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by Alison Willmore
November 27, 2013 1:12 PM
15 Comments
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Stream Them Now: 10 Worthy One-Season Shows Ready to Binge-Watch on Netflix

'Freaks and Geeks' Chris Haston/NBC

The upsides of a beloved show getting canceled after one season? It never has a chance to go downhill, and it's ideal for binge-watching over a few days without feeling like you're disappearing down a black hole of television. And the Thanksgiving holiday, with its travel delays, tendencies toward lousy weather and built-in need for couch time (you have to let that meal digest!) is a great time for indulging in some serious television watching -- with the added bonus of it being a relatively neutral activity to retreat to after you and your uncle get into a fight about Obamacare over the pumpkin pie. While some personal favorite one-season wonders, like "My So-Called Life" and "Wonderfalls," aren't streaming (though "Rubicon" is over at Amazon), Netflix has a solid slate of canceled-too-soon treasures to turn to when you need to retreat from parental conversations about what you're doing with your life. [Note: These titles are good for the U.S. -- we can't speak to other international Netflix territories, unfortunately.]

"Freaks and Geeks": This 1999-2000 NBC comedy drama is now legendary for the collection of talent involved in its making -- from creator Paul Feig to executive producer Judd Apatow to a cast improbably packed with future stars like James Franco, Seth Rogen and Jason Segal. But "Freaks and Geeks" endures because of the quality of its depictions of high school life, warm, funny and sharp whether seen from the side of nerdy Sam Weir (John Francis Daley) and his pals or from that of his sister Lindsay (Linda Cardellini), as she tries to reinvent herself and befriend the school burnouts. Apatow's gone on to be the king of man-child comedy, but Lindsay's a wonderfully written female character, her failures even more poignant than her successes, whether she's befriending the terrifying Kim Kelly (Busy Philipps), getting serenaded by the sweet, constantly stoned Nick (Segal) or getting psychosomatically drunk on near beer.

'Terriers' FX

"Terriers": Created by Ted Griffin ("Ocean's Eleven"), with Shawn Ryan as showrunner, "Terriers" was one of the best recent shows you had to practically bribe people to watch. Whether it was due to the name, which suggested it had something to do with pet ownership, or the basic set-up of being about two unlicensed private detectives in Ocean Beach, which hints at USA Network-style disposability, the show had a lot of trouble attracting an audience during its 2010 run on FX, despite much critical acclaim. But despite the cases, both large and entertainingly small, that its two main characters took on, "Terriers" was always more a nuanced, charming drama about former cop Hank (Donal Logue) and former thief Britt (Michael Raymond-James) and their friendship as they navigated the show's noir-by-way-of-San-Diego-beaches universe, two ragged guys with more tenacity than brains who are constantly wearing out their welcome.

"Firefly": "Arrested Development" got a second life seven years after it was canceled, so maybe the devout fans of Joss Whedon's space western aren't so delusional as they hold out hope for the series coming back in some form even a decade after it was canceled by Fox in 2003. Nathan Fillion leads a likable ensemble as Mal Reynolds, a spaceship captain who's not afraid of smuggling the occasional good or taking on the occasional fugitive. "Firefly" managed to sketch out a very solid universe and mythology as seen from the perspective of its ragtag crew, a group of oddballs and outcasts with their own reasons for wanting to stay on the rougher edges of the galaxy. While the series only ran for 14 episodes, it did get a big screen adventure in "Serenity," which is also available to stream on Netflix, and which provides a larger scale look at the "Firefly" world, some traumatic character death and a satisfactory sense of closure. 

'Undeclared' Fox

"Undeclared": While it doesn't evoke the same kind of excruciating recognition and empathy as "Freaks and Geeks" frequently manages, Judd Apatow's equally ill-fated follow-up to the teen series centers itself on college for an amusing, intelligent written look at life in the dorms. Jay Baruchel stars as Steven, a geek whose attempts to redefine himself as he starts his freshman year at the fictional University of Northeastern California manage to allow him to lose his virginity to floor mate Lizzie (Carla Gallo), who he then pines after. A half-hour comedy that ran on Fox from 2001-2002, "Undeclared" captured the rhythms of dorm life and the friendships created by proximately very well, and in addition to bringing back "Freaks and Geeks" alums Seth Rogen, Jason Segel and Busy Philipps in different regular and guest roles provided a great platform for "Sons of Anarchy" star Charlie Hunnam as Steven's English roommate who's far more successful with the ladies.

"Caprica": This 2010 follow-up to Syfy's hit "Battlestar Galactica" is actually a prequel set before the destruction of most of humanity that sent the earlier show's survivors off in search of a new home. As such, despite coming from "Battlestar" producer Ronald D. Moore, it was very different, set in a flourishing, futuristic culture unknowingly engineering its own destruction as it approaches the creation of the Cylons with which mankind will eventually war. Engineered to be a more female friendly gateway into the "Battlestar" universe, "Caprica" never caught on and was certainly a more uneven offering, but one packed with fascinating ideas about faith, culture and, particularly, the nature of humanity as channeled through Zoe Graystone (Alessandra Torresani), the wealthy, rebellious teenage daughter of the prominent Graystone family whose virtual avatar lives on after the human who created her dies. 

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15 Comments

  • WellIGotIt! | November 29, 2013 9:51 PMReply

    Not available for streaming (that I'm aware of), but the Lisa Kudrow show The Comeback is a great one to binge watch. Valerie Cherish is a better crafted character than the one Kudrow created for Web Therapy, and it was such a prescient show. a bit ahead of its time.

  • Keil S. | November 29, 2013 12:19 PMReply

    My So-Called Life

  • bob hawk | December 2, 2013 2:28 AM

    My mother (who lived to be 97) was 85 when MY SO-CALLED LIFE aired. She was picky in what she chose to watch, but watched this every week because she felt it gave her real insight into what contemporary young people were like.She was definitely not happy that it only ran for one season.

  • Chris | November 28, 2013 6:31 AMReply

    Clone High needs to be up there

  • Josie | November 28, 2013 4:32 AMReply

    How about RUBICON? It should be top of the list. The best one-season show ever.

  • dreamlife613 | November 29, 2013 8:52 PM

    Definitely, this! Except for the season/series finale, which I thought was rushed, Rubicon was an excellent character study.

  • No | November 27, 2013 7:28 PMReply

    I remember watching Kolchak: the Night Stalker back in the period. I always thought that the story was situated in Las Vegas, not Chicago. Perhaps that was due to Darren McGavin's pork-a-pie straw hat and light colored suit.

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  • dweezler | November 27, 2013 2:35 PMReply

    I would also add Doctor Who to this list. That's what I've been binge watching since the "Day of the Doctor" premiered on Saturday.

  • jc | November 27, 2013 5:51 PM

    That has had a fair few more seasons then 1.

  • Jonesie | November 27, 2013 2:12 PMReply

    I am very confused. How is My So Called Life not on this list?

  • Ian Perge | November 29, 2013 12:41 PM

    As clearly stated in the opening paragraph, "My So-Called Life" ISN'T available in a Streaming format and cannot be "binge-watched", which is at least half of the premise of the article.

    As for shows, I'm going to throw a 1/2 comedy into the bag (okay, it got 2 half-seasons but that still fits) as the format has been shrinking since the late '90s - early '00s and the last gasps of "Must See TV" and name "Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23". Krysten Ritter (Jesse's "Jane" from Season 2 of "Breaking Bad") and James Van Der Beek playing "Fictionalized Himself" ala "Curb Your Enthusiasm" & "Entourage" with actual *adult* humor on a non-Cable Network (Party Girl Chloe tasting Midwestern June's backing supplies... "I suppose this'll ALWAYS be flour with you..." & the "It's Just Sex" Casual Sex-based episode: "Is that your vitamin?"... "Yeah, Vitamin C for Careless!") Clearly it was too good to last...

  • CHARLES BARKER | November 29, 2013 4:32 AM

    danes was in a lovely underrated dramedy 'POLISH WEDDING'