Constantly switch the timeslot. Air episodes out of order. Friday nights. Executive meddling. Lack of promotion. These are but a few of the ways TV networks have been known to screw over their most beloved shows. So, as much as we might want to bitch about NBC’s treatment of Community, the Greendale Gang, who will soon begin their fifth season, has it easy compared to these 10 shows. (Note: I left out The Tonight Show and Arrested Development, two shows that got boned, yes, but still have done pretty well for themselves.)
1. Freaks and Geeks
The crown jewel of the network interference bunch. Freaks and Geeks was slotted into the doomed-before-it-even-began timeslot of Saturday at 8 p.m. Its competition: COPS, Early Edition, ABC Big Picture Show, and people having social lives. Not only that, but NBC aired episodes out of order, including most infamously, “Kim Kelly Is My Friend,” which they refused to broadcast. That episode, as well as two others, wouldn’t surface until a year later, on Fox Family Channel of all places. Even Veronica’s Closet was treated better.
2. Better Off Ted
Speaking of beloved cult shows: Victor Fresco’s Better Off Ted came out of nowhere to become one of the smartest, funniest sitcoms of the 2000s, so of course ABC treated it like sh*t. Actually, let me rephrase, ABC paid more mind to The Bachelorette than they did Better Off Ted, so they treated it worse than sh*t. No promotion, a second season that didn’t start until December, an episode that aired on New Year’s Day, two episodes per night but only for two weeks, etc. Better Off Ted was to ABC as black people were to Veridian Dynamics.
You know the story by now: Fox hated the original pilot, so they made Joss Whedon and company write a new one, only giving them a single weekend to do so. “The Train Job” went before “Serenity,” which didn’t air until the end of the show’s run, even though it was supposed to go first. Then only 11 of Firefly‘s 14 episodes were shown before Fox said buh-bye and shuffled Mal off to Sci Fi. Firefly never had a chance, and it was never heard from again.
4. Hey Arnold!
Hey Arnold! was arguably Nickelodeon’s greatest golden-era animated series, but it still suffered an ill-timed demise, courtesy of a cinematic dispute. Creator Craig Bartlett wanted The Jungle Movie to be the show’s first theatrical feature, but Nick had other plans and made the Hey Arnold! team release Arnold Saves the Neighborhood, a.k.a. Hey Arnold!: The Movie, instead. This pissed Bartlett off, but he continued to work on The Jungle Movie, as well as a project for Cartoon Network called Party Wagon. One of Nick’s conditions, however, was that Bartlett had to sign an exclusivity contract with them; when he refused, Hey Arnold! was cancelled, and “The Journal” was left as a sort-of cliffhanger finale that never connected to the aborted The Jungle Movie.
There are many good reasons to hate Joan of Arcadia, but here’s the BEST reason: it killed Wonderfalls. Bryan Fuller’s wonderfully imaginative Niagara Falls-set series about a woman who speaks to animal figurines was developed for the 2003 season, but it didn’t premiere until a year later, in 2004, because Fox was afraid of launching it at the same time as the similar-themed Joan of Arcadia. When it did finally make it to air, out of order mind you, it was slotted on Friday nights, at the same time as Joan…Yeah. After the third episode, Wonderfalls moved to Thursday, but Fox never told anyone about the switch, and it died after episode four. The one saving grace: Wonderfalls‘ demise led to Pushing Daisies.