TV

In Memoriam: The One-Season Wonders Killed By Peak TV

The era of Peak TV giveth and, sadly, taketh away and we’re taking this moment to honor our fallen comrades, shows that were taken far too soon. Whether they were ensemble comedies, prestige dramas, sci-fi crime thrillers, or that CBS show about alien bug infecting Washington D.C., these series burned bright with their brilliance before being snuffed out by a cruel, unfeeling mistress … ratings. Ratings are the cruel, unfeeling mis…

You know, forget it. Point is, these shows deserved more than just one season to stretch their legs and reach their true potential, and we won’t let their sacrifice to the Peak TV gods be in vain. So take off your hats and show some damn respect to these series who died much too young.

Netflix

Tuca and Bertie (2019)

1 season, 10 episodes

Will we ever forgive Netflix for depriving us of more of this colorful animated comedy from BoJack Horseman artist Lisa Hanawalt? No, probably not. Still, let’s reminisce on its greatness while we’re nursing our cancellation-fueled rage. Ali Wong plays Bertie, a 30-something songbird thrush with debilitating anxiety, a knack for baking, and a truly toxic work environment. Tiffany Haddish plays her best friend Tuca, a loud-mouthed toucan who loves to party and hates the thought of settling down. The friends try to hold on to their single days, even as Bertie takes the next step in her long-term relationship and Tuca struggles to find her place in the world. It’s a more vibrant, comforting world than BoJack, but it’s got the same great humor and surprisingly thoughtful musings and it should’ve been given the same respect.

Fox

Pitch (2016)

1 season, 10 episodes

This sports-centric story about a young Black woman becoming the first to pitch in the Major Leagues should’ve been a home run for Fox when it premiered in 2016. It had an excellent line-up of talent with Ali Larter, Mark Consuelos, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, and newcomer Kylie Bunbury playing Ginny Baker, the promising athlete with plenty to prove. It also had a compelling narrative, one that expertly wove the dramatic threads of Ginny’s personal life with her professional one atop the mound, earning it some favorable comparisons to another beloved sports drama, Friday Night Lights. Sadly, Fox just didn’t know how to market this one, and despite the love from critics and fans, it never performed well enough in the ratings to justify a second season.

Fox

Almost Human (2013)

1 season, 13 episodes

It’s almost criminal to think Fox squandered the potential of this futuristic crime series starring Karl Urban and Michael Ealy because someone with the network decided to air the episodes out of order, but that decision led to low ratings and no season two pickup, so here we are. The show is set 35 years in the future and is about the exploits of a roguish police officer and his humanoid partner. It gained a cult following with fans praising the chemistry of the two leads and the high-concept case-by-case format. Urban played John Kennex, a man with a mysterious and painful past assigned a new robotic partner in Ealy’s Dorian. Kennex has a history with these “Synthetic” beings but Dorian is different, special, capable of feeling human emotion in ways Kennex other partners weren’t. The show investigated a new case each week while also stringing along details of Kennex’s shady past, but it’s the friendship that blooms between the troubled human and his equally plagued robotic partner that hooked fans. Luckily, both Ealy and Urban have found other TV series that showcase their talents, but we’ll never forgive Fox for decommissioning this promising sci-fi show so quickly.

FX

Terriers (2010)

1 season, 16 episodes

Crime dramas seem to be FX’s specialty, so it’s a bit of a headscratcher as to why this one, starring Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James didn’t perform well in the ratings department. Despite low viewership, the show was a hit with critics when it first dropped in 2010, and with fans who praised Logue and Raymond-James’ partnership on screen. Logue played an ex-detective and recovering alcoholic named Hank while Raymond-James played his best friend and former criminal Britt. The two took on a myriad of odd, often illegal jobs to make ends meet, investigating cheating wives, kidnappings, and murders while steering clear of the actual police. The series ended on a sort of cliffhanger, with Hank and Britt debating over whether to flee from the law and head to Mexico or take Britt back to prison, so if FX were ever interested in a revival, they’ve already laid a good foundation for it.

Netflix

The Get Down (2016)

1 season, 11 episodes

Hip-hop fans were understandably excited about the prospect of a Bronx-centered origin story for the musical genre, one imagined by the legendary Baz Luhrmann and funded by Netflix. The show, spilt into two parts with its second half undoubtedly the superior in terms of storytelling, focused on a group of talented up-and-comers in ’70s era New York, who worked the underground disco and hip-hop scenes as they navigated the everyday angst of growing up and yearning to break free of their neighborhood. It boasted a young, eager cast and a soundtrack curated by hip-hop heavyweights like Nas and Grandmaster Flash, but its hefty price-tag ($120 million for just 11 episodes) and Luhrmann’s desire to return to film meant it just wasn’t sustainable for the streaming giant. A shame, because it’s one of the most visually-gripping sensory adventures we’ve seen on TV in a long time.

ABC

Trophy Wife (2013)

1 season, 22 episodes

Trophy Wife may have been doomed the second ABC decided to stick with the show’s truly uninspiring working title. Dubbing this heartfelt, hilarious sitcom about a hard-partying thirty-something who marries an older man with plenty of baggage something so limiting and, frankly, sexist, crippled the show before it could really get going. A shame, because Malin Ackerman is a damn delight as the newer, younger wife to Bradley Whitford’s strait-laced father of three while both Marcia Gay Harden and Michaela Watkins bring a humanizing, complex performance to Whitford’s ex-wives. The show attempted to give audiences a different view of what a “modern family” looks like, and we were cheated out of that nuanced portrait when ABC decided to cancel it after just 13 episodes.

Fox

The Grinder (2015)

1 season, 22 episodes

Another casualty of the fickle hand of fate (read: the Neilson ratings system), this half-hour comedy series starring Rob Lowe and Fred Savage had a lot going for it when it first premiered in 2015. Lowe plays a washed-up actor named Dean Sanderson while Savage plays his younger brother Stewart. When Dean’s show gets cancelled, he returns home to Idaho to practice at his family’s law firm. He’s not a lawyer, but he’s played one on television for years so that qualifies him to step into the courtroom. No one seems to have a problem with this logic except for Stewart, an actual lawyer, who plays the pessimistic foil to Lowe’s charming, charismatic attention-seeker. The fun in every episode comes from watching these two riff off each other and, now that we think about it, we’re pretty pissed Fox denied us this comedic gift.

ABC

Forever (2014)

1 season, 22 episodes

ABC tried to add a new twist to the serial crime drama genre with this supernatural series starring Ioan Gruffudd and Judd Hirsch. The show’s basic premise follows an immortal medical examiner named Dr. Henry Morgan who, despite his 200 years and desire to become mortal, just cannot die. He teams up with the NYPD to solve murder cases while also trying to uncover the source of his immortality and fend off a fellow immortal with some nefarious intentions. The show performed fairly well in the ratings and gained a loyal following, so it was strange to hear of its cancellation after just one season. It may be due to creator Matt Miller’s expanding plans for another installment or because the property belonged to Warner Bros., and ABC wanted to own more of its own content. Whatever the reason, we hope this show might still find new life somewhere else because it’s just too entertaining to be gone, forever.

Showtime

Roadies (2016)

1 season, 10 episodes

Nothing defines the era of Peak TV and its elusive formula for longevity quite like Showtime’s Roadies. The series, created by Cameron Crowe, had all the ingredients of a prestige drama that should’ve scored big during awards season. It sported a cast of Luke Wilson, Carla Gugino, Rafe Spall, and Imogen Poots as various members of a road crew for a beloved band on a bit of a decline. It had a killer soundtrack with onscreen cameos from artists like Halsey, Eddie Vedder, and John Mellencamp. And, did we mention it was the brainchild of Cameron Crowe? Roadies might’ve performed well during any other decade but because the TV landscape was crowded with others of its ilk, shows with storylines more compelling and better-crafted, it simply fell through the cracks.

CBS

BrainDead (2016)

1 season, 13 episodes

BrainDead always felt like a show too quirky, too brilliant to live on CBS. Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Tony Shalhoub, and Aaron Tveit, the comedy series combined sci-fi and politics for a truly inspired take on Capitol Hill. Winstead played Laurel, a documentary filmmaker who comes to D.C. to work for her brother, a Democratic senator. There she encounters Gareth, the aide to a Republican Majority Leader (Shalhoub) and a bigger problem: alien bugs infecting members of Congress. Sex dreams with Michael Moore, Shalhoub obsessing over Tupperware, and The Cars follow but the most inventive thing about this series might be the way it recapped previous episodes. It’s a real shame it didn’t find new life on a streaming platform.

Netflix

Everything Sucks! (2018)

1 season, 10 episodes

Again, why this nostalgic, ’90s coming-of-age comedy didn’t merit more love from Netflix, we’ll never know. The show felt like a natural successor to Stranger Things, a funny, heartwarming look at growing up and navigating high school hierarchies minus, ya know, Demogorgons. The main story sees a freshman from the A/V club, Luke (Jahi Di’Allo Winston), falling in love with Kate (Peyton Kennedy), who is trying to come to terms with her own sexual identity as a lesbian. It’s complicated and refreshingly honest in a way that only adds to its humor. Plus, who can hate a show that consistently made references to the best that the ’90s had to offer – we’re talking Fruitopia drinks, Tamagotchis, and Blockbuster.

NBC

Constantine (2014)

1 season, 13 episodes

It’s been near impossible for TV or film to get the character of Constantine, a demon hunter fighting to save his soul from damnation with every evil spirit he sends back to the Underworld, right. Which is why the cancellation of this supernatural drama from NBC particularly stings. Developed by David S. Goyer and starring Matt Ryan as the troubled, rugged, quick-witted titular character, this series mirrors John Constantine’s comic book origins more closely than any other iteration and Ryan brings some needed humor and snark to the role. The story may have lagged in places, but the special effects were impressive (especially for a network show) and the acting top-notch. There was a feeling that if the series could gain a second season, it would really find its legs. Unfortunately, despite impressive delayed viewing numbers, the live viewing ratings just weren’t enough to justify the show’s expensive production budget. The good news? Ryan brought Constantine to the CW on both Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow, so the character still lives on, just on a different network.

USA

Damnation (2017)

1 season, 10 episodes

Would we have loved to see a second season of this period drama that’s part John Wayne Western, part John Steinbeck novel? Sure. It was an inventive take of the genre, offering a well-researched story about a specific time in American history that rarely gets the TV treatment. It also had an excellent cast — Killian Scott, Logan Marshall-Green, and Sarah Jones — and interesting female characters, a surprise considering the time period it’s set in. The story follows two brothers with a troubled past who find themselves on opposite sides of a war between hard-working farmers in the Mid-West and the larger corporations taking advantage of their misfortune. It’s dusty and gritty and full of action, but the thing that works here is the relationships between the main trio and the angst/mystery woven into those bonds.

Fox

Enlisted (2014)

1 season, 13 episodes

Seriously, who was running Fox’s schedule mid-decade? This comedy series about a trio of Army bros who get stuck taking care of their base back home while the more elite soldiers are sent off to war and must learn to work together to gain respect for their unit should’ve been a slam dunk for the network’s demo. It’s a military dramedy, it stars Chris Lowell and Geoff Stults, and it’s set in Florida. Platter. Hit TV series. Hello? Sadly, Fox stuck this one in a Friday time slot — the hour of death for new shows — and aired episodes out of order to “drum up interest” and coincide with sporting events. Well, Fox will probably never have a comedy about vets arguing over the viciousness of Panda Bears and hiding motorcycles in trees ever again.

MTV

Sweet/Vicious (2016)

1 season, 10 episodes

Sweet/Vicious felt like a show tailor-made for the generational shift fueling the evolving direction of storytelling on TV. It starred two young, kicka** women who teamed up to take down rapists and perpetrators of sexual harassment on their college campus. The girls, Jules — a sorority sister harboring traumatic memories of her own assault — and Ophelia — a hacker and weed dealer — play vigilantes at night while attending classes during the day. This dynamic lent the show another layer, one that alleviates some of its darker themes. But the idea of two women joining forces to fight against systemic abuse and sexism is something we don’t see on TV often, and it’s a shame that dwindling ratings are to blame for this show’s untimely death.

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