Even in this “golden” age of television, nothing can ever last forever. Big shows like Breaking Bad, The Wire, and Game of Thrones have all known when to call it quits, and even with AMC’s The Walking Dead aiming for 20 seasons or more - the end is surely in sight for fans and networks everywhere.
However, what happens when your favorite show is shown the door, but it isn’t quite the end that everyone thought it would be. Some of the best (and worst) shows out there have been given a second chance to rise from the grave and come back for more.
With high hopes that Bryan Fuller will be able to work his magic on NBC’s Hannibal, that show may join the likes of Arrested Development and Community, who all continued their afterlife on another network. But, what about the shows that you may not know once fell under the knife?
Whether it be your favorite homicide drama based off the shores of Denmark, that kooky comedy starring a certain Friends alumni, or even the trials and tribulations of a bleached-blond bail bondsman, there have been some close calls. Narrowly missing the grim spectre of death, here are 15 TV Shows You Didn’t Know Were Canceled.
15 Family Guy
It is hard to imagine Fox’s rude and crude version of The Simpsons not making it as far as it has today, but Seth MacFarlane’s Family Guy nearly kicked the bucket after a shockingly short run. Briefly canceled (twice), we nearly lost Family Guy in 2000 and 2002.
The simple premise of an overweight and dim-witted family “guy,” his attractive wife, and their brood of dysfunctional kids was offset by a talking dog, an evil baby, and a show with the cojones to offend anyone it could. Airing in a post-Super Bowl slot on the coattails of The Simpsons, it was a hit with younger fans. However, when things got rough in season 3, the network officially pulled the plug.
Thankfully, a loyal fanbase was spurred to buy the show on DVD, and after a three-year hiatus, the Griffins were back. It is a formula that still works to this day, and Family Guy’s continuing home video popularity is also thanks to MacFarlane’s Star Wars crossovers rocketing up the charts. In a rare instance of a network listening to the outcry of fans, Fox brought back the show - which is now in season 16.
14 The Mindy Project
Everyone knows that tired trope of a sitcom that balances a personal life, a home life, and a career, but when it came to the comedy calamity that was Dr. Mindy Lahiri, some just couldn’t get enough of The Mindy Project.
The fan-favorite comedy that served as a vehicle for Mindy Kaling was unceremoniously axed by Fox in 2015. Worries that we wouldn’t get to see any more madcap adventures from the frustrated OB/GYN were unfounded, and online giant Hulu soon swept in.
Hulu’s cards were already on the table thanks to the first 67 episodes of The Mindy Project already streaming on the platform, so it only made sense that it give the show a new lease of life.
There were several changes thanks to the Hulu move, and Ed Weeks’ character Jeremy finally got to embrace his softer side away from the Fox overlords demanding that he had to be a “man’s man.” Currently airing its sixth and final season, let’s hope Mindy bows out with her usual smile on November 14.
Lovers of country music couldn’t help but jam along to ABC’s musical drama Nashville. Charting the troubled lives of country music stars, Nashville has outlasted the competition like Smash and Galavant to find a second wind and hopefully be a star on the rise once more.
Season 4 saw flagging ratings, but the announcement of two new showrunners looked like a certainty that the show would return. Previous network president Paul Lee had even said there were plenty more stories to tell, but ABC decided to move away from Tennessee and leave our Nashville country bumpkins behind.
Lionsgate TV was so optimistic that another network would pick Nashville up, it even opted for the alternate cliffhanger ending over the happily-ever-after finale it had planned. A veritable riot kicked off, and there were over 174,000 signatures on a #BringBackNashville petition, where “Nashies” demanded to know what happened next.
Seeing the potential for another hoedown, CMT picked up the show and persevered with season 5. Even with Britton spectacularly leaving her starring role as Rayna Jaymes this season, another renewal was on the horizon. Nashville season 6 will continue to air on CMT in January 2018.
A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cancelation, does anyone actually remember the 2017 debacle surrounding newcomer sci-fi show Timeless? There were several big names that fell under the scythe of the network’s renewal slate, but with a pretty average premiere season, Timeless was one of the lesser-known casualties.
There was a kooky premise about various heroes chasing a villain trying to rewrite American history, but the show still garnered a loyal fanbase. NBC thought that prioritizing bigger shows like The Blacklist would work in its favor, but Timeless fans were up in arms about the season 1 cliffhanger.
Quicker than you could rewind a pocket watch, NBC decided that it would give Shawn Ryan and Eric Kripke’s time travel tale another shot. Helped by a production move from Vancouver to Los Angeles, it is thought that Timeless will earn back $10 million in tax credits. So, after negotiating with Sony Pictures, the powers that be renewed Timeless for a 10-episode season 2 in 2018.
11 The Killing
Dealt a killing blow twice, AMC’s grisly slow-burner was just too good to pass up on. With Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman as stoic homicide detectives, fans couldn’t get enough of the grey backdrop of Seattle - saving The Killing twice.
Forget the twisted stories on the screen, the history of The Killing is just about as complicated as one of its episodes. Showrunner Veena Sud based it on Danish show Forbrydelsen, and the dark source material made The Killing a perfect fit for AMC. However, the main problem was that season 1 failed to answer the big mystery of who killed Rosie Larsen, and by the time the show returned, some viewers had given up hope.
With viewers feeling that season 2 had already dragged out the show’s potential, AMC decided to bludgeon The Killing over the head. However, seeing a flaw in its planning, the network mercifully brought it back for season 3 - Enos and Kinnaman were still the stars, but it was a completely different show.
Even with season 3 doing marginally better, AMC was out for good and left Netflix to pick up the pieces for a fourth run of just six episodes.
10 Dog The Bounty Hunter
With one of the most recognizable hairstyles to ever grace TV, Duane "Dog" Chapman became a staple of the reality TV scene thanks to rough 'n' ready Dog the Bounty Hunter. With the no-nonsense "Dog" and his family laying down the law, the popular show was a docudrama about bail bonds and the lives of federal marshals.
Coming off the back of Chapman’s appearance on the show Take This Job, about people in strange professions, the sunglasses-wearing lawman landed his own fifteen minutes of fame. Airing from 2004 - 2012 (with a hiatus in 2007), A&E eventually canceled Dog the Bounty Hunter in 2012. It had been a great ride for eight seasons, but all parties failed to reach an agreement for a ninth round.
Cancellation was short-lived, and although returning under the name Dog and Beth: On The Hunt for CMT, Chapman and his wife were back in an identical format. As popular as the original show had ever been, On the Hunt only managed to last three seasons.
The show apparently ended due to the reality duo needing to step away from the limelight and “save” the bail industry from falling apart.
9 Friday Night Lights
As a lauded representation of Middle America, who didn’t enjoy their trip to the sleepy town of Dillon for Friday Night Lights? Sadly, NBCUniversal refused to “play ball,” and the sporty showstopper was pulled after its sophomore year. Season 2 was less than impressive for fans, and the 2007-2008 Writer’s Strike wreaked havoc on FNL more than most. With a planned arc of 22 episodes, Friday Night Lights left season 2 on a cliffhanger after just 15 episodes.
However, instead of landing in the TV graveyard, Friday Night Lights thrived on its cancellation to score a touchdown with three more seasons. The deal saw each season air on DirecTV's 101 Network, while NBC was allowed to show it a few months later.
Stars like Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton owe a lot to Friday Night Lights, and although we may have blown the final whistle for now, there are still hopes that creator Peter Berg will one day continue his hopes for a big screen adaptation to hear the Panthers roar again.
8 The Game
After nine seasons of The Game, it turns out that fate originally had very different plans for Mara Brock Akil’s comedy-drama. Created as a spin-off to Akil’s long-running sitcom Girlfriends, The Game gathered enough interest for The CW to pick up the concept for the 2006-2007 fall line-up.
Girlfriends contained an episode called “The Game”, which focused on the character of Melanie Barnett giving up her career thanks to her athlete boyfriend. The show premiered with a few tweaks - notably, Sister Sister star Tia Mowry replaced Renee Bruce as Barnett - but continued to stand on its own feet.
With a dive in ratings and a graveyard slot, The Game was already teetering on the edge by season 3. Some hoped that changing the format to an hour-long “dramedy” could rescue the concept, but with The CW focusing on far fewer sitcoms, it was little surprise that the network decided not to renew The Game after 64 episodes.
However, it came as even more of a shock that sister network CBS saved the show. After a previous average of 1.68 million viewers, The Game returned to a record-breaking 7.7 million in 2011.
Pitting Glenn Close’s ruthless Patty Hewes against Rose Byrne as her protégée Ellen Parsons, each season of Damages was a head-turning drama with more twists than your average episode of Game of Thrones.
Another showed saved by DirectTV; Patty and Ellen lived to fight another day to turn three seasons of the law drama into five. A slide in ratings and escalating costs were to blame for FX bowing out - well, Close, Byrne, Ted Danson, and William Hurt aren’t exactly cheap - but there were many other interested parties.
A revived season 4 even saw the arrival of Hollywood megastar John Goodman, and the ladies really kicked it up a notch. While the first few seasons lingered round the Hewes and Associates law firm, Damages hit its stride in later years as Patty and Ellen locked horns in increasingly dangerous situations.
Close had always maintained that she thought FX had been an odd fit for the show about two female powerhouses, stating that it had been defined by testosterone-filled The Shield. However, given a new lease of life, Damages departed just like its two leading ladies - with a classy head held high.
6 Cougar Town
ABC’s Cougar Town hated being branded as middle-aged sitcom so much, it even tried to change its name.
However, with Courteney Cox sinking her claws into the flimsy premise of season 1, Cougar Town grew in popularity as audiences followed divorcee Jules Cobb. Cox led the show on an impressive run of six seasons.
ABC had already ordered an abridged third season; a warning sign that the end was nigh. A final reprieve of 15 more episodes for season 4 ended the show’s time on the network, and it was TBS that became Cougar Town’s knight in shining armor.
Only airing for season 5 and 6, fans at least got two more seasons out to wrap up the lives of Jules and her pals with a neat bow. Better still, the final episode on TBS even poked fun at the ABC years and retitled Cougar Town as “Sunshine State” - one of the early ideas for the name change.
Not just another procedural cop drama, Southland (stylized as SouthLAnd) only lasted for one season on NBC. In case the pun-laden title hadn’t given audiences a clue, the show centered around a usual bunch of LAPD rookies and veterans. However, the big hook was that Michael Cudlitz’s lead John Cooper was a closeted gay man. Starring other big names like Ben McKenzie, Bokeem Woodbine, and Lucy Liu, Southland certainly had the star power to last.
After originally ordering a second season of 13 more episodes, NBC shifted the premiere date from September 25, 2009 to October 23 to “flesh it out” a little more. Then, just weeks before season 2 hit the airwaves, the network announced that there would be no more Southland. The cops weren’t down for long, and TNT purchased the rights to the first seven episodes, as well as the six that had already been produced for season 2.
With a move away from the ensemble cast for Season 2, TNT’s third season saw the character and budget slashed even further. However, even with this being the case, Cudlitz and McKenzie continued to lead the show to critical acclaim and a stellar five seasons.
4 The Comeback
Everybody needs to see that - well, at least when it comes to Lisa Kudrow’s starring role in The Comeback. In a post-Friends world, Kudrow’s performance as egotistical Valerie Cherish is easily her best. She created a caricature of an aged starlet looking for a way back in. Who didn't love to hate Valerie?
However, heading back to 2005, Michael Patrick King’s bittersweet comedy was canceled amidst low ratings and a slew of harsh criticism. Some people just didn’t get The Comeback, and the biggest naysayers were the likes of The New York Times. After all those crossed fingers - nine years - The Comeback returned for an even better run.
No longer under the pressure of ratings, HBO gave the mockumentary another lease of life. Kudrow is already looking at the chances of season 3, but with the death of Robert Michael Morris (who played Mickey Deane), and three years since the season 2 finale, Valerie may be all washed up for good.
Cop drama Unforgettable managed to cheat death twice before it took a bullet to the brain for a third and final time in 2016. Another schticky premise followed police detective Carrie Wells, who suffers from hyperthymesia - the ability to remember everything. If Unforgettable having its very own Rain Man wasn’t enough, the procedural also dealt with Carrie having to team up with her former lover/partner to hit the mean streets of New York.
Despite averaging 12.1 million viewers on CBS, the network opted not to continue with Unforgettable season 2 in 2012. The decision was short-lived, and the show eventually returned for 13 more episodes and a third order of the same again. However, seeing the end was coming, CBS had decided that three seasons was enough for the ailing show.
Lead stars Poppy Montgomery and Dylan Walsh were originally released from their contracts, but their characters were given another case to solve thanks to A&E resurrecting Unforgettable for season 4. Even with cancellation looming for good, Season 4 ended with a major character being shot by a sniper - a plotline that is just going to have to go unresolved.
Cult favorite Jericho almost went full Firefly as a show axed too soon. Ranked at #11 on TV Guide’s best cult shows, the tale of a post-apocalyptic America had the cast, characters, and the storyline to go onto great things. Scream alumni Skeet Ulrich led the ragtag band of survivors following a nuclear attack on 23 major cities.
Despite high hopes for season 2, CBS decided to leave Jericho behind after only one season, which prompted outraged fans to send over 20 tons of nuts to the network HQ - a reference to a scene from the show. It was eventually renewed for seven more episodes, but viewership was somehow lower than ever. Syfy and The CW were courted for season 3, but with ratings through the floor, no one picked up Jericho following its cliffhanger finale.
Even if fans didn’t get to see the exploits of the fictional Kansas town on their screens, the idea of Jericho lived on in season 3 and 4 in comic book form. And t here were once rumors of a big screen outing, so the nuclear wasteland may not be as barren as we think.
What isn’t there to love about a dysfunctional computer geek turned super spy? Enter NBC’s Chuck to brighten everyone’s day. It may have been one of the first shows renewed for the 2008-2009 season, but mainly thanks to that pesky Writer's Strike, Chuck was always classed as being “on the bubble.”
Season 2 was due to be the end, but in one of the craziest renewal ploys ever, Chuck fans fought on. Nestlé sent over 1,000 packs of Wonka Nerds to NBC, while Subway launched its very own “Save Chuck” sandwich to score a lucrative sponsorship deal and help fund season 3. Zachary Levy was even spotted leading hundreds of fans to a branch of the sandwich shop to help gather support.
Eventually, NBC conceded, and Chuck came back for season 3 and beyond. With bigger names like Linda Hamilton and Dolph Lundgren appearing in guest roles, Chuck fandom showed no signs of stopping. Sadly, cult support just isn’t enough, and Chuck continued to circle the ratings graveyard. It may have been the most discussed “bubble” show ever, but Chuck went out with something of a whimper after season 5 in 2012. Here's hoping for Chuck: The Movie.
Which is your favorite show that was resurrected from cancellation? Sound off in the comments below.
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