Freaks and Geeks - The best written, cast, and executed teenage comedy to have ever been put on television, no doubt, and it was canceled after just one season. There is not one forgettable episode in this extremely authentic-feeling and naturally but brilliantly acted Judd Apatow comedy. What makes up for our not being allowed more than 18 episodes is the extensive film career creator Apatow was later to have–and that we now currently enjoy.
Twin Peaks - It was spiraling out of control, surely, but it was a one of a kind program that delivered on so many levels, specifically ones of which no other show ever dreamed. Rich with David Lynch narrative, humor, and insane characters, its mere two seasons should make anyone's top list.
Deadwood - Headed for the ultimate showdown, the HBO western was canceled after just three seasons. It should have been left to play out, but it wasn't, and we were denied more of Ian McShane's nasty but irresistable saloon owner Al Swearengen.
- The Wire - Although the HBO drama already had five seasons under its belt, it was still much too early to cancel one of the best series put on television. Complex characters, attention to narrative detail, political weight, racial and social diversity, great writing, and talented character actors left us wanting more.
The Office (British version) - Pushing the envelope per usual, Ricky Gervais masterminded and perfectly executed this daring and insanely funny sitcom that saw life for only two short, 6-episode seasons (and two Christmas specials). The North American, water-downed version, is what we have to now satisfy ourselves with, but there was nothing quite like the original.
Arrested Development - Consistenly funny and narratively creative, this was a perfect display of comedic talent in writing and acting. Hilarious scenarios played out by a very able cast made this one of the best, if not the best, comedies on television.
- Rome - This lavish HBO period drama was too costly to continue, but its million-dollar budget was much appreciated while it aired. Great character actors, sets, narrative, writing, and action made this 12-episode 2-season series one of the most fun to watch.
My So Called Life - No other show captured teen angst in the 90s better than this MTV drama starring actors who played their own age – for once – and were so natural in their every awkward and insecure gesture and glance.
Carnivale - Probably the oddest of HBO's creations, this story of a bunch of supernaturally talented "freaks" was never allowed to complete itself, or even move beyond its first incredible shock of narrative.
- Rubicon - It started out slow, began to gain momentum, finished on a high note, and then was put to rest forever. We'll never know what becomes of Will Travers, but it was fun watching him and his oddball team sweat over patterns and conspiracies for that one measley season.
- Flash Forward - Just recently canceled at the end of last year, this suspense thriller with sci-fi bits was indeed a very fast-paced, action-packed and fun experience, while it lasted. It wasn't perfect and lacked on the drama end, but it did most of what it aimed to do and provided surprising scenarios episode after episode, skillfully keeping the game up.
Have any more series to add to the list? Disagree with my choices? Feel free to agree/disagree or just put in a word by leaving a comment below.
Thanks for the comments - and keep them coming! When enough additions enter my TV reality, I'll make a Part II list. For now, I'll let you know the names of those shows - as I fall in love with them - that I would definitely include in that list: Veronica Mars, Party Down....