There are many factors to keeping a show on the air. Fans think that if a show manages to get consistently good ratings and works for its target demographic, everything else should be fixable. But that’s not exactly been the case for modern television. From miscommunications and petty power struggles to a confused brand image, some terrific shows have been canceled for some really bizarre reasons in recent history.
So, if any go-to comfort watches ended up canceled in the last decade, chances are that low ratings wasn’t the only reason, or maybe it wasn’t the reason at all. Here are 10 TV shows that were canceled for the strangest reasons.
UPDATE: 2022/09/07 22:00 EST BY SHAWN S. LEALOS
It never seems to fail that beloved shows are canceled before their time, year after year. In 2022, things became even stranger when Discovery purchased Warner Bros., and made huge sweeping cancelations, including axing the movie Batgirl and then canceling the popular animated series Young Justice — the second time this has happened to the DC cartoon. The reason for the cancelations was to save money, and in some cases, to use as reported tax write-offs, continuing the trend of canceling shows for the strangest of reasons. It also doesn’t seem to matter if it is a new leadership team or the same group that commissioned the show to begin with, it seems that popularity doesn’t seem to factor in to whether a TV show sees its story finished or not.
American Gods aired on Starz, and one thing that genre fans have learned is that shows on Starz will be mostly faithful and fan-friendly, but they likely won’t last for long. Ash vs. Evil Dead was beloved by Sam Raimi fans but only lasted three seasons. That is all American Gods lasted as well.
The problem with American Gods all happened behind the scenes. The first season was, by far, the best. However, Bryan Fuller left after that season as showrunner when he couldn’t get more money to make Season 2. Starz brought in Jesse Alexander as the new showrunner, but the network fired him before the season finished shooting. Charles Eglee took over in Season 3, but while he stuck around, Starz canceled the series before it could finish the story. It seemed strange that just when a showrunner stuck around, Starz canceled it, but the constant changes hurt fan retention.
One of the most infamous cancelations in animated television history came when the Cartoon Network canceled Young Justice. This happened before the Apokolips storyline could conclude, and the network canceled it to make room for other shows, including Teen Titans Go! Soon, the reason was discovered.
Cartoon Network canceled Young Justice because the quality of the show wasn’t as important as the fact that it wasn’t selling enough toys for Mattel. When the toy company canceled the toy line, it ended financing for the show. DC Universe brought it back years later to the joy of fans, but then Discovery reportedly canceled it again after buying Warner Bros.
Roseanne was one of the most beloved sitcoms in television history. The show lasted for nine seasons, and while it ended controversially in 1996, it remained engrained as a beloved iconic TV show. It returned for a 10th season in 2018, and that is when things fell apart for the show.
The original cast returned, and the show picked up where the last ended, showing how everyone was living since the show’s conclusion two decades earlier. However, Roseanne Barr made a controversial joke on Twitter, and when the fallout included people leaving the show, ABC fired Barr and canceled Roseanne after only one revival season. However, the rest of the cast moved on with the new show called The Conners.
Arriving on Netflix in 2017, GLOW told the story of the rise and fall of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, a professional wrestling promotion that gained popularity in the 1980s. Based on the true story, the show ended up as an immediate hit for Netflix and ran for three seasons.
Both Netflix and the GLOW creative team had another season planned, but COVID-19 shut down production across the world. While there were many shows that picked up and kept going once production started again, Netflix chose to cancel the production, even though it was already filming the fourth season. With so many shows allowed to pick up again, it didn’t make sense that an award-winning show like GLOW had to end.
During its four seasons on the air, Airwolf was one of the most popular action-adventure shows going. Airing on CBS, Jan-Michael Vincent, Ernest Borgnine, and Alex Cord told the story of espionage during the Cold War with the crew of the high-tech military helicopter, Airwolf, at the forefront.
After three seasons, CBS canceled the series because of a ratings drop. However, Vincent’s real-life addiction issues reportedly caused the actual cancelation. USA Network picked up the series for a fourth season, seeing the popularity and hoping to help it reach syndication level. The problem is that USA Network replaced the entire cast and almost all the action scenes was from stock footage, meaning the show’s fans weren’t along for the ride.
The spin-off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was shockingly canceled after five seasons, which was bizarre because Angel’s audience had doubled in its last season. In fact, Joss Whedon, the mind behind the show, was also taken aback by the news, and it was eventually revealed that Whedon had pushed the network for an early renewal, but they didn’t go for it.
WB didn’t want to work with the pressure at that point, especially because they were also looking at some other promising pilots. To put it simply, there was a power play involved which reportedly went wrong; plus WB was rumored to be not great at keeping the writers in the loop of which stars would stay on for the next season. Nevertheless, miscommunication and power struggles seem like terrible reasons to cancel a successful Buffy-verse show.
The adult animated comedy got in hot water after a 2003 article which depicted Gandhi being beaten up as part of a workout. Audiences in India were outraged after they became aware of the concept for this MTV cartoon, even though it wasn’t being aired in the country at that point.
Moreover, MTV execs were reportedly touring India at that time and faced threats of having its broadcasting license revoked in the country, which was a major market for the network. MTV offered an apology and canceled the show. Creator Miller Christopher did seek to launch another season without Gandhi, but it never got greenlit.
Deadwood wasn’t canceled but it simply wasn’t picked up for a fourth season. There was also a vicious but bizarre power struggle behind the show’s end. David Milch wanted to give the show a proper farewell and reportedly demanded a 12-episode final season, but the studio wanted Milch to invest his attention on his next outing, John From Cincinnati.
With all that said, one of the most pressing reasons for the cancelation was likely HBO’s brand overhaul, which happened around the mid-2000s. As weird as it sounds, HBO was really steering towards prestige television, and the slow-paced Western, though well-received, wasn’t cut out for HBO anymore.
This was probably one of the most heartbreaking cancellations, and what makes it worse is that the stellar show was probably canceled because it was ahead of its time. Despite good ratings, this teen mystery drama with a noir tone was reportedly canceled because it didn’t hold to one particular genre.
It wasn’t a light teen drama, like Gilmore Girls or One Tree Hill, or something as gritty as Prison Break. It was simply too versatile and difficult to categorize, and TV hadn’t gotten to a point where a versatile neo-western drama like Breaking Bad or something as effusive like Game of Thrones could thrive. In a way, Veronica Mars was the victim of short-sightedness and was just a few years too early. Luckily for fans of the show, the show did a get revival in 2019.
Freaks And Geeks
Though scheduling was said to be the cause for the cancelation of this great teen comedy, the real reason is most likely the creative gap between the makers and the producers. Judd Apatow, who was the executive producer of the show, often talked about how NBC didn’t quite grasp the significance of the show’s tonality, its underdog protagonists, and also its cerebral humor.
It’s strange that the execs would want the kids to be cooler than they are when the entire premise of Freaks and Geeks was about misfits and uncool teens. The show sadly filmed 18 episodes but aired only 12.
The cancellation of Happy Endings was one of the most outrageous decisions in sitcom history. The sunny comedy about six friends was warm, crisp, and surprisingly refreshing and ended just after three seasons. ABC Entertainment Chief Paul Lee had said that the show was “too narrow” to work, which is baffling because the show appealed to a huge demographic and had decent ratings.
What’s weirder is that the two comedies that were picked up by the network right after Happy Endings and were referred to as ‘broader shows’ by Lee, namely Mixology and Super Fun Night, only aired 13 and 17 episodes respectively.
This corporate drama on Fox filmed eight episodes and aired four before being canceled because the protagonist Jim Profit was thought to be too amoral and ethically vapid. The business community was reportedly outraged at the soulless depiction of the male lead and even Rupert Murdoch, Fox Network founder, reportedly thought the show to be too edgy.
The network also received numerous calls and letters from viewers who were uncomfortable with Profit’s depiction. What’s really baffling is that usually focus group studies or early audience reactions are supposed to weed out instances such as these.
Ellen DeGeneres’ iconic sitcom Ellen was canceled after five seasons and for reasons which are quite strange by today’s standards. The sitcom, which aired in the 90s, was one of the first shows to feature an openly gay protagonist.
Ellen had come out about her sexuality in season four, which made global waves. But after the media frenzy died down, the show had to deal with the severe backlash from anti-gay organizations, concerned parents, and it had to add a parental advisory. The show also received flack for focusing too much on gay issues, which is baffling for obvious reasons and something that would never happen today.
The live-action Batman series is significant in the DC canon but suffered from low ratings towards the end of its third and final season. ABC canceled the show and NBC decided to pick it up, but the network discovered that the set had already been destroyed.
It was rumored to be a case of miscommunication: after ABC did not receive an offer from NBC for a couple of weeks, network execs ordered Batman’s “Bat Cave” and other sets to be demolished to make room for another show. And when NBC submitted their offer, soon after, they realized that the set was no more, and it would cost them $800,000 just to rebuild the Batcave, which obviously made them reconsider, and the show was canceled.
Sure, the space Western was scheduled to air in the infamous Friday night ‘death slot’ and had poor ratings but the real reasons behind its cancellations are quite odd. Firstly, the episodes of Firefly were aired out of order and the pilot episode actually aired last of all, which is quite peculiar.
Moreover, Fox had a problem with Zoe (Gina Torres) and Wash (Alan Tudyk) being happily married and actually asked Whedon to introduce tensions in the relationship, but Whedon said no. All these factors worked together to make sure the show did not get a second season.