Party Down may lose its coveted spot on TVLine’s Best Two-Season Shows ranking, which has been revised and reassessed after its original publication, now that it has been renewed for a third season.
Why did we make this list in addition to our One-Season Wonders ranking? Because, to be honest, it’s unusual for a show to be renewed for a second season and then terminated before the third season. If a network goes to the trouble of renewing a Canceled tv series, you’d think they’d stick with it for a long, right? That isn’t always the case, particularly if you’re ABC, which accounted for nine of our Top 30. (HBO came in second with a total of five entries.)
As a result, the two-season program is an odd bird indeed, with many well-known cult favorites among its cast.
What are our favorite two-season shows? TVLine has updated its list of the Top 30 two-and-dones that have ever aired, based on our collective opinion. In fact, some of our best shows of all time are included in this list.
Even when NBC relegated the doomed drama to early Saturdays, the toe-tapping, show-stopping numbers — created by the creators behind some of Broadway’s finest productions, including Hairspray and Dear Evan Hansen — kept us coming back every week.
Although Sex and the City is the more well-known Carrie Bradshaw series, The CW’s high school-set prequel starred AnnaSophia Robb as a lot more likeable version of the future writer. With a terrific ’80s music and a strong supporting cast (including Freema Agyeman, Matt Letscher, and Lindsey Gort as a young Samantha! ), you’ve got yourself a very enjoyable binge-watch that deserved a lengthier run on television.
This children’s show parody satirizes politics, religion, sex, and other sensitive issues, and it doesn’t get any blacker than that. The absolutely-NOT-for-kids sketch series was almost too wicked, turning the Bible, the Constitution, the American flag, and more into spectacles that were brilliant and irreverent, but also borderline sacrilegious. This was not a game for the faint-hearted.
Sure, Kaitlin Olson was simply playing a slightly tweaked version of her character from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia in The Mick, but is that really such a bad thing? This underappreciated comedy about a hot mess who is forced to parent her M.I.A. sister’s children was a real treat. The show’s most astounding success, aside from being continuously, gut-bustingly funny, was that it featured young performers we actually loved watching – a rarity on television, if we’re being honest.
The supernatural drama based on Charlaine Harris’ novels had a strong cast, a slow-burning love story, and a lovely anything-goes vibe. (Tiger werewolves! Really!) Unfortunately, it also featured cheap-looking special effects, scheduling issues, and low ratings, prompting NBC to cancel the show after Season 2.
This fictional court drama about an imprisoned man (played by Counterpart’s Nicholas Pinnock) who becomes a lawyer, litigating cases for other inmates while attempting to overturn his own life sentence for a crime he didn’t commit, didn’t take any punches in portraying its fairly serious story. Thankfully, Season 2 neatly wrapped up the overall plot, giving fans some closure (though of course wishing for more).
Single Parents was the kind of homey comedy we could have watched for years, with its quirky warmth, ensemble chemistry, and endless string of one-liners. But ABC shattered our aspirations, then added salt to the wound by canceling the show just as Taran Killam’s Will and Leighton Meester’s Angie were confronting their romantic feelings for each other.
We know it’s bad for us to carry grudges, but we’ll never forgive Lifetime for canceling this guilt-free thrill ride about the all-powerful Beauchamp witch family. Magical adventures? Check. Romances that make you happy? This is a big check. Julia Ormond, Madchen Amick, Rachel Boston, and Jenna Dewan were among the all-star female cast. Don’t even begin to think about it.
The Duplass brothers’ dramedy about an L.A. couple (Mark Duplass and Melanie Lynskey) fighting to save their marriage while the husband’s best friend (Steve Zissis) and the wife’s wild-child sister (Amanda Peet) move in was too low-key to get much attention, as good as it was. Peet, on the other hand, recently told TVLine that playing the free-spirited Tina was the best part she’d ever played.
#Clockblockers would only get two seasons and a movie (and barely that!) of this timey-wimey thriller, in which three heroes of varying likeliness (played by Abigail Spencer, Matt Lanter, and Malcolm Barrett) travel through time in a time ship to prevent the mysterious Rittenhouse organization from tinkering with history. The aforementioned “Christmas movie,” which debuted seven months after the show’s second termination, provided some satisfying closure (as well as a heartfelt flash-forward), but die-hard fans would have gladly waited for more seasons/episodes.
The musical adventure saga was the Friends trifle of mid-2010s programming, created by Dan Fogelman (who was on his way from the film Crazy, Stupid Love and ABC’s The Neighbors to Pitch and then This Is Us), co-starring Timothy Omundson as an irrepressible king, and with music and lyrics by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater. When the titular knight’s story came to a satisfying conclusion after 18 episodes, we had to wonder why ABC was churning out two episodes per week.
Arrow co-creators Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim brought us this hilarious dramedy starring Jonny Lee Miller as a lawyer who gets musical hallucinations (sometimes involving George Michael melodies – with George Michael in the flesh!). Did we mention that Victor Garber and Loretta Devine performed musical numbers?
Come for the sophisticated sci-fi, stay for the performances of Enver Gjokaj and Dichen Lachman. A plethora of stand-alone episodes diverted attention away from the underlying (and far more interesting) narrative; also, a main character whose memory is continually erased is a difficult sell and a slow burn. Those that stayed to the end, on the other hand, were rewarded handsomely.
In retrospect, this bizarre dramedy starring Wyatt Russell as an aimless ex-surfer who finds a new lease on life at his local fraternal lodge was probably too strange to live. So we’re grateful for the fact that it lasted two seasons, especially for Russell’s endearingly laid-back lead performance.
Season 1 of this pre-Civil War drama, which starred Aldis Hodge, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Alano Miller, and Amirah Vann, played out like an episode of Prison Break. Season 2 delves deeper into the challenging material and explores the finer details of the Underground Railroad after introducing the great Harriet Tubman. Noah and Rosalee’s quest came to an end when WGN America decided to exit the originals game.
We’d gladly pay good money for a third season of this short-lived drama, especially after the “OMG!” Season 2 finale cliffhanger, in which Thomas Dekker’s John Connor was transported to a post-apocalyptic future, where he met his father Kyle Reese (Jonathan Jackson) and the human version of Summer Glau’s character.
If you like Sam Richardson on Veep or Tim Robinson on I Think You Should Leave, you’ll love them together as goofy best buddies who work in advertising and come up with silly jingles for small businesses in the Motor City. They were a world-class comic pair, and the show’s unique sense of humor was perfect for them. It’s too bad they couldn’t get Comedy Central to renew the show for a third season.
Most people didn’t realize Ray Romano had major dramatic talents until he appeared on NBC’s Parenthood, but that’s only because they didn’t see him in this fantastic TNT dramedy with Andre Braugher and Scott Bakula. Even though the show won a Peabody Award in 2010 and earned Braugher two Emmy nods, the cable network decided to cancel it just days after its second season ended.
Although a supernatural drama about a traveling band of carnival freaks set during the Great Depression was a tough sell, it turned out to be rather beautiful and engaging television, setting a record for HBO’s most watched premiere. Season 2’s ratings plummeted, and a planned six-season run was cut short by, oh, four seasons.
With snappy dialogue reminiscent of 30 Rock (Tina Fey was an executive producer) and an excellent supporting cast, including John Michael Higgins’ oblivious anchor Chuck Pierce, this workplace comedy starring Briga Heelan as a TV news producer whose nosy mother lands a job alongside her was a loopy delight. Even a guest storyline from Fey in Season 2 couldn’t save it, and it joined the ranks of other beloved programs that ended far too soon.
Hayley Atwell reprised her Captain America role in what was at the time TV’s most MCU-adjacent live-action Marvel series, with Peggy struggling to establish herself at the pre-S.H.I.E.L.D. Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR) while simultaneously assisting Howard Stark. Season 2 shifted the action from New York to Los Angeles, leaving us with a cliffhanger – who shot [Spoiler] in order to steal an explosive Carter file? — that will, regrettably, never be addressed.
Given the talent involved, it’s a little surprising that this talky behind-the-scenes look at a SportsCenter-style highlight program only lasted two seasons. The series was conceived by Aaron Sorkin, who was also working on The West Wing, and the cast was fantastic, with Peter Krause and Felicity Huffman providing a superb screwball comic duo. It also had a tone that was ahead of its time, perhaps too ahead of its time, since low ratings led to an unceremonious cancellation.
Are we having a good time yet? If we’re watching this excellently performed, sharply sardonic comedy about a loose-knit gang of tired caterers working posh L.A. events, we’re probably bored ourselves. In fact, the cast, which included a pre-Parks and Recreation Adam Scott and a pre-Glee Jane Lynch, was almost too brilliant, and their departures contributed to the show’s early demise.
Enjoy Party Down’s ranking while you can, since once the Season 3 revival arrives, the cater-waiter comedy will most certainly be disqualified.
This workplace parody about the nefarious Veridian Dynamics corporation was too good to be true, lasting only 26 episodes before ABC cancelled it. The main character, a beloved head of a research-and-development team, was played by S.W.A.T.’s Jay Harrington, and Arrested Development’s Portia de Rossi played his cold and calculating supervisor Veronica, a role that proved every bit as good as Lindsay Bluth’s.
If Steven Soderbergh’s rapturously shot and nail-bitingly tight medical drama starring Clive Owen as a prickly genius surgeon in New York City circa 1900 had broadcast on HBO, it would have a shelf full of Emmys and be airing to this day. But, alas, it premiered on Cinemax, where a tone shift by an executive doomed it to an early date with the mortician.
Cult masterpieces don’t come much weirder than this twisted murder mystery, which featured some of the oddest, most surreal visuals ever seen on network television. Season 1 was hauntingly beautiful, but we had to dock it a point for a lackluster sophomore season that doomed it to a two-and-done fate. (For the record, we consider the current Showtime revival to be a miniseries sequel rather than a full third season.)
Are there any FOTC aficionados in the house? Present. This wacky, shaggy musical comedy about a pair of New Zealand folk singers trying to make it big in New York was plenty of laughs — Rhys Darby was fantastic as the boys’ enthusiastic manager Murray — and unforgettable original songs like “Business Time,” a classic tribute to scheduled sex. It only came to an end because the two stars decided it was no longer entertaining… Isn’t it such a Bret and Jemaine thing to do?
Many of the shows on this list were doomed by ambitiously strange notions, and this one may be the most ambitiously strange of them all. Lee Pace played Ned, a pie baker who can bring the dead back to life with a single touch… He can’t touch them after that, which becomes an issue when he resurrects his childhood sweetheart Chuck (Anna Friel). (They were isolating themselves from others long before it was fashionable!) Bryan Fuller delivered a cavalcade of bizarre whimsy as a result, but the writers’ strike stifled the show’s momentum, and sagging ratings were the final, eh, nail in the coffin.
Valerie Cherish, the hopelessly self-deluded former sitcom star played by Lisa Kudrow in this brilliantly amusing industry satire, was one of our favorite characters in the film. Kudrow delivered a career-best performance in this film — yes, Friends fans, we said it — and the jabs at Hollywood were spot-on. It was canceled after only one season, but returned nearly a decade later for an even better sophomore season… which, sure, we were hoping to see.
We’re still disappointed that it was canceled after just 18 episodes, but Mike White and Laura Dern’s scathing critique of corporate America remains a great achievement. Dern gives one of the best TV performances of the last decade as painfully earnest corporate crusader Amy Jellicoe, walking the balance between caustic satire and devastating human drama with stunning precision. Unfortunately, it was a recipe for fan apathy — the show never reached 300,000 total viewers per episode — but those who persevered with it realize that two seasons of something so unique are better than most shows’ whole existence.