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16 Major TV Show Failures

Terminated Before Their Time
In television, the cancelled show is a common thing. Audience tastes are notoriously hard to predict, so every network is bound to produce its share of losers as well as winners.However, some shows fall so short of the mark that the network terminates them before all of the existing episodes have aired. Some are pulled due to low ratings, and some because they’ve created more controversy than anyone bargained for. But what they all have in common is a network whose higher-ups decided they were b
Photo: Steven Errico | Digital Vision | Getty Images

In television, the cancelled show is a common thing. Audience tastes are notoriously hard to predict, so every network is bound to produce its share of losers as well as winners.

However, some shows fall so short of the mark that the network terminates them before all of the existing episodes have aired. Some are pulled due to low ratings, and some because they’ve created more controversy than anyone bargained for.

But what they all have in common is a network whose higher-ups decided they were better off giving a show an early demise, and hopefully that would allow them to cover their tracks before anybody noticed. A noble goal, to be sure, but unfortunately for them, we noticed.

And so, we bring you 15 shows that were terminated before their time.

By Daniel BukzspanPosted Dec 10 2010

The Hasselhoffs (2010)
Modeled after The Osbournes and Hogan Knows Best, the A&E reality show The Hasselhoffs premiered with two back-to-back episodes on Sunday, December 5, 2010, and was all set to follow the real-life travails of Baywatch and Knight Rider actor David Hasselhoff and his two daughters. According to the New York Times, the first episode was seen by 718,000 viewers, and the second by 505,000 viewers. These are miserable numbers any way you slice it, especially when one considers that another A&E series
Photo: Summer Films

Cancelled after 2 episodes

Modeled after The Osbournes and Hogan Knows Best, the A&E reality show The Hasselhoffs premiered with two back-to-back episodes on Sunday, December 5, 2010, and was all set to follow the real-life travails of Baywatch and Knight Rider actor David Hasselhoff and his two daughters. According to the New York Times, the first episode was seen by 718,000 viewers, and the second by 505,000 viewers.

These are miserable numbers any way you slice it, especially when one considers that another A&E series, Storage Wars, a show that is literally about nothing but people buying foreclosed storage spaces, pulled in over two million viewers just one week earlier. Rather than attempt to build the show, the network that brought us such uplifting television as Hoarders cancelled The Hasselhoffs on December 10, 2010, less than a week after its premiere.

Automan (1983)
The police show Automan almost made it through all 13 episodes of its first season, but sadly it was yanked just one episode shy of that modest goal. Desi Arnaz Jr. starred as a police officer and computer programmer who creates the computer-generated sidekick for whom the program is named, and its advanced special effects (by 1983 standards) owed more than a small debt to the original version of Tron.
Photo: 20th Century Fox Television
Cancelled after 12 episodes

The police show Automan almost made it through all 13 episodes of its first season, but sadly it was yanked just one episode shy of that modest goal. Desi Arnaz Jr. starred as a police officer and computer programmer who creates the computer-generated sidekick for whom the program is named, and its advanced special effects (by 1983 standards) owed more than a small debt to the original version of Tron.



The show earned a small but devoted following among science fiction fans and computer technology aficionados, but unfortunately, that just wasn’t a lot of people in 1983, and Automan was pulled from the air just before completing its first season.

Freaks and Geeks (1999)
While most cancelled shows get lousy reviews, Freaks and Geeks remains a favorite with critics and fans a decade after its cancellation. Its executive producer was Knocked Up director Judd Apatow, and it starred such then-unknowns as Spiderman’s James Franco. However, despite a positive response, it never found an audience large enough to sustain it, and it achieved a grim 93rd place finish in the one season in which it aired. NBC (the parent company of CNBC) cancelled it after only 12 of the 18
Photo: DreamWorks Television

Cancelled after 12 episodes

While most cancelled shows get lousy reviews, Freaks and Geeks remains a favorite with critics and fans a decade after its cancellation. Its executive producer was Knocked Up director Judd Apatow, and it starred such then-unknowns as Spiderman’s James Franco. However, despite a positive response, it never found an audience large enough to sustain it, and it achieved a grim 93rd place finish in the one season in which it aired.

NBC (the parent company of CNBC) cancelled it after only 12 of the 18 existing episodes had aired, but fans were vocal enough in lobbying the network that it aired three additional episodes in response. A decade later, it’s clear that Freaks and Geeks was ahead of its time, and the entire 18-episode run has since aired in full on the Fox Family Channel and received a wide release on DVD.

Cop Rock (1990)
After achieving significant success with Hill Street Blues and L.A. Law, producer Steven Bochco had the clout to pursue his dream show, Cop Rock. It would be a police show, just like Hill Street Blues, but it would have something that show didn’t --- musical numbers! Courtroom scenes featured jurors delivering their verdict in song. Johns busted in prostitution stings sang of their marital woes. And gang members danced in unison while musically detailing their criminal exploits. Cop Rock cost $2
Photo: 20th Century Fox Television

Cancelled after 11 episodes

After achieving significant success with Hill Street Blues and L.A. Law, producer Steven Bochco had the clout to pursue his dream show, Cop Rock. It would be a police show, just like Hill Street Blues, but it would have something that show didn’t --- musical numbers! Courtroom scenes featured jurors delivering their verdict in song. Johns busted in prostitution stings sang of their marital woes. And gang members danced in unison while musically detailing their criminal exploits.

Cop Rock cost $2 million an episode, the most expensive television show ever made up to that point. However, viewers simply couldn’t accept the format of the show, and it never succeeded in finding an audience. After airing 11 of the 13 episodes that had already been filmed, ABC cancelled the series, but it lives on in the public memory, on “Worst TV Shows Ever” lists, and in YouTube clips that remain surreal to this day.

Action (1999)
Although few people saw it, Action was one of the better-reviewed shows of 1999. Originally aired on Fox, the show was a dark comedy about Peter Dragon, a morally bankrupt movie producer who’s lost his magic touch and whose last big-budget action movie bombed. Starring Jay Mohr and Borscht Belt comedian Buddy Hackett, it was a scathing satire of Hollywood that habitually crossed the line into mean-spirited hostility, and contained thinly veiled references to real celebrities, real executives an
Photo: 20th Century Fox Television

Cancelled after 8 episodes

Although few people saw it, Action was one of the better-reviewed shows of 1999. Originally aired on Fox, the show was a dark comedy about Peter Dragon, a morally bankrupt movie producer who’s lost his magic touch and whose last big-budget action movie bombed.

Starring Jay Mohr and Borscht Belt comedian Buddy Hackett, it was a scathing satire of Hollywood that habitually crossed the line into mean-spirited hostility, and contained thinly veiled references to real celebrities, real executives and real movie studios. Had it aired on HBO, the station for which it had originally been developed, it might have been a better fit than it was for Fox, but that didn’t happen, and Action’s miserable ratings led to an early demise.

Manimal (1983)
Although it was cancelled 8 episodes into its first season, Manimal is still memorable despite its dismal ratings. The show focused on Dr. Jonathan Chase who, according to the show’s opening narration, spent time in Africa and Tibet, which somehow gave him the ability to shape-shift into an animal. While the crime-fighting skills of the panther and the dolphin may seem dubious, Dr. Chase used this valuable skill to solve crimes. Unfortunately, the show aired opposite the very popular Dallas, le
Photo: 20th Century Fox Television

Cancelled after 8 episodes

Although it was cancelled 8 episodes into its first season, Manimal is still memorable despite its dismal ratings. The show focused on Dr. Jonathan Chase who, according to the show’s opening narration, spent time in Africa and Tibet, which somehow gave him the ability to shape-shift into an animal. While the crime-fighting skills of the panther and the dolphin may seem dubious, Dr. Chase used this valuable skill to solve crimes.

Unfortunately, the show aired opposite the very popular Dallas, leaving it at a disadvantage when it came to attracting viewers. Furthermore, those who did see the show found it goofy in the extreme, and it was cancelled after 8 episodes. Interestingly, it was part of the same NBC fall line-up as Mr. Smith, a show about an orangutan with an abnormally high IQ that was also cancelled in its first season.

Pink Lady & Jeff (1980)
While most cancelled television shows revolve around several bad ideas, Pink Lady and Jeff focused on a single bad idea and hammered it into the ground. American comedian Jeff Altman co-hosted the show with Pink Lady, a pair of popular Japanese female singers. It featured comedy sketches that focused exclusively on the Pink Ladies’ inability to speak English, and Altman’s comical translations thereof. That was it. To its credit, the show featured guest appearances by such notable musical talents
Photo: Krofft Entertainment

Cancelled after 5 episodes

While most cancelled television shows revolve around several bad ideas, Pink Lady and Jeff focused on a single bad idea and hammered it into the ground. American comedian Jeff Altman co-hosted the show with Pink Lady, a pair of popular Japanese female singers. It featured comedy sketches that focused exclusively on the Pink Ladies’ inability to speak English, and Altman’s comical translations thereof. That was it.

To its credit, the show featured guest appearances by such notable musical talents as Blondie and Alice Cooper. However, NBC seemed to believe that the musical acts were not worth sitting through the show to watch, and they cancelled it after only five episodes had aired. It’s since gone on to become legendary in the annals of bad television, making it onto TV Guide’s list of the 50 worst television shows of all time. However, it was successful in one respect --- it was released on DVD in 2001 and quickly went out of print, and now an unopened copy in mint condition will fetch more than $50 on Amazon.com.

The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer (1998)
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 th
Photo: Paramount Network Television Productions

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.”

Viva Laughlin (2007)
Based on the popular BBC series Blackpool, CBS’ Viva Laughlin was a comedy drama with musical numbers. Starring both Melanie Griffith and executive producer Hugh Jackman, the show concerned the trials and tribulations of a high-rolling businessman in his attempts to open a casino in Laughlin, Nevada. Despite its talented cast and lavish production values, the response to the show was uniformly negative, typified by Newsday’s description of it as “jaw-droppingly wrongheaded.” The show debuted wit
Photo: Sony Pictures Television

Cancelled after 2 episodes

Based on the popular BBC series Blackpool, CBS’ Viva Laughlin was a comedy drama with musical numbers. Starring both Melanie Griffith and executive producer Hugh Jackman, the show concerned the trials and tribulations of a high-rolling businessman in his attempts to open a casino in Laughlin, Nevada. Despite its talented cast and lavish production values, the response to the show was uniformly negative, typified by Newsday’s description of it as “jaw-droppingly wrongheaded.”

The show debuted with 8.4 million viewers, a nearly two-thirds drop-off from CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the show immediately preceding it. This means that 16.8 million people collectively decided to find something else to do the instant the show started. The series was cancelled after two episodes, a humiliating experience for the show’s creators, to be sure. However, in Jackman’s own home country of Australia, it didn’t even get that far. It was cancelled the day after its first episode aired.

Emily’s Reasons Why Not (2006)
Emily’s Reasons Why Not was a romantic sitcom starring Heather Graham that was intended to be a less racy Sex and the City. ABC pulled out all the stops, investing in a multimillion-dollar promotional campaign for the show that included billboard, television and radio advertising. However, the show caught flak before it even aired from both pro-abstinence groups who objected to the show’s content and gay advocacy groups who objected to the show’s portrayal of its gay characters. When the first e
Photo: Sony Pictures Television

Cancelled after 1 episode

Emily’s Reasons Why Not was a romantic sitcom starring Heather Graham that was intended to be a less racy Sex and the City. ABC pulled out all the stops, investing in a multimillion-dollar promotional campaign for the show that included billboard, television and radio advertising. However, the show caught flak before it even aired from both pro-abstinence groups who objected to the show’s content and gay advocacy groups who objected to the show’s portrayal of its gay characters.

When the first episode finally saw the light of day, only 6 million people watched it, meager earnings for a show promoted so heavily. It was ultimately cancelled after one episode, when it came to light that ABC executives had approved it without ever seeing a script. In an interview with the Washington Post, ABC programming chief Steve McPherson claimed that the show was also cancelled because it “was not going to get better.”

Osbournes: Reloaded (2009)
The Osbournes had been a reality show goldmine for MTV. They got three years of sky-high ratings by doing nothing more than following Ozzy Osbourne and his family around his house and pressing the camera’s “record” button. The show ended in 2005, but four years later Fox decided to capture the magic of Jack, Kelly, Sharon and Ozzy in a variety show format. There would be comedy sketches, musical guests and celebrity cameos, all the things that make people remember The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour
Photo: Frank Micelotta | Getty Images for FOX

Cancelled after 1 episode

The Osbournes had been a reality show goldmine for MTV. They got three years of sky-high ratings by doing nothing more than following Ozzy Osbourne and his family around his house and pressing the camera’s “record” button. The show ended in 2005, but four years later Fox decided to capture the magic of Jack, Kelly, Sharon and Ozzy in a variety show format. There would be comedy sketches, musical guests and celebrity cameos, all the things that make people remember The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour so fondly today.

The new show was dubbed Osbournes: Reloaded, and the first episode was set to air right after American Idol, prime real estate for any show wanting a good lead-in. However, at the last minute the show was trimmed down from 60 minutes to 35 minutes, and sixteen Fox affiliates refused to air it after viewing a six-minute preview reel that was rife with objectionable content. After the show aired, critics trashed it mercilessly, and the remaining five episodes that were shot were never aired.

Rosie Live (2008)
After Rosie O’Donnell left in 2007 amid politically charged fireworks, she embarked on a new enterprise, Rosie Live. The program was a family-friendly variety show, and the first episode featured guests from across the entire spectrum of the entertainment business, such as Liza Minnelli, Gloria Estefan and Rachael Ray. Despite the magical selection of talent on display, the show had one small problem — it was utterly loathed by almost every person who saw it. Los Angeles Times critic Mary McNam
Photo: Bruce Glikas | FilmMagic | Getty Images

Cancelled after 1 episode

After Rosie O’Donnell left The View in 2007 amid politically charged fireworks, she embarked on a new enterprise, Rosie Live. The program was a family-friendly variety show, and the first episode featured guests from across the entire spectrum of the entertainment business, such as Liza Minnelli, Gloria Estefan and Rachael Ray.

Despite the magical selection of talent on display, the show had one small problem — it was utterly loathed by almost every person who saw it. Los Angeles Times critic Mary McNamara said “disappointment does not even begin to describe it,” while other reviews used words like “dead” and “strangle,” neither of which are terms that entertainers particularly like to see in descriptions of their musical variety shows. Only an abysmal 5 million viewers tuned in to see the show, and it was cancelled by NBC immediately.

Turn-On (1969)
Some shows receive ratings so low and reviews so bad that they’re cancelled after just one episode. Turn-On, a 1969 comedy variety show, went one step further. Two of the ABC affiliates airing it, WEWS in Cleveland and KBTV in Denver, objected so strongly to the show’s off-color humor that they refused to return to the episode after the first commercial break had ended, in effect cancelling the show literally in the middle of the first episode. When KBTV announced, “the remainder of the precedin
Photo: George Schlatter-Ed Friendly Productions

Cancelled after 1 episode

Some shows receive ratings so low and reviews so bad that they’re cancelled after just one episode. Turn-On, a 1969 comedy variety show, went one step further. At issue was just one attribute of the show — everything. It featured nonstop, wall-to-wall jokes about sex, drugs and race, and the taboo subject matter proved too much for the network affiliates to handle. "

Two of the ABC affiliates airing it, WEWS in Cleveland and KBTV in Denver, objected so strongly to the show’s off-color humor that they refused to return to the episode after the first commercial break had ended, in effect cancelling the show literally in the middle of the first episode.

When KBTV announced, “the remainder of the preceding program will not be seen, " it caused a domino effect on stations in the Mountain and Pacific zones, such as KATU in Portland, Oregon, which refused to show the episode at all. The show was officially cancelled a few days later, and its time slot was given to the extremely wholesome The King Family Show, which had been cancelled three years earlier and resuscitated specifically to sanitize the time slot that Turn-On had defiled.

Who’s Your Daddy? (2005)
Who’s Your Daddy? was a reality show with an intriguing premise. A woman who had been given up for adoption at birth was put in a room with 25 men, and had to figure out which one of them was her biological father. Doing so correctly would net the contestant $100,000. The Fox program caught fire from adoption advocacy groups who characterized the show as exploitative, and one North Carolina Fox affiliate refused to air it. When it finally premiered, the first episode did very poorly, coming in f
Photo: 10 by 10 Entertainment

Cancelled after 1 episode

Who’s Your Daddy? was a reality show with an intriguing premise. A woman who had been given up for adoption at birth was put in a room with 25 men, and had to figure out which one of them was her biological father. Doing so correctly would net the contestant $100,000. The Fox program caught fire from adoption advocacy groups who characterized the show as exploitative, and one North Carolina Fox affiliate refused to air it.

When it finally premiered, the first episode did very poorly, coming in fourth place in its time slot. Between its underperformance in the ratings and the considerable flak it drew for its content, the network decided it wasn’t worth airing the remaining five episodes, and Who’s Your Daddy? became reality show history.

The Will (2005)
The Will was a reality show on CBS that concerned a group of ten people vying to be named the sole beneficiary of a multimillionaire’s will. The network promoted the show heavily, but it didn’t help — the premiere episode drew only 4 million viewers, and was the network’s lowest-rated show of the week, ranking 79th in the Nielsen ratings. The show’s poor performance was a huge black eye for CBS. With blockbusters like Survivor and The Amazing Race, the network had originally set the standard for
Photo: CBS.com

Cancelled after 1 episode

The Will was a reality show on CBS that concerned a group of ten people vying to be named the sole beneficiary of a multimillionaire’s will. The network promoted the show heavily, but it didn’t help — the premiere episode drew only 4 million viewers, and was the network’s lowest-rated show of the week, ranking 79th in the Nielsen ratings.

The show’s poor performance was a huge black eye for CBS. With blockbusters like Survivor and The Amazing Race, the network had originally set the standard for reality programming, which other networks emulated. The show was temporarily replaced with reruns of Cold Case.

You’re in the Picture (1961)
Jackie Gleason will forever be remembered as Ralph Kramden from The Honeymooners, which is good because his foray into game show hosting was a disaster. The show in question, You’re in the Picture, received universally negative reviews, and even though a second episode had already been filmed, it was pre-empted by a televised apology from Gleason himself the following week. According to Time magazine, the actor was drinking on the air during the course of the apology, and he said that the show
Photo: CBS Television Network

Cancelled after 1 episode

Jackie Gleason will forever be remembered as Ralph Kramden from The Honeymooners, which is good because his foray into game show hosting was a disaster. The show in question, You’re in the Picture, received universally negative reviews, and even though a second episode had already been filmed, it was pre-empted by a televised apology from Gleason himself the following week.

According to Time magazine, the actor was drinking on the air during the course of the apology, and he said that the show that had aired the previous week “would make the H-bomb look like a two-inch salute.” The 30-minute mea culpa actually got better reviews than the show did, and the actor finished out his contract with CBS by rebranding the time slot The Jackie Gleason Show and switching to a talk show format.