Everyone's been there: You root for a freshman show, delighted by the new addition to your TV landscape, only to find that it gets mercilessly cancelled after a single season. While it hardly seems fair, not every show must go on, and some are destined to forever be one-season wonders. But before you take to Twitter to demand the return of your favorite, spend some time checking out these past shows that had a solid one-and-only year.
Military comedies are often a tough sell for audiences -- they can be hard to relate to, and they're often forced to create humor within the grim context of war. "Enlisted" approached this challenge by creating an ensemble comedy about the soldiers charged with supporting military families at home: The show's "Rear Detachment Unit" was a hilarious, military version of "The Bad News Bears." Emulating predecessors like "MAS*H" and "Community," "Enlisted" was stuffed to the gills with laugh-out-loud side characters who nearly stole the show each episode. But ultimately, "Enlisted" stood out because of its heart. The show focused on a soldier returning from combat, dealing with his complicated relationships with his brothers, and his difficulty coming home. Adept at both quick humor and emotional depth, "Enlisted" was discharged way before its time.
'Lucky Louie' (2006)
Years before Louis C.K. created the critical darling "Louie," he had another semi-autobiographical show, "Lucky Louie," where he also played an exaggerated version of himself, this time at an earlier stage in his life (and, weirdly, as a mechanic instead of a comic). The similarities end there, though -- "Lucky Louie" was a straightforward sitcom, filmed in front of a live studio audience, and it primarily depicted the struggles he faced raising his first daughter while living in poverty. The show featured a lot of the same players as "Louie," including Pamela Adlon and Jim Norton (as well as a very young Emma Stone), and the half-hour plots, while funny, were laced with a surprising level of vulgarity. Although it was probably doomed from the start -- HBO has never been a great home for sitcoms, and network TV would never have allowed "Lucky Louie" on the air -- it remains required viewing for fans of the comic.
"Wonderfalls" was witty, odd, delightful, and slightly surreal -- exactly what you'd expect from show creator Bryan Fuller (who also brought you "Dead Like Me" and "Pushing Daisies"). The show followed burnout Jaye Tyler (Caroline Dhavernas), a young gift-shop worker content to complain about life, who suddenly finds the tchotchkes at her job are talking to her, urging her to do odd yet meaningful things. Part rom-com, part foray into Magical Realism, "Wonderfalls" became more compelling as it got weirder -- getting viewers to care as much about the mystery of the show as they did about Jaye's love life. While criminally underappreciated, "Wonderfalls" maintains a cult following to this day, and is well worth a binge.
'The Muppets' (2015)
When "30 Rock" first aired, a lot of people noted that it felt like a live-action version of the original 1970s "The Muppet Show" -- the backstage hijinks of a variety show's wacky cast and crew. Given the similarities in the characters -- let's face it, Tina Fey is pretty much Kermit incarnate -- the comparisons were spot-on. Then, in 2015, Jim Henson Studios announced they would be producing an updated show featuring the Muppets in the mockumentary style of "The Office," following the gang as they produced a fictional late-night talk show -- and it ended up feeling like a modern version of "30 Rock." Oddly enough, the new show worked, giving more depth to newer characters like Pepe the Prawn and Bobo the Bear, and even breathing new life into the will-they-or-won't-they relationship between Kermit and Miss Piggy. Unfortunately, the show was too adult for kids and not unique enough for adults, and ultimately was given the ax by ABC after 16 episodes. Nonetheless, "The Muppets" remains a solid entry in the history of everyone's favorite group of oddball puppets.
"Awake" was both a crime procedural and a concept-driven sci-fi show, and it managed to be great at both. Detective Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs) was a man whose life was torn apart by a deadly car accident involving his wife and son. But after recovering, Britten finds himself living two lives -- one in which only his wife is still alive, and one in which only his son has survived. Each time he wakes up, he finds himself switching between realities, unsure of which is real, and at the same time being forced to solve crimes in both. Although "Awake" never got to blossom into a full-blown mystery, in a single season it managed to create compelling characters and a clever take on the crime-of-the-week genre. Also, unlike many one-season wonders, the season finale is a satisfying final chapter.
'Freaks and Geeks' (1999)
"Freaks and Geeks" marked the beginning of Judd Apatow's long-term, and well deserved, success. Set in early 1980s Michigan, it followed the lives of several unpopular teenagers in a typical suburban high school. Aside from showcasing its soon-to-be-all-stars cast of James Franco, Linda Cardellini, Seth Rogen, Martin Starr, Jason Segel, John Francis Daley, and Busy Philipps, "Freaks and Geeks" struck a chord with audiences based on the show's realism. The kids on the show weren't the wealthy, well manicured teens of "90210" -- they were the awkward and insecure kids that everyone could actually relate to, living mundane, if entertaining, lives. While the show practically demanded a second season (as did its fans after the final episodes were never originally broadcast), you'll have to settle for just the single season.
- 'Enlisted' Creator Kevin Biegel Talks Cancellation, Season 2 What-ifs
- Right Before the Sainting of Louis C.K., There Was 'Lucky Louie'
- TV's Best of the Decade: No. 17 -- 'Wonderfalls'
- The New 'Muppets' TV Show Will Scar You
- 'Awake' Creator Answers Burning Questions
- 20 Things You Might Not Have Known About 'Freaks and Geeks'