6 More Shows: The Two-Hit Wonders

New TV shows are coming out and getting cancelled faster than anyone can watch them, it seems. Or, on the flip side, you hear of some show that you forgot existed ever since you heard about the plot twist ending of season two that fans were up in arms about however many years ago, now heading into its fourteenth season. People are still watching that? you think to yourself.

Meanwhile, it’s the show you fell in love with, with stellar casting choices, perfect tone, and fresh writing, that gets axed because of budget cuts or writers’ strikes, or somebody decides it’s not creating enough “buzz,” or whatever. Or, it doesn’t even have to have such objectively good qualities, but it’s you. You like it. It’s your taste and you’d be willing to see a full five or more seasons of it with great enjoyment. We’ve all been there.

In January I put out then what was originally going to be one post on TV shows I liked that only got 1 or 2 seasons and should have been given more of a shot. But then I kept adding to list, thinking of more that I thought deserved to be on there, and it got really long, you know me: much like that network TV show you can’t believe is still dragging on and on.

So I pulled them apart and just posted a list of 6 TV shows that only got one season. It’s still wordy, I was passionate, it got zero traction: on that last point, much like your favourite cancelled TV show.

Now, having learned nothing, behold! I’ve returned for part 2: 6 TV shows I enjoyed that only got two seasons. Would any of these be on your list?

  1. The Shannara Chronicles
  2. Copper
  3. Pushing Daisies
  4. The Monkees
  5. Why Women Kill
  6. Timeless

Click any of the show titles to skip directly to my thoughts on it.

1. The Shannara Chronicles (2016-2017)

I watched both seasons of this ambitious MTV adaptation of the popular fantasy series by Terry Brooks not long after it had ended and was out on DVD. Yet I forgot enough about it that when Austin Butler was getting all the attention for his Elvis last summer, I didn’t realise where else I’d seen that familiar dimpled grin until I was looking the show up for this post. Butler plays the main character Wil Ohmsford, who is the classic Chosen One of classic fantasy. He doesn’t do a terrible job of it, either. Despite a somewhat generic fantasy feel, a dependence on CGI, and questionable design choices, this show had its highlights with some really interesting characters and subplots.

I watched it with my brother, and while he had read a couple of the books and knew what was all wrong with it (most things, predictably), even without any canon knowledge, I could tell this was a bit of a bowdlerization of something with more substance. It seems they took implications from the books that the events take place far into our earth’s future after some apocalyptic events as permission to excuse cheap modern design elements in the “fantasy” aesthetic, which was a bit off-putting. Together with an uncontrollable tendency to spend tens of the only forty minutes in an episode having two people sit in one spot spouting cliched dialogue at one another in place of actually portraying their supposed character developments, and the plot gymnastics they had to do after they killed off a main character at the end of season one… well, it just wasn’t super memorable and this is one I understand why they cancelled, but I also feel like it didn’t quite get the shot it deserved.

Which is a shame, because it looked like they put a lot of work into building the world, shooting on some amazing locations, and investing in some passable CGI, but perhaps that’s part of why they couldn’t keep it going–too expensive to make for something that didn’t perform super well. Also, they probably blew their budget in season 1 getting John Rhys-Davies to play the elf-king. The irony.

Verdict: A decently built fanatasy story that was strongest in its first season, though still a bit of a cheesy teen drama element to it. Not mad about having watched it, so worth watching once for anyone interested.

Back to list.

2. Copper (2012-2013)

Tom Weston-Jones here again, a highlight from my watch of the one-season Dickensian (mentioned in my previous post). This time he helms his own show about a New York copper star who returned from his service in the army during the Civil War only to find his wife missing and his daughter dead in their home. While getting back into life as law enforcement in Five Points dealing with trafficking, gangs, and political conspiracies, he encounters clues that lead him to his missing wife, but the truth of what happened on the night before his return is a betrayal he may wish he never knew.

This show ran for two seasons, and I was reasonably impressed with the first one, which I watched. The seediness of New York and its criminal element is very evident throughout the setting and storylines, which may be a bit more prevalent than a lot of viewers would be comfortable with (including myself at times), but Weston-Jones’ character is well-developed, portrayed as a man jaded by his experiences in the war and the reality of life on the streets he patrols. There are some strong performances surrounding him as well, including Tessa Thompson and Franka Potente, but I especially liked Kevin J. Ryan’s character as his fellow copper star and close friend.

Depending on what they did with the second season (which I haven’t watched), it’s too bad Copper was cancelled because I feel like it could have been what Peaky Blinders is. Which is funny, because Copper began the year before Peaky Blinders and literally aired its last episode the week after Peaky Blinders aired its first. Alas, Weston-Jones doesn’t seem to have the luck with TV shows he’s a part of despite being a talented actor. Although it was a highlight for me to see him, even in a minor character role, in the first season of Netflix’s hugely successful Shadow & Bone, so maybe he’ll go on to greater things yet.

Verdict: With some content warnings noted, would recommend to anyone who likes well-made historical crime dramas.

Back to list.

3. Pushing Daisies (2007-2009)

This is an offbeat show that is a bit Amélie (2001) in tone, with brightly saturated colours and facetious narrator infusing the scenes with humour and life. Which is what you might call ironic, because the story centres around Ned, who discovers that his touch brings the dead back to life, only to subsequently discover that a second touch from him brings permanent death. Making the best use of his curse that he knows how, Ned runs a pie shop with a side of crime-solving until his childhood sweetheart turns up dead. Solving her murder brings them closer together than ever… at least, as close as they can be without physically touching, of course.

With appalling green screen work and prehistoric CGI, this show doesn’t take itself too seriously, instead embracing the obvious unreality of it all. Yet the witty writing, well-acted quirky characters, and episodic solving of bizarre and sometimes comical murders immediately endeared it to me. I love Lee Pace’s awkwardly adorable, uncomfortable portrayal of Ned, the traumatized grown up version of the child who lost both parents and blamed himself for it. Because a feel-good comedy doesn’t have any weight unless it also doesn’t shy away from the tragedy in life. Pushing Daisies is surprisingly heartbreaking, and the actors deliver it in perfect balance with the comedy that relieves the darkness of some of the concepts.

This is an episodic show with a lot of non-linear and visual storytelling, which, while interesting and fitting with the rest of the show’s uniqueness, I could also see as why some people might miss some of the visual humour or the storyline, lose patience with it, and turn it off. Its tonal humour and excessive stylization might also not appeal to everybody, though I get the impression it has a quiet cult following of its own. Though I haven’t seen season 2, I know Pushing Daisies ends with a somewhat satisfying conclusion that implies it was either only planned for two seasons in the first place, or they wanted to wrap things up enough in case the show didn’t continue.

Verdict: Feel-good TV with sparkling performances and wild yet well-executed concepts. Would recommend giving this show the chance to win your heart.

Back to list.

4. The Monkees (1966-1968)

“Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees!” Another riotously colourful and upbeat comedy, the Monkees TV show is surprisingly clever and full of witty metacommentary. From the show’s opening premise of the Monkees being a struggling rock group, the fourth wall is a demountable partition that is slung back and forth with practiced ease by all members. That said, it would be misrepresenting the show if I didn’t also say that it is equally campy, kiddy, and downright goofy just as much of the time.

I watched most of the episodes on YouTube during breaks in my class schedule my first year of university. It was delightful to be able to turn my brain off and enjoy some tomfoolery, witty repartee, and natural comedic timing. Its quality is of the sketch comedy/skit variety, parodying plots of other TV shows or movies, with lengthy musical interludes (often shot as chase scenes) that are reminiscent of somebody’s cousin’s low-budget music video for their garage band.

Regardless of whether you think the Monkees were a fraud perpetrated upon the public (I know for a fact Mike Nesmith would fight you on that, though he had to rise from his grave to do so), they grew into a real band due in no small part to having charmed the pants off of the TV audience with their non-threatening personalities in this show. It’s almost like it was planned that way.

Needless to say, I was disappointed when I ran out of new episodes to watch and realised that the show had ended after two seasons. But since at least the end of season 1, the Monkees were a touring band, so understandably it seemed like they wanted to take their musical careers more seriously. Showing up for a weekly scripted television show was just not sustainable long term.

Verdict: Classic ’60s camp with endearing performances from all the band members. Whether you’re a fan of Monkees music or only have “Daydream Believer” in the periphery of your consciousness, give this show a watch next time you need light entertainment.

Back to list.

5. Why Women Kill (2019-2021)

An anthology murder-dramedy, the first season deals with the narratives of three different women whose only link is having inhabited the same house at different times. With a story set in the ’60s, the ’80s, and the roughly 2010s, their lives don’t seem that connected. However, their experiences take on a similar hue as they face very different marriage challenges. Through twisty paths of good times, bad times, betrayal, reconciliation, affairs and escapades, each of these women comes to where she has to make a choice–whether or not to kill.

I won’t sit here and lie to you: knowing Lana Parilla was in it is the reason I started this show. Unfortunately she only appears in season 2 so when I started season 1 and instead got her OUAT costar Ginnifer Goodwin, I was a bit bummed.

However, I was soon to be disabused of my assumption that Goodwin couldn’t compel my investment—while I enjoyed the other two storylines occupying the first season, Goodwin’s was the one that ultimately broke my heart, due in no small part to her tasteful, charming, and subtle characterization. Despite an intentionally polarizing title and premise, this show managed to impress me in ways I did not expect and actually portrayed deep storytelling and complex, flawed characters. Even the ones we were supposed to hate were given more than fair and nuanced treatment. None of the main characters are simple caricatures.

Season 2 takes on a different tack of only dealing with one time-period/storyline and bears no connection whatsoever to any of the plot or characters of season 1. It centres around a nearing middle-aged housewife, Alma, who loves gardening and dreams of glamour–specifically that embodied in the character played by Lana Parilla and her upper-class garden society. Alma is desperate to make it into the club and what starts as an innocent passion for flowers and finery begins to turn cutthroat–quite literally. When Alma discovers her mild-mannered veterinarian husband is an angel of death, she has to make some serious decisions, fast. Fortunately, she’s a resourceful woman and soon realises his proclivities may be the perfect way to make the opening in the garden society roster that she so desperately needs to get her sensibly-shoed foot in the door.

Despite only having one storyline, season 2 still has a lot going on with secondary characters and subplots that fill in the space quite suitably. That said, I didn’t enjoy this season overall as much as season 1. Parilla was a dream, yes; Alma’s descent into obsession was entertaining and darkly comedic; the characterization of her husband was creepy and sad. So I’m not sure why it didn’t grab me as much as the first did. Maybe I had heightened my expectations along with my impression of season 1, and if I had kept them lower for season 2 as when I started season 1, it wouldn’t have felt like such an anticlimax.

Being an anthology, there is no ongoing story that the show’s cancellation cut short or left unfinished. But it’s always a risk trying to market and maintain something as experimental as an anthology TV show, and without something concrete connecting the first season to the second, it’s like you have to find an audience all over again when you turn out a new season. It must be a pain having to cast a whole new set of characters and come up with a whole different set for each new season. Yet, originally, WWK was renewed for a third season in December of 2021, only to be cancelled shortly thereafter. I was looking forward to another story in which it was made apparent just why women kill, but I guess we’ll never know.

Verdict: A unique, brilliant dark comedy with solid writing and acting. Watch it for the fashion, stay for the depth.

Back to list.

6. Timeless (2016-2018)

Timeless, per the title, is an episodic time-travel show where a select team has been gathered to pilot a ship that can take them to the past in order to combat a malevolent institution called Rittenhouse that is trying to alter events across history to seize power in the present. The premise sounds formulaic, and that is because it is. But that does not mean it is unoriginal or un-innovative. Rather, it is what it says it is: timeless.

Lucy is the intrepid historian who gets tapped to help out a team of government agents ensure that they are properly attired and briefed to know what is going on in any given time-period and place, and, ideally, fit right in and be able to exit without ending up in the history books after they’ve gotten back from preventing Rittenhouse’s plans of terrorism. Of course, things go awry so that after the first mission, she returns to a timeline that has been messed up so much so that her terminally ill mother has now never been sick, and her younger sister has been entirely erased from reality. Shenanigans ensue.

I really enjoyed this series when I watched it with my friend. We even found a way to watch the second season together over a distance while I was in my last year of my bachelor’s degree in central Canada and she was slogging through the end of her master’s in the west. While the quality and plotting of the second season disintegrated a little bit in an effort to switch things up, there were other factors that developed really strongly from the first season, namely the gradual conversion of Flynn, original Rittenhouse antagonist extraordinaire, into grudging assistant to the good-guys and resident sass-master.

TIMELESS — “King of Delta Blues” Episode 206 — Pictured: (l-r) Goran Visnjic as Garcia Flynn, Abigail Spencer as Lucy Preson — (Photo by: Justin Lubin/NBC)

Flynn is a standout character throughout, compelling in his story and obssession as the villain, while also presenting intrigue by his repeated insistence that he and Lucy become friends in their future. How he knows this is of course through time-travel manipulation and it’s one of the more interesting existential quandries the show explores through that medium. Because, on the whole, while the story utilizes time-travel as a mechanism, blithely skipping from one timeline to another on a branching pattern of possible universes, it doesn’t take too long to stop and smell the proverbial roses of what all time-travel might mean in between visiting historical events and figures to protect or otherwise ensure they go the same way they did in the history books.

Going from one historical place and time to another is a perfect way to have a self-contained story/mission concluded in one episode, and I thought the way this show did it was perfect to make an enjoyable, entertaining, yet intelligent watching experience. Lucy as the historian is a thinker and planner, who has her set of skills, while others on the team have other roles, of the pilot and the soldier. They are at first an unintentionally thrown-together team, but they soon realise they need each person to provide an essential aspect for the mission’s effectiveness. That said, they do not remain simply confined to their niches, but learn from each other along the way to diversify their skills and adapt to situations on the fly.

Overall, I would definitely revisit this series–it has the makings of great comfort-watching to me. I can’t say I loved every plot development, as I think season 2 really sunk them in terms of leaving them room to continue into a third season, unless to reboot with a different main character set and plotline. Which is a shame, because I think it’s really unique among shows from recent years and with proper ploting could have gone on for many more seasons. However, I like it enough that it would stand up to multiple rewatches.

Verdict: Classic, yes, timeless TV that goes on a fun journey through history trying to stop evil revisionist historians trying to take over the past and present. The formula exists because when it works, it works, and this show demonstrates that perfectly.

Back to list.

And that triumphantly concludes this two-part series of posts on shows I liked that ran for only two seasons. Fitting, you might say.

Really, I had it mostly written for so long, so close to being ready to publish, that I just got sick of seeing it in my drafts. If you’re curious as to just how long I’ve had a version of this post sitting in my drafts, look at the GIFs I used in the section on Pushing Daisies–at the time it was written, they were seasonal. Happy Halloween, everyone.

Let me know what shows you enjoyed watching or whether any in my list sparked your interest!

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