When a beloved TV series is canceled, its fans often protest and campaign for its return to television. Sometimes these pleas fall on deaf ears—but other times, TV executives believe that fresh episodes of a defunct TV series could strengthen their network’s appeal to new viewers. There is no formula that determines why some canceled TV shows return to television, but it’s believed that it has something to do with whether or not their audience is growing, its DVD sales are high, and if their creative teams are available to make new episodes.
As long as TV networks resurrect beloved shows, then there’s always a chance for your favorites to return one day. Keep the faith, Firefly fans! Here are twelve once-canceled shows that eventually returned to TV.
1. Arrested Development (original series run 2003 – 2006; returned 2013)
Despite winning an Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series in 2004, Arrested Development had a hard time finding viewers. After three high quality seasons, the series was still struggling in the ratings, and Fox canceled it in 2006.
When Arrested Development was released on DVD, audiences eventually found what made the zany misadventures of the Bluth family so special and demanded more episodes of the series. The online streaming service Netflix resurrected Arrested Development in 2013—the new season was put online on May 26—and is meant to serve as a prequel to a full-length feature film.
2. 24 (original series run 2001 – 2010; returns 2014)
Courtesy of NYPost
Each episode of the drama 24 followed one hour of Counter Terrorist Unit agent Jack Bauer's (Kiefer Sutherland) life in real time as he foiled assassination attempts on the President, disarmed nuclear and chemical weapons, and unmasked corporate and government conspiracies. After eight seasons and a TV movie, 24 was canceled in 2010—but Fox announced at its upfronts this year that the show would return with a 12-episode season, which will premiere in May 2014.
3. Charles In Charge (original series run 1984 – 1985; returned 1987 – 1990)
Courtesy of TIFaux
First airing in 1984 on CBS, Charles In Charge struggled to find viewers and as a result the TV comedy had middling ratings. It was canceled after one season, but returned two years later in syndication. The TV comedy followed Charles (Scott Baio), a college student who worked as a live-in babysitter for a suburban family in exchange for room and board.
When the series returned, Charles’ old family, the Pembrokes, had moved to Seattle, and a new family, the Powells, allowed Charles to live in their home to take care of their children.
4. Baywatch (original series run 1989 – 1990; returned 1991 – 1999)
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The action drama starring David Hasselhoff as southern California beach lifeguard Mitch Buchannon only aired for one season in 1989 before NBC canceled it after low ratings. But Hasselhoff still felt that Baywatch had potential as a TV series, so he re-tooled it with its creator and executive producer for syndication.
Re-launching in 1991, Baywatch became a pop culture phenomenon around the world and spun off other TV series including Baywatch Nights, Baywatch Hawaii, and Baywatch Down Under.
5. Futurama (original series run 1999 – 2003; returned 2008 – 2013)
Courtesy of The Talking Box
Futurama was an animated science fiction TV series from Simpsons co-creator Matt Groening and TV writer David X. Cohen that aired on Fox from 1999 to 2003. It was initially canceled after four seasons, but was later re-launched after high DVD sales and four best-selling direct-to-video films. After high syndication ratings on the Cartoon Network, Twentieth Century Fox announced Futurama would return to TV with regular episodes on Comedy Central in 2009.
All good things must come to an end, because Futurama was later canceled again in 2013 after low ratings; the finale is due to air September 4. Groening and Cohen are currently exploring options to continue to tell Futurama stories.
6. Family Guy (original series run 1999 – 2002; returned 2005 – present)
Courtesy of Collider
The Seth MacFarlane-created animated series started off as a seven-minute pilot pitch to Fox in 1998. After some development, Family Guy premiered in 1999 and was automatically dubbed a Simpsons knockoff.
Throughout its original series run, Family Guy proved its worth as a pop culture staple, but was later canceled in 2002 after low ratings. Fox considered bringing the animated TV series back after high DVD sales and high syndication ratings on Adult Swim. In 2005, Family Guy returned as the centerpiece for Fox’s Animation Domination Sundays with The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers, and American Dad.
7. Beavis and Butt-Head (original series run 1993 – 1997; returned 2011)
Courtesy of MTV
One of the most controversial animated TV shows of the 1990s, Beavis and Butt-Head was at the forefront of MTV’s transition from music video outlet to original programming. The series centered on two heavy metal-loving, dim-witted, and socially awkward teenagers who spent most of their time making fun of the music videos showcased on MTV, while getting into strange misadventures during those rare moments when they actually left the house.
The series was canceled in 1997, but was resurrected in 2011 with episodes from its creator Mike Judge.
8. Jericho (original series run 2006 – 2007; returned 2007 – 2008)
Courtesy of TVWorthWatching
The action science fiction drama Jericho was canceled after one season due to poor ratings. Fans of the series were so outraged with CBS’s decision to cancel Jericho that they sent network executives nearly 40,000 pounds of peanuts to protest. This forced CBS to re-consider renewing Jericho for a second season.
Why peanuts? The season one finale featured a cliffhanger where the fictional town of Jericho, Kansas was under siege from a neighboring community, which led the series’ protagonist Jack Green (Skeet Ulrich) to respond with only one word: “Nuts.”
The fan protest gave the show a stay of execution, but Jericho was canceled again after its second season. Fans of the series can still enjoy Jericho with its seasons three and four adapted into comic book form.
9. Leave It To Beaver (original series run 1957 – 1958; returned 1958 – 1963)
This iconic prototype for 1950s idealized white suburban life was, surprisingly, a low ratings performer when it premiered in 1957. As a result, CBS canceled the series after one season—but the show re-emerged on ABC the following year. There, Leave It To Beaver enjoyed five solid seasons before actors Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow wanted to focus on their educations: Mathers entered high school, while Dow entered college.
10. Fame (original series run 1982 - 1983; returned 1983 - 1987)
Cashing in on the success of the 1980 film, NBC launched a series by the same name but set at a slightly differently-named school due to royalty issues. Fame was axed by NBC after one season, but it lived on—not forever, but for four more years in first-run syndication.
11. My Three Sons (original series run 1960 - 1965; returned 1965 - 1972)
The heartwarming series featuring Fred MacMurray as a widower raising three boys debuted on ABC in 1960 to solid ratings that only increased during its five year run. But by 1965, ABC had to decide whether to invest the extra bucks necessary to film an aging sitcom in color. Complicating matters was the fact that William Frawley, who played Bub O’Casey, was deemed too ill and uninsurable to continue in his role. ABC’s decision to put MacMurray and his family out to pasture proved to be CBS’s gain: After My Three Sons moved there in 1965, it remained in the Top 20 until it ended in 1972.
12. Mystery Science Theater 3000 (original series run 1988 - 1996; returned 1996 - 1999)
The little cow-town puppet show (as described by co-creator Joel Hodgson) started out on Minnesota’s UHF station KTMA in 1988 with Joel and his robot pals sitting in a shadowy “peanut gallery” making snarky comments at cheesy old movies. In 1989 the fledgling Comedy Channel (later Comedy Central) added the show to its sparse line-up of original programming. Comedy Central nixed the show in 1996, but Crow T. Robot, Tom Servo and company got a new lease on life when the SciFi Channel (now SyFy) picked up the show for an additional three seasons.