7 TV shows that were mysteriously cancelled – and the murky reasons why

TV shows regularly get cancelled and there’s nothing we can do about it, but at least we usually know why we won’t be seeing our favourite characters any more.

If a show hasn’t been able to build to its own finale, it’s usually because of low ratings or a network deciding it wants to go a different way. But there are times when it’s not entirely clear – at least not straight away – why a show has been cancelled.

We’ve already given you some totally stupid reasons for shows to be cancelled, now here are seven times where TV shows were cancelled for mysterious reasons that were only revealed months (or even years) after.

1. Pushing Daisies

Already affected by the writers’ strike, Bryan Fuller’s quirky detective comedy-drama about a pie maker who could bring people to life was cancelled after two seasons. Why? No-one knew. But executive producer Barry Sonnenfeld thinks he knows why now.

“We were delayed almost a year, so we were never on long enough and consistently enough to build a word-of-mouth. And then the second issue is, I blame our scripts, in that I think they were slightly too cute. I wish they’d had a little bit more plot,” he revealed to HuffPost in 2017.

2. Firefly

Ah, Firefly. The show most often held up as a shining example of something beautiful cut down in its prime. While its extraordinarily invested fanbase may entertain conspiracy theories that Fox never wanted it to succeed, to the point of showing the episodes out of order, it turns out its premature cancellation happened simply because not enough people watched it.

“If I had to do it over again,” former Fox Entertainment president Gail Berman explained in 2011, “I might have reconsidered it but I’m not sure it would have changed anything. It was a numbers thing. It was a wonderful show and I loved it and I loved working with [Joss Whedon] on it but that was a big show, a very expensive show and it wasn’t delivering the numbers.”

3. The Fades

Looking back now, it’s amazing to think that supernatural drama The Fades didn’t get a second series, given that it’s written by Skins and This Is England‘s Jack Thorne and features a stellar cast including Daniel Kaluuya, Iain de Caestecker, Natalie Dormer and Tom Ellis. But not even a BAFTA win for Best Drama Series could save it from the chop.

A few months after the fan outrage at the surprise decision, the then-BBC Three boss Zai Bennett explained that the show “didn’t engage with young adults” and claimed that its audience was “much older” than the 16-32 age bracket that the channel was aiming at. So there you go.

4. Dead Like Me

Spare a thought for Bryan Fuller, whose second show on the list this is, although he left Dead Like Me after only five episodes. Showtime dropped the axe on this MGM-TV comedy-drama about grim reapers after two seasons without any real explanation. Fuller has his own ideas, though, as he outlined in a 2005 interview.

“[Showtime] weren’t satisfied with the storytelling on the show, and we were all frustrated with MGM,” he claimed. “The fans should know that Showtime has been very good about the cancellation. The reason they cancelled was a loss of quality and a sense the problems would continue.”

Which doesn’t quite clarify what the problem with MGM was, but okay.

5. Veronica Mars

The signs were already there that Veronica Mars wouldn’t survive past its third season when The CW opted to put Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll in its timeslot, but even after Rob Thomas’s teen noir returned, there was nothing it could do to prevent its demise.

In a 2007 interview, Thomas explained that The CW talked about him doing a “first-year cop show”, with the creator using it as “our Hail Mary pass” to save Veronica Mars by making Veronica the first-year cop. It didn’t work. “We went from dead to back on the air to dead again very quickly,” he reflected.

But at least we got a movie spin-off several years later, with a full revival still very much on the cards…

6. Clone High

Despite launching the careers of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, MTV animation Clone High – about a high school filled with the clones of famous historical figures – only lasted one season, and was ended by MTV because of something that no-one could have seen coming.

It turned out that the show’s representation of Gandhi outraged Indians (despite the show never airing in the country) and even led politicians to hold hunger-strike protests.

MTV apologised for causing outrage and cancelled the show, ostensibly because of low ratings.

“It’s certainly my only show ever cancelled by a symbolic hunger strike by members of the Indian parliament,” producer Bill Lawrence told EW, with Miller adding: “It was a really crazy story, but they didn’t want us to talk about it at all. We were sort of gagged about it for years, about the protests in India, the whole thing.”

7. Freaks and Geeks

Another show that only lasted one season was Judd Apatow’s teen comedy-drama, although it didn’t stop the show’s cast, including Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jason Segel and Lizzy Caplan, going on to bigger things.

As for why it got cancelled after only 12 episodes by NBC, Rogen managed to get it out of former NBC Entertainment president Garth Ancier in 2014 when he met him backstage at Saturday Night Live.

Rogen said that Ancier had explained that Apatow never listened to his notes to give the freaks and geeks an “occasional victory over the cooler kids”, with Ancier adding later: “I absolutely hated cancelling this particular show… This was an awful decision that has haunted me forever. But the show was consistently NBC’s least-viewed.”

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