Kids TV shows are always a big deal to those who grew up with them. They’re also always controversial and hotly debated. Baby boomers think millennial’s kids' programming was awful, this generation of kids think millennial’s and baby boomer’s shows were boring, while millennials seem to think every kids' show is either great or terrible, it’s hard to tell.
What’s less controversial, though, is ganging up on silly TV executives that cancel classic shows from our youth for completely mind-blowing reasons. You’ll be surprised how many shows were canceled because the toys based on them didn’t sell. What’s more surprising are the shows that were canceled for being too popular. There have been some great TV shows over the years that were canceled for little to no reason, certainly no good reason. Some of these shows are coming back today thanks to that powerful wave of nostalgia that’s taking over society, but some of these shows are forever lost to time, sadly.
Today, we’re going to take a look at 20 Classic Kids Shows That Were Cancelled For Mind-Blowing Reasons. It was pretty difficult narrowing this list down to only 20 entries, but that’s for your own good. The human mind can only handle being blown away by bad decisions so many times before it’s blown out for good. Strap yourselves in, this is going to be a cringey one.
19 Prop Destruction
The original Adam West led 1960s Batman TV show was wildly popular, leaving a mark on culture to this day. Originally airing on ABC in January 1966, the show enjoyed a 3 season, 120 episode run.
But while the show was popular, it wasn’t popular enough for ABC to justify the high production cost. So in 1968, the show was canceled, but Executive Producer William Dozier wanted to keep the show going. Production came to a halt after the third season while Dozier shopped for a new home. He eventually found it at NBC, but there was one slight problem.
Either intentionally or accidentally, production crews at ABC destroyed every prop and set for the show after it was canceled. NBC wanted those original sets and props for both continuity and to keep costs down, and without them, NBC reneged on the deal, putting an end to the show for good.
18 One Bad Movie
For three seasons between 2002 and 2006, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron was one of the most popular shows on Nickelodeon. Basically an updated Dexter’s Laboratory, Jimmy Neutron starred the titular boy genius through his adventures through fifth grade, dealing with his idiot friends and his robot dog.
Jimmy Neutron was made by the production company DNA Productions. They had a long history dating back to 1991, but other than this show, they hadn’t had much success. Case in point: look at their feature-length original film The Ant Bully, released in 2006.
The Ant Bully bombed in theaters, costing $50 million to make and only grossing $55 million. It bombed so hard that DNA Productions was actually forced to go out of business. Nickelodeon mulled taking over production themselves, but they deemed it would be too costly.
17 Warner Bros. At It Again
Back in the 90s and early 2000s, the DC Animated Universe was a series of shows based on comic book superheroes that all existed in the same universe. It was also massively successful.
While technically independent of this universe, Teen Titans still showed why DC was the king of superhero cartoons back then. With great characters, fantastic writing, and themes that weren’t too kid-ified, but not over-the-top grim-dark either, this show as a winner.
The series was set to return for a sixth season, with the fifth ending in a cliffhanger, but it was never to be. According to Wil Wheaton, the voice of Aqualad, new bosses came in at Warner Bros. and forced the Teen Titans producers to give season six to them. Apparently, these Warner executives didn’t like what they had planned and declined to greenlight the show for another season.
16 Too Much To Handle
Aaahh!!! Real Monsters was basically the precursor to Monsters Inc. and its sequel Monsters University. It featured a group of monsters attending monster school, learning how to scare humans because that’s just what monsters do. The show aired on Nickelodeon from 1994 to 1997 over four seasons.
It was a pretty popular show, and like any good show, it evolved over time. Unlike Pinky and the Brain, however, these changes weren’t brought on by executive meddling, rather the producers and writers of the show themselves thinking they were best for the show. These changes made the show much darker and grosser, similar to Ren & Stimpy.
But that didn’t mean executives from Nickelodeon didn’t meddle, why else would the show make this list? Higher-ups at Nick felt the show was getting too dark for its intended child audience, and thus pulled the plug.
15 Those Darn Old Folks
Don’t you just hate those crusty old 17-year-olds? Always talking about their iPhone Xs and eating Tide Pods when the rest of us young folk are on our iPhone 57s and eating gluten-free sawdust.
That was pretty much Nickelodeon’s mindset when they pulled the plug on Clarissa Explains It All in 1994, after five successful seasons of the teenage angst-driven show. Having turned 17 in 1993, Nick execs thought star Melissa Joan Hart was suddenly too old to appeal to a teenage audience.
Considering the reasons other shows on this list were canceled, that’s pretty crazy. The show was pretty edgy for its time, staring a teenage girl who openly talked about her first time using a training bra, stealing lingerie, and even talking about her drive in some later episodes. To think the organizations that ran Garbage Pail Kids off the air were fine with that.
We just talked about a show that was canceled because it couldn’t get a toy line, so what if I told you another show got canceled because it did get one? That was, more or less, the case of Escape from Jurassic Park, a planned 1993 cartoon series based on the blockbuster movie line.
The show was canceled before it ever aired, but production was well underway when the plug was pulled. It would have featured state of the art animation techniques and was aimed at a slightly older audience compared to most cartoons. The show even had Steven Spielberg on as a producer. It was the director himself pulled the plug on the show because he was tired of the over-commercialization of Jurassic Park at the time. Unlike his colleague George Lucas with Star Wars, he wasn’t having any of it with Jurassic Park.
13 Too Popular With Families
Family Double Dare was a spinoff of the original Double Dare, go figure. This iteration of the show featured an entire family on a team instead of just kids. Other than that, the show was pretty much exactly the same.
The biggest difference though was the network. Family Double Dare lived on Fox. According to a 1988 article in the Philadelphia Enquirer, the show was canceled either due to the classic “creative differences,” or, according to one source, “because Fox didn’t think it was a good lead into their show The Reporters.
Those creative differences turned out to be a fight between Fox and Nick about the direction of the show. Nick wanted this version of the show to stay focused on the kids, but Fox wanted it to be more about the whole family. Fox eventually gave up after only a few shows and canceled the whole thing.
12 Space Age Disaster
The Young Astronauts is another cartoon that never saw the light of day. Intended to first air in February 1986 for CBS, The Young Astronauts centered around a young boy who accidentally found his way into a space shuttle and was taken into outer space. Ah, the simplicity of 80s cartoon shows.
Little is known about the show other than it was produced by Marvel Productions. What is known is why it got pulled before it ever even aired.
On January 28, 1986, the world watched in horror as the Space Shuttle Challenger carrying seven astronauts, including a school teacher, exploded in mid-air before leaving the atmosphere, killing everyone on board. It was a national tragedy, the effects of which are still felt to this day. In the wake of this, CBS and Marvel decided to quietly cancel The Young Astronauts mere weeks before its intended debut.
11 Baby Bye, Bye, Bye
Zoey 101 was a live-action show on Nickelodeon spanning four seasons from 2005 to 2008. It stared Britney Spears’ sister Jamie Lynn Spears as the titular Zoey. Zoey was the first female student allowed to attend the once boys only Pacific Coast Academy, and the show follows the wacky hijinks of whatever it is teenagers do these days.
The show got mixed reviews from critics but was a massive hit with kids. Its premiere was most watched live-action Nick show in a decade, one episode, Goodbye Zoey?, was once the highest rated show ever on the channel with over 7 million viewers. Its final episode even beat out American Idol, which was huge back then.
So why would Nick cancel such a popular show? Because star Jamie Lynn Spears got pregnant at 16. Not wanting to somehow sully the Nickelodeon brand, they cut ties with Spears and her popular TV show.
10 Just A Few Protests
The Garbage Pail Kids was originally a trading card series that featured disgusting, mutated children. Each card had an image of a baby that was horrific, either for its putrid factor or somewhat rough nature.
A show was ordered by CBS in 1987, and was set to debut on American TV that year. However, the show was protested by several major organizations, including Action for Children's Television and the Christian Leaders for Responsible Television. This caused several advertisers, including Crayola and McDonalds, to back out of the show as well.
The cause of the protest was partly due to the sick nature of the series, but also because it was said the show ridiculed the handicapped and glorified bad behavior. The show was pulled from air mere days before its debut in the US. Despite this, all 13 episodes of the first (and only) season aired in Canada, and parts of Europe and Asia.
9 Unrealistic Fever Dreams
How much is too much? How much is not enough? That’s a question big companies are always wrestling with. Such was the case with Disney and their popular cartoon series Gargoyles. The show followed a group of gargoyles: stone statues by day, ancient creatures fighting evil by night. It was truly a great show and was pretty successful during its three-season run. The problem was, it wasn’t successful enough.
Gargoyles producer Greg Weisman said, “It did well enough to the degree that it could be considered a hit,” he said, “but Disney really wanted it to outdo Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and it failed to succeed at that.”
That’s right, a show about statues coming to life and fighting evil didn’t top a campy show about teenagers in tights fighting ninjas, so it was canned.
Who doesn’t love Pinky and the Brain? It was a huge success, and it lasted 30 seasons and is still on-going to this day. Okay, that didn’t happen, but that is what’s happening with The Simpsons. What does the show about Homer have to do with Pinky and the Brain? The Simpsons was massively popular by 1997, and producers on Pinky and the Brian figured this was because it was an ensemble show. So, they forced Pinky creators to completely overhaul the formula.
The comedy duo was adopted by Elmyra from Tiny Toon Adventures, and another mouse, Larry, was thrown in as well. Elmyra was a deeply unlikable, annoying brat and drove fans away by the truckload. Eventually, after only one season with these changes, the show was canceled due to poor viewership.
7 Those Darn Even Older Folks
Nickelodeon must not really like older people very much because Invader Zim is another example of a show getting canceled because of what they deemed to be “old age.” Invader Zim is considered a classic cartoon, even though it only lasted two seasons. The reason was that it was funny, weird, strange, and just the right kind of dark.
Nick actually agreed with this, and for the second season they wanted the creators to make the show even darker, weirder, and grosser. Their hope was this move would make the show appeal to a teenage audience. Unfortunately, the changes did make the audience older, just too old for Nick.
The show became very popular with adults in its second season. The thing about adults is, they don’t buy toys. Nothing stands between a TV network and its toy line.
6 Growing Up
Who doesn’t love Rugrats? Following the adventures of baby Tommy Pickles and his friends and family, Rugrats was one of the most successful cartoon shows of all time. It was also Nickelodeons longest running show, clocking in at 172 episodes between 1991 and 2004 until it was dethroned by SpongeBob SquarePants in 2012. Why would any network cancel such a classic like Rugrats? For its spin-off, All Grown Up, of course.
All Grown Up was the continuation of the Rugrats story, moving forward in time over a decade to when Tommy and his friends are preteens. A backdoor pilot for the show in a regular Rugrats episode was highly rated, so Nick decided to push all their resources into producing All Grown Up. Sadly, this meant pulling the plug on the original Rugrats. Despite good initial reviews, All Grown Up floundered through five mediocre seasons before being put down for good in 2008.
5 Nickelodeon Got Greedy, Then Petty
Hey Arnold! was a cartoon that focused on a 50-year-old man with an American football-shaped pretending to be a middle school kid doing stuff. Nevertheless, the show was a hit, and is still part of culture today thanks to Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie a few months ago. It ran for five seasons and was really popular, you know the spiel by now.
Why Hey Arnold! was canceled is yet another embarrassment for Nickelodeon. The show’s creator, Craig Bartlett, was a hot commodity after producing years’ worth of the beloved, highly rated show. He started writing for Johnny Bravo, a Cartoon Network show, and Nick wasn’t pleased. They demanded he work exclusively for them, and when he refused, the network canceled Hey Arnold! out of spite. It took Nick four whole years to air the final handful of episodes.
4 A Rough Falling Out Between Stars
When it debuted in 2013, it looked like Sam and Cat was a sure thing for Nickelodeon. It was a spinoff of two popular shows, featuring two popular characters: Sam from iCarly, and Cat from Victorious. The show was canceled after only one season.
These days, the idea of the show seems ludicrous. Take two popular young women who were both becoming major stars and shove them together in a show. What could go wrong? A lot, it turns out. Rumors swirled that stars Jennette McCurdy and Ariana Grande feuded from almost day one. And, why it almost seems silly today, Ariana Grande is now a world-famous singer, eclipsing the quaint little kids' show in comparison.
It all came to a head when photos of Jennette McCurdy surfaced online. Not wanting to somehow tarnish their kid-friendly image, Nick put the show on hiatus and later canceled the show outright.
3 Nobody’s Toying With You
Sym-Bionic was a short-lived cartoon series by Genndy Tartakovsky, aka the guy who created Samurai Jack. It was a fairly standard Saturday morning cartoon kind of show, set in a high school where three kids controlled giant robots and fought other robots. Still, it was competitive with other shows during its time slot. So why did it get canceled after only 20 episodes? According to an anonymous source within Cartoon Network speaking to The Animation Guild Blog, it’s because the network failed to secure a toy line for the show.
“Titan got competitive ratings with other action shows,” the source said, “but what shut it down was it didn’t have enough toys connected to it. If you don’t have the [toy sales], the studios don’t want to renew for another season.”
Do kids even buy toys anymore?
2 Three Fun Five You
Reading Rainbow was a PBS show running from 1983 all the way up to 2006. It was an educational show, but rather than teaching kids how to read, it instead taught the value of reading and the joy and knowledge that can come from doing so.
In 2001, then US President George W. Bush passed the No Child Left Behind Act. Basically, this policy changed how education was viewed in the United States. Less of an emphasis was placed on making learning fun and instead shifted over to teaching as much as possible as quickly as possible.
This put a lot of previously government-funded educational TV shows in the crosshair, one of which was the beloved Reading Rainbow. Under the government’s new policy, and the impending 2008 Great Recession, the show wasn’t deemed important enough to fund. Without any financial backing, the show was forced off the air.
1 Too Popular With Girls
Young Justice was basically an edgier version of Teen Titans, even featuring many of the same characters. It was set in the DC Universe but kicked things up a notch. Young Justice instead tackled things in a much edgier way than Teen Titans.
But Cartoon Network saw one massive flaw with the show: it was too popular with girls. In an interview with Kevin Smith, longtime DC Animation producer, claimed that Cartoon Network didn’t like how large the show’s female audience was because “they don’t buy toys” based off the show. Cartoon Network has, of course, denied this, but with massive critical success and a large viewership, it’s hard to figure out why else such a popular show would get the hook.
Luckily the show is coming back as Young Justice: Outsiders, however Cartoon Network is not part of its revival.
Not Fit For Television
You know what would make a great idea for a TV show? Take a bunch of kids, aged 8-15, and throw them into the middle of a barren desert with nothing but the clothes on their back and some cameras, and see what happens!
That’s what somebody at CBS thought, and they went ahead and ordered a full season. Called Kid Nation, the show took a bunch of kids, dropped them off in a small, privately-owned and abandoned desert village in New Mexico, and forced them to survive on their own; no parents, no adults, no food, no water, nothing.
As you could imagine, this didn’t go over well. The show was roundly criticized, advertisers pulled out, and legal inquirers were even made. After one season, CBS finally realized this might not be a great idea, and canceled it.