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The 25 Best One-Season Television Shows of the Last 25 Years

From teen drama to hard sci-fi to oddball romance, these are the great shows that deserved more time on screen.

<< Picks 17-11

10. “Luck” (2012)

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by HBO/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5882949l) Dennis Farina, Dustin Hoffman Luck Hbo USA Television Tv Classics

There was a time when “Luck” was destined to be the next great HBO drama series. David Milch, having already delivered one of HBO’s best series with “Deadwood,” was the creative force behind the scenes, a passion project about the insider world of horse racing. The material was so good it lured Dustin Hoffman to the small screen, and it included names like Michael Mann, Terry George, and Mimi Leder on its director roster. The show was seven episodes into its well-reviewed debut season when news got out that two horses had to be euthanized on set during filming. Under a storm of controversy from PETA, HBO canceled the series despite having already renewed it for a 10-episode second season. The remaining first season episodes aired, providing a riveting groundwork for the series that would never be able to be paid off. Hoffman, as the ex-con who enters the underworld of horse race gambling to get revenge on the associates who wronged him, would’ve certainly had an Emmy coming his way.

9. “The Grinder” (2015-2016)

The Grinder Grinds Harder Rob Lowe

Despite our best efforts here at IndieWire to get FOX to #KeepGrinding, Rob Lowe’s meta-comedy sitcom “The Grinder” unfortunately got the axe after its first 22-episode run. The show started with one of the season’s best pilots, following Rob Lowe as an actor from a popular legal drama who thinks he can make it as a real lawyer, and it developed into one of the best comedies on TV over its first dozen episodes. “The Grinder” succeeded triumphantly because of Rob Lowe’s vigorous energy in the title role and because of the writing’s inventive commentary on genre storytelling. The show’s easy target was the legal drama, but it eventually broadened into a look at the family sitcom by going deeper into its characters’ predicaments. This is one series cancellation we’re still heartbroken over.

8. “Enlisted” (2014)

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by 20th Century Fox TV/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5882593a) Parker Young, Geoff Stults, Angelique Cabral, Chris Lowell, Keith David Enlisted - 2014 20th Century Fox TV USA TV Portrait Tv Classics

This comedy about three military brothers serving stateside was a classic example of a show taking on a tricky topic for comedy…and actually largely succeeding, thanks to whipsmart and snappy dialogue delivered by a talented cast, including Geoff Stults, Chris Lowell, Parker Young, Angelique Cabral, and Keith David. With more time, “Enlisted” could have found an audience, but sadly went unrecognized for its charm.

7. “Clone High” (2002–2003)

Clone High

This weirdo marvel of a series was the first early indication of the genius that is writing and directing team Phil Lord and Chris Miller… and of course, it’s gone criminally unrecognized in the ensuing years. MTV let the guys behind “The Lego Movie,” “21 Jump Street,” and more partner with “Scrubs” creator Bill Lawrence to make 13 episodes of a TV show about a high school filled with the clones of famous figures from history, including Abraham Lincoln (Will Forte), Joan of Arc (Nicole Sullivan), Cleopatra (Christa Miller), Gandhi (Michael McDonald) and more. It was nothing we’d ever seen before, and would ever likely see again.

6. “Undeclared” (2001–2002)

Watching “Undeclared” today, the first word that comes to mind, honestly, is “cute.” The members of the cast (the men at least, anyway) are now extremely well known actors, from Jay Baruchel to Charlie Hunnam to Seth Rogen and more. But this show captures them over 15 years ago, and so their talents and charms are still very much recognizable. But they’re also as nascent as creator Judd Apatow’s talents as a showrunner and producer, which we’ve only seen blossom in the years following. It’s genuinely intriguing how many shows on this list fall into an ahead-of-their-time category — “Undeclared” would fit right in as a streaming Netflix series today.

Finally, a top five which includes ballerinas, space cowboys and teens…

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