Top 10 Failed TV Series You Might Actually Enjoy

Top 10 Failed TV Series You Might Actually Enjoy
Image credit: STARZ, NBC, Twentieth Century Fox, Amazon Studios, ABC, MGM Television, FOX

They didn't fail because they were bad, per se.

Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000)

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Somehow, the series that jump-started the careers of James Franco, Seth Rogen, and Jason Segel only lasted one season. Freaks and Geeks follows two siblings – Lindsay, a star student getting in with the burnout crowd, and Sam, a freshman navigating high school with his nerdy friends.

The series, set in 1980, has a nostalgic charm that endears you to its characters and their struggles. With a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it's clear critics adored it. The audience? Not so much. Its failure to attract viewers led to its cancellation after just 18 episodes.

The cast reunited for a Vanity Fair photoshoot in 2012, and it felt as nostalgic as it gets.

Wonderfalls (2004)

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Wonderfalls was a whimsical series about Jaye Tyler, a Niagara Falls gift shop employee who begins hearing inanimate animal figures telling her to help people in need. Imagine if your fridge magnet suddenly started speaking to you. Wild, right?

Despite its creative premise and quirky humor, the show was canceled after just four episodes due to poor ratings. In a bizarre twist, the merchandise figurines from the show became popular collectibles, with one gorilla bookend reportedly selling for $5,000 on eBay.

The Tick (2016-2019)

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The Tick, a goofy superhero parody featuring a naive and overly enthusiastic superhero in a blue bug suit, struggled to find its audience despite being a critical darling. Amazon pulled the plug on this quirky series after just two seasons.

The Tick, played by Peter Serafinowicz, teams up with mild-mannered accountant Arthur (Griffin Newman) to fight evil in a city filled with eccentric villains. Notable for its subversive take on the superhero genre, it unfortunately couldn't compete with the likes of mainstream Marvel and DC Comics fare.

Here's a fun piece of trivia: The Tick's creator, Ben Edlund, has also written episodes for another ill-fated cult show, Firefly. Now, there's a double whammy for fans of the prematurely canceled!

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (2006-2007)

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A smart, dialogue-driven drama by Aaron Sorkin (of The West Wing fame), Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was a behind-the-scenes look at a live comedy show. It starred Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford as the showrunners trying to navigate the choppy waters of network television.

Despite its snappy dialogue and engaging performances, the show struggled with its ratings and was eventually canceled after one season. There's a distinct sense of irony in a show about the tough world of television getting the ax due to the harsh realities of the very same industry.

The series received four Primetime Emmy nominations and, for those who appreciate sharp wit and a dash of Hollywood cynicism, it might just be your next binge-watch.

The Middleman (2008)

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The Middleman was a quirky, comic-book-inspired series about a young artist, Wendy Watson (Natalie Morales), recruited by a secret agency to fight comic book-esque villains. It was delightfully self-aware, frequently breaking the fourth wall and referencing other pop culture phenomena.

However, the show was canceled after only 12 episodes. Despite its short run, it managed to amass a cult following, with fans loving its offbeat humor and wacky plots. Little-known fact: The Middleman was originally planned to be a darker series on the Sci-Fi Channel before it landed on ABC Family, taking a lighter, more comedic tone.

Pushing Daisies (2007-2009)

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Telling the story of Ned, a pie maker with the ability to bring the dead back to life with a single touch, Pushing Daisies was whimsical, charming, and oh so colorful.

Imagine you have the power to make that mushy, overripe banana on your countertop fresh again. Sounds like a dream, doesn't it? Well, not for Ned, who finds himself tangled in a web of love, murder mysteries, and pies – a whole lot of pies.

With a 96% Rotten Tomatoes rating, it's not the critics who buried this series; it was a rather grim reaper in the form of low viewer ratings that led to its premature demise after two seasons.

Now, imagine this: Lee Pace, the pie maker himself, didn't know how to bake a pie before the show started. Apparently, he baked a pie every week during filming to get into character.

Dead Like Me (2003-2004)

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Dead Like Me follows Georgia, a young woman who, after being hit by a toilet seat from the Mir Space Station (yes, you read that right), becomes a grim reaper. If you thought your job was dreadful, try collecting souls for eternity!

The witty dialogue and unique premise were not enough to save it from being axed after two seasons, however. Mandy Patinkin, who played Rube Sofer, the head reaper, left the show due to creative differences, thus hastening its end. Despite its untimely demise, Dead Like Me has garnered a posthumous following, proving that there might indeed be life after death, at least for TV series.

The Grinder (2015-2016)

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Rob Lowe, playing an actor who played a lawyer on a TV show, returns to his hometown to join his brother (Fred Savage) at his real law firm. Sound meta enough? That's The Grinder for you! It's like watching a TV show within a TV show and it's brilliant (see what we did here, Nolan?).

With a mix of Lowe's dramatic overacting and Savage's "straight man" comedy, the series was both a love letter and a parody of courtroom dramas. Despite a 93% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and Golden Globe nominations for Lowe, this was one case The Grinder couldn't win; it was canceled after just one season due to poor viewership.

Better Off Ted (2009-2010)

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The title character, Ted Crisp, is a good guy stuck in a not-so-good corporation, Veridian Dynamics. It's like if you took Dilbert, mixed in some Office Space, and added a sprinkle of corporate dystopia. Satirizing the absurdities of the corporate world, the show was both funny and insightful, but was canceled after two seasons due to low ratings.

Here's a little Easter egg for fans of short-lived series: the corporation in the series, Veridian Dynamics, also appears in another canceled show, Andy Richter Controls the Universe.

Party Down (2009-2010)

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What do you get when you mix underachieving Hollywood wannabes with high-end event catering? Why, you get Party Down, of course!

The series was created by the same folks behind Veronica Mars, another cult-favorite series, and focused on a Los Angeles catering team – a group of aspiring actors and writers, hoping for their big break while stuck serving hors d'oeuvres. Despite its clever writing and stellar cast, which included Adam Scott and Jane Lynch, it was canceled after just two seasons.

Luckily for everyone involved, there was a happy ending after all: years later, fans of the show did get a revival, with third season having premiered in 2023.