The 13 Best One-and-Done TV Series of the Past 20 Years

TV Lists list
The 13 Best One-and-Done TV Series of the Past 20 Years

It’s happened to all of us. You fall in love with a brilliant TV series and then, POOF, it gets canceled after one season.

While some TV shows never seem to end regardless of the decline in the quality of their programming (I’m looking at you, The Simpsons, Grey’s Anatomy, and Law & Order), many others see their lifespans cut needlessly short. And for most TV aficionados, nothing is more egregious than a wonderful series never being given a second chance. 

Although television history is loaded with one-and-done programs, for the purposes of this list, anything that first aired more than 20 years ago is not included. So don’t bother looking for Firefly (2002), Freaks and Geeks (1999), or My So-Called Life (1994). The loss of the shows included here stings a bit more because their departures are more recent. 

Love Monkey (2006)

[Not Currently Available to Stream or Purchase]

Even though you can’t find this series on any streaming service and can’t buy it on Amazon, Ebay, or the Apple Store, I swear this show that only lasted eight episodes existed. It starred Tom Cavanagh as an AR rep for a small New York City record label where he hobnobs with well-known musicians making cameos (Ben Folds, James Blunt, Aimee Mann, John Mellencamp—to name just a few) and discovers and develops a young Teddy Geiger. Funny, flirty, and with incredible music, Love Monkey was oozing unrealized potential. Until it was canceled.

Limitless (2012)

ICYMI: You Should’ve Watched the Limitless TV Series!

Watch on Paramount+

The Limitless TV show is a continuation of the 2011 film of the same name starring Bradley Cooper. The 22-episode series follows the life of Brian Finch (Jake McDorman), a struggling musician who’s given a mysterious drug called NZT-48 that unlocks the full potential of his brain. Falsely believed to be immune to NZT’s fatal side effects, Brian solves crimes for the FBI while covertly working for Senator Eddie Mora, played by Cooper in a recurring role. 

Almost Human (2013) 

almost human, best canceled shows

Watch on Tubi

In the year 2048, Los Angeles police officers are required to be partnered with robots called Synthetics to deal with hyper-violent criminals and an out of control crime rate. After recovering from an attack that cost him the life of a friend and one of his legs, gruff detective John Kennex (Karl Urban) is partnered with an older model android with emotional intelligence named Dorian (Michael Ealy). This 13-episode series produced by JJ Abrams is loaded with action, intrigue, ahead-of-its-time CGI, and fantastic chemistry between its two leads.

Downward Dog (2017)

downward dog, best canceled shows

Purchase on Amazon Prime

All dog lovers believe they know what their fur baby is thinking and feeling, but in the sitcom Downward Dog, we learn the human/dog relationship is more complex than we realize. This show focuses on the life of Martin (voiced by series co-creator Samm Hodges) and his roommate Nan (Allison Tolman), who he views as a life partner, not an owner. A thoughtful dog, Martin finds himself having to often “correct” Nan’s behavior by chewing on things and trashing her house because, from his perspective, her life is filled with contradictions and she doesn’t pay him enough attention. Humorous and sweet, Downward Dog shined during its brief eight-episode run. 

Pitch (2016)

pitch, best canceled shows

Purchase on Amazon Prime

New San Diego Padres pitcher Ginny Baker (Kylie Bunbury) is the first woman to play Major League Baseball. Only 23-years-old but with great command on the mound, Ginny is a role model to millions, yet faces a firestorm of criticism for the slightest misstep. This fascinating series, which also stars Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Mark Consuelos, and Ali Larter, unfortunately lasted only 10 episodes. 

Kevin (Probably) Saves the World (2017)

Purchase on Amazon Prime

Depressed and with his life in shambles, Kevin Finn (the always charismatic Jason Ritter) moves from the big city to a small Texas town to live with his twin sister Amy (JoAnna Garcia) and her teen daughter Reese (Chloe East). After a strange encounter with a meteorite, Kevin comes into contact with a celestial guide named Yvette (Kimberly Hebert Gregory) that only he can see, and begins to turn his life around. During its 16-episode season, delicate topics such as depression and spirituality are treated with thoughtfulness and plenty of humor. 

Threshold (2005)

threshold, best canceled shows

Purchase on Amazon Prime

Dr. Molly Caffrey (Carla Gugino) is a high-level government consultant who creates contingency plans for every possible worst case scenario. When a US naval vessel comes into contact with a UFO, the Threshold protocol is activated. Throughout 13 episodes, Caffrey’s team, which includes a pre-Game of Thrones Peter Dinklage and a post-Star Trek TNG Brent Spiner, work with Deputy National Security Advisor JT Blaylock (Charles S. Dutton) to desperately try and thwart the alien menace’s plans for world domination. 

The Grinder (2015)

grinder, best canceled shows

Purchase on Amazon Prime

Actor Dean Sanderson (Rob Lowe) returns to his hometown of Boise, Idaho, after leaving his legal television drama, The Grinder, to become a real life lawyer. With his fame, good looks, and gift for creating legal word salad, Dean dazzles everyone in town. Lowe brilliantly parodies the actions of an oblivious TV star. His character is complemented by his nebbish brother Stewart (Fred Savage), an actual lawyer who’s baffled that almost everyone falls for his older sibling’s charms. A star-studded recurring cast (including Timothy Olyphant, Maya Rudolph, Kumail Nanjiani, and Jason Alexander) keep things interesting during this series’ lone 22-episode season. 

High Fidelity (2020)

High Fidelity Is a Proper Modern Love Letter to a Gen X Rom-Com Classic

Watch on Hulu

Nick Hornby’s popular 1995 lad lit book was turned into an even more popular movie starring John Cusack in 2000. In the TV series that debuted 20 years later, Zoe Kravitz takes on the Cusack role of Rob (short for Robyn), a record store owner who loves pop culture, making top five lists, and breaking the fourth wall to discuss the failure of her past relationships. With a soundtrack curated by executive musical producer Questlove, High Fidelity is riveting TV, yet sadly only lasted 10 episodes.

Awake (2012)

Purchase on Apple TV  Watch on Hoopla

Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs) is a Los Angeles police detective recovering from a life changing car accident. After the crash, Britten lives in two realities. In one, his wife has died in the accident and his son survived. In the other, his son died and his wife lived. Britten’s two worlds are strangely interconnected, even though neither of the therapists he sees (BD Wong and Cherry Jones) believe what he’s experiencing is real. A clever mix of police procedural and fantasy, the 13-episode season tackled tough issues like grief and loss in a meaningful way. 

Terriers (2010)

Watch on Hulu

Terriers will always be the one that got away. A cautionary tale about show titles, the FX dramedy ran for an all-too-brief 13 episodes in the fall of 2010. Perhaps it was ahead of its time, merely unable to capitalize on the niche audience cable and streaming platforms now cultivate, and before Netflix got into the business of saving cult hits. The heart of the series was the easy, hilarious rapport between former police officer Hank Dolworth (Donal Logue) and his best friend/former criminal Britt Pollack (Michael Raymond-James). The pair forms a PI firm, and their rag-tag approach to solving crimes leads them to commit a few of their own, in addition to all sorts of questionable but entertaining adventures. Logue and Raymond-James are both fantastic actors who’ve gone on to many other wonderful roles, but nothing has ever quite matched the fine work they did on Terriers. Every couple of years, showrunner Shawn Ryan (The Shield, Timeless, The Unit) teases the idea of reviving the show. So I keep holding out hope that Terriers will be back. —Amy Amatangelo

Sweet/Vicious (2016)

Why MTV's Recently Canceled Sweet/Vicious Deserves Both Cult Status and a Second Life

Purchase on Amazon Prime

Timely, empowering, and exceptionally funny, Sweet/Vicious was axed because MTV was in the midst of an identity crisis. The show was one of the last scripted series to debut on the network before it pivoted back to reality programming, but it remains worthwhile viewing even today. The show stars Eliza Bennett and Taylor Dearden as Jules and Ophelia, two students who engage in vigilante justice on their college campus when the university fails to provide the proper response and support for sexual assault survivors. Created by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, the show was nothing short of brilliant. It’s a shame we only ever got these 10 episodes. —Kaitlin Thomas


10 Things I Hate About You (2009)

Watch on Hulu

The original 10 Things I Hate About You is so devastatingly iconic (the Seattle bridge troll! Letters to Cleo! Heath Ledger singing Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons from the empty bleachers!) that re-adapting it for television felt like sacrilege. But despite sharing some obvious DNA in the form of Larry Miller as Kat and Bianca’s over-cautious OB-GYN dad, the single-season ABC Family comedy managed to set itself apart fairly early in its run, earning its own cadre of passionate fans along the way. Some of this is thanks to the narrative details the series changes to make its own, but even more is due to the fact that the show’s lead quintet—Pretty Little Liars’s Lindsay Shaw and Star Trek: Discovery’s Ethan Peck as Bianca and Patrick, Camp Rock’s Meaghan Martin and Succession’s Nicholas Braun as Kat and Cameron, and Franklin & Bash’s Dana Davis as Chastity Church—mostly avoid leaning into the film versions of their characters, giving them a whole new life on the small screen. As with many cult teen favorites, 10 Things was axed before it got a chance to really prove what it could do with some runway, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy what did make it to air now. —Alexis Gunderson


Terry Terrones is a Television Critics Association and Critics Choice Association member, licensed drone pilot, and aspiring hand model. When he’s not wondering why Jason Ritter isn’t a bigger star, you can find him hiking in the mountains of Colorado. You can follow him on Twitter @terryterrones.

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin