Tuesday, January 31, 2012

One-Season Wonders

The other night I was watching one of my all-time favorite TV shows – Joss Whedon’s Firefly – and wished that it had lasted longer than one season. Of course, after the public outcry following its cancellation, Whedon wrote and directed the companion film Serenity, but even it left so many questions unanswered.

This got me thinking about all the shows I’ve loved that were cancelled too quickly and left us with unfinished plots. Over the years, I’ve fallen in love with many, MANY shows that lasted no more than a year, some even taken off-air before the season completed. And so I’ve compiled a list of . . .

My Favorite One-Season Wonders:

Firefly (2002)– 
A brilliant space-western set in the distant future set five hundred years in the future, the crew of the Firefly-class spaceship Serenity will take any job, legal or illegal, to keep fuel in the tanks and food on the table. Things get complicated after they take on a passenger wanted by the new totalitarian Alliance regime and find themselves on the run, desperate to steer clear of Alliance ships and the flesh-eating Reavers who live on the fringes of space.

EZ Streets (1996) – 
Set in an unnamed, broken-down city somewhere near the Canadian border, this moody, film-noiresque tale follows undercover cop Cameron Quinn, who is accused of corruption after his partner is gunned down and $10,000 turns up missing, as he goes up against the gangs and crime-bosses running the streets. It’s dark and gritty, with a brilliant soundtrack, and though it’s not hard to see why its gloomy plot beaten down characters didn’t appeal to the average viewer, EZ Streets is one of the most brilliant shows I’ve ever seen.

Pasadena (2001) – 
This dark tale follows the youngest daughter of the most powerful family in the upscale Southern California enclave of Pasadena after she witnesses a stranger's apparent suicide and begins and investigation into her family's long-buried secrets. Cover-ups, familial greed and murder, this show revealed the darkest side of one of America’s oldest and wealthiest families.

Moonlight (2007) – 
Moonlight tells the tale of a fifty-year-old vampire turned private investigator who falls for a beautiful young reporter who’s mysteriously connected to his past. Together they solve crimes and do everything they can to keep his secret from coming to light. Considering the popularity of vampires these days I’m surprised this series didn’t last longer, but it’s gothic-esque characters and sinister plots made for great television.

Point Pleasant (2005) – 
A series of supernatural events begin in the small coastal town of Point Pleasant, New Jersey after the arrival of a mysterious teenage girl whom apparently has ability to make people and events act on her behalf. While this show erred a little on the side of teen-drama, it made up for it with a dark and demonic story-line that kept me hooked. This is one of the few shows I’m glad ended with only one season . . . not because it wasn’t interesting, but because the ambiguous ended adds to the ominous nature of the story.

Freaks and Geeks (1999) – 
This show revolves around two unique groups of teenagers – the freaks and the geeks – as they deal with life in high school during the 80's. Freaks and Geeks is a corky show that is highly praised for its less idealized and more accurate look the life of high school students who chose a more . . . alternative lifestyle. Though this show only lasted a season, its popularity continues to grow (belatedly) and holds cult-classic status.  

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (2006) – 
One of Aaron Sorkin’s lesser-known shows, this series takes place behind the scenes of a live sketch comedy show (similar to SNL) on the fictional television network NBS, and follows the shows’ two best-friend executive producers. I loved the show’s self-deprecating humor and the chemistry between the two main characters (as well as the rest of the show’s cast).

Mercy (2009) – 
A medical drama set in New Jersey, Mercy centers around the life of nurse Veronica Callahan after she returns from Iraq and deals with PTSD, a love triangle, and a single-minded devotion to her patients. Though it could be confused with other medical shows (like Grey’s Anatomy, which I always found a little melodramatic), somehow the characters made it different and unique.

The Black Donnellys (2007) – 
Doom hangs over the heads of the Donnelly brothers, four troubled young Irish-Americans caught between the Irish and Italian mobs in New York’s Hells Kitchen.  Its stark feel always reminded me a great deal of EZ Streets . . . probably because, as I found out recently, they were both written and created by Paul Haggis (best known for Crash and Casino Royale).

Justice (2006) – 
A little known legal drama, Justice revolves around a powerful Los Angeles law firm handles high-profile, media-circus cases. I think what I always liked best about this show was that at the end of every episode they reveal the events leading up to the each trial and whether the client was really innocent or guilty.  

Life (2007) – 
An off-beat police-drama, Life revolves around a falsely accused (and newly acquitted) former cop as he returns to the police force after serving twelve years in prison, with a tough new partner and a determination to find out who set him up. This is the only show on this list that made it to a second season. However, it was too good not to mention, and like the others, deserved to last longer. It’s like no other show I’ve ever seen.

Warning: Many of these shows were AMAZING, but never reached completion. Watch at your own discretion. 


  1. I saw Firefly listed on Netflix the other night. Will have to watch that one! I was such a big Buffy fan!!

  2. Firefly is my favorite Whedon series. I was devastated when it was cancelled. I don't know what to do with myself with no Whedon show on TV these days!

  3. Moonlight was the only one of those shows I watched and when it ended I was devastated. To this day, I still don't understand why!

  4. Definitely agreed on Firefly, Freaks & Geeks, Studio 60, and The Black Donnellys. I would add The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., Arrested Development, and Sports Night to the list of cancelled before their time.

  5. I've only heard of Firefly and Freaks & Geeks, but have seen Firefly and fell in love with it.

  6. Such great shows on this list! Firefly and Freaks and Geeks and Studio 60 are favorites. I don't know too much about the other shows although I have heard of some of them and I remember Life got a great buzz...I would add Terriers which was AMAZING, it was a travesty that was canceled. Sometimes it boggles the mind what continues for years and years and what gets canceled.

  7. I am so pleased to see all the Firefly fans out there! It still KILLS me that it's gone now. Damn you Fox!! I'll definitely have to check out Terriers - I've never heard of it before but just read the synopsis and it sounds great!

  8. I recently just watched Firefly when they had a marathon on TV. It's sooo weird that it was never picked up for more seasons. :(