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Looking back at TV's one-episode wonders

  • Story Highlights
  • The CW canceled "The Beautiful Life" last week after just two episodes
  • Still, that places the series ahead of some of television's one-hit wonders
  • The list starts in with CBS's 1961 show "You're in the Picture"
  • Reality shows and scripted series alike have received the "one episode and out" boot
By Breeanna Hare
CNN
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(CNN) -- A few weeks into the fall TV season, and already one show is down for the count.

Heather Graham appeared with 2006's "Emily's Reasons Why Not" cast for a press tour in 2005.

The cast from "Quarterlife" played young, artsy 20-somethings on the incredibly short-lived show.

But let's look on the bright side. "The Beautiful Life" got at least two episodes in before the CW gave it the ax, spared from that TV-land rarity: the single episode show.

Although the jury's still out on which series will last to see this year's November sweeps, none of them (as their developers are certainly thankful about) can be lumped in with the truly cringe-worthy and sadly uninteresting one-episode wonders.

Here are some of the shows that saw the light of your television screen for just a single episode.

1. Known as the show that started the idea of the quick hook, CBS's 1961 live celebrity game show "You're in the Picture" was hosted by Jackie Gleason. The grand idea was to invite celebrities on and ask them to stick their heads into a painted scene and guess which one it is. It was so dismal, Gleason spent a half-hour the following week apologizing for letting the show air, and it was then replaced with "The Jackie Gleason Show."

2. There were a few shows pushing buttons in the tumultuous time of the 1960s, but the producers of the late-'60s sketch comedy show "Laugh In" thought the envelope hadn't been pushed quite enough."Turn On," a similar comedy show, hit ABC's airwaves in February 1969 and was so controversial, it was turned off after just one episode.

3. Networks have capitalized on popular movie trends for decades (looking at you, "Vampire Diaries"), and 1979's "Co-ed Fever" was no different. Attempting to ride the popularity of "Animal House," this half-hour show asked the question, "What happens when all-female Baxter College goes co-ed?" Answer? CBS cancels it.

4. Americans are finicky about their cop shows, as Steven Bochco, the man who brought us "NYPD Blue" and "L.A. Law," knows all too well. Some of them spark enough spinoffs to keep a show alive throughout generations, and others, like 1996's "Public Morals," a sitcom about the humorous antics of the NYPD, just spark hate. One-hit wonders: 3; CBS: 0.

5. In 1997, Fox unveiled "Lawless," an action series featuring NFL star Brian Bosworth as a detective. After the pilot episode, "Lawless" was outlawed, although Bosworth did go on to act again.

6. Right in the middle of the dot-com bubble, ABC tried to stake its claim with "Dot Comedy" in 2000, a sort of online version of "America's Funniest Home Videos." "Dot Comedy" was also like a premonition for the Internet bubble that was about to burst: it went belly-up after the pilot.

7. Not to be confused with a "Maury" episode, 2005's "Who's Your Daddy?" was a Fox reality series-turned-reality "special" about a woman who was adopted at birth, trying to pick out her birth father from a set of eight men, with $100,000 riding on the line. Needless to say, that gem of a concept angered viewers and adoption advocates alike.

8. It's true that there isn't much reality television fans won't watch, but CBS's 2005 series "The Will" was one of them. It featured a cast of 10 fame-seekers all angling to get in a wealthy 73-year-old man's will. The show died before the money-grubbers could craft a eulogy.

9. Heather Graham may be known for a few things, but pulling off a "Sex and the City"-esque series isn't one of them. "Emily's Reasons Why Not," 2006's show about a book publishing career woman with the requisite gay guy sidekick, was just no replacement for HBO's Manolo-ed foursome. That doesn't mean ABC stopped trying, though: "Cashmere Mafia" rolled out in 2008, only to meet a similar fate as Graham's bomb of a sitcom.

10. Next on the "so bad it shouldn't have aired" reality show train is "Anchorwoman," a 2007 show about model Lauren Jones becoming an anchor for a small-town Texas station. If you don't remember it, it's because you were among the millions and millions of viewers Fox was hoping would tune in, and didn't.

11. Who knows what did in CBS's 2008 "Secret Talents of the Stars." Maybe it was the thought of watching not one but two boxers perform musical acts? (Joe Frazier was slated to sing R&B, and Roy Jones Jr. would have wooed the audience with his rapping.) We watch them dance awkwardly and duke it out in isolated jungles but, apparently, we don't care what "secret talents" celebrities are holding close to the vest.

12. As if being 25 isn't depressing enough. "Quarterlife," NBC's 2008 attempt to take a Web-based show and turn it into a small-screen drama, failed miserably despite its online popularity. The show, focused on a group of 20-somethings trying to make their way through life and the digital age, earned some of the worst ratings NBC had seen in years. The rest of the season's episodes were exiled to Bravo.

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