The CW Best Shows

The CW Turns 10: Life Unexpected, Containment, The L.A. Complex and 7 More Underrated Gems Remembered

Can you believe it’s been exactly 10 years since The CW came into our lives?

The network aired its first broadcast on Sept. 18, 2006, and while the love child of The WB and UPN has delivered plenty of household hits in its first decade — some of which, like The Vampire Diaries, still run to this day — we’d like to draw your attention to a few of its less-familiar gems.

We’re talking about those short-lived series whose cancellations you still refuse to accept. Those comedies and dramas that pulled you in close with their charming casts and addictive storylines, only to vanish from the airwaves before giving you any sense of closure.

It’s a long list of shows, to be honest, so Team TVLine narrowed down the 10 that still keep us up at night, ranging from soapy fare like Hellcats and The L.A. Complex to genuine heart-squeezers like Containment and Life Unexpected.

Are you ready to walk down memory lane with us? Browse our gallery of under-appreciated CW series (in no particular order), then drop a comment with your own picks.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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99 Comments
  1. Linda says:

    I adored Privileged and Life Unexpected.

    • Linda says:

      I still can’t believe there wasn’t a season two of The Secret Circle.

    • Garbo says:

      Those two are the ones that stand out to me as well as CW shows that should have been given more time to find an audience that was out there, simply in need of some time to catch up. Cancelling those two AND Veronica Mars is the reason why by now I have literally nothing to watch on The CW.

  2. Bec Lawson says:

    I miss Hellcats so damn much :(

  3. spindae2 says:

    My heart still bleeds every time I remember TSC got canceled. So much potential, but those 2-4 post midseason eps before Blackwell came chased viewers away.
    Netflix, we call upon your ancient powers. (It’s a Charmed rhyme but if it works.

  4. Steven says:

    They had to mention Hellcats. Still not over that final scene.

  5. Anne says:

    Gosh I miss Hellcats.

  6. Danielle Rothman says:

    Still upset about Reaper – such a great show! It ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, too, which was disappointing. Ray Wise was an awesome Devil!

  7. Eric says:

    Reaper. Thanks for bringing it up, great show.

  8. Meg says:

    I loved Life Unexpected and Privileged. Hart of Dixie deserved better too.

  9. Amber says:

    I’ll never forgive the CW for cancelling. The LA Complex. And let’s never forget that they cancelled Girlfriends and The Game because they didn’t fit their target demographic, even though they were the top 2 rates shows they had at the time.

    • Dude says:

      To be fair, it was the Canadian broadcaster that cancelled The LA Complex. It was critically adored and a great show but almost no one actually watched it so there wasn’t much anyone could do.

    • flowerduh says:

      This is one of the reasons why I don’t watch the CW network. (I never watched the LA Complex tv show) But my beef with them is when they cancelled all of the African American shows quickly because their excuse was, “low ratings”. My a**! There were a lot of people in the African American community that were watching shows like, “Girlfriends”, Half and Half, Eve, Everybody Hates Chris and The Game. Girlfriends should have gotten a better ending and it’s sad that The Game was picked up on BET….many years later. I wish the network would have just being honest and admitted that they wanted a network that reflected a lighter skinned audence.

  10. flutiefan says:

    100% goes to Hellcats and Privileged.

  11. wgsecretary says:

    Reaper, Hellcats, Life Unexpected, The Secret Circle…I watched all of those! I have always been a fan of CW shows. I’m one of those people who are definitely outside of their target demo. I watched The WB and UPN and remember when The CW was created.

    • ninergrl6 says:

      I’m not in their “target demo” either but I watched 3 shows on this list religiously and watch at least 6 shows in the current CW line up. So much for targets!
      One show I’d add to this list: Ringer. Its cancellation the same spring as The Secret Circle was a truly dark time in the CW’s history.

      • Abbey says:

        I liked Ringer too. Good ol’ Buffy never lost it, so disappointed it got cancelled, and on a cliffhanger too!! The CW really sucks sometimes, it’s like every great show they have they try and get it cancelled. So far Vampire Diaries is the only one that truly had a long and happy life.

        • BirdieWolf says:

          The Ringer was sooo good. I have no idea why they even cancelled it It’s ratings were higher than a lot of shows they’ve saved. I really want to rewatch it, but kinda don’t since it ended on such a cliffhanger.

          That was probs my least favorite CW cancellation ever.

  12. ladyluck527 says:

    Privileged , Hellcats, Life Unexpected and The Secret Circle were my faves!!

  13. Goldenvibefan says:

    Secret Circle and the Carrie Diaries. Both were great shows that got cancelled too soon.

    • arianeb says:

      Those are the two I miss the most. I think TSC’s one season beats any season of TVD, with the possible exception of the first. TSC actually sank early as episodes 2 to 6 are probably the weakest run of episodes. Episodes 7 to 22 were just a really good story.
      The Carrie Diaries only existed because it was a prequel to Sex in the City but it proved to stand up on its own quite well. I think the second mini season was a surprise to everyone and everyone knew it would be their last, so it ended well — and of course you can watch Sex in the City to find out what happened after.
      One show that got missed was The Tomorrow People. It suffered the same fate as TSC as it didn’t really start getting good until mid season.

  14. Lucifer says:

    The Secret Circle, Reaper, and Hellcats were the biggest disappointments for me. Especially TSC, since it had better ratings than all the other CW shows besides TVD. Life Unexpected was great, but they had a chance to wrap it up. Yeah, it was really rushed, but season 2 had some creative issues so it wasn’t a huge loss since they did get enough time to give everyone closure. Nikita and Hart of Dixie had official fourth & final seasons, which was a blessing since they had been bubble shows from the start. If anything, 90210 was the one that got ripped off; they were cancelled at the end of filming the finale so they had to quickly change things in the final moments – which was really lame.

  15. Phantom says:

    I really wish Star-crossed had made it to another season. I really thought it could have been a show & they simply gave up too easily as seems to be the trend these days.

  16. Phil says:

    I didn’t watch The LA Complex! Wish I had now! I may be in the minority here, but wish they would have given us more Melrose Place! I really liked Katie Cassidy!

    • Anne says:

      I’m a Katie Cassidy fan too. She’s only gotten better too. I’d love to see her get a script that’s got some more grit (and screentime) for her.

  17. Miss Them says:

    Reaper and Life Unexpecterd!!! Loved them both!

  18. Beth says:

    I really wish Privileged was given a second season.

  19. Ally Oop says:

    Star-Crossed definitely is at the top of my list. People dismissed it as just a Roswell knockoff but it was such a good show. Other shows cancelled too quickly were Containment, Privileged and The Secret Circle.

  20. Julian says:

    Still mad about TSC and Containment, never watch the other shows.

    • Juniper says:

      Containment being cancelled is news to me, what the heck happened to it? There are way worse shows on the air that should definitely have been cancelled before it (cough cough, ‘Fear the Walking Dead’)

      • Ken says:

        Fear the Walking Dead is another network and gets way bigger ratings than anything on the CW. Its like comparing apples to oranges. For the record, i liked Containment with it faults and all, and absolutely loved and was shocked at that brutal and bloody death of a major character. The show had balls to destroy a budding romantic relationship with that death.

        • Andrea says:

          Nah, Fear is awful alright, way worse than Containment was. It should have got axed by now or to be kind about it, a complete plot and character facelift…

  21. JJ says:

    I like Melrose Place 2.0, especially for someone who’s never watched the original. Enjoyed the scenes with Katie Cassidy and Heather Locklear!

    • Dude says:

      While the show itself wasn’t great Katie Cassidy MADE that show. Ella Simms is still one of my favourite TV characters.

      • ChrisGa says:

        Totally agree; what little goodwill that show garnered from me was off the back of Katie Cassidy. Still think that role showcased her best acting to date.

    • Steven says:

      The show deserved another chance. It was just such a great guilty pleasure. They should have made sure Heather was on board before it premiered.

    • Cas says:

      This is why I love Katie Cassidy and feel she deserved better than how she was treated on Arrow.

  22. Dude says:

    Privileged is the cancellation to this day that hurt the most. I adored that show and fell in love with Lucy Hale on it (I still think she was far better on Privileged than Pretty Little Liars). However, I also have a soft spot for The LA Complex and The Carrie Diaries.

  23. CGS says:

    The Secret Circle hands down is my favorite CW show ever. I watch it about once a year. I wish The Vampire Diaries had been canned instead even though I’m still watching it.

    Aliens in America was also one of the best broadcast comedies I have ever seen. It made me cry from laughter several times. I wish I could find some episodes and see if I still find it as funny.

  24. Ruth says:

    I still miss the Secret Circle. Glad to see Britt Roberson in the movies.

  25. aha says:

    It is a crime that The L.A Complex is so short lived. It was great!

  26. helen says:

    I loved Privileged, Hellcats, and especially Life UneXpected.

  27. Muriel says:

    The Secret Circle, Breaking Pointe, Reaper and The Carrie Diaries. I think if I could bring one back I would pick The Secret Circle but Breaking Pointe is a close second.

  28. Rachel says:

    Aliens in America was hilarious! I remember telling all my friends they had to watch it. I also miss TSC.

    • Jackie D says:

      Hmmm, I remember there was some alien show on years ago about some woman who got abducted by aliens and had an alien baby. It was really weird, I’ve never heard of it since though and I can’t remember what it’s called…anyone else remember it?

  29. Jared S says:

    I watched all but two of these shows. Loved The Secret Circle, Life Unexpected, Hellcats, and Privileged. Still miss them and Nikita so much. And who thought cancelling Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars was a good idea?

  30. ChrisGa says:

    Loved both Privileged and The Secret Circle.

  31. evababy says:

    Dang it. I was so mad Hellcats was cancelled. Also, LA Complex was such a revelation to me. I had no expectations of it, but it was really well done. Especially the Kal King storyline!

  32. Lala says:

    I remember watching an episode or two of most of these shows and dropping them instantly…most of these were not good TBH….A new show should not take more than 3 episodes to gain momentum. Reaper was OK though.

  33. Jake says:

    No love for Emily Owens MD? It was a great show that I was sad to see cancelled.

    • Linda says:

      Oh my, I forgot about that one. I mainly watched it for Justin Hartley but it was a cute show.

    • Jamie says:

      That was a great quirky show with a great cast that didn’t deserve to be axed so soon. Most of the cast are leads on huge shows now – Grey’s Anatomy, unReal, How to Get Away with Murder, This Is Us, etc. Plus, the creator of that show went on to create Jane The Virgin. So much talent there, yet the CW never gave it a chance.

  34. George says:

    Reaper was such a fun show. The tomorrow people was great too. Sad they got canceled. At least with Nikita we got some closure and they were able to wrap everything up.

  35. JJ says:

    Ringer with Sarah Michelle Gellar definitely deserved a 2nd season!!!

  36. DT says:

    EVERWOOD *sigh* Cancelled in favor of bringing back 7th Heaven for a 2nd Final Season, UGH!!!

  37. Steph says:

    Roswell! I loved that show!

    Secret circle and I also liked 90210.

  38. Meghan says:

    I’m really wondering what I was doing while Reaper was on the air, because it sounds right up my alley.

  39. Amy J says:

    It’s a good list. I think out of all of those, I’d pick Hellcats for the ‘oops, here is a magic second season we forgot to air’ option.

  40. Dez says:

    Secret Circle had potential!!

  41. LE says:

    The Secret Circle didn’t introduce me to Phoebe it was a little Australian show about mermaids, but whatever haha. Speaking of TSC I loved that show.. it was a shame that it got canceled same as Hellcats. The Carrie Diaries deserved better and now the CW renews basically everything :(.

    • Ailish says:

      I know the one, H2O!! The girl who played Emma also played Rebekah in Vampire Diaries funny enough. Also, there’s another show like that I used to love called The Sleepover Club, Eliza Taylor starred in it and so did that girl who was one of the characters in Reign. Eliza plays Clarke Griffin in ‘the 100’, awww, she’s all grown up now!!

  42. Wendy says:

    I really miss Life Unexpected. I haven’t watched anything on the CW since they canceled Hart of Dixie – that was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” for me!

  43. Lois says:

    Aww, thank you so much for including Hellcats. I’m still so sad that show was cancelled, I absolutely loved it.

  44. Nathan says:

    Secret Circle and the Carrie Diaries were two of my fave shows. SOOO much more potential there in both shows.

  45. Jennifer says:

    I loved LA Complex. It was such a great show that was mis-marketed as a Melrose Place rip off.

  46. RichieS says:

    Hellcats was great…I need Aly Michalka back on my screen stat!

  47. lbchatterbox says:

    No Star Crossed?

  48. Jennifer says:

    LOVE Life Unexpected I thought it was genius. I was really sad to see it go.