TV shows returning to the airwaves after being canceled or nearly canceled is nothing new. In fact, wildly successful shows such as “Star Trek” and “Baywatch” (which, if you can believe it, averaged over a billion worldwide viewers weekly in its prime) were at one point axed, only to be brought back due to syndication ratings, cult followings and/or movie sales. And while it is nothing new, it seems that it is becoming more commonplace. It was announced on January 15 that the AMC series “The Killing,” which was canceled after its second season, has now been renewed for a 12-episode third season, making it the latest TV series brought back from the dead. In light of this, we decided to take a look at other revived shows that have cropped up in recent memory, and how those shows fared post-resuscitation. Click ahead for the rest.
Originally Aired: January 31, 1999 – February 14, 2002
Returned: May 1, 2005
Let’s start with an easy one, eh? After FOX initially canceled “Family Guy” (due mostly to low ratings since they aired it erratically and against juggernaut series such as “Survivor,” “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and “Friends”), they sold the rights to the reruns to Adult Swim for cheap. However, once the show became a ratings hit on the cable network and DVD sales of the series went through the roof, FOX decided to do the smart thing and order 35 new episodes. If you are curious how the show has been doing since, turn on a TV anywhere.
Originally Aired: April 2, 1978 – May 3, 1991
Returned: June 13, 2012
Even though this primetime soap opera aired for 14 seasons, was one of the longest running primetime one-hour dramas in history and spawned a spinoff (“Knots Landing”) that also lasted 14 seasons, that still wasn’t enough. TNT picked up the current revived version of “Dallas,” which picks up 20 years later and centers on the same characters, albeit with their children now in the mix. The show did well enough in its first season to justify a second, and its track record wouldn’t indicate demise anytime soon. However, with the recent real life death of Larry Hagman, who portrayed the integral character of J.R. Ewing on both the old and current series, who knows if it can maintain the audience’s interest.
Originally Aired: March 28, 1999 – August 10, 2003
Returned: June 24, 2010
Another victim of FOX’s erratic scheduling, this brilliant series was never allowed to properly flourish, and was eventually given one of the worst time slots on the channel, following Sunday afternoon football, where it was regularly pre-empted by the sport. This caused many episodes to air out of order, or not at all, in the season they were supposed to. FOX took such poor care of “Futurama” that they never even bothered to technically cancel it. They just stopped buying episodes midway through the fourth season. The syndication rights first belonged to Adult Swim, until they were acquired by Comedy Central. Four new straight-to-DVD films of the series were then produced, split up into 16 episodes, labeled Season 5, and aired on Comedy Central. They were successful enough to warrant more episodes, and the show has been ongoing ever since, with moderate success.
Originally Aired: June 11, 2001 – September 12, 2006
Returned: December 12, 2011
Alas, our first revival story that doesn’t end in success. Regardless of the fact that “Fear Factor” originally aired to much success for NBC, eventually it was just a victim of the times and, essentially, “American Idol.” People stopped watching in favor of singing competitions and what have you, and it was eventually replaced with “Friends” spinoff, “Joey,” which also tanked. Once reruns started pulling in decent numbers on Chiller Network years later, NBC decided to bring the show back in 2011 as the perfect filler programming for the NFL lockout if it were to have taken place. Even though the first episode back premiered to numbers that were the highest for a non-sports program to air in that time slot on NBC since February 2008, they didn’t hold. The show slipped again, and was canceled for good in July 2012.
Originally Aired: September 24, 2007 – April 27, 2009
Returned: January 10, 2010
A victim mostly of its classification (which I guess was sci-fi romantic dramedy) and low ratings, “Chuck” was never technically canceled and revived, but it was consistently on the bubble after the end of its second season. Strangely enough, the show was saved by its loyal fans, who designed a campaign consisting of going into Subway restaurants, buying $5 foot-longs and placing comments in the comment box in support of the show (this had to do with an episode where the restaurant was prominently featured). Low and behold, Subway signed on as a major sponsor for the show, granting it a third season as well as two more additional seasons to finish it out right. It’s small but loyal fan base couldn’t have been happier.
Friday Night Lights
Originally Aired: October 3, 2006 – February 8, 2008
Returned: October 1, 2008
“Friday Night Lights” is another NBC series that was never technically canceled, but came so close after its low rated second season that it may as well have been. What’s unique about this case is that not only was it saved by not one, but three fan campaigns, but it also involved airing the remainder of its new seasons on another network before they could air on NBC. As mentioned, the fan campaigns were three-fold: First, they mailed the network light bulbs and urged them to “keep the lights on;” then, it was mini footballs; finally, crazy amounts of Clear Eyes eye drops were sent in accordance to the show’s theme, which was “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose.” With such fan support, NBC was able to enter in a cost-sharing agreement with DirecTV, allowing them to air new, original episodes that NBC would then get to rerun at a later date. This also allowed the show to run for three more seasons, and may even spawn a movie further down the line (not to be confused with the movie that already exists).
Originally Aired: October 1, 2006 – May 15, 2009
Returned: January 11, 2011
We’re not going to pretend we’ve watched this one, considering it is a spinoff of the WB/UPN series “Girlfriends,” but apparently it was the only new half-hour sitcom to come out of The CW network in 2006. Eventually, the network changed their focus and decided that they only wanted hour-long programs, leaving “The Game” in the dust, despite the fact that the creators pitched a way to turn the sitcom into an hour-long dramedy. However, BET picked the show up from the depths of cancellation. It premiered to 7.7 million viewers on its new network, and has thrived there ever since.
Beavis & Butt-head
Originally Aired: September 22, 1992 – November 28, 1997
Returned: October 27, 2011
“Beavis and Butt-Head” had a long, full run on MTV back in its heyday, but it was always Mike Judge’s favorite thing he had ever created. So, it made sense to him that he would go back to it at some point, particularly now, as MTV has changed so much that the characters could not only attack music videos, but “Jersey Shore” and other horrible MTV programming as well as YouTube videos and current movies. While the show's return to the airwaves was an initial success, the ratings dwindled by season’s end, leaving the future of the series uncertain, as it has not yet been picked up for another go 'round.
Originally Aired: April 6, 2011 – May 17, 2011
Returned: March 6, 2012
“Breaking In” just simply never got its footing with an audience, despite it being a pretty decent heist comedy. The fact that it started out as a mid-season replacement for “American Idol” was already a bad sign, but when ratings didn’t follow, it was canceled pretty quickly, along with four other shows at the time. However, at the last second FOX picked up the show for a second season (despite a short, seven-episode first season and losing two main cast members), perhaps because they had nothing on the back burner. Regardless, they compensated for all this by adding Megan Mullally to the regular cast, no doubt hoping she would boost ratings. But this didn’t end up working out, and the show was canceled again and for keeps after airing only five episodes of Season 2.
Next: "The Simpsons" Biggest Continuity Errors
Originally Aired: November 2, 2003 – February 10, 2006
Returns: May 2013
Finally (and we mean that in every sense of the word), we come to “Arrested Development.” This is the little show that could. And at long last it has. Critically praised from the get-go, this near perfect series was yet another of FOX’s gross mishandlings. After receiving poor ratings in season 2, FOX briefly canceled the series until fans revolted enough to make them reconsider. A shortened third season was then produced, followed by another, permanent cancelation. That is, until now. Netflix has bought 14 brand new episodes of the series, each centered around a different member of the cast, to be released all at once in May. And we’re so excited, we just blue ourselves in anticipation.