6 Single Season Mystery Shows You Should Watch

There are some shows that overstay their welcome (umm, CSI) and then there are shows that sadly never find an audience and disappear after one season. I’ve found that it’s especially common on American network television, where the competition is brutal and shows face the chopping block even if they have a decent following. This post is dedicated to those shows and a few others I think you should watch before they are completely forgotten.

1. Awake
Awake stars Jason Isaacs (Case Histories) as a police detective who experiences two realities after a serious car crash. Each morning he wakes up to either his wife or his son being dead. To gain some sanity, he sees different shrinks (BD Wong and the excellent Cherry Jones) and pursues cases with different partners (Steven Harris and Wilmer Valderrama, NCIS).

I watched this show because the storyline was compelling and the show didn’t adhere to the normal glitzy cheeziness that often plagues American network crime dramas. While the show didn’t find a strong enough audience, it definitely had me hooked!

2. Backstrom
I loved that Backstrom was set in Portland, Oregon, in all it’s rainy glory. Rainn Wilson (The Office) is excellent as the curmudgeon detective Everett Backstrom and he is supported by an excellent ensemble cast that includes Allstate spokesperson Dennis Haysbert and some new faces to network television.

Sadly the show proved too quirky to make it to a second season, but the show is worth watching for the simple fact that the backdrop isn’t New York City, Miami, or LA.

3. Battle Creek
Battle Creek is a fun police procedural set in the Michigan city and stars the easy-on-the-eyes Josh Duhamel and Allstate’s other notable spokesperson, Dean Winters. I loved the show for it’s off beat ensemble cast that begrudgingly welcomes Duhamel’s big-fish-in-little-waters Special Agent Milt Chamberlain. The buddy cop dynamic between Duhamel and Winters is reason alone to watch.

Why was Battle Creek cancelled? Perhaps the timeslot was on the wrong night? Or the television season was glut with other police procedurals? I’m not sure why, because it had all of the earmarks of a sturdy crime dramedy. Perhaps again, it was the shows’s location?

4. Chasing Shadows
I know American audiences expect their brilliant police detectives to have a tic, but I’m not sure if a show with an completely unsmiling anti-social savant is going to find a huge audience in the U.S. or across the pond. The fact that Chasing Shadows was only made for one series proves that audiences just aren’t ready for that much glumness. At least Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock can be rude and still have a little fun.

I like this show because it’s British and I love Alex Kingston, DS Stone’s unwitting partner and minder (think more like a mother than a Watson). It’s great rainy day afternoon background noise, especially if it’s re-running on PBS and you can’t find anything else to watch.

5. Prime Suspect (US version)
The American version of Prime Suspect is awesome and I was so sad it was cancelled. I love Maria Bello (NCIS, Goliath) because she’s able to play hard-as-nails characters and still have an allure about her. I watched this show when it aired in 2011 and loved not only Bello’s Jane Timoney, but the excellent supporting cast that included Aidan Quinn (Elementary).

I remember lamenting the shows cancellation, especially since Law & Order was cancelled around that time too. Regardless, it’s worth a watch if you like NYPD police procedurals and strong female leads.

6. Zen
Intense but glamorous, Zen was likely cancelled because it’s star, Rufus Sewell (PBS’s Victoria), was probably too busy to shoot more episodes. Or maybe it was just too expensive or too much of a hassle to shoot a beautiful mystery drama in Rome. Either way, Sewell’s detective Aurelio Zen is seductive and relentless. I recommend watching Zen if you want to be transported to the back streets of Rome and if you love written mysteries.

Which mystery shows did you wish would have lasted for more than one or two seasons?

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