Nostalgia has been a huge commodity in film over the past few years. Resurrecting huge properties such as Star Wars, Ghostbusters, and Planet of the Apes has been a popular trend for a while now, but movies tend to end after a few installments. With television, particularly American television, series tend to go on until audiences lose interest. Few series, like Breaking Bad, are lucky enough to go through a natural cycle. The majority of television series are often forced off the air when their ratings don’t stack up.
Over the last few years, though, it may seem there has been a push to bring some of these series back, especially with streaming services such as Netflix entering the fold. It may seem like this is a rather new trend starting a few years ago. Shows like Arrested Development, Gilmore Girls, Community and Will and Grace have all managed to be “uncanceled”.
Truth is, the act of uncanceling a television series is nothing new. For a lucky few series, cancelation didn’t mean a final curtain call.
Here are 15 TV Shows You Didn’t Know Were Canceled, Then Revived.
24 was a unique series for a number of reasons. Firstly, it took place in “real time”. That is, every episode had a running clock, counting down 24 hours during which some criminal or terrorist plot could finally come to fruition. Second, there was lots of split screen. Third, it starred Keifer Sutherland screaming at anyone who got in his way with his unmistakably gruff voice.
Oh, and torture, plenty of torture.
Although the series did run a natural course until its eighth and final season, plans to immediately make a feature film version of the show were in the works. At one point, the film was supposed to mark a crossover between the world of 24 and the Die Hard franchise, with Jack Bauer teaming up with John McClane. Unfortunately, plans to make a feature would eventually be canceled, but 24 returned in May of 2013 as a limited-run event series with the oddly James Bond-like title Live Another Day. The show is getting yet another revival in 24: Legacy, though minus the Sutherland this time.
Before winning an Oscar for Boyhood and after fleeing the mob in True Romance, Patricia Arquette played Allison DuBois, a police advisor with a serious case of the sixth sense on Medium.. Every week Allison had to balance a family life with solving crimes brought to her from beyond the grave, as grieving ghosts fed her clues to finally give their souls rest.
In terms of ratings, fans and networks couldn’t seem to make up their minds about Medium and the series moved time slots like a game of musical chairs. The show was a hit for NBC during its first season, but the ratings began to drop during the second. A move to Wednesday’s during the show’s third season opposite ABC’s Lost really hit the series hard. Season four moved to Sundays and a fifth season aired Mondays. After all that shuffling, NBC finally canceled the show, only to see CBS pick it up 24 hours later.
Scrubs managed to build a dedicated fan base that kept the medical comedy a solid performer in the ratings department. Unfortunately, the show ran into a series of unfortunate events that would send it on a wild ride.
It also had an odd cooperative agreement between rival networks ABC and NBC. While ABC would produce the show, the series would actually air on NBC. This point will become important in a moment.
The writer’s strike of 2007 eventually caused trouble for the show’s seventh season, as it was put on hiatus without filming the season’s final episodes. During this time, ABC had decided to make a grab for the show, prompting NBC to threaten the network with legal action. Amid the brouhaha, Braff and showrunner Bill Lawrence insisted that season 7 would be the last.
ABC did manage to get a hold of the show, but again, it was insisted season 8 would end the show. ABC aired one more season of Scrubs before ending for real, with star Zach Braff only appearing in six episodes to make way for a new cast.
Before streaming channels like Netflix were snatching up canceled shows and breathing new life into them, there was always the possibility of syndication. Baywatch was one of those shows with a relatively simple premise. The series told the tale of sun-worshipping lifeguards who spent their days saving the lives of unlucky, beach-dwelling Los Angelites.
The show premiered on NBC, where it only managed to last 1 season. Baywatch would have gone the route of so many other failed series, but show star David Hasselhoff, along with the creators, still believed the show had major potential to be a hit. The series was picked up for syndication in 1991 and proved all its detractors wrong. The show would continue to air for a decade and managed to spawn a series of direct-to-video films as well.
Baywatch’s lasting power is still prevalent today, with an upcoming movie of the franchise starring Zac Efron and The Rock.
11. The Killing
The Killing was actually based off of a Danish television show entitled Forbrydelsen which may sound like a drug for erectile dysfunction, but actually, means “The Crime”. The show starred Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman as a pair of detectives who work to solve the murder of young Rosie Larsen. The series was praised by critics who couldn’t help but compare it to David Lynch’s soon-to-be-revived, Twin Peaks.
Despite the glowing reviews and a number of Emmy nominations, the series just couldn’t pick up enough ratings, even on AMC. Things first got rocky for the series after season two, when AMC first announced The Killing would not be returning to television. Thanks to a renegotiation, the show would get a third season, but it wasn’t enough. Season three marked the last time it would be seen on AMC, but shortly after cancelation, Netflix grabbed the series for a fourth and final season.
10. Stargate SG-1
Stargate SG-1 is based on the franchise started by Independence Day director and cataclysm fetishist Roland Emmerich. Stargate the film was about a portal housed by the military, which acted as a gateway to a world light years away.
SG-1 took place one year after the events of the film. Unlike the rest of the shows on this list, Stargate SG-1 didn’t get canceled by its home channel, Showtime, because it was a ratings failure. SG-1 actually had some of the highest ratings the cable channel had ever received. The two-hour pilot alone was watched in 1.5 million households.
The problem with SG-1 was the price tag it demanded to produce. The show needed to branch out from Showtime if it was going to stay afloat. The series made a deal to deliver syndicated episodes, six months after the original air date on Showtime.
After a while, Showtime realized the move wasn’t bringing any new subscribers in when they could simply watch it on regular cable. In 2002, Sci Fi Channel managed to procure exclusive rights to Stargate SG-1 after Showtime bowed out, and a TV franchise was born.
9. Sister, Sister
Sister, Sister starred real-life identical twins Tia and Tamera Mowery as a pair of siblings separated at birth and raised by two very different parents. Despite coming from the same gene pool, the two sisters had very different personalities. One was a bookworm and the other was a mall-hopping tween from suburbia. Sister, Sister was a bit like The Parent Trap in the same way a rock is a bit like a stone.
Sister, Sister debuted on ABC during their TGIF lineup, which included shows like Full House and Step by Step. Unlike those shows, Sister, Sister didn’t make enough of a splash in ratings for ABC to keep the show going. The network canceled the series after one season, but fledgling network The WB saw some potential in the series and swooped in up in 1995. Sister, Sister would run four more seasons of the series on The WB.
Clueless the TV show was produced by Amy Heckerling, writer and director of the original Clueless film. The series starred Rachel Blanchard, who took on the role of Cher popularized by Alicia Silverstone. Although star Brittany Murphy declined to commit to the series, Stacey Dash did manage to return as the posh Dionne Davenport. What with the popularity of the film, which was released only one year before, it would seem a series would be able to ride on the success of the film with ease.
This was not to be the case. ABC canceled Clueless after one season and immediately reran the series 18 episodes on Fridays. Suddenly, Clueless began to pick up steam which prompted UPN to pick up the series.
UPN ran the series for two more seasons, where characters of popular UPN shows Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and Moesha made brief crossover appearances. Alas, UPN canceled Clueless after its third season.
For those of you familiar with this series, you know that Southland was different from most of the police dramas on TV which took the procedural drama route. Rather than follow a group of crimefighters step by step as they solve a never-ending stream of criminal cases, Southland was more interested in showing audiences the day-to-day obstacles that face members of the Los Angeles Police Department. Southland was created by Ray Donovan creator, Ann Biderman, and set out to take an honest look at LA-based police officers.
Before he would don a badge as Gotham’s Detective Gordon, Ben McKenzie played rookie cop Ben Sherman alongside an ensemble of other powerful performers.
Despite positive reviews by critics, the show only managed to last one season on NBC, but month after cancelation, TNT announced they would air the series. Southland proved to be popular with the network and would remain on TNT for 5 more seasons before eventually getting canceled due to budget cuts.
6. Charles in Charge
Charles in Charge starred not one, but two big-time television actors who made a name for themselves in the ’70s. Scott Baio was known for his role as Chachi Arcola in Happy Days and its ill-fated spinoff, Joanie Loves Chachi. Willie Aames also made a name for himself as Buddy Lembeck in Eight is Enough.
Charles in Charge followed a formula that would be popular on shows like Who’s the Boss? and The Nanny. Take an unlikely character (in this case a college student) and throw them into a caregiver role where hilarity can ensue!
The formula would not work as well as it would for Who’s the Boss?, which found 8 seasons of success on ABC. Charles in Charge was canceled after one season on CBS, but like Baywatch found a second life in syndication. Charles in Charge would go on to last 4 more seasons before canceling in 1990.
Futurama came from the mind of Simpsons creator, Matt Groening. The series was about a 20th-century pizza guy who falls into a cryo-chamber and awakens in the 31st-century.
Originally, Groening wanted Futurama to be shown following The Simpsons, but Fox was not a fan of the idea. Instead, Fox moved the show all over the primetime schedule going from Sundays to Tuesdays and jumping between 7:30 and 8:30. It was clear Fox didn’t know what to do with the show, so they eventually they just decided not to buy any more episodes, effectively ending its run.
It was then that Cartoon Network picked up reruns of the show, along with another animated show to come back from cancelation: Family Guy. The reruns proved to be so popular that Comedy Central asked for new episodes in 2009. Futurama ran an additional 3 seasons on the network before finally calling it quits.
4. Leave it to Beaver
Few television shows of the 1950s are as iconic as Leave it to Beaver. The show’s central familial unit, The Cleavers, are often regarded by modern audiences as the quintessential American family. Still, it might surprise you that Leave it to Beaver never did as well in ratings as other shows of the time such as Perry Mason, Ozzie and Harriet, and My Three Sons. In fact, Leave it to Beaver debuted rather mediocrely.
During the show’s first season on CBS, Leave it to Beaver’s ratings weren’t good enough for the network to renew it for another season. After its cancelation, it was immediately picked up by ABC, where it never broke the Top 30 television shows of the time. Still, Leave it to Beaver was a consistent performer, allowing the series to carry on for another five seasons. After a total of 234 episodes, the show finally came to an end in 1963.
3. Cougar Town
In 2009, Scrubs and Spin City creator Bill Lawrence premiered another show that would prove to grow its own dedicated fanbase: Cougar Town.
Cougar Town followed a group of recently divorced women in their 40s who must navigate the next chapter in their lives. Although the show starred “cougars” Courteney Cox and Busy Philipps, the show was actually named after the town’s high school football team named the Cougars. Lawrence would later admit that the title was chosen because he felt it would draw the most attention.
Cougar Town originally aired on ABC and initially had a lukewarm reception from critics. Reviews were mixed for the show’s first two seasons. Cougar Town’s third season garnered relatively positive reviews from television reviewers. Despite this, ABC was done with the show after its third season.
2. Family Matters
Not everyone knows this, but Family Matters is actually a spin-off of the 1986 series Perfect Strangers. Family Matter’s matriarch, Harriette Winslow, was the elevator operator on the sitcom but became popular enough that ABC decided to give her her own show chronicling the life of her family– well, at least for a little while.
The show proved to be a popular addition to ABC’s TGIF lineup, mainly because of series favorite, Steve Urkel. Urkel would become an instant hit with his nasal catchphrase, “Did I do that?” and eventually grew so popular he became the series’ main character, with shows centering around his adventures, rather than the Winslows.
After 8 seasons, ABC was ready to purchase Family Matters for a ninth and tenth season, but agreements faltered after Disney (ABC’s parent company) and Family Matter’s producers couldn’t flesh out a deal. CBS swooped in and offered $40 million for Family Matters and TGIF comedy Step by Step. The move was short-lived, unfortunately, as CBS canceled Family Matters after one season.
1. The Bionic Woman
The Bionic Woman was a spin-off of the popular Lee Majors vehicle, The Six Million Dollar Man. Bionic Woman told the story of profession tennis player, Jaime Sommers, who, much like The Six Million Dollar Man’s Colonel Steve Austin, agrees to be the subject of a top-secret military experiment after she is critically injured in a skydiving accident. She is implanted with bionic enhancements which give her superhuman powers. She then is employed by the shadowy organization as a special agent, as top secret military offices are wont to do.
Unlike many of the selections on this list, The Bionic Woman wasn’t canceled due to low ratings. In fact, The Bionic Woman was the fifth most-watched television series during the show’s first season, performing even better than The Six Million Dollar Man. The series’ second season performed decently as well but was still canceled because ABC head honcho Fred Silverman felt the show couldn’t attract the demographics he was looking for. The show was then picked up by NBC.
Even though the series only lasted one more season on NBC, the show spawned three made-for-TV movies. One even starred Sandra Bullock!
Are there any canceled shows that you’re hoping to see revived? Let us know in the comments.
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