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TV Shows That Were Canceled Before They Aired A Single Episode

To get a TV series onto the air, from idea to finished product, requires a lot of work and a lot of time. It's a real waste of energy and money when a TV series gets canceled after just a few episodes. But at least those kinds of shows got the chance to be judged in the court of public opinion—and in the ratings—before their ultimate demise. The following shows are ones that were approved and ordered by TV networks, produced, promoted, and scheduled ... and then yanked off the air before they were even broadcast.

The Young Astronauts

Talk about bad timing. This was a midseason replacement on CBS's Saturday morning schedule. A comic sci-fi adventure involving kids, pets, and robots in space, this Marvel series was going to hit the air in February 1986, timed to capitalize on the space fever sweeping America with the launch of the Challenger space shuttle, the first time a civilian would travel into space. The whole project was suggested to Marvel by the government's Young Astronaut Program, a science and aerospace advocacy organization designed to get kids excited about the space program. The show had been delayed to February because nobody at Marvel, the YAC, or CBS could agree on the tone or format of the show. But they finally got one together ... and then the Challenger exploded shortly after launch on January 28, 1986. Everyone on board was killed, including the civilian, a teacher named Christa McAuliffe. CBS opted not to air The Young Astronauts at all.

Next Caller

This show could've marked a major comeback for early 2000s superstar comedian Dane Cook. In 2012, NBC ordered this comedy set in the world of radio. Cook, in his first series work, played a satellite radio shock jock forced into sharing his program with a former public radio commentator (Collette Wolfe). Jeffrey Tambor was also on board as their boss. But then, NBC suddenly decided it didn't want to air Next Caller at all. Creator Stephen Falk (who later created You're the Worst, which co-stars Wolfe) thinks it was because the network had way too many midseason shows and needed to re-focus advertising and promotion budgets on shows that had more promise. Or, as Falk says, "they just didn't like what I was doing that much."


Fox took years and tens of millions of dollars to develop this big-budget costume drama, essentially a claim for its own Game of Thrones, and then never even aired it. An elaborate drama about power struggles in ancient Egypt, Hieroglyph was created by Pacific Rim writer Travis Beacham and concerned a thief (Max Brown) who is released from prison to serve the mysterious Pharoah. (Like a certain other HBO show, there was a lot of sex, intrigue, politics, and sorcery.) It was given a 13-episode order in October 2013. Less than a year later, Fox changed its mind about debuting Hieroglyph in 2015. The show just wasn't coming together, and its cancellation also followed the exit of Kevin Reilly, the Fox programming boss who had approved the show and its massive budget.

Us and Them

Before he was a late night talk show host and awards show go-to, James Corden got his start in television on the British comedy Gavin and Stacey. Corden created the show in 2007 with Ruth Jones and co-starred as Smith, Gavin's hard-partying best friend. The premise: Gavin and Stacey are a couple who met online and decide to finally see each other in person and make a go at a romance ... if only they can get their kooky friends and family to stop butting in. The show was such a critical and ratings hit that in 2013, Fox announced an American remake. While the series was renamed Us & Them, the characters kept their names, with the title roles played by Jason Ritter (Parenthood) and Alexis Bledel (Gilmore Girls). Late in 2013, however, Fox executives weren't pleased with the quality of the show's scripts and cut the initial episode order from 13 to 6. Slated to then run as a short summer series in 2014, Fox instead decided not to show any of those episodes at all.

Good Grief

At this point, there's been a reality show about nearly every possible line of work—Duck Dynasty is about a family that makes duck calls, for example. It's not too crazy to think that there would be a reality show set in a funeral home. And there almost was. In 2014, Lifetime produced and began airing ads touting Good Grief, a show following around the owners of Johnson Family Mortuary of Fort Worth, Texas. The show was supposed to debut that August, but Lifetime killed it in late July when the Johnson Family Mortuary came under investigation. The owner of the building that housed the funeral home was attempting to evict the mortuary's operators for failure to pay their rent, and in doing so, authorities discovered eight bodies in a state of mummification or decomposition—in other words they weren't embalmed or being properly stored, as should be done at a funeral home. (Other problems included an insect infestation and bodily fluids from the deceased pooling on the floor.) After all that went down, Lifetime decided Good Grief was a bad idea.

Garbage Pail Kids

There were few fads in the '80s bigger than Cabbage Patch Kids ... which means the line of odd-looking baby dolls got the sendup it deserved. The result was another fad: Garbage Pail Kids trading cards. Topps published the cards, which depicted grotesque, deformed, and downright disgusting characters such as Dental Daniel, Bent Brent, Split Kit, Cogged Duane, and Patty Putty. In 1987, CBS announced a Saturday morning cartoon version featuring the characters. GPK-loving kids eagerly anticipated the series. Advocacy groups like Action for Children's Television and the National Coalition on Television Violence loudly and adamantly opposed the series and its corrupting influence on America's children. Some affiliates had even bowed out of carrying it. CBS ultimately bowed to the pressure and scrapped the series, which was replaced with an extra 30 minutes of Muppet Babies. (It probably also didn't help that the Garbage Pail Kids movie, released earlier that year, was called "stunningly inept and totally reprehensible" and bombed at the box office.) Garbage Pail Kids wasn't commercially available in the U.S. for nearly 20 years, when the complete series was released on DVD.

12 Miles of Bad Road

Linda Bloodworth-Thomason has created several TV shows, all in a sub-genre she virtually created: acerbic, satirical comedies, set in the South. Among her projects: Designing Women, Evening Shade, and 12 Miles of Bad Road. In 2007, Bloodworth-Thomason sold that last one to HBO, which promised to make 10 episodes about a wealthy Texas real estate baroness (Lily Tomlin) caught up in the struggles of her not-as-sharp family members and business associates. (Other members of the all-star cast: Gary Cole of Office Space, Kim Dickens of Deadwood, comedian Ron White, and Eliza Coupe of Happy Endings.) Six episodes of the 10-episode season were shot during the course of the 2007-2008 season ... but then the lengthy Writers Guild of America strike completely shut down production. When it was resolved, HBO opted to not only pass on the remaining four episodes but to not broadcast the episodes that it had already filmed and paid $25 million for. Bloodworth-Thomason then shopped the show around to other networks and took the unique step of sending tapes of completed episodes to critics, in hopes of drumming up support and buzz. No such luck—that was the end of the road for Bad Road.

Day One

Set to air in 2010, this was supposed to be NBC's next big sci-fi mystery show, succeeding the departing Heroes. The premise: a bunch of otherwise unconnected people who live in the same apartment building all survive the apocalypse and must face post-Armageddon Earth together. But NBC had second thoughts on Day One, cutting it from an open-ended series to a finite miniseries. Then NBC had third thoughts about Day One, and decided to just cancel the series altogether and run its pilot episode as a made-for-TV movie. And then that didn't even make it to air—NBC executive Angela Bromstad said the network was a little shy after the failures of similar shows such as V and FlashForward.

Manchester Prep

Set up at Fox as a prequel to the 1999 sex-saturated teen movie Cruel Intentions, Manchester Prep was a weekly soap opera about which attractive spoiled brat at a prestigious private school was sleeping with which other attractive spoiled brat. (The movie cast was swapped out for mostly unknowns, including future Oscar nominee Amy Adams in one of her first major roles.) But while Manchester Prep delivered on its predecessor's promises of tons of sexy action, it was too much sexy action—the first scene of the pilot featured a girl spying on her stepbrother in the shower, and then commenting on the size of his manhood. Fox endured criticism that the show was wildly inappropriate for its planned timeslot of 8 p.m., or "the family hour." Ultimately, Fox pulled the show from the schedule before it aired, citing "creative differences" with producer Columbia TriStar. However, the production company edited the two episodes that had been shot and repackaged it as a direct-to-video movie called Cruel Intentions 2.

The Grubbs

Fox's never-aired sitcom The Grubbs robbed audiences of the unique pleasure of seeing what David Bianculli of The New York Daily News called "the worst new show" of 2002, and what another critic called "incredibly awful." An American remake of the English '70s-set comedy The Grimleys, it starred Randy Quaid, Carol Kane, and a pre-Arrested Development Michael Cera as an incredibly dysfunctional and stupid family. It was supposed to air as part of Fox's Sunday night comedy block with The Simpsons and Malcolm in the Middle before Fox pulled it off the air because it "failed to live up to its creative potential," according to Fox executive Gail Berman.