10 Best Shows with Two Seasons or Less
We’re living in the golden age of television right now — shows across multiple networks, multiple platforms, multiple mediums seem to latch onto success relatively easy these days. Still, nothing lasts forever. Many shows achieve a second life after being canceled, but not every show gets so lucky. Sometimes, no matter how beloved a television series is, the network has no choice but to axe it. Whether it’s because of low viewership, low-profit margins, or simply serious creative differences, many television shows can’t survive their sophomore season. In fact, some can’t make it past their first year. No matter what the reason, the best shows can occasionally get the worst treatment.
Created by Ted Griffin (writer of two Steven Soderbergh classics, Matchstick Men and Ocean’s Eleven), Terriers lasted only one season on FX. It followed an ex-cop and ex-alcoholic Hank Dolworth as he carried out an unlicensed private investigation business with his friend Britt Pollack (who happened to be a criminal himself). Fans of the show have to deal with the fact that the show only existed for 13 episodes before getting the axe. Griffin has never really struck gold again after the death of Terriers, but here’s hoping he can give audiences something great again soon.
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With such a solid cast of comedians, you’d think Starz’s Party Down would’ve still been on the air to this day — Adam Scott, Lizzy Kaplan, Ken Marino, Megan Mullally, Martin Starr, and Jane Lynch comprised the main cast, with Kristen Bell and J.K. Simmons often making recurring appearances (alongside a whole slew of solid guest stars) throughout its two seasons. Over the course of those 20 episodes, viewers followed a group of actors working as caterers in Los Angeles while they tried to make it big in Hollywood. It’s as funny as it is dramatic at times, and it’s still one of the most beloved shows of the 2000s despite its cancellation.
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From creator Brian Fuller, who is certainly no stranger to cancellations — his other shows, Hannibal and Dead Like Me, both achieved cult status after being canned pretty quickly — comes Pushing Daisies, one of the most original shows of the 21st century so far. Starring Lee Pace, the ABC comedy featured a pie-maker who has been gifted the ability to bring dead people back from the dead in an attempt to solve the mysteries of their murders. It’s one of the most delightfully bizarre shows in recent memory, which is surprising considering its status as a network comedy.
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The Birthday Boys
Sketch comedy always seems to find a place to belong among television audiences — it’s often one of the most successful genres, achieving easy success across TV and film if things go well enough. Look at SNL, Kids in the Hall, Strangers with Candy, even Monty Python. A good sketch comedy show can go a long way. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case with The Birthday Boys, an IFC series that lasted only 20 episodes across two seasons. Many of the actors have gone on to stay in other, more successful programs, but that doesn’t mean that they even come close to the genius that is much of The Birthday Boys.
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A tremendously absurd parody of the educational public access television shows of the 70s and 80s, Wonder Showzen paved the way for absurdist comedies like The Eric Andre Show that would once only dream of landing a spot on a cable television lineup. It’s a sharp, hilarious, even nightmarish television program, and one that deserved much more than sixteen measly episodes across two seasons.
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Flight of the Concords
Believe it or not, HBO’s Flight of the Concords didn’t last more than 22 episodes across two seasons. It’s a massively successful show, but it seems most of that success came after the show left the air. The lead actors, Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, have achieved plenty of success in the years since, as well — not to mention Kristen Schaal and Rhys Darby. This show launched so many careers, but its immense cult status couldn’t manage to hold itself up for very long.
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Freaks and Geeks
Even though everyone on this show went on to be hugely successful comedians both on-screen and off, the show was mishandled by NBC and couldn’t make it past the first season. Linda Cardellini, John Francis Daley, Samm Levine, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Martin Starr, and Busy Philipps are all massively successful in their own rights, but their combined efforts on Freaks and Geeks just didn’t connect with the right audience at the right time, it seems. This show, if released today, would’ve been unstoppable. But, thanks to its spaced out run throughout 1999 and 2000, the show barely stood a chance.
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Amy Sherman-Palladino’s WB series Gilmore Girls was an unstoppable dramatic comedy throughout the 2000s. Lasting seven seasons but ending on a sour note, the show remains a favorite of many still to this day (even after its uneven revival series in 2016). Naturally, Palladino became a much sought-after show runner in the years following the end of her magnum opus. One of her subsequent creations, Freeform’s Bunheads, wasn’t so lucky. It was canceled after one season, but many fans begged for more. It still remains untouched, sitting in an indefinite limbo for now, but the show is a great treat for any fan of Palladino’s other work.
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HBO seems to crank out as many cult classics as it does smash hits. For every Game of Thrones, there’s a Flight of the Concords. One such example is The Comeback, a short-lived series that was actually canceled twice. Starring Lisa Kudrow as a washed-up sitcom actress, the series is a hilariously harsh look at what goes on behind the scenes of a multi-cam comedy. It’s one of the best television series about a television series to ever come about, and it’s a shame it only lasted two short seasons.
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Another victim of the axe over at HBO, Enlightened starred Laura Dern as a self-destructive corporate executive who tries to get her life back on track after having a philosophical breakthrough in rehab. Each and every episode was written by Mike White, one of the masterminds behind cult comedies School of Rock and Nacho Libre, which might explain why it only managed to last two seasons. His work just isn’t for everyone, it seems.
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