The Top Seven Prematurely Cancelled TV Shows

The news, released earlier this week, that offbeat zombie-drama In The Flesh has been dumped by BBC Three will likely have made fans feel like their hearts are being devoured by a rabid PDS-sufferer such is their devotion to the show.

Over the course of its short two series Dominic Mitchell’s subtle study of isolation and acceptance, which told the story of a reanimated teenager returning to his local community post-rising, claimed numerous awards and critical recognition, and built a rabid cult following dedicated to ensuring the ultimate underdog-series’ survival (an online petition begging Netflix to save the show has already gained over 8,000 signatures).

Yet it was not enough to persuade BBC bosses to commission a third series, citing a need to make room for new dramas and emerging talent for giving the show the boot. And this got me thinking about how many other shows have been prematurely snuffed out.

Here are seven shows that ended before their time.

Twin Peaks

While many people will say the current golden age of television began with The Sopranos in 1999, those who do may want to look a little further back to 1991 and David Lynch’s surreal and offbeat American series Twin Peaks.

Following an investigation headed by oddball FBI agent Dale Cooper into the murder of a homecoming queen, Lynch’s seminal series explored the seedy layers of life lurking beneath the respectable veneer of a small town.

Unsettling and camp, dark and melodramatic, Twin Peaks was a truly unique piece of work that was years ahead of its time – as evidenced by the influence it has had on many modern dramas, such as Broadchurch and The Returned – and it’s no shock that the show became a success both nationally and internationally.

After a muddled second season, during which declining ratings prompted ABC to insists on revealing the identity of Laura Palmer’s killer, and the disappointing prequel film Fire Walk with Me both failed to find a satisfying conclusion to the story, Lynch announced late last year that a new season of nine episodes will air on Showtime in 2016.


Perhaps the meanest, sweariest, nastiest western ever to grace our screens, this dark and soupy HBO drama from David Milch is something of a lost televisual gem.

Set during the American gold rush, the series charted the evolution of Deadwood from an illegal settlement to something resembling a real society over three glorious seasons of anarchic liberty and potty-mouthed brilliance.

Fans are still bereft that the show was cancelled before a planned fourth season and plans to conclude the series with two special movies have so far come to nought, with star Ian McShane reiterating in 2009 that “Deadwood is dead”.


Much like fellow Brit-series In The Flesh, this smart, day-glow conspiracy thriller from Dennis Kelly – the creative mind that also brought us the Matilda musical – never gained the viewing figures to match its critical popularity.

With its striking visuals and dark, tantalisingly mysterious plot about a group of misfits trying to thwart a global genocide, Utopia was a work of brilliant imagination and unlike anything else on TV.

Fans are still coming to terms with its cancellation, announced by Channel 4 in September following an admittedly lacklustre second series, but they may yet find solace in the HBO remake, which is fronted by filmmaker David Fincher and Gone Girl scribe Gillian Flynn.

Ripper Street

Far more than a half-baked Victorian CSI, this compelling police-procedural proved to be a mainstream hit for BBC One in 2012.

Ripper Street provided an excellent alternative to the typically soporific Sunday night programming with its gritty writing that brought London’s East End to vivid life and some engaging interplay between the central trio – Inspector Reid, Sergeant Drake and Captain Jackson, their initially fraught dealings triumphing into a witty bromance as the series and their characters developed.

An ill-conceived shift in time-slot preceded series two, forcing it up against ITV’s I’m a Celebrity…, and the show was eventually cancelled due to low viewing figures. Thankfully, Amazon Prime promptly stepped in to resurrect Ripper Street and its third series is currently airing to much-acclaim online.


In what could be considered a precursor to The Walking Dead, Jericho was a post-apocalyptic action-drama that centred on the residents of its titular town in the aftermath of a nuclear attack on the US.

Often a powerfully emotive examination of how America balances security with its own principles, the show earned a lot a praise for its considerable tension and sterling cast – not least Lennie James who is excellent as intense and enigmatic government agent Richard Hawkins.

Initially cancelled after its first run because of poor ratings, the show’s determined following launched a successful fan-campaign to revive the series for a second seven-episode season only for it to be cancelled once again after that run.

Early plans for a feature film have yet to resurface, but the series still lives on in the form of a successful comic-book series.


Although not as successful as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Joss Whedon’s follow-up Firefly has all the winning-elements of that supernatural-drama – the witty dialogue, quirky premises and dark exploration of human fallacy – and wraps them up in the offbeat world of a space western.

Despite being cancelled by Fox after only eleven episodes, the series has built a solid fan-base during its short run that, along with strong DVD sales, encouraged Universal to release a film based on the series (2005’s Serenity) and the Firefly franchise has since branched out into comics, board games and other media.

Pushing Daisies

You’ve got to give NBC credit for sticking with cult horror series Hannibal for a third season considering creator Bryan Fuller’s reputation for making prematurely cancelled shows.

Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls were both given short-shrift by impatient studio execs, but it’s the axing of fantasy-drama Pushing Daisies that most ires Fuller Fans.

Touted as a forensic fairytale, the series, about a pie maker who can bring dead things back to life, won critical praise and numerous awards (including seven Emmys) for its unusual, Tim Burton-esque style, quirky characters and fast-paced dialogue only for ABC to cancel the show just six episodes into its second season.

Rumours have since emerged of the series continuing as a film, a comic book or, most bizarrely, a Broadway musical without any ever coming to fruition. It looks like even Ned’s magic touch can’t bring this series back to life.

So what do you think? Do you agree with my choices or think there’s something I have missed? Let me know in the comments section below.


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