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The Real Reasons These Shows Were Brought Back After Being Canceled

It's one of the worst feelings for a TV viewer when their favorite show gets canceled. While some shows are given the benefit of having a final season to help bring closure to their characters before going off the air, others are pulled unceremoniously, resulting in cliffhangers and open storylines that haunt fans. 

However, in the age of peak TV, a cancellation isn't always the end. With new streaming services popping up all the time and smaller TV networks all competing to get viewership, an established property with a solid fanbase can be incredibly attractive. Other shows see a second life at their original network after fan outcry on social media or widespread campaigns. 

Ultimately, a network's decision to revive a previously canceled show or to pick up a series canceled by a different network can be attributed to a number of different factors behind the scenes. Here are the real reasons these shows were brought back after being canceled. 


NBC turned back time on their Timeless cancellation when they renewed the show for a second season just a few days after announcing that it wouldn't return for a sophomore outing. The show, which stars Abigail Spencer, Malcolm Barrett, and Matt Lanter as a history professor, scientist, and soldier tasked with traveling through time and altering history, was plagued with low ratings, averaging 4.6 million viewers and a 1.1 rating in the key 18 to 49 demo. 

The show's ratings were too low to justify the budget, but the show had some very loyal fans, and they launched a huge campaign when it was canceled. Although many people thought the show's ultimate renewal came down to tough business dealings between NBC and producers Sony Pictures TV, the network gave all the credit to the fans.

NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt said that they "loved the show creatively" but considered it a "borderline" show thanks to its ratings. They ultimately decided there wasn't space for Timeless on their fall schedule and canceled it, but after the outcry, they "went back to the drawing board" and worked out a new deal with Sony.

Arrested Development

Arrested Development was perpetually on the bubble at Fox, despite being critically acclaimed and winning an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series for its first season. (Throughout its initial run, the show earned five more wins and 16 more nominations.) The show was ultimately canceled after its third season, but it continued to build a cult following over the years.

The show's fans were so dedicated that, when revival talks officially started in 2012, Netflix and Showtime were both interested. Netflix ultimately won out, making the show the third in their slate of scripted originals after House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. Netflix chief Ted Sarandos noted that the show was "now widely viewed as one of the top TV comedies of all time" and cited the show's "on-demand generation" over the years as part of their reason for bringing it back. 

Although the fourth season was met with a mixed reception, the show was still enough of a success for Netflix that they decided to bring it back for a fifth season. The show also remained an awards season favorite, earning three Emmy nominations as well as a Golden Globe nomination for star Jason Bateman.


Another prestige show that found a second life on Netflix, Longmire was one of the streamer's first saves. The company swooped in to pick up the western drama after it was canceled by A&E after three seasons, despite the fact that it was one of their highest-rated dramas — a decision that led to a lot of consternation among fans, and left producers immediately looking for a new home. 

Producer Warner Horizon pursued this by putting together a pitch showing the show's ratings performance, its fan following, and the outline of where season four would go after the dramatic season three cliffhanger. He targeted Netflix and Amazon as the most likely potential homes, with Netflix taking the lead due to the fact that it already had streaming rights to the show's previous seasons.

For Netflix, picking up the show was a reasonable decision. It had a large fanbase, but its viewership skewed older than the key advertising demo that commercial-supported networks like A&E rely on. In Netflix's subscription-based model, advertisers aren't an issue, making the show a good fit. Longmire wound up running for three more seasons on Netflix before concluding with its sixth season in 2017.

The Killing

The Killing's onscreen mystery paled in comparison to its behind-the-scenes drama. The show debuted on AMC and ran for two seasons before being canceled due to low ratings. It was eventually brought back for a third season — only to be canceled again. Netflix wound up picking up the show for a surprise fourth season, giving it yet another life.

Netflix also played a role in reversing the show's initial cancellation. The company was still in the early phases of its original content initiative when they decided to enter into talks with AMC to bring the show back for a third season, giving AMC the first viewing window and sharing the costs. A strong pitch for the show's third season is also said to have played a part in bringing the show back.

However, ratings didn't improve, and the show was ultimately canceled again, with Netflix taking it over entirely for a six-episode final season. The streamer praised the show's "rich, serialized storytelling" in a statement and noted that it was "perfectly suited for on-demand viewing." The show also brought some critical acclaim and name recognition to the service, which was still in the early stages of its launch. 

The Expanse

Often the most beloved shows struggle in the ratings, and such was the case for Syfy's The Expanse, which was canceled after three seasons of low viewership. Fans of the critically acclaimed sci-fi show started a petition and even made a GoFundMe page to try to save it — and they didn't have to wait in limbo for long, as it was officially picked up by Amazon for a fourth season after just a couple of weeks.

The show, which stars Shohreh Aghdashloo, Thomas Jane, and Steven Strait as three space travelers trying to untangle a conspiracy that threatens the future of humanity, apparently had a viewer in Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who's a "massive fan" of the James. S.A. Corey novels on which the series is based. He even had the novels pulled up when he first showed off the Amazon Kindle Fire to the press, and was apparently "livid" when the show went to Syfy.

Syfy, meanwhile, got a bit of a bad deal with the series. They only had first-run linear rights, which put heavy pressure on the show's live on-air ratings, which were never exactly stellar. Without SVOD or international rights to bring in extra cash, Syfy shouldered the show's heavy costs without much benefit. The move to Amazon fits with the company's overhauled programming goals, which put a premium on international hits with serialized storytelling on par with HBO's Game of Thrones.


The CBS post-apocalyptic drama Jericho earned a cult following during its critically acclaimed first season, but that wasn't enough to keep it from being canceled. The series suffered from low ratings in its first season, but its fans were very loyal, becoming some of the first to mobilize using the internet to campaign for a canceled show's renewal.

That plan consisted of fans mailing 40,000 pounds of peanuts to network execs, referencing a quote from Skeet Ulrich's Jake Green in the season one finale. The tens of thousands of nuts may have seemed like a ridiculous Hail Mary strategy at the time, but they actually ended up working, earning the show a surprise season two renewal. 

However, as it turns out, season two, which only contained seven episodes, was always set to be the show's end, with CBS president Nina Tassler saying in a statement that they wanted to "develop a way to provide closure to the compelling drama that was the Jericho story." Although the show didn't see any jumps in the ratings, fans remained loyal, and talk has continued over the years about a potential film adaptation. While that's unlikely, the show does live on in comic form thanks to IDW Publishing.

The Mindy Project

Mindy Kaling was one of the biggest stars to come out of The Office, but her attempt at leading her own sitcom with The Mindy Project was met with a few production speed bumps. First, the show, starring Kaling as an unlucky in love OBGYN, was passed over before a pilot was filmed by NBC; then, after earning a pickup at Fox, it was canceled after airing three seasons. 

Luckily for fans, Hulu swooped in and picked up the show for a fourth season. Bravo and TBS also reportedly expressed interest in the show, which earned critical acclaim despite its low ratings. The move was one of the service's first original content deals, encouraged because they already had streaming rights to the rest of the show's episodes.

This ended up being key to the pick-up, with execs saying that the show did better numbers in online viewing than it had on the network. The show brought an instantly recognizable name to the in-house lineup and would go on to air two more seasons on the service before signing off in the fall of 2017 — and Hulu has continued its strong relationship with Kaling, who is working on a TV adaptation of Four Weddings and a Funeral for the company. 

Family Guy

At this point, Family Guy is basically an institution, airing on Fox for more than 16 seasons. However, the show's long reign was almost cut short before it could even begin — Fox canceled the show after four low-rated seasons. Luckily, they decided to turn around and pick the show back up, a decision they certainly don't regret. 

Mike Darnell, president of alternative programming at Fox, said that the network was "incredibly impressed" with the pilot show creator and star Seth MacFarlane put together, and they decided to air it after the Super Bowl on Jan. 31, 1999. Although the show didn't perform well, it stuck around because of the creative talent. However, its ratings continued to fall, and ultimately, the network had to cancel it.

20th Century Fox wanted to stay in business with MacFarlane, though, so they had him keep coming in with comedy ideas. Every time he came back to the office, he'd talk about bringing back Family Guy. Helping his case was the show's DVD sales, as well as re-runs on Cartoon Network that helped to bring in new fans. However, it was really MacFarlane's persistence — and Fox execs' belief in his talent — that brought the show back. 


Community was the weird little sitcom that could, running for a surprising five seasons on NBC despite low ratings and a showrunner change. (Gas leak year, anyone?) However, it ultimately came just shy of six seasons and a movie when NBC decided to pull the plug. Although Netflix and Hulu reportedly turned down the chance to pick it up, Yahoo! wound up coming to the rescue and ordering a sixth season on the day the cast's contracts were set to expire.

Most of the stars (sans Yvette Nicole Brown, who left to care for her sick father) as well as the creative team returned for season six, and things remained pretty similar in most other respects as well. Sony Pictures Television president of programming and production Zack Van Amburg said that the show's $2 million per episode budget wouldn't "be cut one dollar." 

That money was meant to bring audiences to the company's budding Yahoo! Screen streaming service. Kathy Savitt, chief marketing officer for Yahoo, said they were drawn to the show because of its "loyal and ardent fan base," which was meant to keep people watching Yahoo! longer, allowing them to bring in more advertising dollars while also luring fans to other Yahoo! Screen content. Ultimately, their gamble failed, and the company lost $42 million.

Last Man Standing

Last Man Standing just can't be knocked down. The Tim Allen sitcom was canceled by ABC after airing six seasons, but it was picked up by Fox for a seventh a full year later. The comedy, starring Allen as Mike Baxter, a quintessential man's man in a house with his wife and three daughters, sparked a political debate, with some fans alleging that ABC pulled the plug on the show because of Allen's conservative views. 

ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey said at the time that the decision came as part of ABC's choice to pull comedies from Fridays and go with genre programming instead. The show's increasingly high costs were also blamed, as was the fact that it wasn't owned by ABC, but by 20th Century Fox. Ownership was part of the reason that the show eventually wound up in its new home. 

Fox Television Group chairman and CEO Dana Walden revealed that the network looked for a potential home for Last Man Standing right after its cancellation, but couldn't find a spot for it, and they ultimately ended up picking up the show a year later after seeing the initial success of the revived Roseanne. "It certainly did remind us that we have a huge iconic comedy star in our Fox family in Tim Allen," said Walden.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Brooklyn Nine-Nine got an early retirement when the police procedural was canceled by Fox after airing five seasons, but it was quickly snapped up by NBC for a 13-episode sixth season. The show's new network is also home to creator Mike Schur's other comedy series The Good Place (as well as his past shows Parks and Recreation and The Office), and Brooklyn Nine-Nine fit perfectly into its workplace comedy brand.

As it turns out, NBC wanted Brooklyn Nine-Nine from the get-go. The show comes from NBC's Universal Television, but the network passed on the series when it first came up. NBC Entertainment Group chief Bob Greenblatt regretted his decision, viewing the show's first five seasons on Fox as a "missed opportunity." 

Although fan outcry was huge after the show was canceled, Greenblatt said that wasn't the reason NBC decided to pick it up, as they "were already there" working on a deal before the social media uproar. He added that the show is "one of the few comedies in recent years to have a really robust international number," giving them "a lot of business reasons" for the show to go on. While he couldn't commit to the show getting a seventh season, fans would certainly love to stick around the Nine-Nine.