1-2 season run TV series with satisfying conclusions?
April 26, 2014 12:49 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for series that were cancelled after 1 or 2 seasons but also managed to end with a satisfying conclusion. My husband and I like these while we fill in empty space waiting for the next season of Castle to be out on DVD.

What we've both liked so far:
Firefly (+ the movie)
Daybreak (watching this now and like it so far)

We have Kidnapped but we have not watched that yet.

What I've liked that I don't think he would:

I watched most of the first season of Lie to Me and liked that enough to buy all 3 seasons. I don't know if he will like that one. I actually don't know how that ends, either. I'll have to look it up before I watch it all.

My definition of a satisfying conclusion is that things are wrapped up, whatever mystery present is solved, etc.

I have seen this and it was not helpful, as there is no mention of the endings/conclusions.

Any genre is fine, though he will not be keen on a strong romantic element.
posted by AllieTessKipp to Media & Arts (65 answers total) 69 users marked this as a favorite
The Killing: Who Killed Rosie Larson
posted by Sassyfras at 12:52 PM on April 26, 2014 [10 favorites]

The original UK version of Life on Mars?
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:54 PM on April 26, 2014 [18 favorites]

Lie to Me was awesome. Touch is a great show starring Keifer Sutherland. I also really liked Pushing Daisies, bonus: Lee Pace is gorgeous and sweet and swooooooon-worthy :)
posted by lunastellasol at 12:57 PM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

"Freaks and Geeks", for sure if you haven't seen it. Even though it was canceled after 1 season, they were pretty sure they were going to be canceled so the final couple episodes reflect that. (And it's on Netflix Instant.)
posted by skynxnex at 1:01 PM on April 26, 2014 [15 favorites]

Have you checked out this question? Doesn't necessarily have the 1-2 season constraints, but otherwise might give some ideas. My suggestion there of Spaced still applies here, I think.
posted by catch as catch can at 1:02 PM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Life was mentioned in the other thread. Two seasons and a great conclusion.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:05 PM on April 26, 2014 [13 favorites]

The Riches -- Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver.

Do you guys like Sorkin? Are you fans of TWW? If so, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip without a doubt.

Pushing Daisies.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:06 PM on April 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

Ms. Fisher's Murder Mysteries entertained me for one season via Netflix.

Leverage did too, but that's a few more seasons. Nice ending.
posted by inevitability at 1:08 PM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Harper's Island. It starts off cheesy but gets really suspenseful and engrossing.
posted by southern_sky at 1:10 PM on April 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Land Girls, via Netflix. There are actually three seasons, but the latter two are wildly inferior, and the story of the first season is handily wrapped up.
posted by Sara C. at 1:16 PM on April 26, 2014

posted by dogmom at 1:18 PM on April 26, 2014 [14 favorites]

Seconding Life - only two seasons, very satisfying conclusion, even if it came too soon for me.
posted by rtha at 1:20 PM on April 26, 2014

It's three seasons, but: Arrested Development.

If you can find it, the unfortunately one-season Rubicon was amazing.
posted by General Malaise at 1:36 PM on April 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

I don't think Pushing Daisies concluded well, and it's got a pretty strong romantic element. We loved Damages, though it's longer. You could stop after the first two seasons though, if you were inclined. Better Off Ted is good, and I've liked nearly all the Netflix originals like Hemlock Grove and Lillyhammer and they're all pretty short and decently resolved...if i recall correctly!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 1:39 PM on April 26, 2014

Rubicon was amazing.

The Riches had a crappy ending - sorry, yo.


Came in to suggest House of Cards, BBC version. It's only 12 episodes, total. It's sometimes dry but there is A LOT in there to think about, discuss, and digest.
posted by jbenben at 2:12 PM on April 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

"Terriers," "Terriers," "Terriers," maybe "Freaks and Geeks" and most definitely "Terriers."
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:18 PM on April 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

American Horror Story. Each season is different and wraps up well, mini-series style, so you can have your pick.
posted by DeltaForce at 2:27 PM on April 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Dollhouse starts slow, stick with it until ep 6 (man on the street), and concludes epically.
Bunheads is slice of life (driven by character arcs) and ends in a good place.
posted by Tobu at 2:50 PM on April 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Bonobothegreat suggests a UK TV show, there may be others that would fit your bill since the UK has a different pattern for its TV shows.

US wise 'Life' had a culmination at the end of season 1 which pretty much killed it. there is a season 2 but not that interesting in terms of longer themes.
posted by biffa at 2:53 PM on April 26, 2014

Broadchurch is a UK murder mystery and I thought it was amazing! It's not too long to watch, wraps up in a way that feels final and the acting and mystery are both great.
posted by GilvearSt at 2:54 PM on April 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

One of the things that's distinctive about anime is that it is the norm for a one-cour or two-cour series to have a satisfactory ending that wraps things up. You do get series which are intended to run forever (or until the sponsor money runs out, such as Detective Conan and One Piece) but most series are not like that.

In many cases they have a satisfactory ending but also have potential for sequels if the BD sales justify it, but often they don't even have that.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:58 PM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding the UK version of Life on Mars; a very tight two seasons.
posted by adrianhon at 3:00 PM on April 26, 2014

Huff (Hank Azaria as a psychiatrist)

both two seasons long, both wrap up neatly (though the 2nd half of s2 of rome is a bit accelerated as they got cancelled partway through writing).
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:40 PM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh and every series of Prime Suspect UK is a self-contained six-episode story. Some may be eight, can't remember.

Slings & Arrows is an absolutely hilarious sendup of Canada's Stratford Festival. It's three seasons but only 18 episodes, so might fit your bill.

Carnivale is a sort of American Dustbowl Gothic that more or less resolves itself in two seasons.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:44 PM on April 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Friday Night Lights
posted by biscotti at 3:45 PM on April 26, 2014

Season one of Veronica Mars is like a neat little contained example of a perfect season of television. Very satisfying conclusion to a season-long mystery arc.

True Detective. It'll be out on dvd in early June, and is very satisfying.
posted by lovecrafty at 3:50 PM on April 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

My So-Called Life. The final episode doesn't perfectly wrap things up in a tidy package with "The End" stamped on it (as mentioned/debated in the previous question - the writers didn't know whether there would be a second season), but it still feels satisfyingly conclusive.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:13 PM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sleeper Cell. Just the first season, really, the second is not nearly as good. Both are standalone stories.
24 also wraps up nicely each season.
The first season of Prison Break is fairly delicious and it's easy to pretend it was the end.
posted by Nelson at 4:14 PM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing Terriers. Probably the most wonderful 1 season show I've ever seen. IGN gave it a perfect 10.
posted by JimBJ9 at 4:33 PM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

In addition to the other shows recommended here, Luther is very good, if a bit brutal at times.
posted by gauche at 4:52 PM on April 26, 2014

Don't trust the B in Apartment 23 is hilariously rotten if you're into that kind of thing. Not a cheesy sitcom at all.
posted by fshgrl at 5:35 PM on April 26, 2014

I enjoyed Lie to Me very much but the series finale left me shrieking with fury. I think they didn't know they were being canceled when they decided to have a huge cliffhanger finale. So if everything being wrapped up is important to you, you may want to give this show a pass.

Dollhouse, Life on Mars (UK), and Kingdom all concluded nicely. (A lot of British shows are set up to be finite, which can help with finishing the story well.) I'm less sure if you'd like it, but Skins (UK) wraps up the stories and cast every two years -- so series 1 & 2 are a complete set, as are 5 & 6. (It's a little like Gossip Girl without the money or notoriety.)

I think Don't trust the B in Apartment 23 was hilarious and well done -- it's two seasons long. It finished satisfyingly. (On preview, I concur.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 5:44 PM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Just watched the first series of The Bletchley Circle on Netflix and was impressed. It is only three episodes, 45 minutes apiece, and has a fantastic premise.

There is a second series, but it isn't available on Netflix. In looking it up, however, I see that the episodes are being shown on PBS!
posted by 1367 at 6:45 PM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Keen Eddie was great. Only one season. Really fun and interesting.

Top of the Lake, interesting, weird, etc.

I'm going to recommend the Rock Follies, from 1976 and Rock Follies 1977. Great songs, good story about three women trying to make it in rock and roll in a terrible economy. I bought it in the European DVD format, and watched it through the computer.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:15 PM on April 26, 2014

Nthing Life. I really loved that show. Damian Lewis is outstanding.
posted by Silvertree at 7:48 PM on April 26, 2014

Echoing Life, Keen Eddie, Terriers, The Bletchley Circle, Leverage, and Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. All so good, in so many different ways.
posted by PussKillian at 7:58 PM on April 26, 2014

Sports Night is two seasons and has one of my favorite series conclusions ever. Packs a lot of drama (and a lot of humor) into each 22-minute episode, along with Sorkin's trademark rapid-fire dialog and heroic characterization. And seconding the recommendation of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (which, unfortunately, doesn't end as neatly). Unfairly panned as an unfunny comedy show by viewers who failed to understand that it's a drama about a comedy show. If you're the kind of person that thinks West Wing is funnier than 30 Rock, you'll love this.
posted by zanni at 8:01 PM on April 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

I've enjoyed Call The Midwife & Better off Ted. Sports Night kinda - some cameos of a folks Who Went On To Bigger Things in there, too.
posted by tilde at 8:03 PM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

You folks are amazing! This is incredible. Just look at this list. Thank you all.

British/UK/Canadian TV is a great idea - I did not even think of that. I had no idea so much stuff was available that fit my criteria of short & finished and is actually created that way on purpose. Neat.

Thank you for the warning about the ending of Lie To Me. I think for that one I can make an exception - what I saw was just so good, I want to see every available bit.

I did not find that other question. I think my search of past questions did not use the right words to find it. Thank you. It's very helpful.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 8:05 PM on April 26, 2014

Flight of the Conchords

nthing Better Off Ted (although it's been a while since I saw it and I don't remember how it wrapped up) and Freaks and Geeks.
posted by Sassyfras at 8:12 PM on April 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Nthing that Dollhouse has a surprisingly well-done conclusion.

Watch the first three seasons (they are relatively short seasons) of Misfits and then stop. At that point you have good stopping points / conclusions for most of the original characters and the show goes downhill after that anyway.

The third season of Sherlock didn't leave us on an outrageous cliffhanger like the first two seasons did, so you could watch all of that. They are short seasons -- the whole series to date is only 13.5 hours.

Flash Forward was cancelled after one season and leaves you wondering about some things but it wraps up the season's main storyline nicely.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:23 PM on April 26, 2014

I don't think Kingdom (mentioned above somewhere) concluded nice and tight, I remember quite a cliffhanger - they expected at that point to continu with the series. I loved the series, but it might not fit your criteria.
posted by Ms. Next at 9:01 PM on April 26, 2014

If nobody's said it already, Awake.

Also nthing Terriers and Top of the Lake, and a few others mentioned above.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 9:22 PM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by John Cohen at 9:54 PM on April 26, 2014

Bored to Death
men of a certain age
The UK show Survivors
Party Down
Veronica Mars (ends satisfying after 2 seasons if you ignore the 3rd One)
Sifl & Ollie (lol but seriously you should see it)
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:16 PM on April 26, 2014

Oh and Kings.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:22 PM on April 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Someone already mentioned the UK original version of House of Cards; I just wanted to add that there are three seasons in total (House of Cards, To Play the King and The Final Cut). Each season has its own self-contained story line, though they obviously build on what has gone before, and the three combined come to a very satisfying ending at the end of season three.
posted by rjs at 10:45 PM on April 26, 2014

I can't remember exactly how satisfying the ending of Kings was, but it was a spectacularly cool one season show. I would put it on my short list, along with Terriers, Dollhouse, and Bored To Death.
posted by JimBJ9 at 11:31 PM on April 26, 2014

I thought Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles had a satisfying conclusion. It answered most of the lingering questions that the series had introduced thus far, and yet left room for imagination as to what might follow. Note that even if you don't care for the Terminator film franchise, the series was excellent.
posted by katyggls at 12:01 AM on April 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

It was longer than two seasons, but Millennium was going to be cancelled at the end of season two. The show had a full five year storyline that would culminate with, well, bad things happening at the turn of the millennium. They wanted their story to see the light of day, so they reshot the last seven (I think) episodes to finish the show. The episodes were so good, so well received that, out of nowhere, Fox ordered a new season, even though the storyline had been finished. Pretty much everything after the second season is tacked on sadness in the wake of something that could have been great. Just stick to the first two seasons and imagine nothing else happened after that.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:33 AM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I keep having people tell me that if I liked Dead Like Me I should watch Wonderfalls, so presumably the recommendation works in reverse, too. Two seasons, skip the straight to DVD movie.
posted by bettafish at 4:42 AM on April 27, 2014

Top of the Lake. Beautifully shot with a satisfying finale.
posted by barnone at 7:33 AM on April 27, 2014

The U.S. version of Touching Evil (crime drama), if you can find it. It ran for a season on USA in 2004 and had an optimistic, if not satisfying, conclusion.
posted by coast99 at 7:36 AM on April 27, 2014

Re: Friday Night Lights

It is longer than 1-2 seasons but if you just watch the first season, that is very fulfilling. It wraps up. It's amazing. My roommate just finished the first season (in...a week, I think) and loved it. FNL S1. Always a good watch.
posted by hepta at 8:11 AM on April 27, 2014

Some I have loved:

- Sports Night, Dead Like Me and Sarah Connor Chronicles, for sure. One thing I loved about the ending of SCC was that is was epic and worthy, but did not really interfere with the canon of the movie.

- Being Erica is a great little Canadian series with a slight supernatural element. The main character is given the opportunity to go back and correct certain mistakes of her past, but there is more to it than that.

- Another great Canadian series is Slings & Arrows. It is set in a faux Stratford Festival sort of place and each of the three brief seasons is based around the production of a different main play. Some big names such as Rachel McAdams are in this one, and Paul Gross's real wife plays his wife on the show.
posted by JoannaC at 8:25 AM on April 27, 2014

Seconding Luther, which is kind of brutal but SO. GOOD. That show had a plan, to the extent that there are scenes in the final S3 episode that mirror episode 1. Incredible.

British TV is often better at the whole well-planned, satisfying-conclusions thing, because it's usually planned out as a complete season with a beginning, middle, and end; if it's successful, then it gets renewed for a second season with a new plan. In the US, shows are usually just assumed to run until they get cancelled, which means they either end before the story should or loooong after. I'm glad that US tv is starting to think about that model — True Detective tried it, and that would have worked well if it hadn't otherwise ended up being a misogynistic mess.

I really enjoyed Desperate Romantics (super trashy but super fun), and The Hour (which wasn't renewed and I'm sad about that, because it was FANTASTIC, but the ending felt complete to me; ymmv).

For US tv, I highly recommend The Killing, Dead Like Me, House of Cards, and if you're willing to watch things that are currently on TV but have completed a coherent season, Brooklyn Nine Nine.
posted by you're a kitty! at 9:33 AM on April 27, 2014

I came here to mention Dollhouse, but someone beat me to it. There are a lot of complaints about Eliza Dushku, but I disagree with most of them, and the overall cast and premise more than make up for it. As mentioned above, give it time; the show took a little time to get its footing and really start telling its story. The second season conclusion was indeed epic.
posted by lhauser at 5:38 PM on April 27, 2014


And another very strong vote for Rubicon, which I believe is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
posted by jbickers at 5:56 AM on April 28, 2014

Ha, I was just reading through the answers thinking "Nobody has mentioned Jekyll yet! That shall be my contribution." 6 episodes, excellent show, all wrapped up at the end.
posted by Roommate at 6:31 AM on April 28, 2014

A few anime series fit this bill (and honestly even if you don't like animation these are the series that transcend the genre, and are also for an adult audience):

Cowboy Bebop
Samurai Champloo
Puella Magi Madoka Magica
posted by capricorn at 12:06 PM on April 28, 2014

Better Off Ted and Pushing Daisies, absolutely.

It allegedly ran for a few more seasons, but I took others' advice and watched the first run of Heroes and stopped. It's absolutely self-contained and very satisfying.
posted by psoas at 10:41 AM on April 29, 2014

Someone upthread suggested this, but it bears repeating, because it is excellent and under-rated. Party Down.
posted by likeatoaster at 2:51 PM on April 29, 2014

Enlightened ran for 2 short seasons on HBO, and came to an excellent, moving conclusion last year. It's a wonderful dark comedy with some of the best character work this side of Six Feet Under.
posted by Bleusman at 3:39 PM on April 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd say the British version of The Office fits this criteria, if you include the Christmas special.
posted by cnc at 12:43 PM on April 30, 2014

Japanese dramas are great because they are written for a single season of 10-12 episodes. Here's a good list of Japanese dramas for newbies. I highly recommend Gokusen, GTO, Nobuta Wo Produce, Nodame Cantabile, and Hana Yori Dango. Other shows I've enjoyed that aren't on that list include Aishiteiru to itte kure, Densha Otoko, Odoru Daisousasen, and Galileo. You can watch Japanese dramas with subtitles at Dramafans.org and Dramacrazy.eu.
posted by sazanka at 9:33 AM on May 8, 2014

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