Ideally, when a TV series premieres on a network, it stays on that network for as long as possible before it eventually comes to an end. In some cases, though, a series can be canceled and picked up by another network. It’s rare, but not unheard of. In fact, some of the most popular TV shows in history have switched networks at one point or another. But a show doesn’t always need to be canceled to switch networks.
CBS’ first superhero series, Supergirl, based on the DC Comics character of the same name, was recently renewed for a second season, though instead of airing on the flagship broadcast network, it will now air on The CW, a network co-owned by CBS and Warner Bros. TV. Fans have been calling for this switch ever since Supergirl aired last fall, primarily because the series — which is co-created by Greg Berlanti, the same guy who co-created Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow on The CW — shares the same tone and premise as its CW-DC Comics counterparts, though the series exists in a parallel universe from its counterparts…for now.
While we wait to find out what this means for The CW’s latest superhero addition, a high-profile move like this makes us wonder which other TV shows have found new homes on the small screen. Here are 11 TV Shows That Switched Networks.
Following up on the success of Rob Reiner’s A Few Good Men, legendary producer David P. Bellisario — who was at the time known for creating TV series Magnum P.I. and Quantum Leap — pitched NBC an idea for a U.S. Navy-themed series, JAG (Judge Advocate General). Though the peacock network picked up the series, they ended up canceling it after just one season (with one unaired episode) due to disappointing ratings. Since Paramount Network Television (which later merged into CBS Television Studios) co-produced the series, CBS decided to pick it up as a midseason replacement for a declining Mr. & Mrs. Smith.
JAG‘s ratings kept climbing and climbing, and the series ended up staying on the air for ten seasons. It finally concluded in 2005, after 227 episodes, but not before launching the incredibly popular spin-off series NCIS — which not only has been voted the #1 show on television but has been among the Top 5 highest-rated shows for seven seasons running. It also launched two additional spin-off series: NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: New Orleans. It’s clearly evident that picking up JAG was the best decision CBS ever made, which has effectively cemented their primetime dominance amongst broadcast networks.
10. Stargate SG-1
In 1997, Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner co-created Stargate SG-1, a TV series sequel to Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin’s 1994 sci-fi movie Stargate, inspired by the hypothetical Einstein-Rosen bridge that would potentially allow for immediate travel between planets. The series originally aired on Showtime, giving the subscription channel its highest ratings ever. But since it was expensive to produce, Showtime reached an agreement with MGM to air the series in syndication six months after an episode’s airdate.
A year later, Syfy (then named Sci-Fi) acquired exclusive cable rights to Stargate SG-1, along with The Outer Limits and Poltergeist: The Legacy. As with Showtime, Stargate SG-1 was a hit on the network, which was a deciding factor in picking up the series when Showtime decided to cancel it after its fifth season. Syfy continued the series for an additional five seasons, which concluded in 2007.
Much like CBS with JAG, Syfy’s Stargate SG-1 spawned a franchise on the network, including animated series Stargate Infinity, live-action spin-off series Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe, and movies Stargate: The Ark of Truth and Stargate: Continuum. In 2011, though, the franchise came to an end, after 17 years, when the network canceled Stargate Universe due to declining ratings. The interstellar traveling series remained dormant for three years until MGM announced plans in 2014 to reboot the franchise with a reimagined movie trilogy featuring the return of Emmerich as director and Devlin as producer.
9. Arrested Development
The critically-acclaimed series Arrested Development paved the way for single-camera comedies like 30 Rock and Community, and is noted for being the first major TV series to be picked up by Netflix following a cancellation from another network. Arrested Development, which follows the Newport Beach-based Bluth family, originally aired on Fox from 2003 to 2006, but was canceled due to subpar ratings. At the time of cancellation, Showtime was rumored to be mulling the idea of picking up the series, but creator Mitchell Hurwitz opted not to continue telling the Bluth family’s story. He felt that he had taken the series as far as he could.
In 2011, however, Hurwitz and the cast of Arrested Development reunited for a panel at The New Yorker Festival, where he announced plans to continue the series with a shortened fourth season which would lead-into an Arrested Development movie. Shortly after the panel, it was revealed that Netflix had acquired the license to the series and would air the long-awaited fourth season in 2013. However, due to the actors’ hectic schedules, virtually each episode in the season focused on a different character, allowing for little to no intermingling between characters. Fans have been worried that the truncated fourth season would be a one-off for the streaming service, but, as it is, Hurwitz has recently confirmed that a fifth season is, in fact, happening; we just don’t know when it will air.
Like Arrested Development, Community was a critically-acclaimed, widely beloved single-camera comedy series that was, unfortunately, canceled prematurely. After five seasons on the air, NBC closed the doors to the Dan Harmon-created series — about a group of diverse students who formed a study group at Greendale Community College — in 2014.
Note that Community ended after five seasons. Throughout the series’ run, fans adopted the phrase “six seasons and a movie,” which means Community was one season short of their destiny. Therefore, Harmon and Sony Pictures TV began shopping around for a new host. It was heavily rumored the Hulu would be picking up the series, though it eventually went to Yahoo, who was looking to launch the all-new content delivery platform, Yahoo Screen.
Although fans got their dream sixth season, in the end, Community was a failure for Yahoo, and even contributed to the search engine shuttering the video platform and recording a whopping $42 million loss in 2015. But still, fans want more Community, and Harmon believes that will come in the form a movie instead of a seventh season.
7. The Mindy Project
After rising to fame on NBC’s The Office, Mindy Kaling created and starred in the FOX romantic comedy The Mindy Project, which ran on the network for three seasons before being canceled in 2015. The series, which was often the subject of both acclaim and intense scrutiny for its casting decisions, was nominated for and won several awards, though its ratings continued to decline year-after-year.
While The Mindy Project was never really a hit in the ratings, averaging just over three million viewers, it was a fan-favorite amongst online streamers, which made Universal TV’s decision to shop the series around content delivery platforms sensible. And unlike the rumors with Community, Hulu did eventually pick up The Mindy Project for an expanded fourth season (which is currently airing). And, again, unlike Community, Hulu has renewed the series for a fifth season, which is scheduled to premiere later this year.
When the long-running series ER ended in 2009, NBC was looking to replace it with another ground-breaking series. So they looked to ER executives Christopher Chulack and John Wells, who had signed on to produce the Ann Biderman-created crime drama Southland.
NBC took a chance on a new LA-based series and premiered it one week after ER ended, in April 2009. Things were looking good, and NBC renewed Southland for a second season. However, approximately one month before its premiere date, NBC delayed the series’ second season a month. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long after that that the network canceled Southland altogether (this seems to be a recurring theme for NBC).
TNT ended up picking up the Warner Bros. TV-produced series that took a “raw” look at the lives of the LAPD. By taking the series in a new direction, and focusing more on the core cast, TNT was able to let Southland run for an additional four seasons, before taking it off the air in 2013.
Scrubs‘ move from NBC to ABC in 2009 is rather unique, for it had nothing to do with ratings, and everything to do with production. Viewers may remember the Writer’s Guild of America Strike (which lasted from November 2007 to February 2008) that paralyzed the television industry. During that time, only a handful of Scrubs‘ initial order of season seven episodes aired. Anticipating such a strike, NBC had asked series creator Bill Lawrence to rewrite the season’s 12th episode as a tentative series finale, but the episode never filmed, thus leaving the series in limbo.
The WGA strike affected several networks, but it hit NBC the hardest. Virtually all of their primetime shows, including Heroes, 30 Rock and The Office, all received shorter seasons. In the case of Scrubs, though, NBC put the comedy on hiatus indefinitely, replacing it with Celebrity Apprentice. In fact, during the strike, NBC turned to reality television to offset the losses of its primetime shows (so, if it weren’t for the strike, Keeping up With the Kardashians would never have been born). Since the network put Scrubs on hold, ABC Studios considered moving the series to ABC — which they did the following season.
Scrubs aired an additional two seasons on ABC, though it probably should’ve aired one. The series’ final season was a mess, only featuring three of the series’ original seven main cast members and a new setting. While the move to ABC allowed Lawrence to conclude the series properly, it overstayed its welcome on the network.
4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Joss Whedon may be known to modern audiences for directing the first two Avengers movies, but he’ll always be remembered as the guy who brought Buffy the Vampire Slayer to life on the big and small screens.
Based on the film of the same name, Buffy the Vampire Slayer premiered on the relatively new network, The WB, in 1997, where it remained for five consecutive seasons. In 2001, Warner Bros. TV moved the series to UPN for its final two seasons before continuing the story in several novels, comics and video games. Interestingly, UPN and The WB would merge to form The CW four years later.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is considered to be one of the greatest shows ever made, routinely appearing in Top 50 and Top 100 greatest shows of all-time lists from major publications. Very few shows have impacted the television industry (and fan culture) as much as Buffy. And, despite going off the air in 2003, the series’ cult following remains prominent to this day.
Like its titular character, Futurama‘s production was frozen for quite some time before being revived. Originally airing on FOX from 1999 to 2003, the Matt Groening-created animated sci-fi comedy received critical acclaim, garnering viewers in the tens of millions, though the network always seemed to be itching to cancel it.
Throughout its run, Futurama switched time slots a wholly unreasonable amount. It was always being usurped by sporting events, which resulted in viewers not knowing when (or if) new episodes will air. So it was no surprise when FOX finally ceased production after four short seasons.
Shortly after cancellation, the series began a successful syndicated run on Cartoon Network, thus prompting 20th Century Fox TV to revive the series in 2006 with four direct-to-video movies. Comedy Central would later split the movies into 16 30-minute episodes, constituting a fifth season.
Due to the fifth season’s success, Comedy Central picked up Futurama for two additional seasons consisting of 26 episodes each. Unfortunately, Futurama‘s run on the comedy network was short-lived and was canceled in 2013. Its final episode, “Meanwhile,” acts as the indefinite series finale — which, interestingly, is the fourth episode to be written for the same purpose.
2. Mystery Science Theater 3000
While it’s rare for a show to be canceled and picked up by another network, it’s unheard of for a show to be canceled multiple times and picked up multiple times by several different networks. The journey of Joel Hodgson’s iconic sci-fi series Mystery Science Theater 3000 (commonly referred to as MST3K) is completely unprecedented.
MST3K got its start on the local Minneapolis network KTMA in 1988, where it ran for one season. Despite being a success on KTMA, the network filed for bankruptcy in 1989, and MST3K was sold to HBO’s Comedy Channel (later merged with HA! to make Comedy Central). The series ran on Comedy Central for an additional six seasons and “helped put the network on the map,” but due to a leadership change in 1996, MST3K was, unfortunately, canceled. However, an executive at USA Networks reportedly liked the show so much, he ended up picking up the series for the Sci-Fi Channel, where it ran for three more seasons. Its third and final cancellation came in 1999, after an 11-year run on three separate networks.
Though MST3K has remained dormant for 17 years, thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, it will soon be coming back once again, and with an all-new cast, featuring the likes of Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt. Production began in January 2016, and the first footage will be seen at San Diego Comic-Con 2016 this July.
Baywatch is one of the most widely-recognized and successful shows in TV history, but when the series premiered on NBC (yes, NBC… again) in 1989, it was a flop, ranking 74th in the seasonal ratings. The ratings, along with Baywatch‘s production company, GTG, shuttering, were enough to force the peacock network to cancel the series.
After a one-year production hiatus during the 1990-1991 TV season, star David Hasselhoff managed to revive the series for first-run syndication. Baywatch was subsequently sold into over 40 international markets and premiered in 1992 under production of The Baywatch Company.
Baywatch remained on the air throughout the ’90s and officially ended in May 2001. The story of the iconic L.A. County lifeguards, however, will continue on the big screen in 2017 with the Seth Gordon-directed, Ivan Reitman-produced Baywatch movie, starring the likes of Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, and Alexandra Daddario, as well as Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson.
Did we miss any of your favorite network-hopping shows? Which cancelled series do you need to see picked up by another network? Let us know in the comments section.
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