These 6 TV shows were canceled after one single episode

Only a true TV junkie has seen these historic flops.

Images: The Everett Collection

Each season, networks toss dozens of new TV shows against the screen to see what sticks. Not a year goes by without a slew of series failing to make it to season two. That being said, it is the rare turkey that never lives to see a second week.

In the early years, networks were more likely to give shows a chance. There was also far less competition. Today, a bad Twitter reaction might kill off a show in minutes. Which makes one-episode series an even rarer species in the 1950s and '60s. Still, there were a few. 

Let's take a look at some of the shortest lived series in television history. If you have seen any of these, you are a true expert.

1. Who's Whose


This game show goes down in history as one of the earliest TV shows dumped after a single episode. If it's any consolation, few remember the indignity. The concept was simple: A panel of guests interviews a trio of scrambled married couples and tries to guess which man was wed to which woman. Unfortunately, a newspaper listing incorrectly stated that the aim was "to determine which of three people is married to a fourth." Also, host Phil Baker (standing in the photo) had a turban-wearing assistant named Gunga. No wonder people were confused.

Image: The Everett Collection

2. You're in the Picture


They can't all be winners. On the evening of JFK's inauguration, Gleason hosted the first episode of his game show, You're in the Picture. It was a ratings flop. The following week, Gleason appeared on the screen in a bare studio and apologized for putting out such a dud. The show was immediately transformed into a talk show, The Jackie Gleason Show. Who else had the power to completely retool a show in a week and stay on the air?


Image: The Everett Collection

3. Turn-On


The creation of George Schlatter, the co-creator and co-producer of Laugh-In, Turn-On was a brilliantly forward-thinking series that imagined a post-modern style of television with busy superimposed images, lightning-fast edits, heady concepts and progressive topics. It would live in ignominy as the only television show in history to be canceled before it even finished airing! It did not make it past its premiere at 8:30PM on February 5, 1969. A Cleveland network affiliate led a campaign to kill the show. Read the full story behind this fascinating flop.

Image: The Everett Collection

4. Co-Ed Fever


National Lampoon's Animal House left a lot of bad television in its wake. A year after the film raked in cash at the box office, a slew of fraternity and sorority comedies hit the networks. Audiences were not up for the party. ABC offered Delta House, while NBC served up Brothers and Sisters. Both were turkeys that lasted mere weeks, but it was CBS's clunky Co-Ed Fever that got kicked off campus after one half hour. An uncommonly annoying theme song certainly didn't help. 

Image: The Everett Collection

5. Melba


January 28, 1986, is one of those "Where were you?" dates. That morning, the Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart high above the waters of Cape Canaveral. The American public was shaken, which might explain why few tuned in to Melba Moore's new sitcom on CBS. It scored the lowest ratings of the week. The network immediately pulled it from the schedule and Melba was toast.

Image: The Everett Collection

6. South of Sunset


Glenn Frey caught a bad case of "Smuggler's Blues" in the fall of '93. His new cop show, building off his experience on Miami Vice, was heavily promoted during the World Series. However, baseball fans must not have been the demographic, as the pilot earned terrible ratings when it aired on October 27. No worries for Frey, though. The rocker had all that Eagles fame to fall back on. In fact, VH1 would later air the remaining episodes of South of Sunset during an Eagles-themed week.

Image: The Everett Collection

Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Dario 27 months ago
The blonde in the picture of the fourth show mentioned in this article is none other than actress Heather Thomas, who went on to play apprentice stuntwoman Jody Banks in the Lee Majors series, The Fall Guy, which lasted five years on the air on ABC(1981-86).
AlanRamsey 40 months ago
I read an interview with comedienne Pat Carroll that Johnny Carson was to be one of the contestants on "You're In The Picture," and literally walked off the set, believing that the show was going to be a disaster. Even stranger, one TV historian has found evidence that another episode of You're In The Picture" was taped after the first one, and that was the episode that Johnny appeared on. But after the disaster of the first episode, it was scrapped.
Joe 40 months ago
I recall "Turn-On."
Apparently no one seemed to understand what exactly was going on.
AlanRamsey Joe 40 months ago
I read where the Cleveland affilliate pulled the plug on Turn On mid show, and the station management apologized to their viewers in a voice over announcement. There was a second episode in the can, with Robert Culp and his wife, France Nuyen, but it was scrapped.
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?