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"Buffy" creator Joss Whedon has said that "Firefly," which aired on FOX in 2002, was his favorite project.
© FOX
Canceled TV Shows (con't)

7. "Sports Night" (ABC)
Premiered: September 1998
Cancelled: May 2000

Imagine if David Mamet wrote for "SportsCenter," and you've got an idea of "Sports Night." Focusing on the relationships and problems of a staff for an underdog sports network, this show-within-a-show featured staccato, sharp-tongued dialogue, moved at a feverish pace and quickly established itself as one of the smartest "sitcoms" on TV. "Sports Night" was the first television brainchild of creator Aaron Sorkin ("The West Wing") and followed in the footsteps of such comedies as "The Larry Sanders Show," even shunning a laugh track during its early episodes until the network demanded canned yuks. The show benefited from a stellar cast including Peter Krause (pre-"Six Feet Under") and Josh Charles as the co-news anchors, Felicity Huffman as news director and Krause's prickly love interest, and Robert Guillaume (post-"Benson") as the beleaguered executive producer. While the show topped critic's lists during its two year run, both audiences and ABC didn't know what to make of it. The show was hard to find during its second season, and then simply disappeared. You can now own the entire 45 show run on DVD and discover one of the greatest shows no one saw.

6. "Firefly" (FOX)
Premiered: September 2002
Cancelled: December 2002

Joss Whedon, creator of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel," has said that "Firefly" was his favorite project. Of course, it's often easier to love your most troubled child. "Firefly" was screwed from the start and never recovered. When Whedon approached FOX with the idea of creating a western set in space four hundred years in the future, the network immediately gave TV's brightest mind his new genre-bending show. But they resisted his two-hour pilot, which methodically set up character relationships and backgrounds, pressuring Whedon to deliver an action-packed, hour-long debut, effectively tying the creator's hands before the show even hit the air. Scheduling the series on Friday nights amounted to a ratings death sentence, and FOX then deemed production costs too high to continue the show, airing only 11 of the 14 episodes filmed. Despite its brief run, Whedon-aholics embraced it and fought to keep it on the air. After watching the DVD box set, it's easy to see why. All of Whedon's fingerprints are there: The witty dialogue, the quirky premises and dark exploration of human fallacy that made "Buffy" brilliant found their way to this space drama.

5. "NewsRadio" (NBC)
Premiered: March 1995
Cancelled: July 1999

Unlike most shows on this list, "NewsRadio" notched a respectable network run, earning decent ratings and die-hard fans. Instead, it was the murder of central cast member Phil Hartman, as arrogant news anchor Bill McNeal, that spelled doom for the remarkably funny sitcom. The premise is simple: It follows a group of oddballs that make up the staff of all news radio station WNYX and their day to day issues while at the office, mocking corporate hell long before current critical darling "The Office." What makes "NewsRadio" stand out from most sitcoms is the hilarious and intelligent writing (shepherded by former "Larry Sanders" producer Paul Simms), and a cast of comedians that understood the importance of timing. Dave Foley (of "Kids in the Hall"), Andy Dick, Vickie Lewis, Stephen Root, Joe Rogan and Maura Tierney created beautiful chemistry and you can count on about half a dozen laugh out loud moments per episode. How many sitcoms can say the same thing? The show struggled after Hartman's death, continuing for one more season before NBC finally pulled the plug.

4. "Family Guy" (FOX)
Premiered: January 1999
Cancelled: 2001

It may sound like heresy, but given a choice between "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy," give me "Family Guy." Few shows have pushed the PC envelope as far as Seth MacFarlane's "Family Guy." Watch it and you'll gasp, chin hitting your chest, thinking, "How the hell did this ever get on the air?" The animated comedy took on racial and social stereotypes with reckless, lethal aplomb. The Griffins were truly a dysfunctional family: You had a cocaine-snorting, talking dog, a baby obsessed with world domination, and a patriarch that makes Homer look like the guy who wrote "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey." Though many found the show offensive, its demented love of pop culture and prodding of taboos also found it a fiercely loyal, cult following. How loyal? Just recently "Family Guy" became probably the only show to get renewed after it was cancelled. The success of all three seasons on DVD, plus nightly airings on the Cartoon Channel, made FOX realize they had a hit that they never supported. New episodes reportedly will resume by 2005.

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