The 2010s saw a seismic shift in the way we consume TV shows and how they’re made. With the rise of streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and (most recently) Disney Plus, television has splintered in ways we couldn’t have imagined even a decade ago. You don’t have to look far to find something in your niche and — concerns over things like the paradox of choice aside — you can usually be sure that that show you like is going to stick around for a while.
Yes, cancellations are still a part of the game, but even if your favorite new show gets axed after one season, it has a better chance than ever of getting picked up by a different network. Still, this doesn’t mean the 2010s didn’t have its share of TV series that had the plug pulled too soon.
Here are the ten saddest TV cancellations of the past decade.
10. The Last Man On Earth (2015 – 2018)
It’s always disappointing when a good TV series get canceled, but it’s even worse when that series ends on a cliffhanger. Such was the case with The Last Man on Earth, an oddball comedy created by and starring Will Forte, which concluded four seasons on an unresolved note in 2018.
Set in a post-apocalyptic future, The Last Man on Earth was the rare piece of media to poke fun at our culture’s obsession with the end times, offering a reprieve from more dour fare like The Walking Dead. While it would have been great to get at least another season, The Last Man on Earth’s cliffhanger finale might have been the plan all along, as Forte admitted he approached every episode like it could have been the last.
9. Constantine (2014 – 2015)
You gotta feel for Constantine fans. First, there was the divisive 2005 DC Comics movie starring Keanu Reeves, which, even if you enjoyed, performed poorly enough at the box office to justify not producing a sequel. Then in 2014, NBC developed a TV adaptation that quickly became a fan favorite due to its faithfulness to the source material. With respect to Reeves, Matt Ryan not only looked the part of trenchcoat-wearing sorcerer John Constatine but more closely captured the character’s cynicism and deadpan sense of humor.
Unfortunately, the show never captured a sizable audience, and after trying to shop it around, NBC canceled Constantine after just one season. While Ryan would go on to reprise his role in Arrowverse series such as Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow, as well as a short-lived animated series, it still burns that Constantine wasn’t given more time to find its footing.
8. Party Down (2009 – 2010)
Just narrowly making the decade cancellation cutoff is Party Down, a Starz comedy series that lasted just two seasons before it was taken off the air. A critical darling in its time, Party Down’s reputation has only strengthened over the last decade, to the point where it has justifiably earned cult status. Much of this can be attributed to the cast, which featured a murderer’s row of comedic talent, including Adam Scott, Lizzy Caplan, Ken Marino, Martin Starr, Jane Lynch, and many more.
Alongside showrunner Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars, iZombie), these actors made this series about a Hollywood catering company sing as it hit some all too relatable workplace pathos notes. On the bright side, we probably wouldn’t have gotten Adam Scott’s memorable turn as Ben Wyatt in Parks and Rec if Party Down had continued, so there is a silver lining in all of this.
7. Happy Endings (2011 – 2013)
Hangout comedies saw a resurgence in the 2010s thanks to the successful series like New Girl and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. ABC’s Happy Endings helped jumpstart this resurgence and yet, proved to be one of the decade’s saddest losses. Despite having a stellar ensemble cast that included Elisha Cuthbert, Casey Wilson, and Damon Wayans, Jr., Happy Endings was initially written off by critics as another Friends wannabe before becoming a legitimate modern successor to that beloved 90s sitcom.
Unfortunately, ABC did little to try and keep Happy Endings going. The series was hurt by poor advertising from the beginning, and in its third season, ABC practically sounded the death knell when it started airing episodes out of order. Fans deserved a happier ending (sorry), but at least the show’s talented cast would go on to have success in other series throughout the rest of the decade.
6. Agent Carter (2015 – 2016)
Marvel has received some (totally justified) criticism for female underrepresentation in its movies. It took the studio nearly a decade to release its first female-led film with 2019’s Captain Marvel, but in some way, that honor also belongs to Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter. Throughout two seasons, Agent Carter delivered period piece action, following Peggy, as she navigated life as a female spy in a male-dominated post-war era.
The show succeeded not just as a female empowerment piece, but also as a look at an era viewers only briefly glimpsed in 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger. Following a solid first season and even better second, Agent Carter had the makings of a series that could go the distance (especially with Marvel money behind it). However, according to Atwell, ABC wanted her to star in something more mainstream and gave the show the ax. Ironically, that more mainstream show — the legal drama Conviction — would only last one season.
5. Sense8 (2015-2018)
Netflix’s foray into original programming was one of the biggest TV stories of the decade, not least because the streaming giant sort of changed the conversation around cancellations. Netflix made a name for itself as a resurrection platform, picking up many discarded shows from other networks and gave them another shot at life (see: Arrested Development and The Killing).
Sense8, a Netflix Original, was the company’s first big controversial cancellation (though fan outcry eventually convinced Netflix to produce a feature-length finale). The show itself was a unique sci-fi drama from the Wachowskis that gained accolades for its LGBTQ representation. However, the show’s cancellation also sheds light on Netflix’s cryptic approach to ratings and the way it shares information in general. The company has only gotten more cancellation-happy in more recent years, to the point where it’s difficult to know if any new show it puts out will last.
Case in point …
4. One Day at a Time (2017 – 2019)
If the past decade has taught us anything, it’s that most reboots of classic TV shows are terrible. However, every so often, an unexpected surprise like Netflix’s One Day at a Time comes along and makes you think, “Hey, maybe reboots aren’t so bad after all.” Developed by Gloria Calderón Kellett, this reimagining of Norman Lear’s classic sitcom scored big with critics and audiences alike for its heartfelt storytelling and Latinx representation.
The sudden cancellation of One Day at a Time following its third season was controversial enough, but Netflix did itself no favors when it attributed the cancellation to low viewership. Many argued ratings weren’t the culprit, but rather the fact Sony Pictures owned the rights, not Netflix. The excellent news is CBS Corporation’s Pop Network picked the series up in June, with the fourth season set to air in 2020.
3. Enlightened (2011 – 2013)
HBO had some significant cancellations in the 2010s, but arguably none more so than Enlightened. Hailed by the AV Club as the “Best Show of 2013”, Enlightened was a comedic drama starring Laura Dern (Jurassic Park) as Amy Jellicoe, a self-destructive executive trying to put her life back together after a career implosion.
Dern would end up winning a Golden Globe for her performance, but viewers simply didn’t take to the show’s unique take on “new age” spiritualism. Enlightened straddled a line between satire and serious drama, which wasn’t the easiest sell. As a result, even though it was arguably one of HBO’s best shows at the time, the ratings simply weren’t enough to justify a fourth season.
2. The Netflix Marvel Shows (2015 – 2018)
It’s hard to think of another television event that arrived with as much promise as Netflix’s Marvel properties. When the first season of Daredevil dropped in early 2015, its achievements were twofold. Not only did the series help erase painful memories of the early 2000s Ben Affleck film by being a legitimately good adaptation but, alongside DC’s Arrowverse, helped launch a new era of superhero television — one where C or even D level characters were treated with care and reverence.
Although subsequent series and seasons varied widely in quality (the less said about Iron Fist, the better), Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and The Punisher all had their share of memorable moments. Sadly, the entire thing would end in a whimper before the decade was out. Prompted by Disney’s decision to introduce a new suite of Marvel TV series on its Disney Plus platform, by early 2019, Netflix had canceled all of its “Defenderverse” shows. While the whole situation makes sense in hindsight, these cancellations remain one of the most disappointing television events of the decade.
1. Hannibal (2013 – 2015)
At this point, our love for Hannibal is well-documented. Heck, we practically begged NBC to spare it when the show was on the chopping block back in 2015. Unsurprisingly, we’re still salty that this exquisite horror drama got the ax, to the point where we can comfortably declare Hannibal the saddest TV cancellation of the 2010s. But in hindsight, it’s a miracle that NBC ever let this thing make it to air, let alone keep it there for three seasons.
Bryan Fuller’s adaptation of Thomas Harris’ popular Hannibal Lecter novels was artfully gory, filled with many disturbing, macabre visuals that had no business being in a major network drama. Of course, all that gore was just an outward expression of the show’s titular doctor/cannibalistic murderer (Mads Mikkelsen, never better) and his series-spanning mind games with friend/nemesis/pseudo-love interest Will Graham (Hugh Dancy). Unfortunately, the series was canceled before it could get to its Silence of the Lambs season, but the hope of a revival remains even as we move into a whole new decade.