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.
6. Even Stevens
OK, Even Stevens isn’t great by any means, but as far as Disney Channel shows go, it wasn’t that bad, and it did fall victim to one of the network’s oddest mandates: the 65-episode rule. Basically, once a Disney Channel hits 65 episodes, it’s finished, no matter its popularity. To put that into perspective, if NBC followed this rule, Parks and Recreation would have been cancelled after season four’s “Live Ammo.” Disney has largely gotten rid of this peculiar guideline, which rivals the Disney Vault in stupidity, but not before it took down Lizzie McGuire, Kim Possible (which was eventually brought back), and Even Stevens. I still love you, Ren Stevens.
Titus routinely dealt with alcoholism, rape, abuse, and plane hijackings (OK, that only happened once), so it was never going to be a hit. But the partially-based-on-real-life series, which is destined to be reexamined soon and given a much fonder critical reevaluation, brought in decent ratings. Not decent enough for Fox, though, which wanted the show’s main characters, Christopher and Erin, to break up, because a similar ploy worked on Dharma & Greg. (Network executives are the worst.) Titus refused (he was still together with Erin in real life), and “next week all the promos completely stopped and the show ended up canceled not long after that.”
8. Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23
Our beloved Happy Endings had a complete opposite of that with ABC, but Apartment 23 suffered even worse treatment: not only did the second and third seasons of both shows premiere on Tuesdays in October, nearly a month after New Girl, The Mindy Project, Go On, and The New Normal, all of which were aimed to a similar demographic, had already begun, but Apartment 23 episodes aired all over the place. First season episodes, of which there were only seven, in season two, plots seemingly dropped and picked up again without warning, that whole Dancing with the Stars thing — it was impossible to follow, for both hardcore fans and casual viewers, and the show was unjustly cancelled. And then Krysten Ritter choked on her tears (and vomit).
9. Home Movies
It’s tough to fault UPN TOO much here, considering how amazing it is that Home Movies was picked up in the first place, but it was, and then the network completely ignored it. Not that a late-April premiere did the show any favors, and after only five episodes, Home Movies was erased from all things UPN. Ironically, the animated series would end up lasting nearly as long on Cartoon Network as UPN did as a network.
And finally, the oddest example of them all. Season five of Angel was the show’s best, containing some of its most memorable episodes, including “Smile Time” and “Lineage,” and ratings were up. For that reason, Joss Whedon asked for an early renewal, so that his team could start planning for future arcs, but the WB was focusing more on new shows and not on old, expensive ones. Then, in the words of producer David Fury, this happened:
The only reason that Angel didn’t come back…it’s a very simple thing. Because our ratings were up, because of our critical attention, Joss specifically asked Jordan Levin, who was the head of The WB at the time, to give us an early pick-up because every year they [would] wait so long to give Angel a pick-up [and] a lot of us [would] turn down jobs hoping that Angel will continue – he didn’t want that to happen. So, he was feeling very confidant and he just asked Jordan, “Like, make your decision now whether you’re going to pick us up or not,” and Jordan, sort of with his hands tied, with his back up against the wall, called hims the next day and said, ‘Okay, we’re canceling you.’ Jordan’s no longer there and The WB has since recognized…I believe Garth Ancier at The WB said that it was a big mistake to cancel Angel. There was a power play that happened that just didn’t fall out the way they wanted it to. We wanted to get an early pick-up, we didn’t. In fact we forced them to make a decision, and with his hand forced he made the decision to cancel us. (Via)
TL;DR Angel was cancelled for wanting to be good, a foreign concept for the WB.