult following, The Ren & Stimpy Show was cancelled in 1996, owing to persistent criticisms and the behaviour of the show’s creator John Kricfalusi (who was actually fired three seasons before the show went off the air).
Years later, a more disturbing reason for Kricfalusi’s firing would come to light, when it emerged that his alleged sexual harassment of teenage and, allegedly, underage girls had been an ‘open secret’ within the industry.
With a career dating back to the early 80s, Louis C.K. was for a long time one of the most highly-regarded stand-up comedians in the US.
This eventually led to him getting his own TV series, Louie, a semi-autobiographical comedy-drama that CK also largely wrote and directed.
While the show attracted rave reviews and many big-name guest stars, it came to an unceremonious end in 2017.
After years of rumours doing the rounds, CK was publicly accused of sexual misconduct by several women.
Although CK initially denied these allegations, he finally admitted they were true in late 2017.
This effectively ended CK’s career, as he was immediately dropped by his agent and FX – the network that broadcast Louie – terminated his contract.
Launched in January 2012, Luck seemed to have all the makings of a truly prestigious TV show.
Created by David Milch (NYPD Blue, Deadwood), Luck had no less a leading man than multi-Oscar-winner Dustin Hoffman, and Michael Mann directing its first episode.
However, the drama set within the world of horse racing proved to have the very same problem as horse racing itself: animal safety.
After it came to light that two horses had been killed during the shooting of the first season, network HBO pulled the plug.
Only nine episodes, of the show’s first season, were ever aired, while a planned second season was scrapped after a third horse was euthanised during the shooting of the season’s second episode.
Writer, director and actor Frankie Shaw created and took the lead role in SMILF, a comedy series that expanded on her short film of the same name.
The show followed the trials and tribulations of Shaw’s Bridgette, a working-class single mother struggling to get by.
SMILF was met with positive reviews and two Golden Globe nominations, but behind the scenes, things were less golden.
It emerged in 2018 that Shaw and the producers of SMILF were under investigation for inappropriate behaviour on the set of the show.
Actress Samara Weaving quit the series claiming her contract was breached by “inappropriately handled” sex scenes. Weaving was not alone in making these claims, and there were also allegations of racial discrimination on set.
While Shaw denied these charges, things were soured with the network, and SMILF was cancelled after just two seasons.
26. The Dana Carvey Show
However, there are probably far fewer of us who remember that in 1996, Carvey also headlined his very own TV comedy sketch series.
There’s a good reason you might never have heard of The Dana Carvey Show, and that’s that the show was over almost as soon as it began.
The Dana Carvey Show prompted widespread outrage from its very first sketch, in which Carvey gave a satirical impersonation of President Bill Clinton while sporting multiple prosthetic nipples, from which various small animals and babies were suckling.
Further confrontational jokes tackled racism, homosexuality and other sensitive subjects. Unsurprisingly, it was all a bit too much for network ABC and their commercial sponsors.
25. Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future
This 1987 sci-fi action series is one of the greatest TV oddities of the era, and one which was surrounded in controversy from the get-go.
Produced in conjunction with toy line Mattel, Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future promised an interactive TV experience, with the toy line selling action figures, vehicles and guns that literally reacted to the action on screen using Laser Tag-style technology.
While cartoon shows designed to sell toys were commonplace in the era, there hadn’t been a live-action show made with that specific intention before (although the show was also partly animated, with action sequences brought to life via early use of CGI).
However, the makers of Captain Power were keen to appeal to young and old alike, and tried to tackle more mature content in the show. Set in a post-apocalyptic future, Soldiers of the Future had a downbeat tone and a high body count, as well as moderate swearing and hints at sexual relationships between the characters.
24. 19 Kids and Counting
Introduced in 2008 as 17 Kids and Counting (which should give you a clue as to how things developed), this reality series was a big hit for network TLC.
The show centred on Arkansas family the Duggars, devout Baptists who do not believe in birth control and who would home school their substantial brood.
However, after seven years the show was abruptly cancelled when one of the 19 kids, Josh Duggar, was embroiled in a scandal.
A police report was uncovered dating back to 2006 – two years before the show began – revealing that the eldest Duggar child had multiple accusations of sexual molestation made against him from five girls, four of whom were his own sisters.
By the time this was made public, the statute of limitations had expired, and Duggar was never charged. However, he did not deny the charges, publicly admitting that he “acted inexcusably.”
23. Paula’s Home Cooking
Celebrity chef Paula Deen first appeared on screens in 1999, and got her own Food Network series, Paula’s Home Cooking, in 2002.
While Deen drew her share of criticism for her old-fashioned love of sugar and butter, a cause for greater concern was her alleged racism.
Lisa Jackson, previously a manager of Deen’s restaurant, sued her former employer in 2013 on grounds of racial and sexual discrimination.
Amongst many other complaints about her time working for Deen, Jackson stated she had heard Deen make numerous racist remarks about African Americans.
While the lawsuit was ultimately dismissed, Deen did admit under oath that she had used the N-word in the past.
While Deen issued public apologies, her wholesome image was tarnished, and Paula’s Home Cooking was promptly cancelled.
As the name might suggest, this comedy series launched in 1977 as a parody of that long-standing TV staple, the soap opera.
Centred on the daily dramas of a wealthy Connecticut family, Soap is notable for giving an early role to future big-screen comedy star Billy Crystal.
Even more remarkably for the time, Crystal played one of the first openly gay characters to appear on US television – which, of course, didn’t go down well with some of the more conservative viewers and critics.
Nor did Soap’s provocative content end there, as the show tackled all manner of sensitive subjects including race relations, mental illness and more besides.
Network ABC was uncomfortable with all the taboo subject matter, and for a time insisted that Soap (which aired at 9.30pm) be preceded by a ‘viewer discretion advised’ warning.
21. Freddy’s Nightmares
By 1988, with the release of A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, the horror movie franchise’s central villain Freddy Krueger was a pop culture sensation.
So it was that studio New Line Cinema decided to branch out to the small screen, presenting further nightmarish tales centred on Robert Englund‘s claw-handed dream demon.
Taking an anthology-style approach (a year before TV hit Tales from the Crypt did likewise), Freddy’s Nightmares used Freddy Krueger himself primarily as a host, although the notorious killer often had a knife-tipped hand to play in proceedings.
Freddy’s Nightmares proved popular enough to make it to two seasons, with 44 episodes produced overall. It boasted early appearances from a number of actors who went on to find fame, most notably Brad Pitt.
However, the show was during its run met with widespread complaints from parents’ groups who feared the show glamourised its monstrous central figure – even though the series was never as graphically violent as the movies, due to the constraints on network television content at the time.
20. The Cosby Show
The Cosby Show was widely acclaimed and popular among audiences on its initial run from 1984 to 1992.
However, in more recent years the title has lived in infamy because of what we now know about the man who gave his name to the show.
The formerly beloved comedian Bill Cosby is now serving three to ten years at the State Correctional Institution in Phoenix, Pennsylvania after being found guilty on three counts of aggravated indecent assault in 2018.
This sentencing came after more than 60 women spoke out on having been assaulted by Cosby – charges which he attempted to dismiss as false.
Since its cancellation, The Cosby Show had remained popular in syndicated reruns, but this predictably changed as its leading man became among the most hated men in America.
19. Garbage Pail Kids
The Garbage Pail Kids were among the weirdest child-oriented products of the 80s, and the cause of much upset.
A parody of the considerably more wholesome Cabbage Patch Kids dolls, the Garbage Pail Kids began life as a trading cards series.
The grotesque designs and dark humour of these cards delighted mischievous youngsters, but enraged many parents and teachers.
Still, the popularity of the card series was enough to get a TV cartoon show into production (not to mention a live-action movie).
However, such was the controversy surrounding the Garbage Pail Kids brand that the show was dead in the water almost immediately.
18. The Dukes of Hazzard
Not unlike The Cosby Show, The Dukes of Hazzard is another TV hit that was beloved at the time but has since become problematic.
Back in the 80s, audiences simply enjoyed the show for its light-hearted humour and action.
However, in more recent years concerns have been raised about the paint job on Bo and Luke Duke’s celebrated car, the General Lee.
The Confederate Battle Flag had for many years been popular in the American South, but has become increasingly frowned upon due to its troubling historical associations.
As the flag is on the roof of the Duke boys’ car, it’s pretty much an unavoidable presence in every episode of show.
When news broke about a TV reboot of 1989 cult teen movie classic Heathers going into production, the project was immediately swathed in controversy.
To begin with, much of the anger came from fans of the original movie, who disliked the new take on the concept.
The Heathers series was to rework the concept of the movie by making the traditionally marginalised teens (one plus-sized, one mixed race, one non-binary) the ‘Heathers,’ and as such the show’s villains. Many critics considered this counter-productive.
However, Heathers ultimately wound up being cancelled as its core plot device – high school teens killing one another with guns – was simply too close to real life.
The Heathers TV show was about to hit the air shortly before the horrific shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, which in turn led to the largest gun protest in history.
16. House of Cards
On its launch in 2013, this US adaptation of the British mini-series of the same name was considered a major coup for Netflix.
Executive produced by David Fincher, House of Cards boasted a very respectable cast, not least two-time Oscar-winner Kevin Spacey.
However, the show hit a serious problem when multiple accusations of sexual misconduct were made against Spacey.
Spacey was immediately removed from the show, with his character Frank Underwood being unceremoniously killed between seasons five and six.
That sixth and final season would be hastily rewritten, giving Robin Wright the lead role of just eight episodes. Netflix then pulled the plug for good.
15. 8 Minutes
The premise of 8 Minutes is so controversial, that it won’t come as much of a surprise to anyone that it was cancelled after just one season.
The idea was a simple one: a former cop would hire escorts to come to his hotel room, and then try and convince them to leave their profession behind.
The idea was that the women would be given a path out of the profession if they wanted it, and would be supported as they found a different way to make money.
The show itself received criticism for villainising sex work, but the criticism was doubled when the women from the show revealed that they had received a handful of money and had been given no further support. Yikes.
14. All My Babies Mamas
If you don’t remember the rapper Shawty Lo, don’t feel bad, as the majority of his TV show’s test audience didn’t either.
Despite his relative obscurity though, he very nearly had his own show, focused on his unusual family life that featured his 11 children and the ten different mothers he had them with.
It wasn’t long after the premise of the show was revealed that the network began facing criticism, with critics worrying that the show would cause the children to be bullied.
Fruthermore, many critics believed that the show leaned into stereotypes about African American dads, and that criticism was powerful enough for the show to be axed before a single episode aired.
13. The Good Life
Speaking of rappers and musicians getting their own TV shows, CeeLo Green was also set up to have his own series on TBS.
The show was supposed to follow CeeLo Green’s life in a kind of Run’s House style documentary series, but it never made it to its second season.
The first controversy struck when Green was accused of slipping ecstasy into the drink of his date in a restaurant in 2012.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, he followed the accusation up with a series of now-deleted tweets that claimed sexual assault victims always remember their experiences. Unsurprisingly, the show was cancelled as a result.
12. Wisdom of the Crowd
Wisdom of the Crowd was a standard crime drama, following a vengeful father as he used an app of his own creation to track down his daughter’s killer.
It sounds like pretty standard TV fare, but it never made it to a second season either, thanks to the starring actor.
Actor Jeremy Piven, who played the father Jeffrey Tanner, was implicated in multiple accusations of sexual harassment, which led to the series not being renewed.
With that said, the show currently sits at 25% on Rotten Tomatoes, so it may never have made it to a second series anyway.
11. Megan Wants a Millionaire
Megan Wants a Millionaire is a pretty trashy concept, with established reality star Megan Hauserman looking to choose one of the many rich men lined up to vie for her affection.
The show never actually finished airing a series, but not because of the premise or the show’s star, but instead due to one of the contestants.
In a shocking twist, it was revealed after just three episodes that one of the contestants was suspected of murdering his wife, who was found in a garbage bin outside their home.
The series was suspended and then cancelled permanently when the same contestant was found to have hanged himself in his hotel room, leaving Hauserman to believe that she had potentially escaped a grim fate.
10. Ev and Ocho
Ev and Ocho was a reality show in the small but persistent niche of shows that feature people who were previously made famous by other shows.
Evelyn Lozada was a previous Basketball Wives star, while Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson was the basketball star she was married to.
The couple got their own spin-off show, but it proved to be short-lived, and never actually made it to air.
Why? Allegedly the two fought after Lozada found a box of condoms in Johnson’s car, with the altercation ending in Johnson’s arrest when Lozada was injured.
9. Kid Nation
Reality shows featuring physical challenges or extreme environments can be pretty precarious, and they become even more of a minefield when kids are involved.
With that in mind, it’s not surprising that Kid Nation, which saw the cast of kids attempt to build a society from scratch in a desert ghost town, was cancelled after one season.
The show’s first controversy came when it was revealed that the parents of the children were required to sign documents warning them that the show was “inherently dangerous” and posed “uncontrolled hazards and conditions that may cause serious bodily injury, illness or death”.
The children were also being paid the equivalent of nine dollars an hour for 40 hours of work a week, and one child accidentally drank bleach on set, with another getting a serious burn from hot bleach. With all that, it’s actually more surprising that the show was ever approved in the first place.
8. Who’s Your Daddy
Some people would argue that a lot of reality television can be pretty exploitative, but Who’s Your Daddy is definitely one of the more ethically dubious shows out there.
The premise was that one adopted child, all grown up, would be asked to pick her biological father from a line-up, with a cash prize if they guessed correctly.
That’s already an eyebrow-raising premise, but in an even more dubious twist, the money would be pocketed by the father if the child did not guess correctly.
Adopted rights charities critiqued the premise for possibly making adopted children feel bad about themselves, and the series was cancelled, even if it was sneakily brought back by Fox and aired on a different channel months later.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the contestant did correctly guess her father, and took home $100,00.
7. The Two Coreys
The Two Coreys was a show about the friendship between the two former child stars, Corey Feldman and Corey Haim.
The show only ran for two seasons before being cancelled, with the reason why being pretty tragic.
Essentially, Feldman called it quits in 2008, refusing to work with Haim anymore until the other actor reduced his dependence on drugs and alcohol.
Tragically, two years later in 2010, Feldman passed away from pneumonia, so the show never returned.
6. Flip it Forward
The premise of Flip it Forward is something you would see on any lifestyle channel, with two former sports stars renovating houses and selling them for a higher price.
However, despite the totally innocent premise of the show, the views and opinions of the two stars meant the show was cancelled before it had a chance to air.
It was revealed before the show aired that one of the stars, David Benham, led a rally outside the 2012 Democratic National Convention in order “to stop homosexuality and the agenda that is attacking the nation.”
Other remarks against abortion and Islam were enough to stop the show from airing permanently, even when Benham apologised and claimed to “love all people”.
5. Politically Incorrect
With a title like Politically Incorrect, it’s not really surprising that the show was eventually cancelled before airing, due to the politically incorrect comments of the host Bill Maher.
Maher landed himself in hot water when he decided to discuss the terrorists responsible for 9/11, saying they “weren’t cowardly”.
That single interview was enough to tank his career, and get his show cancelled for good. So maybe his audience didn’t have much of an appetite for politically incorrect opinions after all.
Transparent was a comedy/drama revolving around a family, who discover one of their parents is actually a transgender woman named Maura.
Surprisingly, the controversy surrounding this show had nothing to do with its themes and instead had to do with its cast.
The actor who played Maura, Jeffrey Tambor, was accused of two separate counts of sexual assault and was fired from the show as a result. They tried to run for another season without him, but given that he was the driving force behind the concept, it didn’t really work.
Empire is a long-running TV show that ran for six seasons, and was supposed to run for many more. However, season seven has still not been released, and is set to be much shorter than originally planned.
The reason boils down to Jussie Smollett, who was a huge part of the show, but was forced to leave after it came out that he may have staged and faked a hate crime incident.
Ironically, his character was originally supposed to end the show behind bars, but that ending was scrapped when it became apparent that such an ending would be too close to real life.
2. Work It
The premise for Work It is so outrageous that it’s unsurprising that it got cancelled, but what’s surprising is the speed with which it happened.
Work It centred on two men who were sick of being unemployed due to the recession, who decided that it would be way easier to get jobs if they were women, thanks to diversity hiring.
The show received overwhelmingly negative reviews, with the consensus being that it was sexist, racist, harmful to transgender women, and just unfunny in general. It aired for just over a week before being cancelled for good.
Confederate might be the most infamous television show to have never even made it to production.
The show is set in an alternative universe where the American Civil War ended in a stalemate, resulting in a completely different culture and set of laws.
The show was roundly dismissed as “slavery fanfiction”, and a hashtag condemning the concept trended number one in America and number two worldwide. The show makers, David Benioff and D. B. Weiss (Game of Thrones), insisted that it was still in pre-production for a long time, but finally had to admit that they were struggling to get it made.