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6 stellar short-lived shows you forgot about but need to remember

It’s an unfair fact of life that no matter how brilliant the show, no matter how hard it makes you ugly cry or LOL, we can’t hang onto them forever. Networks give, and networks take away, prying our favorites out of our white-knuckled, fanatical hands. It’s the circle of life.

But thanks to streaming, we’re given the opportunity to become reacquainted with the shows that didn’t last long enough to build a massive fanbase and gain timeless popularity. We’re watching more television than ever — especially more throwbacks than ever with Netflix drumming up the oldies but goodies and ABC pulling some of their best properties from the archives. We’re truly living in the future.

Even though shows get axed after one, two, or three short seasons, that’s not necessarily the best indicator of their quality. Some of the best shows we know and love with an undying, loyal passion are shows that didn’t get the treatment they deserved (*cough, Happy Endings, cough*). However, we sometimes forget about them once they’re slapped with a capital-C cancellation and pushed out into the ocean of television oblivion.

Well, it’s time to wake up and stop sleeping on the most underappreciated series of our time. Here are just six stellar short-lived shows that you may have forgotten but need to remember.

1. My Boys

Sony Pictures Television/TBS

Sony Pictures Television/TBS

Who: Jordana Spiro, Jim Gaffigan, Kyle Howard, Reid Scott, Michael Bunin, Jamie Kaler, Kellee Stewart
What: It’s the classic “group of friends” sitcom, spritzed with the essence of the NBC “Must See TV” sensibility, but with a feminist twist. Sportswriter P.J. Franklin (the underrated and always awesome Jordana Spiro) hangs with the guys and plays the one game trickier than her beloved baseball: Love.
When/Where: 2006–2010 on TBS
Why: Okay, so with four years on air, it wasn’t exactly short-lived. But there were only 49 episodes. Not even enough to live a second life in syndication, which is tragic for a show as charming as My Boys. Maybe it’s a bold claim, but My Boys, to this day, boasted one of the strongest ensembles in comedy and a fresh take on the relationship sitcom. It was basically How I Met Your Mother but without the mythology, set in Chicago, and anchored by a strong female lead much less whiny than Ted Mosby.

2. Samantha Who?

ABC via TV Guide


Who: Christina Applegate, Jennifer Esposito, Melissa McCarthy, Barry Watson, Jean Smart
What: Christina Applegate’s Samantha Newly wakes up from a coma with amnesia and the intense feeling that her old self was a real piece of work. Given a second chance, she uses it to become a better person and rebuild her rocky relationships.
When/Where: 2007–2009 on ABC; now available to stream on ABC.com!
Why: Although it only lasted for two seasons and was put through a scheduling mess (thanks a heap, WGA writers’ strike and ABC!), Samantha Who? left behind a legacy much less contentious than that of its title character. Obviously, the major selling points of the show can begin and end with Christina Applegate and Melissa McCarthy, but that would discount the rest of the incredible cast and the irreverent yet touching writing. Even 10 years removed from its initial premiere (Man, has it really been that long?), Samantha Who?’s quality and potential remain kinetic.

3. Instant Star



Who: Alexz Johnson, Tom Rozon, Laura Vandervoort, Kristopher Turner
What: Jude Harrison wins Instant Star, an American Idol–esque talent competition, and her world is turned upside. Suddenly, she’s a 16-year-old pop star trying to navigate the industry and adolescence.
When/Where: 2004–2008 on The N
Why: As both a fan of Canadian programming (Degrassi, Naturally Sadie, Life With Derek, etc.) and teen dramas, Instant Star was just the ticket. Yes, it was corny. Yes, it was ridiculous. But somehow those Canadian shows have a way of grounding even the craziest of stories. (Well, maybe not every episode of Degrassi, but you get it.) Aside from the compelling love triangles and industry drama, Alexz Johnson’s original songs for the series are nothing but quintessential mid-aughts pop-rock bangers.

4. Mercy



Who: Taylor Schilling, Michelle Trachtenberg, Jamie Lee Kirchner, James Tupper, Guillermo Diaz, Margo Martindale
What: Before Taylor Schilling was locked up in orange, she was Veronica Flanagan (sometimes Callahan — it’s complicated), a ballsy nurse battling PTSD from serving in Iraq. See also: The only real quality medical-romance drama that could have given Grey’s Anatomy a run for its money.
When/Where: 2009–2010 on NBC
Why: Medical dramas are a dime a dozen, but few can really balance the procedural case-of-the-week aspect with the break-room romps. Mercy walked that beam particularly well and employed a stunning realism with its lead character. Schilling’s Veronica wasn’t a one-note “nurse who can save lives, but the one life she can’t save is her own.” She had a touch of that stereotype, but she was more complex than a hot-and-heavy love triangle. And one more thing? That cliffhanger? Not cool. Where’s the revival series?

5. Joan of Arcadia



Who: Amber Tamblyn, Mary Steenburgen, Joe Mantenga, Jason Ritter, Michael Welch
What: A family drama with fantasy elements that answers the age-old question: What if God was one of us? (And, as it turns out, he or she can be a stranger on a bus or just a slob like one of us.) God appears to Joan (Amber Tamblyn) to make good on her promise that she’d do anything if her brother survived a car accident.
When/Where: 2003–2005 on CBS
Why: Whether you’re religious or whether you religiously choose naps over church on Sunday mornings holds zero importance over Joan of Arcadia’s reach. It’s one of those rare marriages of inspirational and intriguing teen drama. There are moments that move you and moments that leave you hanging on for more. It was The Ghost Whisperer meets 7th Heaven in the best way imaginable. And with Amber Tamblyn, an actress who throws herself into her characters, in the lead, how could you forget about Joan of Arcadia?

6. Life Unexpected

Warner Bros. TV

Warner Bros. TV

Who: Britt Robertson, Shiri Appleby, Kristoffer Polaha, Kerr Smith, Arielle Kebbel, Emma Caulfield
What: Boy meets girl. Girl gets pregnant. Girl doesn’t tell boy she put the baby up for adoption. The baby bounces from foster home to foster home, and 16 years later, the baby shows up asking to be empancipated. The resulting cocktail is shaken, not stirred.
When/Where: 2010–2011 on The CW
Why: When a show is marketed as Gilmore Girls meets Juno, that’s quite the critically acclaimed mountain for it to climb. Life Unexpected more than met that challenge. If it had premiered in 1995 on The WB, it would have ran for seven seasons and would still be in reruns on Freeform today. With humor and a touch of heart, Life Unexpected humbled life’s heaviest struggles, whether it’s as complicated as getting to know your birth parents, facing up to your abusive foster parents, or something as simple as love.

Any other stellar short-lived shows people have forgotten about but need to remember? Tell us in the comments!

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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