While shows like “Mad Men” often land on lists of must-see television, we understand that people aren’t always inclined to watch seven seasons of a drama known for being slow and troubling. (“It’s worth it!” we plead.) We are a nation of snackers, of small-plates restaurants, of media companies that insist on serving us bite-size entertainment. A fear of commitment is only natural.

Lucky for everyone, there are a number of quality series out there that, whether due to their untimely cancellations or limited formats, cater to that very fear. If our current situation has left you with some extra time on your hands, consider watching one — or seven! — of these 22 shows that lasted only a season each. This list is entirely subjective, of course, and includes only shows that are readily available on streaming platforms. (We miss you, “Freaks and Geeks.”)


American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson” (2016): Of the two installments that exist so far in the “American Crime Story” anthology series, the season centered on the O.J. Simpson trial is arguably the stronger pick. Featuring an oddly successful hodgepodge cast — Cuba Gooding Jr., Courtney B. Vance, Sarah Paulson, Sterling K. Brown, John Travolta and David Schwimmer, among others — “The People vs. O.J.” won a total of nine Emmy Awards.

Crashing” (2016): Just months before she introduced the world to “Fleabag,” Phoebe Waller-Bridge played the impulsive Lulu in this show about a chaotic group of 20-somethings serving as the property guardians of an unused English hospital. It’s six episodes, each under a half-hour.

I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson” (2019): Not only did this comedy series produce one of the best sketches of the past two decades — “I think it’s a good idea, and I stand by!” — but it’s easily pausable for those of you with hectic quarantine lives. (We’re cheating a little here, given that the show will eventually get a second season. Its absurdity is just too good not to share.)

Russian Doll” (2019): Gotta get up, gotta stay in, gotta stay home and watch “Ruuussian Doll.” What if I’m late, that’s a mistake, there’s no sense of time in “Ruuussian Doll.” (This show was also renewed for a second season, though the first can stand alone.)

Tuca and Bertie” (2019): Multiple shows on this list lasted only a single season because they were tragically canceled before they could find an audience. “Tuca and Bertie,” a thoughtful look at a pair of cartoon bird friends and their internal struggles, is one of those shows.

When They See Us” (2019): If you haven’t yet had the chance to watch Ava DuVernay’s telling of the injustices faced by the Central Park Five, now is the time to do so. Just take the word of our television critic, Hank Stuever, who described it in his glowing review as the “kind of miniseries you get when the right showrunner assembles the right team and right performers with the unequivocating intent to correct an important story that many people still get wrong.”

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Good Girls Revolt” (2016): While not a perfect show, “Good Girls Revolt" makes for a compelling watch. It deals with a discrimination lawsuit brought against Newsweek magazine by female journalists in 1970 and, premiering in the fraught lead-up to the 2016 election, resonated quite a bit.

Forever” (2018): This is one of those shows best entered blind. So as not to ruin anything, let’s just say that the show Stuever called “exquisite” stars the dynamic duo of Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph, meditates on the meaning of marriage and lifelong commitment, and manages to be funny all the while.

I Love Dick” (2017): Speaking of marriage, how about the unraveling of one? This “Rashomon-style” show, which shifts points of view, follows a pair of artists (Griffin Dunne and the always brilliant Kathryn Hahn) and each of their fascinations with the title character, played by Kevin Bacon.


The Act” (2019)” This true-crime drama deals with the recent past, based on a 2016 BuzzFeed article about a murder that took place the year before. Emmy winner Patricia Arquette stars as the murder victim, Dee Dee Blanchard, a woman accused of abusing her daughter, Gypsy Rose (Joey King), by fabricating her illnesses and disabilities as a result of Munchausen syndrome by proxy.

Bunheads” (2012): Chances are you already know who the Bunheads are in your life, because they will have made their obsession clear. The show stars Sutton Foster as a Vegas showgirl who marries a shortly lived man named Hubbell Flowers (Alan Ruck), moves to his California town and winds up teaching ballet alongside her new mother-in-law (Kelly Bishop). “Bunheads” is a natural pick for anyone who loved “Gilmore Girls,” given that they were both created by Amy Sherman-Palladino.

Firefly” (2002): Much like “Bunheads,” “Firefly” picked up a cult following during its original run. Falling squarely in the space western genre, the Joss Whedon series takes place 500 years in the future and centers on the crew (led by Nathan Fillion’s character) and passengers of a ship called Serenity.

Pride and Prejudice” (1995): Now that Tom Wambsgans is close to surpassing Mr. Darcy as the character most often recalled upon hearing Matthew Macfadyen’s name, Colin Firth is once again the reigning brooder. Just re-watch the famous lake scene if you need further convincing.

Terriers” (2010): Ultimately axed over low ratings, “Terriers” managed to land on a number of critics’s year-end lists. The A.V. Club wrote years later that its “perfect one-season run defied description”; Stuever called it “effortlessly smart” and his “favorite crime show.” Our best attempt is to call it a neo-noir dramedy about a troubled former cop and his ex-con best friend.


Big Little Lies” (2017): Yes, there is a second season of “Big Little Lies.” But it certainly didn’t need one. Initially designed as a limited series, this tale of Monterey mothers played by Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Zoë Kravitz and Laura Dern explores heavy topics such as murder, spousal abuse and adultery — and does so with a welcome serving of bougie drama.

Chernobyl” (2019): Last year’s water-cooler series about the 1986 nuclear disaster was so widely watched that the Ukrainian site became an official tourist destination. It stars “Mad Men” alum Jared Harris, who landed Golden Globe and Emmy nominations for his “Chernobyl” role.

John Adams” (2008): Yeah, okay. But how can you say no to Paul Giamatti playing a grunting John Adams? Or Laura Linney as Abigail Adams? Justin Theroux as John Hancock? Enjoy this trip back to the late 18th century, directed by Tom Hooper a full decade before he cursed us with “Cats.”

Olive Kitteridge” (2015): “Olive Kitteridge” dominated at the Emmys — winning eight of the 13 awards for which it was nominated — but suffers from what could be called the “Kominsky Method” disease, which afflicts shows that achieve some sort of noticeable success despite the average person having no idea what they’re about. This particular miniseries consists of four parts and, based on a 2008 novel of the same name, chronicles a 25-year relationship between a misanthropic woman (Frances McDormand) and her sweet husband (Richard Jenkins).

Sharp Objects” (2018): Based on a novel by Gillian Flynn (“Gone Girl”), this thriller stars Amy Adams as a crime reporter who suffers from alcoholism and, recently discharged from a psych facility, returns to her Missouri hometown to report on a pair of murders. Patricia Clarkson plays her socialite mother, and Eliza Scanlen plays her half sister. Both Adams and Clarkson were nominated for Emmys.

Watchmen” (2019): Designed as a sort of sequel to the Dave Gibbons/Alan Moore comic, the “Watchmen” series takes place in the modern day and, instead of Cold War anxieties, explores the implications of masked vigilantism through a story of racial injustices. The season, starring Regina King in the lead role, stands alone. HBO seems to be treating “Watchmen” as a limited series and has no plans to renew it, especially given that showrunner Damon Lindelof announced he has no intention of helming another season.


My So-Called Life” (1994): This series, starring a pre-Juliet Claire Danes as the angst-filled teen Angela Chase, is often cited as one of the most authentic coming-of-age shows to air on broadcast television. It managed to avoid high school cliches while navigating Angela’s relationships, whether with her parents, spunky friends or heartthrob crush, Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto).

Trophy Wife” (2013): In hindsight, it seems silly that a comedy starring Malin Akerman as Bradley Whitford’s much-younger wife was scrapped after just one season. Perhaps it was plagued by the title, which, while obviously meant to be tongue-in-cheek, didn’t quite get at the show’s clever humor.

This post has been updated.

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