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TV's Greatest Hits: One Season Wonders

There's nothing worse than completing the first season of a show and getting excited for the next season only to find out that there is no next season. Cancellations of beloved shows are one of the worst heartbreaks. Sometimes, you become so invested in the characters and their fictional lives that they start to feel like your own friends. In honor of these one-season wonders, here are my top four favorite shows that were canceled too soon.


Freaks and Geeks (1999)

Like most people, when I think of a show robbed of a second season, I immediately think of Freaks and Geeks. The show is responsible for kickstarting the careers of a myriad of adored comedians such as James Franco, Jason Segal, Seth Rogen, and Linda Cardellini, to name a few. Only twelve of the show's eighteen episodes aired before NBC canceled it due to low ratings. When Freaks and Geeks first aired, it didn't acquire the attention it now receives today. It didn't grow its cult following until 2005. Perhaps if the show came out six years later, it would have attracted a broader audience. Since then, Freaks and Geeks has transformed into one of the most beloved cult classics of all time.


Freaks and Geeks is all about belonging. The story is told through two perspectives: siblings Lindsay (Linda Cardellini) and Sam Weir (John Francis Daley) – a burnt-out upperclassman and a geeky freshman – trying to navigate high school. Half of the show focuses on Lindsay as she transforms from a quiet nerd into a rebel who skips class to smoke with her friends. Her new friends, whom her parents refer to as "freaks," make her question her self-image. The other half focuses on Sam and his nerdy friends as they strive to fit in while constantly being taunted by bullies.


Dare I say Freaks and Geeks is the coming-of-age show? The series holds a special place in my heart. I have rewatched it more times than I can count, and every time it gets better. As someone who is also trying to navigate through high school, Freaks and Geeks is something I can connect to. I have always wondered if I am a freak or a geek myself - I think I'm more of a geek.


If you enjoy shows like How I Met Your Mother, Arrested Development, or Malcolm in the Middle, check out Freaks and Geeks on Hulu or Prime Video.


The Society (2019)

When The Society was released, I binged it all in one sitting, and after that, I binged it again. It bears comparisons to Lord of the Flies and The 100. A group of high school students return from a canceled field trip and find that everyone in their town has disappeared. They cannot contact anyone outside of the town, and more importantly, they can't leave. Intrinsically, the students conceive their own rules to survive and attempt to understand why. The students are thrown into chaos at the beginning of the season; they take as much stuff as they want from stores, steal from houses, and form an apparent hierarchy. People disagree and revolt, making it impossible for order. The students develop their own groups, similar to the social cliques they once held in school.


The Society is such an intriguing concept; I'm surprised it hadn't been used sooner on TV. The show's many young actors were interesting and would no doubt display greater nuance with the blessing of a second season. I'm sad the series was canceled because I still have numerous unanswered questions. Judging by how the first season ended, it's unclear how the writers would have even written a second season without it being ambiguous. Ending a season on a cliffhanger is one thing; ending a series on a cliffhanger is a crime.


The Society season 1 is available to stream on Netflix.


Undeclared (2001)

Undeclared, Judd Apatow’s follow-up from Freaks and Geeks, is by far the most underrated sitcom of the early 2000s. As someone who adores Freaks and Geeks, I was delighted to stumble across another early 2000s Apatow sitcom, especially considering its relative anonymity.


The show follows Steven Karp (Jay Baruchel), a freshman at the University of Northeastern California. Steven has an undeclared major, and rather than taking the time to figure out what career he wants to pursue, he attempts to find out who he is as a person. His lonely, divorced father always seems to be around, much to Steven's chagrin.


Undeclared makes me excited for college. The awkward, nerdy, dry humor is right up my alley. It is often disregarded among other cult classics because it is overshadowed by its better-known sibling, Freaks and Geeks. What Undeclared offered that Freaks and Geeks failed to is the characters' individual growth. The characters in Freaks and Geeks are somewhat limited by the constrictions of high school's social hierarchy. The show got canceled before we ever saw the characters grow or change for the better.


In Undeclared, Steven is able to branch out and find people who are similar to him, and throughout the show, he becomes more comfortable in college. The two Apatow shows bear many similarities, from the actors, the awkward humor, and the fact that they were both wrongfully canceled after one season. We never even got to see Steven pick his major! What a shame. Undeclared is free on YouTube and available to rent or purchase on Prime Video.


American Vandal (2017)

I'm sick of people overlooking mockumentaries! They are such a clever avenue for satire and meta-comedy. I have been a fan of American Vandal since its release. Its crude "potty humor" is approached with surprising filmmaking sophistication. I can't even count how many times I've rewatched it – the show is that good. American Vandal has two seasons, so it technically shouldn't be on this list, but I firmly believe that it was robbed of another few.


The first season follows the aftermath of a high school prank where faculty cars were vandalized with pornographic images. Dylan Maxwell (Jimmy Tatro) is accused of the crime and expelled. Classmates Peter Maldonado (Tyler Alvarez) and Sam Ecklund (Griffin Gluck) launch an investigation into the incident to discover whether or not Dylan is innocent.


The second season follows Peter and Sam’s senior project as they investigate an online entity known as "The Turd Burglar" who has been harassing the students at St. Bernadine High School in Washington. The Turd Burglar is responsible for committing a series of poop-related crimes followed up by Instagram posts exposing the students at St. Bernadine.


Both seasons have rather absurd concepts, but they are delivered phenomenally. The show is full of easter eggs; every detail has some significance that you may only catch on rewatch. Mockumentaries can sometimes be too far-fetched or poorly produced, but American Vandal is so plausible that people on Twitter had heated arguments on whether or not the show was real. Spoiler alert: it's not.


American Vandal is like my little gem. I've never heard people talk about it or give it the praise it deserves. I simply cannot recommend American Vandal enough. It might just be the best mockumentary series ever made. At least show makers Tony Yacenda and Dan Perrault have a new series on the way: an esports comedy, set to premiere on Paramount+. American Vandal can be streamed on Netflix.


Although I am heartbroken that all four of these shows will never have another season, it is for the best. If they didn't have a finite number of episodes, the shows wouldn't be as cherished as they are. Long-running sitcoms like The Office or Friends tend to become repetitive as the seasons go on; these shows never got a chance to be tedious. Only so many plots can be used until the show becomes boring anyway. Sometimes it's nice to watch a show with limited episodes.


-Sophie

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