The March of the Dead
The Canceled TV Shows of 2020
2020 has been a very strange year. I know that could probably go without saying just in general all because of COVID-19 and the way it's changed the world for over half a year at this point. It feels like nothing will be the same after this even as the U.S. Government (as well as plenty of states and local governments) try to play it like the virus is over and it's no big deal. Yeah, right. Things have shifted greatly, from people working at home more to movie theaters likely closing forever. But you can chalk up another change for that list: Television studios are having to rethink their entire strategy.
The studios were thrown for a loop recently, what with the rise of streaming television and so many people cutting the cord. But now, with COVID, they're having to rethink things again: where last year the theme was "keep anything on the air that isn't a total bust" (which is why we did one of these articles in 2018 but not for 2019), this year there has been a great culling of shows. Anything that's been under-performing and would cost more than its worth to keep all the actors and crew on contract but not working has been cut and that's led to a great number of shows, some that will be dearly missed, getting the axe.
So, as we did two years ago, we're going to look over some of the shows that were canceled, many of which we'd talked about before but a few that at least overlap with the nerd-focused content of this site. And we're only going over shows that were prematurely canceled; anything that was planned to have an ending now or in the the next season or two doesn't make this list. These are the shows fans enjoyed that aren't going to get a resolution, and so we mourn their loss (or, in some cases, we don't mourn the loss):
We kick things off with a show I won't miss in the slightest. Normally when we talk about projects on this site we at least try to find the silver lining for even the worst shows or movies. It's hard, though, for me to think of much of anything redeeming to say about this show. It was an abject failure it is premiere season back in 2018 -- handsomely made, to be sure, but tediously plotted with a boring lead actor, Joel Kinnaman, at the center of it all -- and frankly many of us were surprised this show continued to live on past that first season. Whenever anyone says, "NetflixOriginally started as a disc-by-mail service, Netflix has grown to be one of the largest media companies in the world (and one of the most valued internet companies as well). With a constant slate of new internet streaming-based programming that updates all the time, Netflix has redefined what it means to watch TV and films (as well as how to do it). is the place where shows can go and flourish," this can hold up this show as an example. It never flourished but that wasn't for a lack of trying on Netflix's part.
After that first season you could tell the channel went back to the drawing board and really wanted to find a way to make this property work. The recast the lead (which, within the context of a show about people being able to transport their consciousness between different bodies, called "skins", makes perfect sense) and hired the fantastic Anthony Mackie. Certainly, in its second season the show had a cast to sell whatever material Netflix gave them, it just sucks that the show continues to be a barely held together plodding mix of tired tropes and little else.
Hell, the network even made an anime prequel as a way to get people invested in the series (spoiler alert: it sucked). And when even that couldn't convince people to watch Altered Carbon, the pulled the plug. We appreciate the effort you gave, Netflix, but made you could try that on one of the other shows on this list that were actually good and deserved your support?
When this show premiered on ABC at the tail end of last year, I was pleasantly surprised by it. The show, about an ex-military gal (Cobie Smulders) getting sucked into a case of a missing girl and then spinning out from there to use her investigative chops as a private investigator, had a pretty good hook. It was funny, smartly directed, and had a good enough sense to let Smulders carry the show, which for the first few episodes she did ably.
Problem was that once the show got her out of that case, and then gave her a private detective license (a plot point that gets resolved within the first four episodes or so), it quickly lost its energy. Instead of having her work towards something, the series just devolved into a bog-standard case-of-the-week. By the ninth episode I was bored and moved on, assuming most other people would do likewise. If nothing else I'd be able to list this among the Shows I Couldn't Get Into.
Apparently just enough people tuned into the show regularly for ABC to give it a second season order, which, good for the series. I might have tuned out but I could see why other people might stick around, enjoying Smulders's presence and the case-of-the-week comfort food. Sadly, COVID then happen and after renewing the show ABC then later pulled the plug. This is just one of the few times we'll see that story play out here in this article.
I can't really say I blame ABC. This was a decent show but was never going to be a zeitgeist-grabbed run-away hit. In a normal year it could have gone on performing normally to the enjoyment of its dedicated fan-base. But this isn't a normal year and if shes are gonna be axed because keeping people on staff and not working gets too expensive, an under-performing show like this will be the first to go. Hopefully Smulders gets something else she can ably perform in after this; she really was the best part of this show.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Here's one I'm not surprised by even if the cancellation seemed to come out of nowhere. Netflix, of course, cancels everything eventually. We've already discussed that. While Altered Carbon might have been given more chances than it deserved, most shows on the network are axed the second there's eve the slightest hint of blood in the water. Apparently, in the case of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, that first sign of weakness must have come during season three (or part three, or season two, part 1, or whatever you want to call it) of the series. It was a season that was bad enough that I stopped after a single episode, letting Queen B review it for the site so I never had to watch the show again.
Thing is, the show was a smash hit when it debuted in 2018. It did well enough that after its first season the network quickly green-lit not only a second season but also a holiday episode to bridge the two. This was the kind of golden goose Netflix is always looking, for, something with cross-generation appeal that's just subversive enough to get social media a-twittering. Blogs (like this one) were talking about the show for weeks, discussing every rumor with baited breath.
But then, as the show ran on, the series stopped being a part of the major cultural conversation. I don't know if others got as tired as I did of the show just spinning its wheels for a while before busting out some deus ex machina to suddenly tie up this magical storyline or that Satanic plot device, but I just grew seriously bored with the show very quickly. I stuck with it out of narrative momentum and then bailed hard at the start of third season. I guess many others did the same.
The show is getting a fourth season (which was already in production when the cancellation notice came down) but the producers are having to scramble to tie up the show before it was time to do so. At least they're getting a chance, unlike most of the shows on this list. I'm sure someone out there will miss it and will delight in the fact that get to enjoy a few more episodes of the series. I just don't know who those people are.
This one is more of an honorable mention since we've never covered it, or its parent show Riverdale on the site. Apparently Katy Keene comes from a sort of back-door pilot on the parent show with one character going to New York for a story, meeting up with her "long time friend, Katy Keene" (played by Lucy Hale), and then a few months later we got Katy Keene, a kind of comedy-drama-musical set in the same universe.
Back door pilots, of any kind, are a trick proposition. Hell, just spinning off a single character onto their own show, no matter how popular they were in the context of their parent show, often leads to the spin-off quickly getting canceled (for every Fraiser there are dozens of Tortellis). A character has to really work on their own, and have a great show that immediately hits the ground running, to truly have a chance. A one-off character that is only in one episode and then suddenly has her own show doesn't have the right kind of support base for a spin-off.
Maybe if Katy has been on Riverdale for a season or two and had built up a lot of fan good will it could have worked. But just dumping her on people and expecting them to like her (and her weird, musical show) without any basis for why they should care... yeah, that's a losing proposition. You gotta have a hook and it seems like Katy Keene didn't. And so it becomes one of the few shows the CW has canceled in recent memory. Wow.
This one stings. I honestly liked this series about the "Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling", an in-universe show based on a real life television series. The first two seasons of GLOW were great, anchored by solid performances by Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin, and the third season was the best the series had yet done. The plan was to give the show one more season to wrap everything up naturally, but with COVID and contract issues, Netflix just recently pulled the plug.
I know this show was a critical darling but that it didn't have the high ratings of other shows on the network. It was always one of those "bubble shows", sitting on the cusp of getting canceled season after season. The fact that it made it to three seasons was a miracle and, even in the best of circumstances, a fourth season was never a sure thing. The fact that Netflix struck a deal originally to wrap it up after one more season was a miracle. And then the miracle was yanked away.
There's still hope that the show will get a wrap-up movie (Netflix has done that before, such as with Sense8), but nothing has been set in stone. The show is nearly perfect as it is, it just needs that one final story to help wrap up some storylines and put a cap on the show. Without it, the series ends on just the slightest but of an unresolved down-note and it deserves better. Maybe we'll be lucky and Netflix will be kind. A wrap-up movie isn't the best solution but its still better than nothing at all.
I can't say I was surprised with Hulu announced they were canceling their High Fidelity remake series after a single season. I liked the show, mind you, and would have been happy with a second season, but at the same time I could easily see how this show failed to garner the ratings needed. It had the bones of a great show, it just never quite brought it all together.
The big issue with the series was that it perpetually lived under the shadow of the John Cusack movie, also called High-Fidelity. While both were based on the same book (of the same name), the movie owed much more of its DNA to the movie, taking scenes verbatim from the film and putting them into the show. It did have more time to tell its story which led to it adding in new storylines, fleshing out its characters more, and even twisting some details to spin the series in a new direction. But if all you watched was the first couple of episodes of the series you'd end up turning it off because, "I've already seen literally this years ago."
If the show had been picked up I was actually eager to see where it could go because it ended in a completely different place from the film while, at the same time, basically eating up all the movie's (and book's) material. It would have had to tell a truly new story with out anything to fall back on and that could have been great and daring and really interesting. In short it could have been the show it should have been in season one instead of playing it safe. Sadly we'll never get to see that show and watch the characters grow and evolve out of the shadow of the film. That's a tragedy, but not an unexpected one.
Teenage Bounty Hunters
I'm honestly not surprised by this cancellation either. When it debuted it took me a little time to get into the first season of Teenage Bounty Hunters. It was funny, and moved at a good clip, but it was also a little too cute, a little too twee for its own good. I was willing to stick it out and watch more but I could easily see how other viewers would have stopped after one episode (or in the middle of the first episode) and never came back. It just wasn't good enough to keep people hooked.
That, of course, is the failing of the pilot and once the show grew out of that episode it managed to find its feet while deepening its story. The show hinged on the performances of its leads, Maddie Phillips and Anjelica Bette Fellini playing fraternal twin sisters who go to high school and somehow fall into being bounty hunters. It's a silly premise that the show plays just straight enough to make it believable. I would have enjoyed spending more time with these two leads, and all the characters around them, as the show had an easy and enjoyable dynamic to it. It took me some time to get into the show but once I watched a couple of episodes in I found myself suddenly bingeing it. It got really good.
Still, I won't really be sad to see this show go. Unlike many others on this list this show didn't end with such a massive cliffhanger that any fans will lament the way the series ended. Still, with such a good cast, and the potential for characters, it is a little sad to see this one go. Of course, with the rate Netflix releases show, this one will probably be forgotten about within a few months.
And finally we have a show that barely even registered for me. Apparently USA Network had a spin-off of the Jason Bourne series that focused on the machinations of the evil spy organization that was always pulling his strings (as well as the strings of the other operatives). Frankly that seems like a really weird angle for the show as we'd either get a bunch of stories about people that weren't Jason Bourne but ended up following the same path Jason Bourne took, or we'd somehow end up with the people pulling the strings being treated as the good guys which, based on the movies we watched, seems like a very bad fit for the continuity.
Looking at the episodes we had so far it looks like it's a lot of "these guys are like Jason Bourne but aren't Jason Bourne" stories which leads me to think this show was just a tired retread of the formula (which, honestly, doesn't surprise me). Also apparently there's a huge arc with a guy "pulling a Bourne" back in the 1970s which, guys, if your program is already having a failure rate thirty years back, maybe it's the program and not Bourne that's the problem.
This was a series I meant to watch when it came out on streaming services, but I haven't seen it arrive yet and now that I know the show has already been canceled (as, apparently, USA is "rethinking" their programming strategy) I doubt it's even going to make the jump. No one watched it, no one cared, and I'm still steadfast in my opinion that it's time to retire the Bourne continuity.