31 TV Series That Were Canceled Before Airing An Episode 

Mike Rothschild
Updated June 25, 2020 41.4k views 31 items

For whatever reason, television networks, both broadcast and cable, will occasionally greenlight shows and then cancel them before they ever air. There are a variety of reasons this happens - and as the cost of making TV increases, it's happening more and more.

Sometimes a show is cancelled without airing simply because it's not very good, or at least the executives at that particular network don't think it's coming together well. Or maybe it's because someone higher up the corporate ladder had second thoughts about the show. In a few cases, outside issues that have nothing to do with the show's quality intervene, such as a writer's strike, the death of talent, or contractual disputes.

Here are the many canceled TV shows that were bought, written, and in most cases shot and announced as coming out soon - but never actually made it on the air.

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Star Trek Phase II (1978)
Star Trek Phase II (1978... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list 31 TV Series That Were Canceled Before Airing An Episode
Photo: Star Trek: The Motion Picture/Paramount Pictures

Paramount bet big on this planned revival of Star Trek – going so far as to create an entire television network for it. Episodes had been written, sets and costumes had been designed, and some of the cast was in place when Paramount got cold feet and canceled it. The first script for Phase II was recycled into Star Trek: The Motion Picture, with others being used for Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Mr. Dugan (1979)
Mr. Dugan (1979) is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list 31 TV Series That Were Canceled Before Airing An Episode
Photo: U.S. State Department/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Most unaired shows are cancelled due to creative issues or scheduling problems. But this late '70s sitcom about a freshman black congressman ran into other problems: condemnation from the Congressional Black Caucus. Creator Norman Lear held a special screening for the group, who found it so insulting and demeaning that they threatened to boycott CBS if it was aired. It wasn’t.

The Dictator (1988)
The Dictator (1988) is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list 31 TV Series That Were Canceled Before Airing An Episode
Photo: Back to the Future/Universal Pictures

A sitcom starring a height-of-his-power Christopher Lloyd as a deposed Caribbean tinpot dictator living in a laundromat sounds like an inviting addition to late '80s TV wackiness. CBS agreed, and ads ran in TV Guide and on the network announcing its debut. But with just three episodes filmed, CBS pulled the plug on The Dictator, in part due to the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike - and in part because it wasn't good.

Heavens To Betsy (1994)
Heavens To Betsy (1994) ... is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list 31 TV Series That Were Canceled Before Airing An Episode
Photo: RCA Records/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Dolly Parton was the star of this CBS sitcom. They filmed six episodes, but it was canceled for creative and logistical reasons before airing.