Why Underrated and Cancelled TV Shows Matter

cancelled TV shows

Cancelled TV shows and bubble shows are still relevant to our lives.

Sitcoms are dying. Superheroes are rising. Television constantly changes due to audience numbers. When people discuss television, they tend to talk about the trending shows: Game of Thrones, The Big Bang Theory, The Walking Dead and anything by Marvel. Most don’t spend all day talking about a show that got cancelled. They might vent a while, but soon they’re back to discussing the popular show, the trend. People underestimate the power that cancelled TV shows can have. Small-screen history is filled with cancelled TV shows that only made a season or two, some barely making it a few episodes.

The advancement of social media and streaming has created easier ways for audiences to find new shows. Social media helps fans market to friends, but what happens when a show can’t garner enough social media buzz? Whereas social media has helped several shows rise in popularity, the lack of social media conversation can kill shows. As an example, Rush Hour barely had a presence before it was swiftly cancelled after a handful of episodes.

In recent years, with few exceptions, sitcoms have struggled to stay on air. It seems sitcoms die quickly because the style of comedies has changed and humor has become forced. When every joke is raunchy, for example, it can be funny but then become repetitive and boring. The easy banter, slapstick style and charm of old sitcoms are hard to find. Why are cancelled TV shows important? If society loses sitcoms, for example, we can lose humor. We release endorphins when we laugh. We need to give our minds a break from drama, for example, and something to give us relief from a long day.

Firefly - cancelled TV showsFirefly, 20th Century Fox Television

Several cancelled TV shows have become cult classics. Firefly was cancelled after one season, but the show was so beloved that The Science Network celebrated its 10-year anniversary with a 2012 reunion special. Family Guy was cancelled twice. Pushing Daisies was cancelled after just two seasons.

What makes some cancelled TV shows so popular? With Firefly, Joss Whedon created original and well-developed characters, blending in surreal situations to represent society’s problems. The show was a space western with witty dialogue and social commentary. It spoke to people for the same reason Buffy and Angel did. Despite the fictitious world, the problems the characters face are relatable and speak to the issues the audience members face daily.

Some shows, such as Pushing Daisies and Family Guy, achieve critical success despite ratings.

Pushing Daisies had a short run, but it was nominated for 57 awards and won 18. Its first season was reduced from a planned 22 episodes to nine due to the Writers Guild of America strike. Fans had to wait 10 months for the next episode, and though the faithful viewers loved it, during its second season it dropped from an average of six million viewers to about two million. The drop in ratings killed its chances at renewal. Despite the drop, it became a cult favorite.

Pushing Daisies - cancelled TV showsPushing Daisies, photo by Danny Feld/ABC via Getty Images

Similarly, Family Guy has been a cult favorite for years with controversial topics and humor. Despite the love of the fans, including the executives, the show didn’t perform well in numbers. It still has a cult following because fans are dedicated to the characters.

Many cancelled television shows have tackled tough subjects, such as inequality, bullying, climate change, reproductive health, human trafficking and even agriculture methods. A lot of shows incorporate entertainment education into their story lines in such a subtle way that fans don’t always realize they’re being influenced. Friends, a global hit that ran for 10 seasons, had such an impact on society that people got Rachel’s haircut and changed their speech patterns based on the way Chandler spoke.

Several cancelled TV shows have impacted our society despite low ratings. Revolution, about our society living in a world without power, ended after two seasons after living on the bubble of poor ratings. During its run, the actors visited with the UN for a conversation about light. The show matters because it addresses themes including living without power, warlords, vaccinations, child soldiers, prostitution and epidemics. While some of these don’t affect US society, they all affect our global society. When we watch shows dealing with these themes, we develop a bond with the characters and care about what’s happening.

Nikita was a bubble show on the CW about a secret government organization of assassins. Two of the biggest themes the show focused on were prostitution and drug use. Two of the main characters were junkies, one of whom was also smuggled into the country as a prostitute. It ran for four seasons, constantly struggling for ratings. Every year people took to Twitter to create petitions to save the show for another season. Despite the limited run, people succeeded in keeping it going for four years. An international fan base is important because it shows how different people can come together for a common goal.

Rush Hour - cancelled TV showsRush Hour, photo by Neil Jacobs/CBS via Getty Images

A recently cancelled show was Rush Hour. Yes, it’s a remake of a movie trilogy. Yes, the pilot was just a retelling of the first movie. Yes, it was campy. But what the show did even in a short run was important: it demonstrated diversity in a way that’s rare on TV. Out of the five main cast members, four were people of color and two were women. One of the women was Wendie Malick, who played the chief of police. It confronted cultural norms in a subtle way.

Just because a show is underrated or cancelled doesn’t take away from the good it does in the short time it’s on. You never know what show will touch your life or influence the way you think until you give it a chance. People love bubble shows because those are the ones fighting to stay on TV. Every episode, every line of dialogue is carefully crafted to be the best it can be. With nothing to lose, everyone behind a bubble show puts forth their best. A show may have low ratings, but that doesn’t make it low quality, so give an underrated or cancelled TV show a chance. end

Join the conversation. What’s your favorite underrated or cancelled TV show? 






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