Of all the amazing benefits of the Internet, one that is often overlooked is its ability to resurrect forgotten cultural icons. While movies have been the subject of remakes, and comic strips have been relaunched, the real successes have been TV shows, particularly in the English-speaking world.
Here, we present a list of 10 outstanding TV shows that you really shouldn’t miss. Each of which has been cancelled by its network, only to be resurrected in the Internet age. And it’s all thanks to the continued support from fans, who have started online petitions, tweeted industry execs, and written tributes in order to bring their favorite shows back to life.
It’s amazing to think that back in 2002, The X-Files was cancelled after nine years, and 202 episodes, following a poorly-received ninth series. However, Chris Carter’s sprawling tale of small-scale oddballs terrorizing towns, and alien conspiracy theories – played out over the desire of David Duchovny’s maverick FBI Agent Fox Mulder to find his missing sister – just wouldn’t go away.
Perhaps it was the chemistry Duchovny shared with co-star Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully, or maybe it was just the fact that the show managed to tap into the zeitgeist. Either way, it has remained popular through reruns and DVD sales, and is a high bar for comparison with later shows.
Although the 2008 movie The X-Files: I Want to Believe brought Mulder and Scully back into the public consciousness, the real resurrection is yet to happen. In 2013 Chris Carter announced that further series of The X-Files depended on 20th Century Fox; in March 2015, it was finally confirmed that the show would return for a six-episode series, to air in 2016.
Beyond The X-Files, there has also been a concerted campaign to bring back Millennium, Chris Carter’s other much-missed show set in the same fictional universe. For details, see www.backtofrankblack.com.
Somehow, the exploits of the Bluth family, as seen on Arrested Development, which ran on Fox from November 2003 to February 2006, gained enough of a following in its 54 episodes that almost 10 years after the first series, Netflix released a fourth season of 15 episodes. How? Mostly through repeat screenings and a cult online following.
The secret of this sitcom is its setting, and the various idiosyncrasies. For instance, there’s the uncredited narration by renowned movie director Ron Howard (whose original idea led to the show’s development), and the fact that it follows a family that has just lost its wealth.
Strong scripts and a tight ensemble cast – including 1980s teen heartthrob Jason Bateman – are reflected by Arrested Development‘s persistently strong reviews and a collection of awards, including Emmys and Golden Globes, across the show’s history.
A favorite since it launched on NBC in 2009, Community – which follows a group of students at community college – was axed by the network in 2014 after five series. A favorite of TV critics and the focus of a cult following, Community had long lived by the mantra ‘six seasons and movie’ (as uttered in the episode “Paradigms of Human Memory”), so it made poetic sense that a sixth series should happen.
In June 2014, just weeks after NBC announced the show’s cancellation, Yahoo! confirmed that it was commissioning a sixth series of Community for online enjoyment through Yahoo! Screen. Filming for this completed in March 2015, and the necessary movie is already in the early stages of production.
Cancelled twice by the BBC (the original run was 1988 to 1993, followed by three series 1997-1999), Red Dwarf was thought lost to time, a rare sci-fi comedy (and one of the funniest BBC comedies of all time). However, when the old episodes were screened on British comedy channel Dave between 2009 and 2012, it became apparent that a strong fanbase for the show – starring Craig Charles, Chris Barrie, Danny John-Jules and Robert Llewellyn – was demanding new episodes.
The answer? Give them what they want. Following a 2009 three-episode production to celebrate the show’s arrival on Dave, Red Dwarf X (the series have had Roman numeral suffixes since 1989’s second series) was commissioned in 2011, and its strong ratings in 2012 resulted in two more runs (naturally Red Dwarf XI and XII) being confirmed in 2015, with broadcast planned for 2016 and 2017.
Red Dwarf has always been cult viewing, and the majority of its series were produced on a low budget and filmed in front of a live audience. If you’ve never seen it, think of it as a really dysfunctional Big Bang Theory set on a spaceship.
Back when the Web was the domain of nerds, geeks, and hackerz, Family Guy was a popular animated show for grownups to watch when the kids were in bed. With echoes of The Simpsons but less subtlety to the laugh-out-loud humor, Seth MacFarlane’s show was cancelled in 2001, after just three short series.
So why is it still running? After a total of 13 seasons, the show has amassed 248 episodes, thanks in no small part to a fanbase of DVD buyers worldwide (many of which bought the DVDs on Amazon and similar sites) and a strong cult following online.
When Family Guy returned in 2005, there was relief and celebration among its fans. The first post-hiatus episode, “North by North Quahog”, attracted an impressive 11.85 million viewers. Of course, you don’t need me to tell you any of this as Family Guy is ridiculously popular already; after all, it has its own mobile game.
Unusually, the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) commissioned the second series of Ripper Street before the first had even aired; and then, midway through the second run of episodes, it was cancelled, citing low viewing figures (and conveniently overlooking the lack of promotion).
Fans of the show were, rather naturally, hugely disappointed, having invested in the lead trio of Edmund Reid, Bennet Drake, and Homer Jackson, three investigators in Victorian-era Whitechapel, London, where residents lived in fear following the unsolved Jack the Ripper murders.
The cast and writers were pretty annoyed too, and in the USA BBC America had a hit taken off its hands. But gauging enthusiasm online, and impressed by the production and those behind it, Amazon opted to throw its hat into the ring, pulling Ripper Street from cancellation hell for a third series.
Launching on Amazon Instant Video (which you can subscribe to separately or as one of Amazon Prime’s benefits) in late 2014, its reception from viewers and critics alike was strong enough for a fourth and fifth series to be commissioned in May 2015.
To some, the single greatest thing Joss Whedon (writer and director of The Avengers: Age of Ultron) ever did, Firefly is a space western that starred Nathan Fillion for 14 episodes in 2002, but was cancelled after the 11th episode aired. A few months later, Firefly received the Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Series gong at the Primetime Emmy Awards.
It soon became apparent that despite lower-than-expected ratings, Firefly had strong DVD sales, and its strong online support prompted Whedon and Universal Pictures to produce a sequel movie, Serenity. The movie revival won the 2006 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, and the universe continues in spinoff media.
Beavis and Butt-head
Amazingly, the badly-animated sitcom about two socially inept rock fans watching videos and having (often violent) misadventures was not only commissioned in the first place, it was revived in 2011.
Perhaps I’m a little uncharitable about this pair, but as a cartoon that is considered to be “classic 1990s youth culture” at a time when I was growing up, Beavis and Butt-head seems simply inept. Sure, there’s a certain charm in the back-to-basics approach, but the implication that this was me or any of my friends on screen, as young rock fans, was risible. All you need to know is right here in the broadcast disclaimer:
“Beavis and Butt-Head are not real. They are stupid cartoon people completely made up by this Texas guy whom we hardly even know. Beavis and Butt-Head are dumb, crude, thoughtless, ugly, sexist, self-destructive fools. But for some reason, the little wienerheads make us laugh.”
Clearly, I was in the minority. Created by Mike Judge (later King of the Hill) it originally ran from March 8, 1993 to November 28, 1997, stopping off at the cinemas in 1996 for the animated feature Beavis and Butt-head Do America. While continued reruns and some Internet interest kept the duo alive, it seems that this particular revival was driven more by Judge than a desperate fandom.
Although the revived Beavis and Butt-head opened to an audience of 3.3 million viewers in October 2011, this soon dwindled to 900,000. The new series has since been screened around the world, however.
Another show that was cancelled twice, serial crime drama The Killing first appeared on AMC in 2011 and was based on Danish show Forbrydelsen. In 2012, after the second run on TV, the show’s cancellation was announced, but AMC changed its mind following negotiations over a co-production with Fox and Netflix.
In September 2013, The Killing was bizarrely cancelled for the second time, but two months later Netflix announced that it had commissioned a further six episodes to conclude the series.
With similarities to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, and strong critical response (including 20 awards nominations and two wins), The Killing‘s lifespan has been every bit as enigmatic as its storyline.
Surely the ultimate story of continued interest and Internet support bringing back a TV show. Cancelled after 26 years by BBC One in 1989, Doctor Who was largely forgotten outside of niche groups online and off until 1995 when it was rumored that a new series was in the works, in a co-production with Fox and Universal.
This was confirmed not as a series, but a one-off TV movie starring Paul McGann, Daphne Ashbrook, and Eric Roberts, and while not a success in the USA (thanks to poor scheduling against the Roseanne season finale) the movie did well enough in the UK to maintain interest and kickstart the show’s online fandom.
Fast forward to 2003, the show’s fortieth anniversary. While a webcast revival starring Richard E Grant hoped to breathe new life into Doctor Who, it remained a shock when news leaked in September that the BBC had commissioned a new series, to be overseen by Russell T Davies.
When it aired in 2005, starring Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper, the show updated “classic series” elements like the TARDIS and Daleks and largely ignored everything else, resulting in a popular and critical success that continues to this day. New episodes are screened annually and some of the best Doctor Who episodes are available to watch on Netflix.
The current Doctor Who, now more than 50 years old, has Steven Moffat as showrunner, and stars Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman.
Favorite Show Cancelled? Never Give Up!
As a Doctor Who fan from childhood, I know what it’s like to have your favorite TV show taken off air. You might take it personally, and be completely bewildered by the decision. You’ll also be puzzled by many peoples’ apparent lack of interest or empathy. Finally, you’ll be convinced that you and other fans are in some way far more intelligent than anyone else.
Don’t let the emotional rollercoaster get you down. It took Doctor Who so long to get back on air partly because there was no organized fandom for much of the 16-year period between the two series. Indeed, thanks to the Internet, there is no need for any show to be off air for that long ever again, thanks to Twitter campaigns, electronic petition websites, and Kickstarter, not to mention the current boom in fan-creator meetings at conventions.
Are you waiting for a favorite TV show to returns from cancellation? Is there a series you would love to see return? Tell us about it in the comments.