To be deemed a success, a television show (or series) must get good ratings. The yardstick best indicates what advertisers will pay. Wildly successful shows are often on the air for decades. Many of these fall into a very few genres, primarily late-night talk shows, soap operas, and game shows. “The Tonight Show” has been on the air for 67 years. Over that period, however, it has had several hosts. Some shows that first went on air more recently have proved to be durable. Near the top of this is is “The Simpsons” which first aired 32 years ago. The cartoon demonstrates that success does not have to be tied to real actors.
A television graveyard is littered with shows that only made it a single season. Almost certainly they died because of low ratings. That does not detract from the fact that some were considered critical successes. However, a small number of critics does not necessarily translate into a viable audience.
The advent of streaming content has changed the math of how long shows are on the air. People who pay a subscription fee do not bring in advertiser dollars. However, if a show’s ratings are poor, they do not help streaming services get and retain subscribers.
The shows we considered tell two very different tales when it comes to the television series business. Some deserved a lot more episodes and storytelling but were canceled too soon because their financiers didn’t believe the numbers were going to work. Others pushed back against attempts to stain stories past their natural conclusion. Unfortunately, making television series is an art that requires a considerable amount of money and labor. If the viewers aren’t there, shows can get the ax despite their artistic genius.
To determine the best TV show that lasted just one season, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on audience ratings from the Internet Movie Database. TV shows that ran for only one season were ranked based on average audience review on IMDb as of January 2022. Only series with at least 25,000 votes were considered for inclusion. Data on the number of audience reviews, episode count, and cast information also came from IMDb.
The best TV show that lasted only one season was Death Note (2006-2007). Here are the details:
> IMDb rating: 9.0/10 (281,963 votes)
> Episode count: 37
> Cast: Mamoru Miyano, Brad Swaile, Vincent Tong, Ryô Naitô
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