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12 Canceled Shows That Returned to TV

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

Wikimedia Commons

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.

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‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ Could Have Been a Meat Loaf Song
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Imagine a world in which Bonnie Tyler was not the star performer on the Royal Caribbean Total Eclipse Cruise. Imagine if, instead, as the moon crossed in front of the sun in the path of totality on August 21, 2017, the performer belting out the 1983 hit for cruise ship stargazers was Meat Loaf?

It could have been. Because yes, as Atlas Obscura informs us, the song was originally written for the bestselling rocker (and actor) of Bat Out of Hell fame, not the husky-voiced Welsh singer. Meat Loaf had worked on his 1977 record Bat Out of Hell with Jim Steinman, the composer and producer who would go on to work with the likes of Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand (oddly enough, he also composed Hulk Hogan’s theme song on an album released by the WWE). “Total Eclipse of the Heart” was meant for Meat Loaf’s follow-up album to Bat Out of Hell.

But Meat Loaf’s fruitful collaboration with Steinman was about to end. In the wake of his bestselling record, the artist was going through a rough patch, mentally, financially, and in terms of his singing ability. And the composer wasn’t about to stick around. As Steinman would tell CD Review magazine in 1989 (an article he has since posted on his personal website), "Basically I only stopped working with him because he lost his voice as far as I was concerned. It was his voice I was friends with really.” Harsh, Jim, harsh.

Steinman began working with Bonnie Tyler in 1982, and in 1983, she released her fifth album, Faster Than the Speed of Night, including “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” It sold 6 million copies.

Tyler and Steinman both dispute that the song was written specifically for Meat Loaf. “Meat Loaf was apparently very annoyed that Jim gave that to me,” she told The Irish Times in 2014. “But Jim said he didn’t write it for Meat Loaf, that he only finished it after meeting me.”

There isn’t a whole lot of bad blood between the two singers, though. In 1989, they released a joint compilation album: Heaven and Hell.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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17 Electric Facts About MTV Unplugged
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Michael Stipe of R.E.M. goes Unplugged.
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Making its debut in 1989, MTV Unplugged—in which famous musicians perform stripped-down arrangements of their biggest hits—was a hit for both the cable network and the music industry, particularly in the early- to mid-'90s. Though it lost its regular time slot in 1999, in the near-20 years since, a handful of artists have popped in for brief revivals. But now it looks as if Unplugged is ready for a reboot; MTV has announced that the series will be back beginning on September 8, 2017, with Shawn Mendes as its first guest. In the meantime, here's a look behind the scenes of the music series that became a phenomenon.


Singer/songwriter Jules Shear has said that he came up with the concept for MTV Unplugged to promote his acoustic album, The Third Party. In 1992, The New York Times wrote that Shear was inspired by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora's two-song acoustic set at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards.

That's all well and good, but producers Jim Burns and Bob Small claim they got the idea for MTV Unplugged after Bruce Springsteen treated the two—and the thousands of other fans at one of his concerts—to a final encore featuring just himself and his acoustic guitar. (Springsteen would find his way onto Unplugged in 1992.)

Executive producer Joel Gallen has referred to Unplugged as his "baby" as well and, like Shear, was inspired by Bon Jovi and Sambora's VMA set, which he called a "jumping off point." In I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution, Small said: “Please do not credit Bon Jovi for creating Unplugged. Jon Bon Jovi thinks he was the inspiration for it. He wouldn’t even do the f***ing show until almost 20 years later.”


HBO passed on Unplugged when Shear proposed the concept to the pay channel. Burns and Small pitched the series to PBS after MTV initially said no. PBS simply echoed MTV and HBO. It was only when Burns and Small ally Judy McGrath got a promotion at MTV that a pilot got a greenlight.


Bob Small said he had just four hours to set up for the Unplugged pilot, with another four hours to film it—and all on a budget of $18,000. "I couldn't get money to hire a director," Small said. "They said, 'You direct it.'"


None other than Jules Shear was the undisputed master of ceremonies for the first season. He also joined in on some songs.


Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford from Squeeze were the stars of the first episode, which aired on November 26, 1989. But they were unprepared. "Chris and Glenn showed up for rehearsal with electric guitars," Alex Coletti, who would end up producing the show through 2001, recalled. "I said: 'Very funny, guys. Where are the acoustics? It’s Unplugged.' They looked at each other and went, 'Riiight… Make a phone call, quick!'"


"The fifth episode was billed as Joe Walsh and Friends, and Joe showed up with only one friend—Ricky, his bass player," Coletti remembered. "We thought it meant his famous friends, but apparently that got lost in translation." Walsh had been a member of The Eagles, who had an infamous falling-out, but Walsh's claim of buddies gave MTV employees false hope. Producer Bruce Leddy found Dr. John recording at a neighboring studio and convinced him to come on and be Walsh's "friend."


Walsh's former Eagles bandmate wrote "Desperado," as well as a three-page fax explaining to MTV that he didn't want Walsh to play it and he was refusing permission to air the performance. It was after the fax that the network invited Henley to come on the show himself to perform it. Henley was the first artist to get an entire half-hour on his own as the only artist, which quickly became the status quo for Unplugged. In 1994, when The Eagles reunited, they appeared on an MTV Unplugged special.


The first Unplugged featuring rap artists took place in 1991. Pop's Cool Love backed LL Cool J, MC Lyte, De La Soul, and A Tribe Called Quest. “[It’s like] you drink milk for 10 years and then [you have to] drink fruit punch,” Quest's Q-Tip said about performing with the band. “It’s not that the fruit is bad, but you have to get used to it.”

But LL seemed able to adapt. "We rehearsed the night before and LL Cool J had never worked with a live band," Coletti said. "Before long, he was calling the shots like he'd been doing it his whole life."


"People have teased me about the deodorant for years, but I love it," he said. "It was raw! It was nasty! At least you know I wasn’t stinking.”


Before Paul McCartney, no other Unplugged artist body had thought to release their acoustic set as an album. But after he performed in 1991, the former Beatle was worried about it getting out to the masses illegally. “I figured that as Unplugged would be screened around the world there was every chance that some bright spark would tape the show and turn it into a bootleg, so we decided to bootleg the show ourselves," he admitted. "We heard the tapes in the car driving back. By the time we got home, we’d decided we’d got an album—albeit one of the fastest I’ve ever made.” He even titled the live performance collection Unplugged (The Official Bootleg).


"Slowhand" performed to acclaim in 1992, but he initially didn't think it was good enough to be released officially as a CD. So naturally, his live album Unplugged won the Grammy for Album of the Year. His "Tears in Heaven" performance in particular won Song and Record of the Year. Two years later, Tony Bennett followed suit, winning the 1994 Album of the Year prize for his time on the show.


Neil Young's Unplugged was supposed to have been taped at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York on December 12, 1992. Instead, on that night—at that venue—the audience saw something they would probably never forget: Neil Young walking out the door after numerous mistakes. The "stunned" crew members managed to get him to come back to try again that night. Young opted to junk the performance entirely, and tried again two months later—this time with a band, and with much more success.


Amos was thrown off and "couldn't harness the energy." But unlike Young, she was able to walk back onstage, perform, and not have to try again with another set on a different night. As the singer/songwriter remembered it, she and her manager paced "beneath the MTV thing" backstage thinking about the problem. "Then my [lighting director] came down and said, 'Something just doesn't feel right. I can’t put my finger on it,'" Amos told "For 700 shows over the five years (prior to that), I'd played with the lights down. So all the lights were up to catch the audience and I felt like somebody was watching me take a shower. So they dimmed the lights, I felt better. By that point because I'd made the choice to stop it and make some changes, I felt like I began again. And I turned the whole show around."


"Maybe I shouldn't give this secret away, but I built a fake box out in front of the amp to make it look like a monitor wedge," Coletti admitted to Guitar World in 1995. "It's an acoustic guitar, but he's obviously going through an amp," he added, talking about the now iconic David Bowie cover. "I actually fought pretty hard to leave that song out [of the final edit of the show], because I felt it wasn't as genuine as the rest of the songs. But I'm a huge Bowie fan, so I couldn't fight too hard against the song."


The Nirvana drummer remembered that it was a minor miracle that the band's Unplugged performance went so well. “That show was supposed to be a disaster,” Grohl said. “We hadn’t rehearsed. We weren’t used to playing acoustic. We did a few rehearsals and they were terrible. Everyone thought it was horrible. Even the people from MTV thought it was horrible. Then we sat down and the cameras started rolling and something clicked. It became one of the band’s most memorable performances.”

As Coletti told it, Kurt Cobain was thinking of just replacing Grohl behind the kit, or maybe not using a drummer at all. “What I didn’t know was up until the day [of the Unplugged performance], there was talk of Dave [Grohl] not playing at all in the show,” the producer revealed in 2014. “Kurt wasn’t happy with the way rehearsals were going; he didn’t like the way Dave sounded playing drums with sticks."

But Grohl turned up the day of filming, and Coletti gifted him some brushes and sizzle sticks to give his drumming a softer sound. "I was afraid Dave would just roll his eyes, like, 'Oh great, the a**hole from MTV is trying to be my friend,'" the producer remembered thinking. "But instead he opened the package and said, 'Cool, I've never had brushes before. I've never even tried using them.'" The album Unplugged in New York won the Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album in 1996. It was the band's lone Grammy win.


The Led Zeppelin bandmates reunited in 1994 for the Unplugged special: No Quarter: Robert Plant and Jimmy Page Unledded, which at the time was the highest-rated episode of the series ever. MTV suggested they film it in Queens, New York. Plant suggested Morocco and Wales because it was where he wrote "Kashmir" and "Down by the Seaside," respectively. Network executives explicitly requested "Stairway" but were shot down. "I think we're in a disposable world and 'Stairway to Heaven' is one of the things that hasn't quite been thrown away yet," Plant said in 1994. "I think radio stations should be asked not to play it for 10 years, just to leave it alone for a bit so we can tell whether it's any good or not."


Oasis lead vocalist Liam Gallagher backed out of the Royal Festival Hall gig in London at the last minute due to a "sore throat," so songwriter/guitarist/brother Noel took over the vocal duties. Noel would later disclose that Liam in fact appeared an hour before showtime "sh*tfaced," and when he tried to sing it sounded "f**king dreadful." Liam watched the performance from the balcony and at times jeered the band. Noel told him to shut up. Coletti thought it was all for the best. "There's something when the songwriter himself sings it. Maybe he's a little more connected to the song."


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