With finals rapidly approaching, we’re here to offer you new means of procrastination.
These top-notch TV shows were cancelled before they ever got the ratings they needed to survive beyond their first few addicting seasons, but they’re so good they’ve acquired critical acclaim and obsessive cult-followings that just won’t let ‘em die. Drink the kool-aid and join the club.
Often considered one of the top television shows of all time, this teen dramedy series will bring you back to the 80s to an angsty existence within a small-town high school. Following ‘freak’ Lindsay Weir (Linda Cardellini, ER) and her stoner friends, as well as her brother Sam Weir (John Frances Daley, Bones) and his ‘geek ‘friends, Freaks and Geeks remains one of television’s most honest, realistic depictions of high school. But if that doesn’t hook you, the cast will: Freaks and Geeks jumpstarted the careers of Jason Segel, Seth Rogan, and James Franco, and was written and produced by Judd Apatow. Though the show was cancelled after just one season of eighteen 44-minute episodes, it has arguably one of the best final scenes of any television series (I’m looking at you, Lost), which will leave you both satisfied and wanting more, even 12 years later.
While most people write this show off as just another CW series, it skillfully combines two of the most successful genres: teen drama and crime. As a high school student wannabe detective helping out her private investigator father, Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) is one of the most entertaining female teen characters on television. She’s witty, sarcastic, intelligent, and empowering, but despite her uncanny predilection for crime solving, she also has regular teenage friendships, romances, problems, and insecurities. It’s more than Veronica that makes the show so compelling though: Each episode’s mystery is truly perplexing (Seriously…who could have possibly stolen the money from the poker game while everyone was sitting right there?!). And, better yet, all of the crimes are teen related —-rapes, gangs, stolen mascots, fake IDs, and social disparities, among others —rather than the over-the-top, unrealistic murder after murder formula that characterizes much of the crime shows on television. There is also always an overarching mystery that Veronica deliberately and methodically unravels over the course of each entire season, adding extra entice to the already suspenseful individual episodes. Unfortunately, writer Rob Thomas decided to switch it up for the third season—sending Veronica to college, introducing new cast members and dividing the season into two central crimes rather than one— but the change in formula led to the show’s eventual cancellation mid-season (and mid-mystery… talk about suspense). But don’t fret, you can still watch the first 8 minutes of the would-have-been fourth season premiere of Veronica working for the FBI on YouTube. And keep your fingers crossed; Warner Brothers hasn’t officially disregarded the already-written film sequel.
Another show often considered one of the top series of all time, Twin Peaks is a crucial contribution to modern television. Following FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper as he stays in Twin Peaks to investigate the murder of prom queen Laura Palmer, Twin Peaks is one of the only series to successfully transcend and combine all genres: it’s somehow a crime drama, a teen drama, a comedy, a psychological thriller, and a supernatural mystery. If you can embrace auteur David Lynch’s bizarre style (and, trust me, it’s bizarre), you’ll soon be dying to know who killed Laura Palmer too. Though you’ll have to wait until the end of season 2 to find the answer, you can enjoy the wait —Twin Peaks will take you on one of the most surreal, strange trips ever induced by a television show. You’ll find yourself both questioning how these bizarre characters could ever be imagined and simultaneously identifying with them. By the end, you’ll come to realize that these characters in the town of Twin Peaks are not so far off from your own town and friends.
While this sitcom is much better known than some of the others mentioned, it would be a crime to leave it out of this list. Often considered the best comedy sitcom ever, not to mention one of the top television shows to grace the small screen, Arrested Development follows a dysfunctional family when its real estate mogul patriarch goes to jail for building model homes in Iraq to help Saddam Hussein. The cast is star-studded— featuring Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, Will Arnett, Michael Cera, and many others known especially for their penchant for hilarity, including narrator Ron Howard. While many might not consider this series a ‘cult’ favorite due to its recent popularity, it was actually cancelled in the third season due to low viewership. But its fan base was so adamant about its return that they circulated petitions advocating that the show be brought back, picked up by another network, and/or made into a movie. While we’re still holding our breath for the movie (rumors are circulating…), the fans’ efforts have culminated in Netflix’s decision to produce a new mini-season of Arrested using all of the original cast and writers. So if you haven’t seen this quirky gem yet, be sure to do so in time to see the new episodes debut in 2013 and (we hope) the movie!