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One-Season TV Shows That Starred Popular Actors

Over the years, there's been a bounty of television shows that got canceled after just one season. Due to low ratings or controversy behind the scenes, some series just fail to stick it out, which is a shame because sometimes there's real talent associated with these shows. 

Many programs will bring on established actors to lure people in. Other times, they find talented actors who go on to be in bigger and better things. In hindsight, it can be a tad disconcerting to see a major actor who's now in blockbuster films play some dopey teenager on a '90s sitcom. 

The good part is that you can binge-watch these shows in an afternoon if you wanted because there just aren't that many episodes, and you can see some famous faces in a very different context. From well-known stars to up-and-coming celebrities, here are TV shows starring popular actors that only managed to last for a single season.

Firefly introduced Nathan Fillion to nerd culture

For true science fiction aficionados, Firefly was an utter masterpiece from the mind of Joss Whedon. It was basically a Western set in space, filled with all of the quippy dialogue you could hope for from a Whedon project. To this day, fans still bemoan the fact that the show only got one season.

The reason for the cancellation was due to low ratings. While critics loved Firefly and the show had a passionate fan base, it simply wasn't large enough to prevent it from getting the ax. This was all in spite of Nathan Fillion having the lead role. Granted, he wasn't a huge star at the time. His previous big role was on the show Two Guys and a Girl, and he also had a part in Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan. Still, the man was gorram charismatic in Firefly, and this outer space series set him up for future fame.

Since then, he's gone on to have prominent roles in various TV shows, including CastleThe Rookie, and Big Mouth. Through it all, he's become one of the most universally loved actors in nerd culture, thanks in large part to the sci-fi show where he really got his big break. 

Jennifer Aniston starred in the TV version of Ferris Bueller

Ferris Bueller's Day Off is one of those seminal '80s movies. And as was custom in the '80s and '90s, no hit movie could continue without its own television series, and we received that in the form of the aptly titled Ferris Bueller. Of course, you can't have a show about Ferris without the ever-charming Matthew Broderick, and as you might expect, the show was canceled after one season, running from 1990 to 1991 for a total of 13 episodes. The show has largely been forgotten, and if it's remembered for anything these days, it's for introducing the world to a young Jennifer Aniston.

Yeah, that's right — Jennifer Aniston was in this thing. Before she made it big on Friends, the actress played Bueller's constantly annoyed sister, Jeannie. (It was the role originally played by Jennifer Grey in the original film.) Despite being based on such a popular movie, the show failed to resonate with pretty much anyone else. It received negative reviews from critics and didn't really find an audience of its own. The show lost viewers over the course of its run, and it was eventually canceled and replaced with a much more fondly remembered '90s sitcom, Blossom

Despite star power, Luck ended after one season

Luck had all the makings of HBO's next big hit series. It was a prestige drama about horse racing, and it had Academy Award-winning actor Dustin Hoffman in the lead role. The series also had the likes of Richard Kind, Joan Allen, Michael Gambon, and Nick Nolte in its cast, so it wasn't lacking when it came to acting talent. HBO must have been pretty confident in the show because the network initially renewed Luck for a second season. But partway through filming one of the next season's episodes, it all got shut down.

In the midst of shooting, it came to light that three horses died during production. Animal safety concerns were brought up, and the producers along with HBO decided to simply end the show due to these revelations. This information came up while season one was still running, but the show was allowed to air its remaining episodes. Despite solid performances from a top-tier cast, the series just couldn't shake the controversy, and Luck had run all out of ... well ... luck.

Freaks and Geeks brought us a new generation of stars

Audiences didn't realize what a gem of a show they had back in 1999 with Freaks and Geeks. The series, which was created by Paul Feig and had Judd Apatow as an executive producer, has gone on to become a cult classic. The show followed a gifted high schooler who becomes friends with the so-called "freaks" at her school. Everyone in Freaks and Geeks is just trying to get through the trials and tribulations of being a teenager, so it's easy to see how relatable it could be to a generation of TV viewers. And since it came from Paul Feig and Judd Apatow, it was bound to be hilarious. 

Tragically, it only lasted for one season, which is pretty shocking. After all, these days, the show is remarkable for how many talented actors were in the cast before making it big. The show starred Seth Rogen before he would go on to play in films like Pineapple Express and This Is The End. James Franco was also in the cast before he would ... also play in Pineapple Express and This Is The End. Linda Cardellini starred in the show before landing the role of Samantha Taggart in ERAnd we haven't even mentioned the likes of Jason Segel, Busy Philipps, Martin Starr, and Ben Foster. Seriously, there are so many popular actors who got their start in the show that a revival would probably break the internet, even if it seems like that's never going to happen

The Grinder gave Rob Lowe another shot at TV ... for one season

Rob Lowe already had an incredibly accomplished career before he joined the cast of The Grinder. He got his start in critically acclaimed films like The Outsiders and St. Elmo's Fire before moving into TV in a big way. He grabbed the attention of fans and critics alike by playing Sam Seaborn in The West Wing, and more recently, people probably know him best for his role as the super upbeat Chris Traeger on Parks and Recreation. After Parks and Rec ended, he tried to give television another go with The Grinder.

The show has the incredibly meta premise of an actor who's played a lawyer for so long that he decides to actually practice law with his brother. The show had 22 episodes in its first season, but sadly, it didn't get a second. The cancellation can be attributed to low ratings in spite of the fact that the show got fairly good reviews from critics. If The Grinder had been allowed to continue, then it certainly would've further explored its meta-commentary on family dynamics in sitcoms, as well as how obsessed actors tend to be with themselves. As it stands, the first season still tells a cohesive story that's still enjoyable to watch. 

Misfits of Science gave Courteney Cox her big break

Today, you can find superhero television shows on pretty much any network. They were a lot rarer back in the 1980s, which makes Misfits of Science a real overlooked gem. The series follows the misadventures of a group of superpowered individuals who do everything from searching for Mayan treasure to exposing corruption in the NBA. Today, the show is mostly remembered for giving Courteney Cox her first recurring TV role. Before she would go on to star in Friends, she had the role of Gloria Dinallo, a telekinetic teen with a history of delinquency. 

Low ratings were the demise of the show, which was canceled after one season. However, Courteney Cox made it out of the cancellation just fine. In addition to starring in Friends, she also went on to star in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and the Scream series. Misfits of Science is also noteworthy for being one of Tom Kring's earliest writing gigs. Kring would go on to create the much more popular TV series Heroes, which is another superhero show in the same vein as Misfits of Science

Almost Human brought Karl Urban back to sci-fi

From 2013 to 2014, fans of sci-fi and action were treated to a little show called Almost Human. Taking place in the near future, the series followed a human cop as he teamed up with an android partner to fight crime, which had risen by nearly 400%. The show was a natural fit for star Karl Urban, as he starred in the 2012 film, Dredd, in which he played the titular hero who also fought crime on the rise. 

Of course, Dredd wasn't the only big project Urban was known for. Before landing the role of Detective John Kennex on Almost Human, the actor had established himself as a big deal in the world of fantasy, sci-fi, and action. After all, he'd starred in The Lord of the Rings as Éomer and played Leonard McCoy in J.J. Abrams' Star Trek reboot series. Some of his other credits included The Chronicles of RiddickThe Bourne Supremacy, and Red

Sadly for Urban and all his fans, Almost Human ended after just one season. It didn't catch one with most critics or casual viewers. However, it did develop somewhat of a following, and if a revival were announced, it would likely be welcomed with open arms from hardcore sci-fi fans. 

My So-Called Life was Jared Leto's first big role

In hindsight, My So-Called Life may have been one of the most significant teen dramas of the '90s. The show dealt with an array of important societal issues, including drug use, violence in schools, and child abuse, to name a few. With such a heavy show, you need actors who can really sell their characters, and My So-Called Life got that in the form of Claire Danes and Jared Leto. 

The show gave both of them their big breaks. Claire Danes would eventually go on to star as the lead in the hit show Homeland. Meanwhile, Jared Leto has had (a mostly) an incredible film career, starring in such films as Fight ClubAmerican Psycho, and Blade Runner 2049. But as for My So-Called Life, low ratings doomed the show despite a loyal fan base. In fact, the series is significant because it marks the first time fans used an online campaign to attempt to save a television show. Other shows would have success with this tactic in later years, but it couldn't save My So-Called Life, which was canceled after one season.

Not even heavy hitters could save Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip from being canceled after one season

By the mid-2000s, Aaron Sorkin had already achieved great success on television thanks to The West WingHe soon tried his hand with another series, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. The show followed the behind-the-scenes production of a fictional sketch comedy series, essentially a fake version of Saturday Night Live. Unfortunately for Sorkin's project, it had a similar premise and was airing on the same network as 30 Rock — you know, the series that would quickly become one of the greatest sitcoms of all time. 

In the battle between fake SNL shows, there could only be one winner, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip got the boot after one season. This was probably a shock to most people, seeing as how Sorkin was such a respected figure in the TV landscape. And the cancellation was all the more surprising considering the sizable talent on the show. The series starred Matthew Perry, coming off the success of Friends, as well as Bradley Whitford and D.L. Hughley. The show also starred Sarah Paulson, who would find great success and popularity starring in multiple seasons of the anthology series American Horror Story

Kitchen Confidential gave Bradley Cooper the lead

In 2005, Fox debuted a new sitcom called Kitchen Confidential, a series that followed a chef who considers himself a bit of a bad boy as he navigates his way through New York's eatery scene. Bradley Cooper played the lead role of Jack Bourdain, the executive chef who used to be addicted to drugs and alcohol and has since cleaned up and is ready to make a comeback. It wasn't Cooper's first time in a comedic role, as he starred in Wet Hot American Summer several years earlier. However, he saw much greater success after the show ended, starring in films like The Hangover series and Guardians of the Galaxy before graduating to A Star Is Born.

Kitchen Confidential just didn't have the viewership to justify another season for the network. The show was allowed to air 13 episodes, and then the plug was pulled. However, it seems as though Bradley Cooper has carried on an interest in the culinary arts, as he would later star in the chef-centric film Burnt in 2015. 

I Love Dick made Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon a little easier

An Amazon Original, I Love Dick follows a woman (Kathryn Hahn) becoming obsessed with her husband's colleague who's currently in the middle of a research fellowship. Naturally, this begins putting a strain on her work and her marriage as she tries to navigate these new emotions. The show was a hit with critics, and Kevin Bacon even earned a Golden Globe nomination for his role as the titular Dick. However, it wasn't meant to be. Amazon canceled the show after just one season during a period where it was giving the ax to several female-centric series. 

Not even Kevin Bacon could save the series despite an illustrious career beforehand. Bacon is perhaps best known for his role in the 1984 classic Footloose, but he's also starred in FlatlinersJFK, and A Few Good Men. But despite his presence and positive reviews from critics, a second season just wasn't in the cards. 

Undeclared gave Seth Rogen another one-season wonder

After serving as an executive producer on Freaks and Geeks, Judd Apatow went on to create another television series that would follow in that first show's footsteps, both in a good and bad way. Undeclared follows a group of college students embarking on the thrilling university experience ... only one of their fathers is coming along. Similar to Apatow's previous series, the show had a knack for finding young talent that would go on to bigger and brighter things. For example, the show stars Freaks and Geeks alumnus Seth Rogen, in addition to Jay Baruchel and Charlie Hunnam.

In an interview with The Huffington Post (via Digital Spy), Hunnam spoke about the show's cancellation and how it was never really given a shot by Fox to be a success. The show kept changing time slots, and there were issues behind the scenes between Apatow and studio executives. While the show ended after one season, the primary cast didn't have much to worry about. Rogen would go on to become a huge movie star. Jay Baruchel would go on to star in Million Dollar Baby and the How to Train Your Dragon series. And Charlie Hunnam got the lead role in all six seasons of Sons of Anarchy