TV's greatest tragedies

IT'S NEVER good when things finish too quickly, right ladies? Television shows are no different. They start with the foreplay of a few good episodes, leading to heavy petting with an awesome script and actors and just when you think you think this show may be the one, they leave, making you feel cold and unloved.

Okay, so maybe it’s not that extreme, but it always sucks when a show is cancelled well before its time and sadly it’s become somewhat of a phenomenon. With an ultra-cut throat marketplace out there, you either get the viewers or you’re out on your arse, no matter how good your show is.

Without further ado, The Anti-Cookie is loathed top present you our list of TV shows that were cancelled way too early (Seriously, “loathed”). We wish they were all still on the air.


It’s one thing when shows are cancelled early and the networks have the good grace to tell them about it, but it’ quite another to have a series cancelled while perching precariously on a cliff-hanger.

Carnivale was one of the creepiest and atmospheric shows in recent memory, with a plot centred about an epic battle between good and evil in the midst of dustbowl America. Similar to Lost, you always felt that the closer you got to the truth, the further away from you invariably drifted. Unlike Lost though, it didn’t seem frustrating that you essentially knew very little about it.

You just quite simply, enjoyed the ride. Setting the show in a travelling carnival was a stroke of genius. The travelling magic factory goes across dustbowl USA on a mystical journey to determine the fate of mankind? Doesn’t that just sound like the kind of show you want to watch?

For two years, Carnivale was another in a line of wonderful HBO shows that has taken television to the poor man’s radio to something altogether more worth of critical praise and analysis. It helped that it also had one of the more cleverly constructed title sequences in living memory (see below).

The bitter old man inside of me thinks that it’s because people were too busy watching the like of Two and a Half Men and other bastions of mediocrity, but it’s more than likely that people just didn’t know what to make of it.

It also didn’t help that it cost a heck of a lot to make each episode. This coupled with the lack of eyeballs the show got meant we were deprived of a truly wonderful show.

It served up mystery, religious symbolism and dichotomy shifts in an exquisite package. Therefore, it had to get cancelled. It left viewers with a cliff-hanger though, with a new evil (?) being borne and the protagonist left bleeding in a caravan.

Carnivale, we hardly knew ye.


This is pretty much the quintessential reason that people hate Fox. Forget all the dodgy journalistic practices or the fact they won an election for an undeserving man, forget all that, they shall not be spared my wrath because they actually cancelled this show.

It featured some of the snappiest and wittiest writing ever seen on the television screen, and an ensemble cast which was just so perfect it made angels cry. Led by Jason Bateman playing the ultimate straight man, with Will Arnett playing a sleazy magician and David Cross playing a quasi-homosexual actor/therapist, the actors weren’t only perfectly cast individually but as a whole they shone.

They complimented each other and the wonderful scripts impeccably, leading to some of the most oft-quoted and memorable scenes in television history.

Why the hell was it cancelled then?

Again, it came down to a lack of viewers. Each and every time an actor or a writer got up on the Emmy stage to accept another of a barrage of awards, the first words out of their mouths were “Tell you friends to watch the show!”. Sadly, people didn’t watch in enough numbers to financially justify carrying on the show. Whereas a show like Seinfeld managed to be cutting edge, brilliant and financially lucrative for studios, Arrested Development was only two of these.

It comes down to the humour in the show. The show was never afraid to wink at the camera, but it also had lore to it built up over the course of the three seasons which was needed to fully appreciate the humour. Whereas with Seinfeld, each episode could be described as self-contained, the humour of Arrested Development borrowed on what had gone before.

There’s allegedly a movie in the works to satiate our Arrested Development appetite, but it’s a damned shame that it’s gone from our television screens.

Arrested Development (2003-2006) “It ain’t easy being white, it ain’t easy being brown”


Something a little closer to home now, with the underrated jewel that was the Micallef Program.

Shown on the ABC in the late 90’s, this was Sean Micallef’s first foray into a solo sketch show, beforehand being a player on Full Frontal, the show that launched several comedic talents in this country.

The similarities between the two shows were that they were sketch shows. That’s it. Whereas Full Frontal was obsessed with creating characters for their players to inhabit (such as Micallef’s Milo Kerrigan), Micallef’s sketches relied on subverting the sketch comedy set-up and relied on early uses of meta-humour.

The most employed ‘character’ in his show was in fact himself. Kind of the way Larry David plays up his image in Curb Your Enthusiasm, Sean Micallef played a caricature version of himself. He played the straight variety show host, and then used skews of sheer weirdness and oddness to great effect.

He didn’t try to overfill the palate, but instead just turned the joke slightly askew. The sketch below is a great example of how he used a formal and rigid situation such as the job interview at a multi-national corporation and didn’t try to add a whole heap of lunacy to the bit, but instead just added that little something different to the mix.

So why was it cancelled? Quite simply, because it was on the ABC and not many people understood the quiet genius inherent in Sote Vocce, Meat Boy or McGhan. He was picked to take his brand of humour to commercial television in the form of ‘Micallef Tonight’. It was one of the biggest disasters in Australian TV history.

The commercial audience just didn’t get many of the jokes, or got the joke but missed the deeper irony behind it. He’s now been co-opted by the younger generation used to meta-humour hosting ‘Talkin’ About Your Generation’ on Channel Ten. Devotees though, will point to The Micallef Program as the zenith of one of the great comedic talents in this country.

So, what do you think? What are your favourite shows that have been cancelled? DISCUSS.

- James McGrath


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