A short run doesn’t always mean a failure in the world of pop culture. There have been many shows whose impact and popularity have long outlived their actual original runs. Whether it’s through cult followings, spinoffs and revivals, or just plain old undying popularity, these shows and their fans have never let quantity determine their quality. Here are 42 short-lived facts about some of the most beloved short-lived shows of all time.
Beloved Shows Canceled Too Soon Facts
42. We Used to Be Friends, a Long Time Ago
Veronica Mars only lasted for a tenuous three seasons before being canceled in 2007. The show was a film noir-influenced mystery about a young girl whose best friend is murdered and works to find the identity of the killer. Like Twin Peaks, the show did some to lose some focus after the killer was revealed and captured, and struggled to get renewed for a third season. Ultimately, it was canceled, but show creator Rob Thomas had grown attached to his tiny, blonde, sarcastic teenage protagonist, and made a 12-minute film that showed the character a few years into the future, on her first day as an FBI agent. It was…not very good, and no networks showed interest. However, years later, when Thomas launched a Kickstarter campaign for a Veronica Mars, he raised a record $2 million dollars in 11 hours. The movie came out in 2014, and was full-on fan service in-jokes and Easter eggs to please all those rabid fans who had contributed. Of course, all these facts pale in comparison to the fact that Paul Rudd almost played Vinnie Van Lowe in the original series. Can you imagine a world where that happened?
Sometimes just a few episodes is all it takes a show to make a serious mark. British sitcom Fawlty Towers was ranked number one on the British Film Institute’s 100 Greatest British TV Shows, despite having only run for 12 episodes. According to some, Fawlty Towers may not have been as short-lived as we think. Persistent online rumors from supposed witnesses allege that a 13th episode existed at some point, and that it has somehow disappeared without a trace. What are those hotel people trying to hide?!
The beloved 1960s Spider-Man cartoon series operated on a very low budget, to the point where two entire episodes were composed almost exclusively of reused footage from the show Rocket Robin Hood. Some fans probably felt a serious case of deja vu!
39. Monstrous Coincidence
TV’s two classic monster family-themed sitcoms, The Addams Family and The Munsters, not only both had similar subject matter—they also both ran for the exact same two year period as one another from 1964 to 1966. Who knows what it was about those two years that made the public so temporarily interested in monster families?
38. A Future With a Future
The Simpsons creator Matt Groening also had a second hit cartoon sitcom, Futurama, which was surprisingly canceled after a short initial run—but its persistent popularity and fan pushback over its cancellation eventually led to revivals in various formats, and ultimately a few new seasons.
37. Know When to Fold ‘Em
One of America’s earliest hit TV sitcoms, The Honeymooners, was stopped after 39 episodes by its own star, Jackie Gleason, to avoid a decline in quality due to running out of good ideas. A famous legend about Gleason was that he never rehearsed. It turns out that this is true, and the main reason was that he felt his performance would be more fresh and funny if he let it happen spontaneously. It seems like in this case, the public concurs. Over 100 previously forgotten and unavailable sketches from Jackie Gleason’s variety show featuring the characters and settings from the Honeymooners were recently uncovered and released as the “lost episodes”—a dream come true for fans of any show.
36. That What?
Despite the understandable misconception that the short-lived That ’80s Show was a spinoff of the popular That ’70s Show, there is actually no connection between the characters or storylines of the two series (except that the main character was designed as Eric Forman’s cousin), and their connections go no farther than title, basic theme, and production team. Of course, this list is about beloved shows, so let’s move on quickly, shall we?
35. Multidimensional Antics
The Addams Family series and its classic characters were actually based on a comic strip from The New Yorker.
34. Long Time for a Short Run
The 1980s British TV adaptation of Sherlock Holmes is noteworthy for its loyalty to the original books, but also for another reason—despite a run of just 41 episodes, the series took 10 years to be completed!
33. Famous Cousin
Although Police Squad! only ran for a mere six episodes, it made such a mark that it would eventually be adapted into film format, producing the now classic Naked Gun movies. Not many shows that only last six episodes could wind up with as impressive a guest list as Leslie Nielsen’s Police Squad! did. Some of the names included Florence Henderson, William Shatner, Dick Clark, Robert Goulet, Dr. Joyce Brothers, and Tommy Lasorda. Not bad!
32. Early Ending
Although the Dick Van Dyke Show did last for a while, its legendary writer Carl Reiner explains that the decision to end the show right at the height of its popularity was in part to go out on a high note, and in part to allow new opportunities for the career of its young co-star, Mary Tyler Moore.
38. Fact or Fiction
Matt Groening’s Futurama borrowed its name from a real-life exhibit on the future from the 1939 New York World’s Fair. If the future really does turn out to be anything like the show or the exhibit, it’ll probably be pretty darn cool!
30. Lady L
In addition to its destined-for-fame cast, Freaks and Geeks is remembered by many for its awesome soundtrack of songs from the period it takes place in, namely the early ’80s. Despite its short run, the show found the time to pack in over 120 such songs. The first time the show was re-run by Fox, they unfortunately cut many of the songs, adding in cheaper music in its place, leading to some awkward scenes. That said, they did keep songs that were integral to certain scenes of the show—Nick drumming to Rush in his basement, anyone—the loss of which could’ve completely ruined the series.
29. Just Over the Bridge
Despite only lasting 34 episodes, the series Brooklyn Bridge was nominated for an Emmy after its first season and actually won a Golden Globe award.
28. Return of the Bean
Although Mr. Bean’s original TV series only lasted 15 episodes, the character has been revived many times, including in cartoons, movies, and even the Olympics.
27. Doomed for Remembrance
One of the most famous incarnations of the Super Friends, an ongoing franchise of cartoon adaptations of the Justice League comics, was Challenge of the Super Friends—which introduced us all to the Legion of Doom. Ironically, this series lasted only 16 episodes, far less than many of the other less memorable Super Friends series.
26. There’s Always Money in the Banana Stand
Before it was resurrected for a fourth and (upcoming) fifth season on Netflix, Arrested Development was the very first show on anyone’s lips if you were to ask them the question “What’s your favorite show that got canceled prematurely?” Despite its critical acclaim and six Primetime Emmy Awards, its ratings weren’t great and Fox canceled the show after three seasons. The ratings had been a problem for a while by that point, and in the second season, when Fox reduced the season order by 4 episodes, the writers made a joke out of it in the show, saying that the Bluth Company’s order for houses had been cut to 18 from 22.
Despite the Honeymooners sometimes being called “TV’s first spinoff,” some would actually give that title to The Adventures of Champion—a spinoff of The Gene Autry Show. The former was a more conventional kind of spinoff than the Honeymooners, which was spawned from Gleason’s sketches. TV fanatics can continue debating which one counts as the first for as long as the medium remains around.
24. Long Visit
The two-episode 1983 mini-series V gave rise to a lasting science-fiction franchise about a group of alien invaders called the “Visitors.” Many interpret the alien imagery of the 1983 series as an allegory for Nazi Germany.
23. Stacked Platoon
Although the classic ’60s military-themed sitcom F Troop lasted only two seasons, it is noteworthy for its cast of multiple classic TV legends—including Forrest Tucker, Larry Storch, and Ken Berry.
22. Makeover, Makeover, Makeover, Makeover…Makeover!
Clone High was one of the funniest cartoons on TV in its time, and that’s saying something, as the early 2000s were a great time for hilarious cartoons. Despite its amazing premise—a bunch of clones of historical figures all go to high school together, including Abe Lincoln, Cleopatra and Joan of Arc in an Archie, Veronica and Betty-esque love triangle—it was canceled after one season. An outcry over the show’s portrayal of Gandhi as an awkward teen with ADD was just one of the factors that led to its premature cancellation.
21. Joanie Still Loves Chachi
Of the many spinoffs Happy Days is famous for inspiring, Joanie Loves Chachi may be the most beloved. Despite lasting only 17 episodes, it has remained memorable and well-liked enough to be referenced by Friends, Dodgeball, and the Beastie Boys. Joanie Loves Chachi star Scott Baio thinks that the reason the show didn’t last was because the writers of the series were not as intimately familiar with the classic characters as the Happy Days writers had been.
20. My So-Called Second Season
Ask anyone who was a teen in the ’90s was the most heartbreaking show cancellation was and 9 times out of 10, you’re going to hear My So-Called Life. The teen drama was unlike anything else on network television at the time (wasn’t there only network television at that time?) but it was pulled off the air 19 episodes into its 22 episode debut season. It was also one of the early examples of a huge (and ultimately) failed fan campaign to bring the show back after its cancellation. Had the show ever made it to its second season, Angela and Jordan would have got into a serious relationship, while things would have got very messy for Angela’s parents, with the possibility of an affair and separation.
19. No-Fawlt Divorce
As crazy as it is that Fawlty Towers stars John Cleese and Connie Booth were married while writing and starring in the show together, it might be even more amazing that they continued to do so after getting divorced partway through the show’s run.
18. Yabba Dabba Don’t
Jackie Gleason wanted to sue the Flintstones at one point for basing their characters on the ones from the Honeymooners, but was dissuaded from doing so for fear of going down in history as the “Man Who Killed Fred Flintstone.”
17. Five Star Hotel
True fans of the Golden Girls will remember its spinoff, Golden Palace, which features three of the original show’s main characters running a hotel. Evidently, not everyone was as interested in this as the show’s true fans, as it only aired for 24 episodes.
16. America’s Turn
There was an attempt to adapt Britain’s beloved sitcom Fawlty Towers for American television, and the product was a show called Amanda’s—which featured Golden Girls star Bea Arthur in John Cleese’s shoes running a hotel. What is it about former Golden Girls stars trying to do shows about running hotels? It never seems to last…
15. Radio Days
The Marx Brothers were at height of their popularity when they received a weekly radio sitcom, Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel, in 1932. The show received a lot of attention and created some beloved material. However, the show was not renewed for a second season and ended after 26 episodes. The show would later be rediscovered in the ’80s when its scripts were released, at which point it developed a cult following and even a modern BBC remake. Nat Perrin, the writer behind the Flywheel radio show as well as many of the Marx Brothers’ best-known films, would ironically become the head writer and producer of the The Addams Family series three decades later.
14. Bridge Over Troubled Water
Brooklyn Bridge really went all out for the short time it was on the air in the early 90s—it had the legendary Art Garfunkel perform its theme song! There must be something about bridges that always attracts that guy…
13. Catchy Song
The theme song from the 1967 Spider-Man series is one aspect of the show that was anything but short-lived—it has not only made its way into later Spider-Man adaptations, but has even been covered by the likes of Michael Buble.
12. Fast Impact
Although the original TV version of The Flash lasted only 22 episodes, it made enough of a mark to become the object of homage in the more recent 2014 edition of this superhero’s TV escapades.
11. All You Need Is Love
The sitcom Bridget Loves Bernie enjoyed high ratings during the one season it was on the air before it was canceled—in part due to the controversy over its subject matter of interfaith marriage. Nevertheless, the cancellation could not prevent the actors who portrayed the show’s protagonist couple from marrying in real life.
10. What’s in a Name?
The Marx Brothers’ Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel had to change its name from its initial title of Beagle, Shyster, and Beagle. The studio was contacted by an irate real-life New York City lawyer, who felt that Groucho Marx’s comedic portrayal of a lawyer by his name would ruin his business. The lawyer character on the show suddenly became known as Mr. Flywheel. The rest, as they say, is history.
9. Bye Bye
Despite the fact that the Mr. Bean character has often been revived by Rowan Atkinson since the end of the show’s original run, Atkinson unofficially retired the character in 2012—citing his feeling that “someone in their fifties being childlike becomes a little sad.” I’m sure most fans would gladly put this kind of judgment on hold to see more of this character!
8. Life With Lucy
Lucille Ball is one of those icons where anything she stars in is instantly adored by her masses of fans. But in addition to starring in the legendary I Love Lucy and other hit shows, Ball also starred in a short-lived attempt at a TV series titled Life with Lucy, which was canceled by the network before all 13 episodes had even aired. Nevertheless, true Lucy fans will always hunt this show down and include it in the canon of Lucy shows that helped shape our culture.
7. Getting Serious
Batman: The Animated Series, a two-season long TV series featuring the Caped Crusader, was one of the first animated shows intended for a serious, adult audience. The show inspired many similar superhero-themed animated series of this style, in a stark departure from the kind of light-hearted Saturday morning fare that Superhero cartoons had traditionally been a part of in the past.
6. Shocking Revelation
Joss Whedon initially planned for seven seasons of Firefly before it was canceled. One arc that he’d planned for would have involved a slow, tragic death for of Inara, who was going to at one point contract a terminal illness. This is just one small hint, among countless others, that the show could have ended up becoming so much more, and that it’s premature departure is a real tragedy of the silver screen.
5. Box of Rain
The networks may not have felt that Freaks and Geeks had a formula worth continuing for more than 18 episodes, but the show has become beloved since it’s cancellation, thanks in part to the timing of its release coinciding with the rising popularity of DVD releases of TV shows. While the producers ultimately knew it would be canceled, and planned for it, creator Paul Feig did have some plans for the characters should the series miraculously have been renewed. He envisioned Lindsay getting into some trouble during her trip following the Grateful Dead on tour, which would’ve affected her relationship with her parents, while her little brother Sam would’ve got into the drama club at school. Each of the “geeks” would actually go their own way, pursuing their own interests at school, while things wouldn’t have turned out so rosy for the “freaks”—including a stint in jail for Daniel.
4. Are We Having Fun Yet?
In the vein of Arrested Development in more than one way, Party Down was a smart comedy with a hilarious cast that lasted only two seasons before its untimely cancellation. Since almost immediately after its demise, rumors have floated around about the possibility of a Party Down movie, which would be a delight, to say the least, especially considering how famous many of its cast members have got since—notably, Adam Scott, Lizzy Caplan, and Jane Lynch. When Jane Lynch left the show to take her role in Glee, Ken Marino thought it would be hilarious to hire a female stripper to see her off. When the rest of the cast started to go along with it and take up a collection to pay the dancer, Marino backed out. When the stripper did finally arrive and began dancing for Lynch, everyone realized just how awkward it was and stopped the whole thing in its tracks. Despite the fact that Marino backed out long before anything embarrassing happened, Lynch wrote a chapter about the prank in her book, and she blames him.
3. Bad Timing
Popular lore says that Father Ted went off the air due to the sudden death of its star, Dermot Morgan, just a day after the last episode was filmed. However, it actually ended because Morgan did not want to become typecast portraying his comical character—never dreaming that he wouldn’t live to pursue future acting jobs.
2. Galloping to Fame
The Father Ted episode “A Song for Europe,” which introduced the world to the now beloved silly song “My Lovely Horse” as Ireland’s fictional Eurovision entry, was directed by Declan Lowney, who had actually directed the real Eurovision contest in 1988.
1. Silent Sensation
If you’ve ever wondered why the main character in Mr. Bean almost never speaks, it’s so that the show can be easily relatable to all viewers regardless of language barriers. I guess the idea paid off—the show has been carried in almost 200 countries worldwide!