Television shows create a long-term relationship between the audience and characters. They continue for years, showing the inner workings of the characters. The audience’s attachment to the show’s fantasy world becomes comforting and familiar. As the show progresses, viewers get to know their protagonist or antihero on a level that feels personal.
Appreciation for a series doesn’t take long though. Afterall, the first season has to entice us enough to get us to keep watching. Many shows fail after the first season. They get canceled due to low ratings, likely from a boring or out-of-touch script. Sometimes, a great series only gets the recognition it deserves after getting canceled.
Coming-of-age media continues to steadily hold its popularity. Even people no longer in the target demographic enjoy the genre. A lot of people relate to it as part of the human experience. Growing up never ends, it merely changes form. That could be why the genre remains so well-liked. It tells the experiences we had or wanted to have.
When a coming-of-age show gets cut short, it feels like the characters never got to… well, come of age. The admiration doesn’t go away and fans long for a resolution that won’t come.
Here are impactful coming of age television shows that got canceled after one season.
‘MY SO-CALLED LIFE’ (1994-1995)
High schooler Angela Chase navigates the need for change in her friend circles and her appearance. While melodramatic teenage moodiness stars front and center, the show goes over serious topics such as drug abuse, domestic violence and homelessness. Angela’s parents get a large amount of screen time too, going over marital, career and family problems. “My So-Called Life” showcases the duality of humans in every character, from loyalty to betrayal and cringey to thought-provoking. They could be completely relatable one moment and a total nightmare the next.
Stream it now with a Hulu subscription or for free on ABC.com.
‘FREAKS AND GEEKS’ (1999-2000)
Lindsay Weir starts hanging out with slackers while her younger brother Sam struggles with being bullied. Perhaps the most famous on this list, creator Judd Apatow helped catapult the careers of actors Seth Rogen, Linda Cardellini and James Franco in this comedy drama. Like “My So-Called Life,” Lindsay is in the middle of changing her style and friend group. Initially her new friends see the sudden change as a cry for attention, but slowly accept her. Sam goes through his own changes with dating and building friendships with unexpected people. “Freaks and Geeks” features multiple takes on what it means to be an outcast wanting to fit in somewhere with painfully awkward scenarios that can only be laughed at.
Stream it now with a Hulu subscription, Paramount+, or for free on Pluto TV.
College freshman Steven Karp navigates his first semester while not knowing what major to pursue. Also created by Apatow, it features a lot of the same actors in “Freaks and Geeks.” From dealing with dorm rooms, sleeping around and taking chances, “Undeclared” highlights how much people grow in college. Steven is surrounded by new people and can be someone completely new himself, but that doesn’t mean everything will go as planned. With so few coming-of-age shows and movies centered around college years, it is a shame this one is not more well-known.
“Undeclared” is not available for streaming, but in March 2020 Apatow tweeted his approval of YouTube channel “Chapi” having all 17 episodes on the site. Just type “Chapi Undeclared” on YouTube for a full playlist.
‘THE GET DOWN’ (2016-2017)
Zeke Figuero and his friends form a music group. Zeke raps over beats the group makes from the rhythm portion of records that they nickname “the get down.” Set in the Bronx of summer 1977, the area is full of gang violence with disco and rap rising in popularity. Zeke’s love interest, Mylene, faces domestic abuse and dreams of moving away from the Bronx. With Baz Luhrmann as co-creator, the set and costumes are ridiculous in the best ways. The show is just as much about the coming-of-age experience of Zeke as well as of rap music.
Stream it now on Netflix.
‘HIGH FIDELITY’ (2020)
Robyn Brooks recites her top five heartbreaks over the season’s run. She owns a record store, employing her two best friends, Cherise and Simon. The group regularly discusses their lives and all things pop culture. Robyn may wear a tough exterior, but as she goes over each heartbreak tale, her true sensitive nature reveals itself. While she is 29 going on 30, Robyn proves that growing up and making mistakes continues into adulthood. She struggles with navigating her feelings and understanding what she wants versus what she needs.
Stream it now on Hulu.
One thought on “One hit wonder television: Coming of age, then gone in a season”
Really insightful article that gives appreciation to shows that, even though didn’t have the opportunity to explore the characters journey of growing up, still remain admirable. Even though I haven’t seen every single one of the shows mentioned, I still am familiar with the ones I haven’t watched, which proves their impact.