Some of these had only a single season yet live on in the memories of those of us who watched them.
Well, of course Firefly. You had to suspect that this Joss Whedon television series would be on the list. I’ve written about the series before. Since the past is the only predictor of the future, I will write about it again. Sure, this show did get its own movie, a kind of coda to the truncated television series, but I prefer to pretend that Serenity doesn’t exist. It’s not that it was a bad movie, only that certain things happened that I didn’t want to happen. In my head canon, Shepherd Book and Hoban Washburn are still alive. The world of the television series is being kept alive in comics, media tie-in novels and in games, but the original episodes have to be watched to fully appreciate a beautifully created science fiction milieu that’s not Star Trek or Star Wars.
Agent Carter (2015)
I recently completed a rewatch of Agent Carter, and the series was just as good as I remembered. Perhaps even better. We did get two seasons of Hayley Atwell in the role that has come to define her career and her place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even if we had gotten five seasons, it may not have been enough.
Marvel’s The Punisher (2017)
I could make a case that all of the Marvel series on Netflix ended too soon (even Iron Fist). But, if I had to pick just one of them, it would have been this one. Frank Castle has come a long way since his disco boots and rubber bullets days. Two seasons of Jon Bernthal in the role was just not enough.
Freaks and Geeks (1999)
We were gifted only a single season of the Paul Feig/Judd Apatow high school comedy-drama set in the very early 1980s. It was the series that launched many careers, including those of Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Busy Phillips, Martin Starr, James Franco and Linda Cardellini. Feig and Apatow have done okay as well. This one definitely tickled my nostalgia bone, and I could identify with several of the characters, both the freaks and the geeks.
This post-apocalyptic series was created by Eric Kripke, who had created the long-running Supernatural. It was produced by J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot production company, and Abrams even composed the theme music. The ubiquitous super-nerd Jon Favreau directed the pilot episode and set up the series visual design. This is a show that seemed to have everything going for it, but lasted only two seasons. There is a four-part comic book series that supposedly wraps up all of the dangling story threads and gives it an ending. I haven’t read it yet, but plan to one day. Maybe before another decade passes.
Santa Clarita Diet (2017)
This was the Timothy Olyphant/Drew Barrymore zombie horror-comedy that Netflix somehow knew I wanted. The series lasted three seasons and thirty episodes, but should have lasted a little while longer. The story doesn’t feel complete at the end of Season 3.
Another Netflix series that ended too soon, this one centered around the milieu of professional women’s wrestling and executive-produced by—among others—Jenji Kohan, the creator of Weeds and Orange is the New Black. Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin and Marc Maron head up a wonderful ensemble cast. The show had been renewed for a fourth and final season to wrap up the story, but soon became a victim of the COVID pandemic, when Netflix reversed its decision and cancelled the series.
The last three series on this list are a bit older. But so am I.
Alien Nation (1989)
This was a science fiction police procedural adapted from the 1988 movie of the same name. Starring Gary Graham and Eric Pierpoint as a human-alien buddy cop team, this series lasted only one season and twenty-two episodes. I honestly thought it was on longer. This may have been because the original movie and the five television-movies that followed the series cancellation made it seem that way. True confession time: I’ve never watched the TV movies (or I don’t recall doing so, which amounts to the same thing). Perhaps I’d feel more closure if I had. This was pretty good science-fiction television that I whole-heartedly recommend.
Crime Story (1986)
This one was a slick period crime drama produced by Michael Mann, who had brought us the pop culture touchstone Miami Vice. I think I liked practically everything about this show, which ran for two seasons and starred Dennis Farina as Lt. Mike Torello. Even its theme song, a rerecording of Del Shannon’s hit “Runaway.” The series featured such notable guest stars as Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Gary Sinise, Ving Rhames and Christian Slater, not to mention jazz greats Miles Davis and Dexter Gordon. The series also influenced future arc-driven series such as Wiseguy, 24 and The Sopranos, among many others.
Beauty and the Beast (1987)
George R.R. Martin was a writer and producer on this late-’80s version of the classic fairy tale. Linda Hamilton is the beauty. Ron Perlman is the beast. There is an underground civilization straight out of a fantasy novel, and Armin Shimerman is one of its citizens. Nothing I can write about this series will really make you want to watch it. Watching it will make you want to watch more of it. The first two seasons are great, and then Linda Hamilton left the show. While it limped on for a third season, nothing was ever the same. Still, I believe it ended too soon.