20 Times Fans Flexed and Revived a Cancelled TV Show
My love of TV began during the Friday nights of my childhood. Our family of four would order pizza and watch our favorite shows, which were often found in one place: the TGIF lineup on ABC.
Nowadays, I have numerous ways to watch my favorite stories. You do too, of course. From live to recorded to streaming, viewers have many options. It’s an endless battle for viewers, and through it all, some of our beloved shows get canceled.
What’s one to do when one's favorite characters disappear? That answer is easier than ever: Fight for their return. Whether the original network or another company brought back these TV shows, we have fans to thank. Through their passion, they’ve convinced the producers and networks the economics of the show could work, given the right circumstances.
Here are some of the most popular TV shows that were brought back thanks to fans, their passion and their economic power.
First home: Fox (2013-18)
Second home: NBC (2019-present)
The hilarious crime-fighting team that is “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” enjoyed a home at Fox for five seasons. But in 2018, the show was canceled because of low ratings of its live viewership. Fans were vocal enough about their disappointment, and NBC swooped in and snagged the series.
The result: The show experienced a 71-percent increase in viewers for the season six premiere. The show was renewed for its seventh season.
‘Friday Night Lights’
First home: NBC (2006-08)
Second home: DirecTV (2008-11)
The popular football drama “Friday Night Lights” has always enjoyed a loyal fanbase. But when NBC saw the low ratings for season two, it considered canceling it for good. Fans showed their commitment to the series through various campaigns, including one where they mailed in mini-footballs that featured the show's catchphrase, "Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose."
They also sent NBC executives light bulbs with "lights on" written on them. NBC brought back the show for an additional three seasons on its partner network DirecTV.
First home: CBS (2006-08)
Second home: N/A
If you've never heard of “Jericho,” don't feel too bad. The mystery-drama starred Skeet Ulrich and focused on a small town in Kansas trying to survive a nuclear blast. The post-apocalyptic series was canceled after just one season, but fans got together online to come up with an impressive mail-in campaign. They sent more than 40,000 pounds of nuts to TV executives since it was the season one finale line uttered by Ulrich.
CBS was convinced, but only for a season. They ultimately let it go after season two.
First home: ABC (2013-16)
Second home: CMT (2016-18)
Nashville is famous for its musical history, and the ABC series of the same name was known and well-regarded for shining a light on it and the (fictional) drama surrounding country singing stars.
After four seasons, the network canceled the show, but thousands of people signed a petition begging TV executives to bring it back. The series found a new home at CMT for its fifth and sixth seasons.
"CMT heard the fans. The wave of love and appreciation they have unleashed for 'Nashville' has been overwhelming," said CMT president Brian Philips in a statement. "We see our fans and ourselves in this show and we will treasure it like no other network."
First home: Fox (2003-06)
Second home: Netflix (2013-19)
“Arrested Development” has a cult following, but still somehow managed to disappoint Fox in the ratings department. After two seasons, word spread that the comedy might get canned, and fans didn't have it. They launched SaveOurBluths.com and sent in letters with fake bananas as a nod to the show's Original Frozen Banana stand. Fox kept the show for another season before canceling it. Fans remained vigilant online, and Netflix brought it back for two more seasons.
Netflix does not release viewership numbers for its original series. Still, executives claimed that the number of people who streamed episodes over the release weekend and first week exceeded their expectations.
First home: NBC (2008-12)
Second home: N/A
NBC was forced to keep the show ‘Chuck’ around after a campaign from fans became so popular that even Subway got involved. After disappointing ratings for season two, ‘Chuck’ was on the brink of cancellation. The "Save Chuck" efforts from fans produced petitions and letters to TV executives. The sandwich chain Subway was briefly on the show, so it joined in the efforts as well. NBC ended up keeping the comedy on air for five total seasons.
First home: UPN (2004-06)
Second home: The CW (2006-07)
Third home: Hulu (2019-present)
The California-based show featuring a high school student with a passion for private detective work developed a cult following that lasted way longer than anyone expected. After only three seasons, the show was canceled, but fans were so vocal about their support that they got a “Veronica Mars” movie.
Using a Kickstarter campaign, the show's creator Rob Thomas utilized fan support and raised more than $5 million to make the 2014 movie. Fast forward to the summer of 2019, and Hulu released season four of the popular show. It’s unclear if season five will happen, but it's likely as Thomas and star Kristen Bell have shown interest.
First home: Fox (2016-18)
Second home: Netflix (2019-present)
The dark comedy “Lucifer” follows the life of the original fallen angel as he navigates his life in modern-day Los Angeles. On Earth, Lucifer runs a nightclub and ends up consulting for the Los Angeles Police Department.
Despite a steady three seasons, Fox canceled the series, claiming ratings were too low. Fans took to social media, and Amazon and Netflix took notice. The latter eventually grabbed the show for its fourth and fifth seasons.
First home: Fox (1999-2002, 2005-present)
Second home: N/A
Surely, you've heard of the comedy series “Family Guy” even if you aren't a diehard fan. The show has already had 18 successful seasons. Perhaps you don't know, though, that it almost didn't. After season three, Fox cut the show, which prompted fans to buy DVD collections. Well, they bought so many (reported to be in the millions) that Fox brought the show back in 2005.
It's renewed for its nineteenth season, too.
First home: The WB (1999–2001)
Second home: UPN (2001–02)
Before her time on “Grey's Anatomy,” Katherine Heigl starred in “Roswell,” a sci-fi drama about young alien-human hybrids navigating life. Despite mediocre ratings, the show had a loyal following. When The WB said it was going to cancel the show after season one, fans sent over 6,000 bottles of Tabasco sauce (a favorite of the alien-humans) to TV executives.
This clever move secured season two, but fans were forced to do it again before finally getting a season three from UPN. We're guessing fans must still be around since The CW has released a remake, “Roswell, New Mexico,” that will be around for at least two seasons.
‘The Mindy Project’
First home: Fox (2012-15)
Second home: Hulu (2015-17)
Mindy Kaling is practically a household name now, but when her romantic comedy “The Mindy Project” launched, that wasn't the case. Sure, devout fans of “The Office” knew of her and her comedy chops, but that wasn't enough for NBC. They canceled the show after three seasons.
My best friend and I were devastated until it was announced that Hulu would pick it up. Hulu ran another glorious three seasons of the show. The success of the show helped Kaling land roles in major motion pictures, sell two best-selling books and create additional shows for NBC and Hulu.
‘Leave It to Beaver’
First home: CBS (1957-58)
Second home: ABC (1958–63)
The show that became famous for its slice of American wholesomeness almost didn't happen. CBS canceled “Leave It to Beaver” after just one season. Thankfully, ABC picked it and completed another five seasons for a total of six.
First home: CBS (1986-93)
Second home: N/A
“Designing Women” fans showed CBS how serious they were when the network switched the day the show aired without warning or explanation. If you aren't familiar, the comedy aired in 1986 and centered on four women who ran their own design company. Fans hated the new day and sent 50,000 letters to TV executives. CBS brought back “Designing Women” at its original slot. The show aired for seven seasons.
First home: NBC (2016-18)
Second home: N/A
A trio of crime fighters travels through time to catch criminals in NBC's “Timeless.” The show had a rough start when the network decided to cancel it after season one. Fans made a considerable effort on social media, though, and caused the network to change its mind. Season two averaged 2.5 million viewers, according to reports, but that still wasn't enough for NBC. Season three won't be happening, but since “Timeless” still has a loyal fan base, there are discussions of making a movie that would wrap up the sci-fi drama story.
First home: NBC (2009-14)
Second home: Yahoo! Screen (2015)
“Community” is one of those shows that fans fought hard to keep around when it first aired, but found an even larger fan base on streaming sites. NBC wanted better ratings; the show averaged 3.6 million viewers for the first ten episodes of its third season. Fans staged flash mobs in support of the show.
It worked. The show was kept on NBC for five seasons. It got a sixth when Yahoo! Screen picked it up.
First home: NBC (2001–08)
Second home: ABC (2009–10)
“Scrubs” ran for seven seasons on NBC, and made Zach Braff famous. The medical comedy had a great fan base, but after so many seasons, executives canceled the show. ABC decided to invest in it, but with only a few appearances by Braff, the show didn't retain as many fans.
ABC added Dave Franco and Eliza Coupe to the show, but after two seasons decided to call it quits. All nine seasons can still be found on Hulu.
First home: ABC (2009–12)
Second home: TBS (2013–15)
“Cougar Town” offered a fun take on Florida. Between Courteney Cox, Christa Miller and Busy Philipps, the show was stacked with comedic actresses. The keen fan base kept the show alive at ABC for three years before executives canceled it. TBS quickly snagged it and made another three seasons.
First home: Fox (2005–14)
Second home: TBS (2014–present)
Seth MacFarlane is no stranger to networks cutting his creations. Having already been through it with his hit “Family Guy,” he likely wasn't too shocked when Fox pulled the plug on “American Dad!”
To be fair, though, the network did run it for 10 seasons before ending it. TBS still picked it up after that and aired another four seasons.
First home: FX (2007–10)
Second home: DirecTV (2011–12)
If you're a fan of crime dramas, you might be familiar with the “Damages.” Glenn Close and Rose Byrne star in the show, which centers on a law school graduate who becomes the mentee of a high-profile attorney.
It first aired on FX for three seasons but struggled to find consistent ratings. DirecTV grabbed the show when FX canceled it and aired two more seasons.
First home: AMC (2011–13)
Second home: Netflix (2014)
“The Killing” had such a cult following that it’s a bit surprising to learn how much it struggled at AMC. The network tried canceling it twice — once after the second season and then again after the third season. The last one stuck despite the show being "a critical success."
Netflix grabbed it and aired the first three seasons on its streaming platform then made another two seasons.