Every year, TV audiences become hooked on their favorite shows and delight in watching the stories continue for years. Not every show gets years to tell their story, though. There are plenty that fans believe were canceled before their time, and sometimes, those fans rally behind the television series in question in the hopes of getting just a little more time with the characters they love.
In the case of a series like Agent Carter, which was canceled after two seasons on ABC, fans started petitions and contacted streaming sites in the hopes of convincing someone to pick up the show, bring the series to a proper end, and answer the lingering questions left behind. Those fans didn’t get what they wanted, though the characters remain a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so there’s always a chance we’ll see them again someday.
Occasionally, fan campaigns go well beyond petitions, as diehards have been known to send droves of letters, iconic objects depicted on the show, and more to studios in the hopes of catching their attention. Crates of tabasco bottles have been mailed. Other times, it might be child-sized footballs with instructions to donate them to a children’s charity after the campaign is over. When fans get creative, the studios take notice.
On rare occasions, it’s the people who tune in every week who manage to bring a show back to life after a network executive has already swung Death’s axe. We’re taking a look at 17 TV Shows Resurrected By Fans.
NBC’s time travel drama is the latest in TV resurrections. Timeless follows a trio of characters (Abigail Spencer, Matt Lanter, and Malcolm Barrett) on their time-travelling exploits. The historian, soldier, and scientist are charged with stopping a villain (Goran Visnjic) from manipulating history in his quest for revenge. It quickly landed a loyal audience as it explored the pieces of history most people don’t know about, and it even became the sixth biggest show on the network during the 2016-2017 season. Those ratings didn’t save it from the chopping block, though.
With so much good TV available nowadays, and so many pilots in development, NBC chose to cancel the series, despite its apparent success. Fans immediately cried foul and launched efforts to get the show picked up by another network. And just three days after the axe had swung, series star Matt Lanter appeared in a Facebook video to tell fans about a “successful” mission as NBC decided to uncancel the show.
The reason, according to a statement from NBC, was that they “heard the fans” and “didn’t want to be on the wrong side of history,” which is a pretty fitting explanation for bringing back Timless from the brink, we’d say.
16. Designing Women
If you watched TV at all in the ’80s, you’ve probably seen at least one episode of Designing Women, a show about four women (Jean Smart, Annie Potts, Delta Burke, and Dixie Carter) who owned and operated an interior design company. Part sitcom, part prime time soap, the series became just as known for what went on behind the scenes as it did for what went on in front of the camera. Every one of the four women in the initial cast ended up dating or married to someone who guest-starred on the show, and fans tuned in as much to gossip about the actors in real life as they did to see what happened next.
During the first season, CBS didn’t do the show any favors. Halfway through its freshman year, CBS decided to move the show from its prime Monday night time slot to Thursdays, where it faced off against the popular Night Court. The ratings tanked and CBS decided to pull the show, without announcing when it would return. Fans recognized the code for cancellation and they began a letter-writing campaign, sending more than 50,000 messages to the network urging CBS to keep Designing Women on the air.
The stars of the show even appeared on the TV news series Entertainment Tonight thanking fans for the support. After all that publicity, CBS not only brought the show back, they returned it to its more successful timeslot, and it stayed on for another six seasons.
This teen science fiction drama went off the air 15 years ago, but it’s fondly remembered by a loyal audience. It followed alien-human hybrids (Jason Behr, Katherine Heigl, Brendan Fehr, Emilie de Ravin) as they navigated high school and tried to stay one step ahead of their enemies – both the government and other alien races. They only had a few humans (Shiri Appleby, Majandra Delfino, Nick Wechsler) on their side.
Low ratings following both seasons one and two saw the show constantly on the cancellation bubble. Roswell managed to eke out a second season thanks to fans raising their voices and sending handwritten notes to the studio. When that season ended, the show found itself on The WB’s chopping block, but an army of fans sent bottles of tabasco sauce to The WB’s offices by the truckload (tabasco was a staple in the diets of the aliens in the show). Their dedication wound up getting Roswell saved, though not on The WB.
14. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy the Vampire Slayer was Joss Whedon’s first major success story. Inspired by the feature film of the same name, it featured a cast of up and coming actors (Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon) and provided teens with demons as an allegory for the darkness in their own lives. The chosen one sacrificed herself in what was supposed to be a series ending episode, but the WB was willing to part with the rights to the show for a price.
Interestingly, the cancellation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was mostly met with resignation by fans instead of campaigns and protest movements. There was a general consensus that the show had a good run, but an acceptance that it was over. The chatter about the series and the successful ratings for the show – especially on a network like the WB, that didn’t boast huge numbers to begin with – had UPN interested in it. They decided to purchase the rights to the series to bring a larger audience to their own network, and even accepted Roswell as a condition of getting Buffy back on the air.
Buffy and her friends live on in a comic book series that has given fans additional “seasons” all over the world.
This science fiction series from the ’90s involved Jerry O’Connell and friends “sliding” to alternate worlds thanks to a weird invention that looked like a remote control with a timer. The catch? The group just couldn’t seem to find their way home, and sometimes, they decided to stay in the new worlds they visited, leading to a lot of new faces over the years. The real trouble was that the quality of the show was hit or miss, and the writers couldn’t seem to decide if it was a comedy or a drama. Viewership declined in season three, and Fox opted to send the show on its way.
Though viewers were few in number, they were a passionate bunch, and they didn’t let the show go so easily. Because this was before the age of social media, a letter-writing campaign was hatched by fans to let the network know just how much they wanted the show. Some fans even called the studio to complain. After seeing the fan fervor, Fox was willing to let the show go to a new home for a price, since they didn’t think it was worth keeping it on board.
Syfy (at the time, called SciFi) was a relatively new network that was looking to increase viewership and beef up its lineup, so they took on the series for another two seasons. Years after the show ended, the network even showed marathons of it in syndication.
12. Friday Night Lights
Before Friday Night Lights was a television series, it was also a book and a movie. Brought to audiences by the same man behind Roswell – Jason Katims – it was about a small town in Texas where the lives of the residents revolved around high school football. The show was praised by critics and audiences alike for its realism and emotional intensity. Compared to the rest of the lineup on NBC, though, Friday Night Lights wasn’t a ratings standout. NBC flirted with the idea of canceling the series after its second season, but fans rallied.
Demonstrating an interest in the show and a willingness to do good, one group of fans organized a campaign that involved sending specialty footballs to NBC. They had children’s sized footballs made with the show’s signature phrase, “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose,” and collected money to send them en masse to NBC’s offices. The footballs arrived with instructions to donate them to a children’s charity once the campaign was over.
NBC started looking at ways to keep the show on the air without spending a fortune. The solution was to partner with Direct TV so that NBC wouldn’t have to foot the entire bill. Through the partnership, the series returned for three more seasons.
A post-apocalyptic series, Jericho didn’t quite land with audiences in the way dystopian shows like The Walking Dead or The 100 have in recent years. Skeet Ulrich led a cast that included future Walking Dead star Lennie James. The main characters lived in a small town in the middle of Kansas who witnessed a mushroom cloud on the horizon. After, they’re left without power and communication with the outside world, so they have to find a way to not only figure out what’s been going on, but also to survive in the new world.
The series lasted only one season on television, but like Roswell before it, fans took inspiration from a particular aspect of the show to ask for more. One character used the word “nuts” in the final episode as a response to the idea of his forces surrendering. Fans took up his rallying cry and sent jars, boxes, and bags of all kinds of nuts to studio executives. In return, the fans were given another season of the show.
10. Family Guy
From the mind of Seth MacFarlane, Family Guy is not the kind of cartoon kids watch on Saturday mornings. Instead, the animated series deals with grown-up problems, a talking dog, and a genius baby as it takes on pop culture with plenty of adult-orientated humor. MacFarlane, Mila Kunis, Seth Green, and Alex Borstein provide the bulk of the vocals for the show, which spawned a spinoff series The Cleveland Show and even crossed over with The Simpsons.
In its fifth season, Family Guy was cancelled to make room for other programming. Fans might have been upset, but they didn’t launch the same level of campaigns that audience members did for other shows. Instead, the fanbase put their money where their mouth was and bought copies of DVDs of earlier seasons. DVD sales soared, something the studio hadn’t been expecting. A year later, the show returned to television.
9. Quantum Leap
Quantum Leap took the search for fitting in and made it literal as Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) time jumped over and over trying to get back to his home – and his own time. He ended up traveling through time as an accident while performing an experiment, but Sam’s travels continued as he couldn’t exactly control when he ended up – or whose body he took over when he jumped. He was aided in his adventures by a holographic program named Al (Dean Stockwell) that only he could see. In its third season, NBC moved the show from its usual Wednesday night time slot to Fridays in an effort to burn off the remaining episodes, a practice TV fans were familiar with already, and they weren’t happy about it.
While NBC was canceling Quantum Leap, fans sprung into action. They organized letter-writing campaigns and got the advocacy group Viewers for Quality Television involved. The same group’s members had written letters on behalf of the series Cagney and Lacey in the past, and they advocated for the renewal of Quantum Leap. Even showrunner Donald P. Bellisario, the man who went on to make such hit procedurals as JAG and NCIS, threatened to not allow any more of his shows to be offered to NBC.
The typical slacker (Bret Harrison) finds himself in a job he never really wanted: working for the devil (Ray Wise) in this CW comedy. It was a supernatural series for people who weren’t ready for the darkness of something like Supernatural. While the show had a lot of appeal, it produced average ratings for the network, and The CW opted to cancel it after its first season to make room for series that might grab more viewers. Little did the network know that Reaper fans were ready to fight for the show to make a comeback.
Fans sent thousands of socks (because one of the characters was nicknamed Sock, of course) to the network to catch their attention, and executives relented. The show was granted a second season, reversing the cancellation, though its ratings didn’t improve the way they expected in that batch of episodes. As a result, The CW cancelled the series after its sophomore season.
Zachary Levi starred in this beloved series as the title character, a regular guy who ended up with something called “the intersect” in his head, which meant he had so much classified knowledge in his head that everyone wanted a piece of him. Chuck, of course, had to be protected by a pair of spies (Yvonne Strahovski, Adam Baldwin) on a series of wacky adventures. The show was fun and funny, but after its second season, NBC was ready to pull the plug.
Instead of taking the usual routes seen by studios up to this point, fans decided to target advertisers, not studio executives. The sandwich chain Subway had been featured in the show in the past, so fans decided to show the business some extra love. They went to the restaurant in droves, one group even being led by Levi himself, to prove that the audience was willing to spend the money advertisers wanted to see.
Greendale Community College has a colorful array of students and teachers, as Jeff (Joel McHale) discovered when he enrolled. TV audiences watched adults used paintball competitions to solve problems and allow important decisions to rest on a simple roll of the dice. The community spawned a legion of loyal fans who weren’t ready for NBC to cancel the show in its fifth season.
In the age of social media, fans didn’t just write NBC or stage protests, but they also flooded the internet with their campaign. #SixSeasonsAndAMovie became the rallying cry for fans across Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and everywhere else they could make their voices heard. The fans haven’t gotten the movie they wanted, but they did get a sixth season of 13 episodes courtesy of Yahoo.
Yahoo Screen streamed the final season of the show before the cast moved onto other projects. Of course, the writer/producer duo of Joe and Anthony Russo have been making it their mission to include a Community cast member cameo in every part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe they work on as well.
5. Kim Possible
Kids all over the world knew that they could call her or beep her if they needed to reach Kim Possible, voiced by Christy Carlson Romano for the Disney Channel’s animated series. Kim was a popular high school girl, a cheerleader, but also a spy. She went on missions across the globe to save the day, but she had to be back home for curfew. Following its second season, Disney was all set to cancel the series.
When a children’s show is cancelled, the fan effort to get it back on television is usually minimal, since kids usually don’t realize it right away. Kids’ networks have a habit of airing many a repeat before a new episode airs, so sometimes, the show has already been gone for months before anyone realizes that it’s met its demise. With Disney’s programming aimed at tweens, though, Kim Possible was something different. When the series was scrapped by the Disney Channel, fans were none too pleased, and they, like many adults before them, organized letter-writing campaigns to get the network to see the error of its ways, devoting webpages to giving other fans instruction on how to help.
4. Veronica Mars
If Nancy Drew had been developed in the 21st century, the character probably would have been a lot like Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell). A young woman who lived in a small beachside town rocked by scandal, Veronica moonlighted as a private investigator to help her father, who was once the sheriff, pay the bills. It was one scandal after another as the teen soap combined noir and humor to create a unique series that lasted for three seasons. It was cancelled after a fourth season pitch would have seen Veronica intern at the FBI, but that’s not where her story ended.
Fans and cast alike felt the cancellation of the series was premature, and even though it took them years to work out the details, showrunner Rob Thomas and series star Bell teamed up to find a way to bring the character back to life, organizing a Kickstarter to get a fan funded movie. Warner Bros. agreed to match what they collected by fans, as long as they had enough to actually get the movie made. The campaign made its goal in just a few hours, and then some, with the Kickstarter alone raising $5.7 million.
After fans raised millions to see Veronica back in action, the CW also developed a digital series featuring Ryan Hansen’s character for CW Seed. There has even been discussion of another revival.
3. Arrested Development
This quirky comedy followed the Bluth family (Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Jessica Walter) in a series of misadventures that involved banana stands, prison, and family business. The show quickly gained cult status in its three seasons on Fox (and even got an easter egg in Captain America: Civil War), but three seasons was all Fox could afford to spend with the Bluths.
Seven years after the show’s cancellation, all of the cast had moved on to other projects, but the age of the revival was upon us, and there was plenty of interest in getting them all back together. Netflix, the same streaming site that reunited the cast of Full House and remade One Day At A Time, decided to cash in on the love for the show and bring them back together for another season.
Though Netflix doesn’t publicly release its viewership statistics, the numbers for Arrested Development have been said to be much higher than even they expected, despite so many episodes only featuring one or two of the main cast members at a time. With so much fan interest, the streaming site decided to green light another season of the revival, which will air sometime next year.
Firefly might be the single series on this list that makes for the most bittersweet success story. Fans adored the crew of the Serenity as they became space pirates and fought against the mighty Alliance in a future where Earth was “used up.” Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Morena Baccarin, and more brought the Joss Whedon series to life for a very short 14 episodes – not all of which even aired on TV as the network shifted their schedule around and cancelled the show before it had the chance to build its audience.
The fan outcry started with the cancellation, as groups took out full page ads in newspapers thanking the cast and crew for their hard work and asking the network to reconsider. The show didn’t get renewed. Fans still rallied with cookbooks themed around the series whose proceeds went to charity, auctions that raised money for organizations they knew were supported by Whedon and other cast members, they started their own conventions centered around the show, and demanded the series be released on DVD. Once it was, they committed to purchasing multiple copies of the series – one to watch and at least one to share so they could spread the word about how good the show was. The campaign to get Firefly back in some form lasted for years.
Fans finally got an addition to the series when a movie follow-up was greenlit, Serenity, that reunited the entire original cast for a big screen adventure. Though they wouldn’t go on to make more shows or sequels to the film, and the cinematic follow-up was filled to the brim with heartbreak, Dark Horse Comics has published a few miniseries set within the canon of the show as well, allowing the series to live on.
1. Star Trek
The series that launched fandom interaction as we know it today, the original Star Trek followed the crew of the starship Enterprise (William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, George Takei) as they boldly went where no one had gone before in the far reaches of outer space. The series launched a franchise that has spanned decades, but it wasn’t always a sure thing. In fact, it was cancelled after its first television season, and it was the love of the devoted fanbase that brought it back.
When Star Trek aired, fans organized to create magazines to share theories and fanfiction about the show – some of the first instances we have of a “fandom” existing in popular culture at all. They didn’t stop there. When the series was first cancelled, groups of Trekkies committed to letter-writing campaigns, flooding the network with their pleas to keep the show on the air. They also organized a protest, with more than 200 people picketing outside NBC’s offices in 1968 until someone would listen to them.
The result? Captain Kirk and his crew got to fly again, and the franchise has gone on to include multiple television shows, movies, comic books, and games.
Surprised at some of the TV shows that have a serious legion of fans behind them? Or were you involved in a fan effort to resurrect your favorite show? Leave a comment and let us know!
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