[Warning: Minor spoilers lie within the blurbs for the shows listed below, so only read past the bolded titles if you’re all caught up on these revived shows.]
It took seven years of waiting and an entirely new distribution model for the Bluth family to come back into our lives. Fox canceled the well-reviewed but low-rated sitcom chronicling the financial and familial woes of a rich Southern California tycoon in 2006 after its third season, and Netflix brought it back as what turned out to be the first of many revived series (see also: “Longmire,” “Trailer Park Boys,” a few more series on this list…). The results were…mixed, but the match had been lit. And unlike the banana stand that burned down, this fire started a revival revolution (rather than ended a strict adherence to the “no touching” policy).
If your only familiarity with the adventures of a time-travelling madman in a box begins with Christopher Eccleston in 2005 — or, more likely, Matt Smith in 2010 — then you might not be conversant in the decades-long legacy of Britain’s most iconic sci-fi franchise. “Doctor Who” premiered on the BBC the day before President Kennedy was assassinated and lasted until its cancellation in 1987. A failed attempt to revive the series on Fox in 1996 seemed to indicate that the franchise was done for good. Then, a few years later, “Queer as Folk” creator (and longtime “Doctor Who” megafan) Russell T. Davies got his hands on it. Now on its ninth season, “Doctor Who” is an international favorite. The classic stories still have their fans, and “Doctor Who” recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. And it’s still going strong.
No matter what embarrassments face Seth MacFarlane in the future (or that he faced in the past), the talented singer and maligned Oscars host may always have the last laugh following what happened to his now 14 seasons-long animated hit, “Family Guy.” After being shifted around a lot in the schedule during its early seasons, Fox canceled MacFarlane’s first series due to poor ratings. They then sold it into syndication for next to nothing and released a DVD that quickly became the second highest-selling digital video disc of all time. That led Fox executives to bring back the axed sitcom, virtually guaranteeing a long, profitable run. MacFarlane has been laughing all the way to the bank ever since — and will keep doing just that, even if he makes another multi-million dollar western-comedy clocking in at nearly two hours based on a one-joke premise stretched far too thin. (Sorry. That’s some unnecessary piling on. We just really hated that movie.)
Hey, did you guys know “The Flintstones” was canceled? Did you know that Variety called it “a pen and ink disaster” when it first premiered? Only one of those facts is pertinent to the topic at hand, but hot damn Variety. Get it together. Anyway, “The Flintstones” lasted six seasons and was then ushered out the door as ratings dropped every season from No. 18 overall in Season 1 all the way down to No. 70 in its last year. And this was 1966, so being the 70th highest-rated TV show didn’t put you in the upper 80th percentile. It put you off the air. Then came a little movie best described as a James Bond-like spy spoof, titled “The Man Called Flinstone,” that reinvigorated the franchise and brought about the many sequel series and spin-offs that made the show immortal. Is it possible Variety’s negative review caused ’60s TV viewers to turn off “The Flintstones,” leading to its cancelation and nearly denying the joy millions of children and parents experienced while watching Fred and Wilma live through the stone age in delightfully animated fashion? Sure. Anything’s possible. So be careful whose reviews you read.
Make no mistake: “Fuller House” is undeniably a sequel to the original series, with the added bonus of a punnier title — DJ’s (Candace Cameron-Bure) married name is DJ Tanner-Fuller. Bringing back literally every single actor involved with the original series except for Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson, there’s the legitimate question of why Netflix felt the world needed more wacky multi-camera sitcom adventures about an unconventional family coming together after the death of a loved one. (For more on how incredibly dark the core of the “Full House” franchise is, allow us to recommend the insights of “BoJack Horseman” creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg.) Suffice to say, when we were watching TGIF all those years ago, this was a scenario we might not have seen coming, to say the least.
“The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret”
If you never watched the David Cross-starring “The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret,” know that the title wasn’t a lie, and that, in the 2012 finale, the show literally went nuclear. It was the sort of bold move that you’d imagine as a perfectly anarchic ending to a comedically anarchic show — except, welcome to 2016. As the show returns to IFC for a third season this week under the simpler moniker of “Todd Margaret,” viewers can expect no shortage of surprises as to how it overcomes that pesky little problem where Season 2 ended in apocalypse. The one thing to count on: the same level of hilarity.
Perhaps the most shocking aspect of a show like “The Killing” being canceled — twice — and then being revived — twice — is that there were enough people demanding to see more questionable decisions made by Detectives Linden (Mireille Enos) and Holder (Joel Kinnaman) to justify a revival — twice! I mean, come on. The first season was pretty solid television at a time when people were absolutely craving addictive TV, but most fans rightly bailed after a disappointing finale. Things only got worse from there, even after Netflix picked up the show to give it a proper goodbye… which consisted of one helluva preposterous “happy” ending.
“Mystery Science Theater 3000”
Beyond rights issues (recently resolved thanks to Shout Factory), the major reason we thought “Mystery Science Theater 3000” wouldn’t make a comeback is that key creative figures Michael J. Nelson and Joel Hodgson had found their niche elsewhere, with the movie-mocking projects “Rifftrax” and “Cinematic Titanic” making use of their ability to talk over the terrible. Yet, you can’t keep a good brand name down, especially if it means lining up a next generation geek-friendly cast, including Jonah Ray and Felicia Day, and bringing back to life our old friends Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot. Hodgson, the show’s original creator. The new “MST3K” team raised $5,764,229 on Kickstarter for the revival, and there are a whole lot of movies in the public domain cruising for a bruising. We’re excited that the classic series will be back in service soon.
It wasn’t all that surprising that an offed reality show about finding an independent filmmaker to direct a feature film would make a comeback, considering the premise is intriguing, simple and could lead to ancillary benefits (if the movie is good — or the director becomes the next big thing — his/her first flick could be worth some dough!). What was shocking was that the original talent that created it to begin with — Matt Damon and Ben Affleck — would return to executive produce and appear in the new season. After all, the duo had only grown in popularity since “Project Greenlight” went off the air in 2003. Bourne and Batman both blew up after that, but they both returned in 2015 for Season 4… even if one of them may have lived to regret returning to an old show and bringing up outdated ideas.
We’re at this point not sure it’s possible to kill “Star Trek.” Certainly, in 1969, it seemed like the original series starring William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy was a done deal. But thanks to syndicated reruns and the release of a little film called “Star Wars: A New Hope” in 1979, a feature film franchise began… that happened to help support the launch of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and the three other series that followed. Then, just when “Star Trek’s” time on TV was over, J.J. Abrams breathed new life into the franchise with his 2009 film and subsequent sequel. In 2016, we’re getting the Justin Lin-directed follow-up to “Star Trek Into Darkness,” but more importantly in 2017 CBS will be launching another TV series produced by Alex Kurtzman. Today it’s impossible to imagine a world without “Star Trek,” but imagine traveling back to the early 1970s and telling “Trek” fans clinging to reruns of those original three seasons about all of this. Imagine the wonder on their faces.
After eight lengthy seasons/eight long days for Jack Bauer, Fox’s action-drama “24” came to an agreed-upon conclusion. Yet when Kiefer Sutherland’s heroic lead merely went into hiding during the waning seconds of the series, buzz almost immediately began to build about the dawn of another day for CTU Agent Bauer. Many thought a feature film was on the horizon, but every iteration of that idea fizzled out (including a possible joint adventure between Bauer and John McClane in a “24”/”Die Hard” crossover film). Instead, just days shy of four years since it ended, “24” returned as the event series “Live Another Day” in May 2014. Fox almost immediately announced plans for a continuation of the franchise, but since then Sutherland has said he’ll have no part in it. Now the series’ future is murky, but it’s certainly a valuable commodity for both star and studio.
Iconic cult series never die — even iconic cult series that have lain dormant for over 20 years. Despite a rocky start (due to Showtime not getting David Lynch’s contract for the show locked down before announcing the series) we’re now on track for a 2017 revival of the ABC mystery drama. It’s not the first time Lynch has tried to return to television since “Twin Peaks” was canceled in 1991 (“Mulholland Drive” began life as a failed ABC pilot in 1999), but this time, production has begun in the show’s original locations, and most of the original cast and crew have found their way back to the Pacific Northwest. There’s still some time to go before we find out if the coffee and pie are just as good as we remember, but “Twin Peaks” was a singular world that we’ll look forward to rediscovering.
When “The X-Files” went off the air in 2002, it felt a bit like a sigh of relief. After nine seasons, there was a palpable sense of exhaustion coming off the show’s cast and crew. And then, after a 2008 attempt to transform the show into a feature film franchise that didn’t work out so great, it seemed like we’d never see our favorite FBI agents reunited on screen, investigating alien conspiracies, again. But thanks to many somewhat mysterious factors — a network hungry for name brand recognition, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson expressing a willingness to return to their iconic roles, the universe crying out for more Mulder and Scully — here we are in the year 2016, mere days away from six new episodes of “The X-Files.” It’s a bit of a mystery, why this is happening, but that’s all too appropriate for this show.