4 TV Series That Became Popular After Cancellation
With the fall TV season upon us, television fans have plenty of new and returning programs to be excited about. While some will survive well into syndication, many will face cancellation due to poor ratings. It’s happened to countless programs — some more deserving than others. However, on rare occasions, TV shows gain considerable fan followings after they’ve gotten the axe. Here are a few shows that managed to gain cult status after they were canned — a few of which got a second chance.
Arrested Development (FOX, 2003-2006) (Netflix, 2013)
Despite endless accolades, almost universal critical acclaim, and a cult following, FOX canceled this series — about a dysfunctional family struggling through the patriarch’s incarceration — after three seasons. Fans were devastated, and never gave up hope that it would get a second life in the form of a feature length-film. In the meantime, they evangelized the show to their friends, family, and anyone.
In 2012, creator Ron Howard teamed up with Netflix and brought the entire original cast, including Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, Michael Cera, and Portia de Rossi, to give the long-suffering Arrested Development enthusiasts more than they could ever hope for — an entire new season streaming on the popular online video platform. It seems apropos, given that many new fans found the show through Netflix after it originally went off the air.
Freaks and Geeks (NBC, 1999-2000)
This series helped launch the careers of some of today’s biggest stars, including Seth Rogen, James Franco, and Jason Segel. But the fate of the program itself was not so bright. Not only did this series — about social misfits growing up in the 1980s midwest — fail to see a second season, fans of Freaks and Geeks didn’t even get to finish its first. That’s because NBC cancelled the series after just ten episodes.
A small, but vocal group of loyal watchers lobbied for the network to air the remaining episodes — and they did release two of the final eight in the summer of 2000. But the show’s real legacy has been its continued critical success, as well as how new generations of young men and women have discovered the series — which strikes the perfect balance between comedy and drama — through DVDs and streaming video.
Firefly (FOX, 2002)
Creator Joss Whedon took on quite a challenge when he helmed this futuristic space western drama about a group of people traveling aboard a spacecraft called Serenity. While Firefly boasted impressive visual effects and a hearty cast, including Becker’s Nathan Fillion, True Detective’s Jewel Staite, and Homeland’s Morena Baccarin, it failed to bring in big viewership. That’s why FOX cancelled the series after only airing 10 of the series’ 14 filmed episodes.
However, a devoted fandom emerged from Firefly. Surprisingly healthy DVD sales eventually led to the 2005 film spin-off, Serenity, as well as comic books and role-playing forums where fans can continue to share their love of of the series.
Family Guy (FOX, 1999-2003, 2005-Present)
It’s hard to believe it, but one of television’s most popular series was once on FOX’s chopping block. Family Guy premiered to so-so ratings at the turn of the century, and after struggling along for three seasons, the network cancelled Seth MacFarlane’s adult animated sitcom about the Griffin family. However, once Family Guy started airing in syndication and the series’ first three seasons were released on DVD, FOX realized it had made a mistake — because fans were pouring in to re-watch their favorite episodes, or discover the show for the first time.
In 2005, FOX brought Family Guy back — and to honor the occasion, the series opened with patriarch Peter Griffin listing every show FOX had cancelled since it went off the air.