TV upfronts and sitcom promos: The singular melancholy of the never-aired series.

Surprisingly Poignant Promotional Pictures from the Sitcoms That Didn’t Make It

Surprisingly Poignant Promotional Pictures from the Sitcoms That Didn’t Make It

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Slate's Culture Blog
May 18 2012 12:03 PM

The Ghosts of Upfronts Past

Looking for a distinctive mix of melancholy and amusement? Let us recommend the cast photo of a canceled sitcom. Sure, the actors huddling close together in the promos for this year’s new batch of shows look happy now, but few of those smiling faces will endure longer than a few episodes. Many will never air at all. Coming next season: False hopes, failed dreams.

This is the peculiar sadness of the canceled sitcom. Just look at the up-and-comers rounded up in this slideshow. So young! So jaunty! They could be the next Friends!

With some sitcoms, it’s no mystery why their hopes were dashed while they were still so young. Many feature tired premises: odd couples, odd men out, zany workplaces, another family rallying around the living room couch. Others go places a sitcom should probably never go, like, for instance, the 1990 series Heil Honey I’m Home! Others are ahead of their time: Consider the case of Heat Vision and Jack, a deliberately campy mix of old TV tropes that starred Jack Black and Owen Wilson (with Ben Stiller directing, and Dan Harmon executive producing) that never made it to air. It’s just one of many beautiful dreams that wasn’t meant to be.

Forrest Wickman is Slate’s culture editor.

Aisha Harris is a Slate culture writer and host of the Slate podcast Represent.

David Haglund is the literary editor of