Canceled TV Shows That Fans Brought Back From the Dead
The close connection audiences feel with the television shows they love is one of those surprisingly strong bonds. Who knew you could adore a cast of characters so much? When a show is canceled — whether due to low ratings, poor viewership or a combination of factors — a small but loyal fanbase can sometimes rally around the program and convince the network to revive it. Other times, after many years off the air, fans persuade producers to make more episodes. It’s happened many times before.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (2013-2018, 2019- )
After the success of The Office and Parks and Recreation, you might think that NBC would be more than willing to support a third program from writers Dan Goor and Michael Schur. Instead, their followup — the Andy Samberg-led buddy cop comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine — went to FOX.
After a year of less-than-perfect viewership (and a desire on the network’s part to invest in other projects), FOX canceled the show. While fans were devastated, it didn’t take long at all for NBC to leap at the opportunity to renew the show and bring Goor and Schur back.
Community (2009-2014, 2015)
After so much praise for Rick and Morty, it’d seem safe to assume that Dan Harmon has always been a hot commodity. This is only somewhat true; after having written for multiple different programs, Harmon finally got the chance to run a show of his own: Community on NBC.
Unfortunately, though, Harmon’s time with Community wasn’t easy. Constantly on the verge of cancelation, he was fired from the show after the third season and the show was canceled after the fourth. Then he was brought back for a fifth season online before it was canceled a second time.
The Comeback (2005, 2014)
In the years after Friends, any of the show’s stars could have landed any project they wanted. They were all household names, they were all on top of the world and they could’ve gone in any direction. It’s admirable that Lisa Kudrow chose to stick with a small show on HBO for her first post-Friends finale offering.
Ironically, The Comeback is all about an actress reinventing herself. It was almost immediately canceled, only to receive a comeback of its own in 2014 (before being canceled again for a second time).
Doug (1991-1994, 1996-1999)
One of the more endearing cartoons to come out of the ’90s, Doug is a show about a very imaginative (but frequently hapless) kid who’s new in town. Given how original the program was, Doug had maintained a pretty loyal following in its three years on Nickelodeon.
When Nick canceled the show, it took two years for another network to save Doug. Moving from Nickelodeon to ABC, Jim Jinkins’s one-of-a-kind cartoon had officially become a Disney property. The new network gave Doug three more years before canceling it a second time.
Futurama (1999-2003, 2008-2013)
Matt Groening has it made. As the creator of the most successful and longest-running cartoon in history, The Simpsons, it seems like any network would probably do whatever it takes to work with him on an original series. Still, this demand wasn’t enough to keep Futurama alive on FOX.
Canceled after four years, the show made a few direct-to-video specials before Comedy Central revived it in 2008. Even though it had spent half a decade off the air, the fanbase was still there. They kept returning for new Futurama episodes until the second ending in 2013.
Gilmore Girls (2000-2007, 2016)
When showrunners and executive producers Amy Sherman-Palladino and and Daniel Palladino left Gilmore Girls before the start of its seventh season, many saw the end of the road for the sweet mother-daughter dramedy. They were correct.
Canceled in 2007, Gilmore Girls aired reruns on cable and never stopped growing its fanbase. For nearly a decade, fans demanded more from the Palladinos until the pair finally caved. With the help of Netflix — a go-to source for show revivals, it seems — Gilmore Girls came back for four feature-length episodes in 2016.
24 (2001-2010, 2014, 2017)
24 is a lot of things — dramatic, exciting and over-the-top, just to name a few — but the thing that made it so unique was its structure. Each season took place over the course of 24 hours, with each episode covering one of those hours. It was enough to entertain fans for almost a decade.
The show was canceled in 2010, but 2014 saw a short-lived attempt at bringing 24 back. Following a second cancelation, FOX tried rebooting in 2017 — again, it wasn’t successful. For the third time, 24 was canceled. Maybe the fourth time’s the charm?
Family Guy (1999-2003, 2005- )
Believe it or not, there are some incredibly popular shows that didn’t really get a chance to thrive until they were canceled and revived. Despite its popularity, Family Guy is actually one of these shows. If FOX leaders had had it their way, the Seth MacFarlane cartoon would’ve been canned after just a few years back in 2003.
Thanks to a fanbase that just wouldn’t let up, the network decided it would be best to reverse the decision and give Family Guy a second chance. After returning in 2005, the cartoon is still going strong almost 15 years later.
A.P. Bio (2018-2019, 2020- )
When it was announced that Glenn Howerton would be leaving FX’s long-running comedy It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia for a new show called A.P. Bio on NBC, many fans were less than thrilled. Two seasons in, NBC wasn’t impressed with the numbers and decided to scrap the program to allow Howerton to do what he pleased.
That is, until fans gathered ’round and begged the network to give the show another chance. The network complied, partially because it was in need of content for its upcoming streaming service. A.P. Bio returns in 2020.
American Dad! (2005-2014, 2014- )
Family Guy isn’t the only Seth MacFarlane cartoon that FOX decided to cancel. With the show managing to last almost a decade on the air without any troubles, the network decided it couldn’t afford to continue investing in American Dad!‘s declining viewership. It canceled the show in 2014, hoping for no hard feelings from fans.
Later that same year, TBS was quick to snatch the cartoon up as part of its push for a slate of original content. Five years later, American Dad! still holds steady numbers well into its 16th season on TV.
Arrested Development (2003-2006, 2013-2019)
FOX is known for plenty of great cartoons, but it also used to develop all kinds of excellent sitcoms (Arrested Development being one of the most beloved). Still, the network couldn’t afford to keep the show around long.
One of the earlier examples of Netflix giving a show a second chance at life, Arrested Development returned for a mixed bag of a fourth season in 2013 and came back again for a two-part fifth season in 2018 and 2019. Based on the fifth season’s finale, it seems the show came to an end on its own accord.
Good Eats (1999-2012, 2019- )
A docu-series hosted by Alton Brown that profiles all kinds of unknown aspects about the most popular types of foods, Good Eats was informative as well as entertaining. Thirteen years must’ve been enough for Brown and Food Network, though, because it canceled the show in 2012.
Thanks to reruns, Good Eats continued to captivate. Calls on social media and viewership across Food Network and the Cooking Channel meant that Alton Brown was more than willing to bring the show back for more episodes — titled Good Eats: The Return — starting earlier in 2019 and continuing indefinitely.
Cops (1989-2013, 2013- )
Premiering all the way back in 1989, there’s no doubt that Cops played an integral part in the development of the reality TV genre. Following police officers as they patroled their precincts for over 20 years, FOX canned the show in 2013, along with the similarly structured true crime series America’s Most Wanted.
Spike TV (now Paramount Network) couldn’t allow such a popular show to go to waste, though. Within the same year of its cancelation, the network brought back Cops for additional episodes. It was a hit, so the station still airs new episodes on the regular.
The Killing (2011-2012, 2013, 2014)
AMC’s The Killing wasn’t ashamed to admit that it relied very heavily on a similar plot and structure to David Lynch’s cult classic series Twin Peaks. Unfortunately, this admission meant that the show was destined to be short-lived.
The network canceled the show in 2012, brought it back after fans demanded it in 2013, canceled it again and then allowed Netflix to revive it a third time before canceling it once more. Believe it or not, there are still calls for Netflix to revive the show for a fourth chance. (It’s unlikely to happen again, though.)
Lucifer (2016-2018, 2019- )
Taking its central concept from the Neil Gaiman comic The Sandman, FOX’s Lucifer is yet another DC Comics property that struggled to find its footing at the beginning before finally finding the right ground to establish itself. Unfortunately for this particular program, that meant getting canceled first.
Lasting two seasons on the basic cable network, Lucifer was brought to an unceremonious end. In typical Netflix fashion, though, the streamer decided there was enough potential that it was willing to take on the program as its own. (It’s still planning on ending the show again, though.)
Designated Survivor (2017-2018, 2019)
Kiefer Sutherland is no stranger to getting canceled. After all, one of his biggest roles — Jack Bauer, the lead on 24 — ended in multiple cancelations. It’s the same sort of treatment he received with ABC’s Designated Survivor. Despite a decently sized audience, the network brought the show to an end after two seasons.
Netflix, famous for saving canceled shows, happily gave Sutherland’s offering a second life. Despite this, it was quick to cancel the show once again after having brought it back just a couple of months before. Perhaps Designated Survivor wasn’t designated to survive.
Medium (2005-2009, 2009-2011)
Hailing from a family of talented actors, Patricia Arquette would be a welcome addition to any television program — especially after all her hard work on NBC’s Medium, which followed Arquette as a mother with supernatural abilities. Although the show lasted for four solid years, the network had seen enough.
Fans hadn’t, though. Neither had rival networks. Within hours of its cancelation, CBS snatched up the show from NBC and granted it a few more seasons. The show came to a close once and for all in 2011, but that’s still two more years than it lasted at NBC.
Mythbusters (2003-2016, 2017- )
Without fail, anyone who’s seen Mythbusters is quick to recall the information hosts Adam and Jamie discovered whenever applicable. Whether it’s James Bond gadgets or just some old wives’ tales being discussed, Mythbusters‘ ability to contest modern myths was always a blast.
When the show’s original hosts retired, Discovery Channel felt it was best to end the program right then and there. Fans still wanted more, though, so the network obliged. Discovery Channel searched for new hosts, allowed fans to help select them and then revived a new iteration of Mythbusters back in 2017.
Nashville (2012-2016, 2016-2018)
As ABC’s musical drama series in the same vein as the soap operas that basic cable networks air during the daytime, Nashville was a primetime series that followed a group of country musicians — from aspiring to established — in the country music capital of the U.S.
ABC gave it a good run, but it’d had enough by the end of season four and sent the show out to pasture. In a very fitting move, CMT — the country music channel — picked up the show for two more seasons. It came to an end again after 2018’s sixth season.
The Mindy Project (2012-2015, 2015-2017)
After gathering a fanbase during her years as a standout character on NBC’s The Office, writer and actor Mindy Kaling was given the opportunity to helm a show of her own over on FOX. Called The Mindy Project, it followed Kaling as she played an OB/GYN navigating life and love in New York City.
FOX let The Mindy Project go after just three seasons, but that wasn’t the end of Kaling’s time as a showrunner and lead actress. Hulu gave the show three more seasons between 2015 and 2017 before finishing it off.
Prison Break (2005-2009, 2017)
Like 24, Prison Break was one of the formative shows of the mid-2000s. A gritty, no-holds-barred look at the prison system through the eyes of a man wrongfully given the death sentence, the show was a hit…until its viewership dropped off surely and steadily.
Still, those loyal fans just wouldn’t let up. Sending messages to FOX for eight years, Prison Breakers couldn’t rest until the network did a revival. So it did. In 2017, the network gave the show one more season. And the numbers were consistent with those of the show’s previous season.
Twin Peaks (1990-1991, 2017)
Some might argue that Twin Peaks wasn’t revived — that David Lynch planned to bring the show back from the very start, dating all the way back to the line in the original series when Laura promised she’d see Cooper again in 25 years. Still, this doesn’t change the fact that ABC axed the original series in 1991.
Partially its own fault, ABC completely mistreated the program by sequestering it instead of keeping it in a primetime slot, but Showtime was kind enough to give fans what they wanted: some new Twin Peaks.
One Day at a Time (2017-2019, 2020- )
Every once in a while, something amazing happens on TV. A once-in-a-lifetime show comes along, a network cancels it and a streaming service gives it a second chance. When it comes to One Day at a Time, though, the opposite is true — Netflix made it, canceled it and then let a TV network save it.
Lasting just two years but gathering a huge following because of its heartwarming nature and important representation, One Day at a Time fell victim to Netflix’s canceling spree. The premium network Pop will give the show additional seasons starting in 2020.
Unforgettable (2011-2014, 2015-2016)
No matter the reason, sometimes a canceled TV show is brought to a close and it’s for the best. A network might not be canceling it to be mean or to hurt fans’ feelings — it might just be canceling the show because it’s not performing well. This was the case with CBS’s Unforgettable.
After three years, the network axed the procedural due to low viewership. The small fanbase got A+E to bring the show back, but then they realized that maybe CBS had a point — the viewership was just way too low to continue investing in the program.
The X-Files (1993-2002, 2016, 2018)
A spiritual successor to the esoteric supernatural elements of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, The X-Files combined crime procedurals with science fiction to create something truly memorable. It was absolute 1990s perfection — a statement made all the more true by the fact that the show was canceled in the early 2000s.
Despite its cancelation, the show was brought back in movie form in 2008 and then again in television form in 2016 and 2018. FOX has seemingly always had a troubled relationship with the show — in addition to The X-Files‘ cancelation, the spinoffs never lasted either.
Timeless (2016-2017, 2018)
Timeless might be about a group of people who are constantly changing history through time travel, but NBC’s sci-fi drama never could bring that same timelessness into the real world. With the show canceled in 2017, fans demanded it come back to wrap things up. NBC (reluctantly) listened.
As it turns out, the network was probably right to cancel the show. The revived season was not a hit, which only resulted in a second cancelation. Fans revolted once more, convincing the network to give the show another chance. It made a TV movie and canceled things a third time.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008-2013, 2014, 2020)
When Walt Disney took over Lucasfilm back in 2012, the studio was quick to truncate any and all Star Wars activity in an attempt to reassess the franchise’s official timeline. Of course, this meant bringing Star Wars: The Clone Wars to an end.
After hearing from countless fans, Disney let Netflix give the show some more episodes to satiate the masses. Then, in a surprise move (and due to more demands), Disney once again delighted certain audiences by announcing some final episodes to air on Disney+ in 2020. Maybe, somewhere down the line, it’ll return again.
Southland (2009, 2010-2013)
A move from NBC to TNT doesn’t seem like much of a step up, but it actually proved to work incredibly well for the former’s short-lived cop drama Southland. Canceled after just one month on NBC, TNT snatched up the rights and any unaired episodes and took them as its own.
From there, the show lasted four more seasons and — despite lower numbers than it ever did on NBC — proved to be a pretty big success for TNT. Fans tried to save it a second time, but there was no convincing the network. It was done.
Scrubs (2001-2008, 2009-2010)
Scrubs hopped around quite a bit during its nine-year, 10-season run. From NBC to ABC, from J.D.’s perspective to the interns’, the medical dramedy often hailed as one of the more medically accurate programs to air on primetime was never steady for very long.
Not only did NBC cancel the show and then sell it to ABC, but ABC eventually decided to cancel the show before saving it a third time with a shift in focus onto different characters. For once, fans didn’t support the revival — satisfied with the 2008 ending, they hated the final season.
Reba (2001-2006, 2006-2007)
Starring country music legend Reba McEntire but really having nothing to do with country music at all, Reba held a steady fanbase of sitcom supporters for five years during its run on the now-defunct WB network. When the channel announced it’d be transitioning to the CW and purging many of its shows, fans couldn’t stand the thought of Reba ending.
To make up for the outrage at the cancelation, the CW decided to give Reba another season. Even though there were enough fans to get a reversal, there weren’t enough to keep the show going further.