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The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer (1998)

Cancelled after 4 episodes

Some television shows with edgy, racially tinged content, such as All in the Family and Sanford and Son, have gone on to become groundbreaking classics. Others went on to do nothing but offend people and get cancelled, which is where The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer ended up. A sitcom about a black 19th century English nobleman who becomes the personal valet of President Lincoln, the show attracted controversy before a single episode had even aired, notably from the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP.

It’s often said that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but in this case the controversy failed to attract viewers, and the show’s premiere episode earned a wretched 1.6 Nielsen rating, ranking 116th out of the 125 shows that had aired in the same week. The program was cancelled after only four episodes, supporting Entertainment Weekly’s review of it as “this season’s winner of the what-drug-were-they-smoking-when-they-created-this-show award.”

Photo: Paramount Network Television Productions