10 Most Popular TV Shows Terminated Mid-Season

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Network executives, who tend to hold a low opinion of television audiences, are finding out that if they want to stay relevant, they are going have to listen to what their viewers are telling them. Blogs, social media, and tools for analyzing how social media users are relating to television shows are all impacting how networks are doing business. "[The] expectations of the digital world … really do change how you do business and how your audience expects you to treat them," says Marjorie Kaplan, president of Animal Planet. As proof, here are shows that were so beloved by their audiences at the time of cancellation that they've gone on to live robust lives as cult hits on DVD (and some have even spawned feature films). All thanks to those noisy fans.

  1. Firefly

    Created by Joss Whedon (the man who created a certain cheerleader-turned-vampire-killer named Buffy), this futuristic Western, inspired by Reconstruction-era America, barely got off the ground on the Fox network before being cancelled after just 11 episodes. Rabid fans raised hell, bought the DVDs, and helped expand the franchise into a feature film, graphic novel, and role-playing game.

  2. Clerks: The Animated Series

    Yes, Dante, Randal, Jay, and Silent Bob, the original slackers, appeared in animated form on ABC in this extremely short-lived series based on Kevin Smith's raw, expletive-filled, indie-classic Clerks. Somehow, two episodes managed to air (out of order, no less) before the suits pulled the plug. Among fans of good television, this is known as getting "screwed by the network." The show aired briefly again on Comedy Central and was preserved for posterity via DVD.

  3. Police Squad!

    From the creators of Airplane!, Police Squad! satirized pretty much every cop show you can name and always ended with a fake "freeze frame" that left the show's lead, Leslie Nielsen, and his fellow actors trying desperately not to blink, move their lips, or notice that a criminal they'd managed to capture is making an escape during the end credits. ABC cancelled the show after just six episodes with the explanation that the show required the viewer to pay too much attention.

  4. Cane

    The premiere of this CBS epic drama (originally pitched as a Latino Godfather) about a powerful Cuban-American family running a rum and sugar business in South Florida brought in over 11 million viewers. Jimmy Smits was the star of an incredible cast that included Hector Elizondo and Rita Moreno. It disappeared mid-season because of the writer's strike, and it was ultimately cancelled for reasons unknown. Imagine The Sopranos meets Dallas, and you have an idea of this series' potential.

  5. K-Ville

    Much anticipated in the wake of hurricane Katrina, and pretty much forgotten thanks to David Simon's much more successful Treme, K-Ville used post-Katrina New Orleans as the setting for what quickly became a mediocre cop show. Too bad, too, as you had two great leads — Anthony Anderson from Law & Order and Cole Hauser — and a kick-ass theme song by Dr. John. Once again, the 2007 writer's guild strike was given as the reason for mid-season cancellation, in spite of the potential of the show's concept and a whole lotta love from New Orleans.

  6. The Weird Al Show

    CBS deemed "Weird Al" Yankovic worthy of his own Saturday morning children's television show. But it quickly became apparent that the network's vision of an "educational" kid's program from the accordion-playing hippie who gave us "My Bologna" just wasn't gonna happen. The sheer number of talented performers who made cameos on this short-lived show, including John Tesh, Dr. Demento, and Drew Carey, is ridiculous. Thankfully, the complete episodes are available on DVD.

  7. The Dana Carvey Show

    What did we watch before Hulu? Former Saturday Night Live cast member Carvey (from one of the casts that were actually funny) had his own short-lived, controversial TV show hat was a wee bit ahead of the curve. The show's writers included the now-ubiquitous Louis C.K., Steve Carell, and Stephen Colbert, and some of the sketches clearly predate similar presentations now seen on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report. The show premiered tied to ABC's family-friendly Home Improvement, which meant it was doomed from the start.

  8. The Black Donnellys

    This dark, violent drama about four Irish-American, Roman Catholic brothers living in New York City's Hell's Kitchen was a bracing shot of adrenaline for network TV. Despite having street cred from co-creator Paul Haggis (director of Crash and Million Dollar Baby), NBC pulled the plug on the show almost immediately, but it has found a life on DVD since.

  9. Love Monkey

    A comedic drama based on the book by Kyle Smith about life as the employee of an independent record label called True Vinyl. Guest appearances by cool musicians including Ben Folds, Aimee Mann, and Lisa Loeb gave the show some cachet in the indie-music community, but viewer numbers were too low to save it from being cancelled.

  10. Wonderfalls

    A truly, truly weird show that managed after its 2004 debut on Fox to build a devoted fan base after just an four-episode run. Lead character Jaye Tyler spends time talking to animal figurines while working as a sales clerk in a Niagara Falls gift shop. Take into account yet another kick-butt theme song for a now cancelled show, this time by XTC's Andy Partridge, and you have a quintessential cult-TV classic.

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