Canceled Cartoons that were Gone Too Soon

Any avid TV watcher has experienced that grief, that loss when a favorite TV show is canceled. Too many are axed before they have time for word of mouth to spread or for audiences to catch on. Here are TV cartoons that were canceled too soon, gone before they had a chance.

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'The Oblongs'

The Oblongs
The Oblongs. Adult Swim

The Oblongs has had more success on Adult Swim (where old cartoons go to die) in re-runs than it did on The WB when it premiered in 2001. It was quickly canceled, after only two (two!) episodes aired. The Oblongs found an audience in Canada, and later on Adult Swim. The cartoon features whip-smart jokes about our unspoken caste system, tongue-in-cheek jokes about the environment, and storylines about our pop and political cultures. In our times of green consciousness and not-technically-a-recession, The Oblongs would easily garner higher ratings today.

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'Mission Hill'

Mission Hill
Mission Hill. Adult Swim

Mission Hill premiered on The WB in 1999. (Seeing a pattern here?) Although thirteen episodes were ordered by the network, only six were aired. The show built a cult following after re-runs were aired on other networks, including Adult Swim. Mission Hill would be much more successful now, nearly a decade later. It's very adult themes (such as episodes titled "Porno for Pyro") would play well in the 9 o'clock hour, home to Family Guy. The cultural stereotypes and diverse characters, represented by a rainbow of neon colors, are more familiar to the mainstream population now.

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'Home Movies'

'Home Movies' - Brendon Small with Remote
'Home Movies' - Brendon Small with Remote. Adult Swim

originally aired on UPN, which later became The CW, in 1999 (what a year for canceled cartoons!). Originally animated in Squigglevision, a la Dr. Katz, Home Movies later formed its own visual style. The dialogue feels natural because the actors improvised from an outline. The show was canceled after only airing five episodes. But good ol' Adult Swim picked it up, aired the rest of the season, and then followed up with three more seasons. The storylines about growing up in a single-parent home and dealing with the pressures of childhood would be relatable today, as ratings on Adult Swim prove.

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'Clerks Uncensored'

Clerks Uncensored
Clerks Uncensored. ABC

The problem with Clerks Uncensored was that Kevin Smith's brand of adult-themed humor was watered down, or nearly erased, for network TV. It originally aired on ABC in 2000; it was canceled after only two episodes. After watching the series on DVD, I realized that Clerks Uncensored had been collared. No doubt when hardcore Kevin Smith fans tuned in, they wondered where their beloved Dante and Randall had gone, because they had been replaced with neutered versions of the characters. Clerks Uncensored could easily fit into late night TV on HBO or Adult Swim today, as long as Smith is allowed to unleash his obscene brand of humor.

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'The Critic'

Jon Lovitz plays Jay Sherman in The Critic. Ethan Miller /Getty Images

Debuting in 1994, The Critic wasn't given a chance to take flight. The cartoon starred comic genius Jon Lovitz as Jay Sherman, a movie critic who hails from the old days and has rigorous standards. The movie parodies featured on Jay's show were the gems of the series, spoofing films like Jurassic Park and Every Which Way But Loose. Perhaps the humor, especially jabs at Hollywood, were too insidery for the masses to appreciate, but in today's world of Entertainment Weekly and making-of featurettes, the audience would be much more showbiz savvy and possibly laugh along with the writers (including Judd Apatow) of each episode.

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'God, The Devil and Bob'

God, the Devil and Bob
God, the Devil and Bob.

God, The Devil & Bob showed so much promise in its concept, but the execution was all wrong. God and the Devil strike a deal about saving the world, with the Devil choosing Bob as our hero. The show focused on big issues dealing with religion and morals and attracted the irate attention of religious activists, which should have been a surefire recipe for success. But the concept got bogged down in humor that was beneath it. And what a cast: James Garner, Alan Cumming, Laurie Metcalf. Perhaps in different hands, God, The Devil & Bob would have been heavenly.

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'The PJs'

The PJs
The PJs. Adult Swim

The PJs is another primetime cartoon that premiered in the animation boom at the beginning of the decade on The WB. The PJs is also the only stop-motion cartoon on this list and the only one with no DVD available. With talents like Eddie Murphy and Loretta Devine, the voice work was top notch. The writing was insightful and funny, not surprising coming from Larry Wilmore (The Nightly Show with Larry WilmoreThe Bernie Mac Show) and Steve Tompkins (The Simpsons). But was a show about the projects tough to stomach for Middle America? Sure, the circumstances of the characters may have been unfamiliar to some of us, but the storylines were about family, trying to get by, friendship, all good stuff. Perhaps a decade later The PJs would have found more success.

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'Family Guy'

Family Guy
Family Guy. Twentieth Century Fox

The history of Family Guy is the closest real-life fairy tale Hollywood can provide. Family Guy originally premiered on Fox as a mid-season replacement in 1999. But Fox did little to support the show, changing timeslots frequently and doing little in the way of advertising. The show got low ratings and was canceled in 2002. But thanks to high ratings on Adult Swim and brisk sales of Family Guy DVDs, Fox brought it back onto the Sunday night schedule in 2005.

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Futurama Cast Picture
Futurama Cast Picture. Futurama TM and © 2010

is another cartoon that Fox mistreated. Futurama premiered on Fox in 1999. It couldn't gain traction in the ratings because Fox changed timeslots too often, even taking it off the schedule and putting it back on at strange times in the TV season. Futurama was canceled in 2003. Futurama re-surfaced on Adult Swim until Comedy Central snapped it up in 2008. Because the show saw good ratings in re-runs, four straight-to-DVD Futurama movies were ordered, including Bender's Big Score, which also aired on Comedy Central in 2008. Finally, in 2010, Comedy Central aired new episodes of Futurama, which earned more critical praise and ratings that were solid for a basic cable network. Futurama ended on a high note in 2013, after winning two Emmy awards for Maurice LaMarche (Kif).