In the “all you can eat” era of television, standing out can be a bit of a challenge. If you’re not “Game of Thrones” or “The Walking Dead,” viewers may just forget about you and move on to the next big hit.
With the quantity of new series being released both on traditional networks and streaming platforms such as Netflix or Hulu, great one-season shows seem more appealing. Most of them were probably meant to run for longer, yet they were cancelled before they even had the chance to shine.
1. “Undeclared” (2001)
Before Judd Apatow released the modern classic “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and its “bag of sand” and Kelly Clarkson moments, he put out the cult favorite “Freaks and Geeks” in 1999.
With future stars James Franco, Seth Rogen, Linda Cardellini and others, the comedy-drama is a fixture of any canceled-too-soon list. However, its presence on the Netflix streaming catalog has overshadowed the spiritual follow up: “Undeclared.”
Starring “She’s Out of my League” bachelor Jay Baruchel and “Sons of Anarchy” Charlie Hunnam, the sitcom revolves around a group of college students going through the trials and tribulations of life in a university dorm. The show had several high profile cameos, including Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller and Will Ferrell.
Time has been kinder to “Freaks and Geeks,” yet college life has never seen a portrayal as funny and cliché-free as in “Undeclared.” Find it on YouTube before it’s gone!
2. “Awake” (2012)
Jason Isaacs stars alongside a pre-“13 Reasons Why” Dylan Minnette in the short-lived sci-fi drama. The story follows Detective Michael Britten, a father who gets in a car accident with his wife and teenage son and must now deal with living in two realities: his wife survives, while his son dies in one; the opposite happens in the second reality.
Britten goes on to experience each reality and continues his detective work to cope with the challenge of living life with half of his family at a time.
Although the concept may have been a bit complicated for most audiences and likely the cause of low ratings, the drama stands out as a forgotten gem in the world of one-season shows. “Awake” was visually compelling and it was swinging for the fences.
Given that Netflix hadn’t reached the popularity it enjoys today, creator Kyle Killen had to resort to a network to get it to the people. Even though there’s no way to prove it, the series could’ve been successful as part of a streaming platform, allowing repeat viewings and more time for audiences to take it all in. You can watch the pilot on YouTube and see if it’s for you.
3. “Do Over” (2002)
No, it’s not the awful Netflix flick with Adam Sandler and his SNL pals, it’s actually a little family sitcom starring none other than “Gossip Girl” himself, Penn Badgley.
The show tells the story of Joel Larsen’s frustrating adult life and how an encounter with defibrillation paddles sends him back to 1981 to relive life as a 14-year-old. Thanks to the knowledge he possesses from already living through the 1980s and 1990s, Larsen must be careful with changing the past.
The series suffered from low ratings because it had to compete with both “Survivor” and “Scrubs” at a time when both had strong audience numbers. Unfortunately, only 11 episodes aired in the United States, although 15 actually completed production. Great Britain had a chance later in the decade to see the four remaining episodes.
Still, this never translated into a DVD or Blu-ray release, joining the dreaded list of shows that home video forgot. On the bright side, an Australian remake is in the works. You can probably see a trend going on, so find it on YouTube, although you may need to get creative to bypass the geoblocking.
4. “Clone High” (2002)
Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the men famous for bringing “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” the “21 Jump Street” movie franchise and “The Lego Movie,” also came up with this shining example of adult animation.
Airing in 2002, the cartoon follows a group of high school teens cloned after famous historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln, a goth version of Joan of Arc, party animal Gandhi and macho jock John F. Kennedy.
The animated series had well-known guest stars Marilyn Manson, Jack Black and Tom Green voicing versions of themselves. Originally airing in Canada’s Teletoon, “Clone High” moved to MTV, on which low ratings led to its untimely cancellation.
Successfully parodying teen dramas from the 1990s, the Lord/Miller production knew how to put humor and story over visuals, à la South Park. Unfortunately, the controversial depiction of Gandhi generated outrage in India and probably had a hand in MTV’s decision. You saw this coming, didn’t you? You can find it on YouTube.
5. “The Grinder” (2015)
Rob Lowe doesn’t have the best luck when it comes to being the lead in a television series. He’s been a part of great ensemble dramas and comedies such as “The West Wing,” “Brothers and Sisters” and “Parks and Recreation.”
On top of that, he was arguably the main heartthrob of the 1980s thanks to roles in “The Outsiders” as Sodapop Curtis and Billy Hixx in “St. Elmo’s Fire.” Nevertheless, he’s been part of a few one-season shows; networks even failed to pick up his pilot for “The Pro.”
It seemed Lowe’s career was hitting a low after leaving “Parks and Recreation,” yet he managed to star in “The Grinder,” a meta-comedy sitcom. Lowe plays Dean Sanderson, an actor who played a lawyer on a long-running show. Once it ends, Sanderson believes his experience portraying an attorney would be enough to pursue the career in the real world, although life at the courts doesn’t compare to a studio.
The sitcom managed to earn critical praise and a dedicated fan base, yet this didn’t translate to strong ratings. Fortunately, Rob Lowe believes audiences haven’t seen the last of “The Grinder.” YouTube had to break the streak, but Crackle’s got your back.
Most lists of this kind usually include the likes of “My So-Called Life” and “Firefly,” but audiences still remember them fondly and the meteoric rise of the people involved in both of those shows has kept them alive. Claire Danes leads “Homeland,” Jared Leto won an Academy Award and Joss Whedon built the foundation the Marvel Cinematic Universe needed to make “The Avengers” work.
For the five gems listed above, time has unjustifiably seen them fall through the cracks, yet they each stand as stellar examples of bad things happening to good people. If you’re tired of having to watch 50+ episodes to see why your friends enjoy “Breaking Bad,” “Game of Thrones” or “Mad Men,” give “Undeclared” and company a chance. They don’t require much of a time commitment and pack a punch in 22 episodes or less.