When you think about it, TV shows with cult fanbases have actually returned more times than they haven't. The results have been mixed, as today's examination will prove, but....it's a thing, and it totally happens! Never give up hope....
When people think about cancelled shows coming back, this is the first one that comes to mind, because the circumstances involved were so wacky. For its first few years, the survival of Family Guy lied completely in the balance, and any one of these events changing even slightly would have made our present reality impossible.
1) Family Guy is not renewed after its 28th episode.
2) Due to cartoons taking so long to produce, the show continues to air for another few months, and right as it leaves the airwaves, a new executive is appointed at Fox who loves the show and slams the "renew" button right at the eleventh hour. Much of the crew is gone by this point and new people have to be hired.
3) The third season takes an entire year to appear. Just as it starts airing, Seth MacFarlane buys a ticket for one of the airplanes that crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11th. He drinks a little too much the night before, and misses his flight by ten minutes.
4) Family Guy is put on opposite Friends and Survivor at their peaks, and doesn't stand a chance. After fifty episodes have been made, and forty-nine have aired, the show is cancelled for a second time, a fate from which no other scripted series has ever lived again afterward.
5) Cartoon Network launches Adult Swim, and a few months later secures the broadcast rights to Family Guy reruns. They got them cheap because no other cable network was interested. These reruns finally reach the right audience and cause the show to explode in popularity.
6) Right at the same moment, the TV-on-DVD market boom begins, and the first Family Guy season set is released. It becomes the hottest TV-DVD item on the market and Fox opens up talks with Seth about a possible Family Guy direct-to-DVD movie. As sales continue to rise, they expand that idea into a full-fledged resurrection and a 35-episode fourth season.
7) Seth takes over Fox's Sunday lineup, launches countless spinoffs, becomes one of the most overpaid people in Hollywood, hosts the Oscars, and executive-produces an extremely wretched laugh-track sitcom that only stays on the air for three weeks. (I'm getting a bit ahead of myself here...)
So many little bits in that timeline were left up to chance, and the coin just happened to land on the right side every time. It's so crazy that a movie based on Seth's life is an inevitability. Watch for it, starring Maddox Jolie-Pitt and Olive Barrymore in 2033.
In business terms, duh. In terms of entertainment quality, that's a different story. The first three seasons of Family Guy were a smart, raucous deconstruction of television formulas and the family sitcom -- things like the now-famous cutaways happened organically when they would be funniest, not mandatorily because they had to be there. While there have been several episodes since the return good enough to justify the show's continued existence, the ratio of laughers to stinkers has been much higher in the latter's favor in recent years.
Also, now that Seth is too valuable to the network for them to put any sort of leash on him, the volume of crass and mean-spirited content on his shows has gone way up. These "jokes" often take the form of hoary old ethnic and racial stereotypes, some with punchlines over a hundred years old. It seems at least once per episode, there's been a bit where a Jewish man can't refuse picking up a penny on the ground. The writer's room apparently laughs EVERY TIME.
All three of the original Nicktoons -- Doug, Ren & Stimpy and Rugrats -- were successful enough to have their shows uncancelled in some form. Doug continued when Disney bought Jumbo Pictures, Rugrats resumed in 1997, and Ren & Stimpy were briefly revived on the Spike network.
That would be a "no," but the level of intensity for that "no" varies. After Rugrats unexpectedly exploded in popularity when it went into reruns, Klasky-Csupo resumed production and new episodes returned, as well as a feature film. But after that film debuted, the quality in the show's writing started to drop off. The original 65 episodes of Rugrats are well-scripted enough that they hold up today, but the series was eventually dumbed down as unnecessary new characters were piled on. The final tally of Rugrats episodes now stands at over twice as large as it would've been, but much of it is junk.
Likewise with Doug, reintroduced as "Brand Spanking New Doug!" in 1996 before being retitled "Disney's Doug" in reruns. Somehow it was even flatter and blander than the original. (And Doug still hasn't confessed his love to Patti! You had all the chances in the world!)
But Ren & Stimpy? That's on a whole other level. Put simply, many animation fans consider what makes up "Adult Party Cartoon" to be some of the worst cartoons ever made.
After Family Guy's miraculous resurrection, people started wondering if Fox's other prematurely cancelled series, Futurama, would be returning as well. That was up to Adult Swim, the current holder of broadcast rights at the time -- and they didn't have the money. Once they sold the show to Comedy Central, however, it now had an owner moderately rich enough to make production of new episodes possible. A fifth season of four DVD movies was released over a year and a half's time; then when THOSE did well enough, two more 26-episode seasons were ordered.
It depends on who you ask, but I say yes. The DVD movies were kind of a misstep since the show wasn't built for 90-minute episodes. But the new seasons have successfully recreated what I loved most about the original run. Intelligent dialogue, hilarious one-liners, and more thought put into the plot of the scripts than most other adult animation ever tries to. I can't be alone, either, as most of the Internet's Futurama-based memes have stemmed from the new seasons.
There is a downside, though. When Futurama was in its fourth season, you could feel the world and its characters becoming richer and more three-dimensional, to the point where they could successfully pull off dramatic turns like in "The Why of Fry" or "Jurassic Bark." Because of the extended breaks and constant threat of re-cancellation, that growth has stalled. This is to say nothing of the constant waffling on the exact status of Fry and Leela's relationship, which might've developed more smoothly on a less tumultuous schedule.
For years, Star Wars was just a trilogy. Only three films labeled 4, 5 and 6, but with the vague promise of Episodes 1, 2 and 3 being filmed sometime. George Lucas finally announced in the late 90's that he was prepared to start filming the prequel trilogy. Fans went insane. Millions salivated at the potential -- an already captivating world, NOW enhanced with the power of CG to allow ANYTHING to happen??? Hype was through the roof!
Then The Phantom Menace came out.
The prequels were a massive disappointment that dealt damage to the Star Wars brand which it still hasn't fully healed from. It turned out, without any other producers or directors to call George out on his faults, the Emperor was revealed to have no robes, and people who formerly praised Lucas started despising him. They hated him even further when he tinkered with the original trilogy and wouldn't allow the re-release of the untampered version in any form besides a Laserdisc dump. Eventually he had to admit defeat, and realized he no longer had the skills to keep his creation alive. We'll see what J.J. Abrams does with it, but anything should be a step up.
I would argue, additionally, that introducing midichlorians broke the whole Star Wars universe. Prior to Episode One, the Force was something you had to master, and something that gave the galaxy a presence of mystery. But if it's just a bunch of little germs, then forget training or overcoming any sort of challenge -- all anyone really needs to choke people from 50 yards away is a hypodermic shot or two. And if that's the case, why doesn't everybody do it?
The original run of Cartoon Network's Toonami lasted eleven years and was one of the most significant programming blocks ever invented. It was Pokemon that started the anime boom in America, but Toonami's airings of Sailor Moon and Dragonball Z made the trend unstoppable. Action blocks had been tried before on TV, but their branding was usually some muscle-bound men, some rock tunes, etc. Nothing memorable. When TOM glided in on the spaceship Absolution, it felt different. Here was a dude who respected your intelligence and who just wanted what you did -- hours of appointment-oriented, good ol' serialized action TV. Toonami was special.
But the block started to decline when the network meddled and tried to expand its appeal to little children. They aired HamTaro, they gave TOM a face, etc. It wasn't this that killed it, it was a brief cultural shift...the massive popularity of Hannah Montana had CN execs jealous, and kinda mad they were stuck with a cartoon-only network. In 2009 CN started pushing live-action and there was no longer room for a block like Toonami. TOM said his goodbyes to the viewers in one of the saddest sign-offs I've seen. "Until we meet again, stay gold," he remarked, before flipping on his visor and flying into the distance.
Several years passed, but the people who created Toonami still worked for the company, and in 2012 pulled a surprise April Fools' joke on Adult Swim where TOM returned for one night, bringing all his original shows back. The response was tremendous, and they had their excuse to bring the block back again, this time strictly for grown-ups.
And then some. To all you people who were little kids in Toonami's glory days....do you have any idea how lucky you are? We're never going to see The Disney Afternoon or SNICK return. Programming blocks just don't DO that. Once they're gone, they never come back....usually! Add to this, action-oriented cartoons have it rough these days, in a market that heavily favors comedies. Now more than ever, we need a block like Toonami to open people's minds to the full possibilities of animation.
Now that Toonami's back, I fully support it and I never miss it. Besides, it has One Piece now.
As one of the most successfully unsuccessful TV shows in history, Arrested Development boosted the careers of every actor who worked on it. There had been rumblings that it would return someday (in movie form) ever since the final episode heavily hinted there might be one. Before that, it had been assumed that a pay-cable station like HBO or Showtime might continue the series. When that didn't happen, everyone figured a movie was the only remaining option.
Then, seven years later, original streaming content became a thing and Netflix wanted a new season. And they got it!
Notice how most of the items on this list are animated. It's much easier to bring back a cartoon -- none of the characters have aged and it's easier to book busy actors when they're only doing voice work. A lot of AD's cast members had other projects they were attached to, such as whatever failing sitcom Will Arnett was performing in. To accommodate everyone's schedules, series creator Mitchell Hurwitz had to write all 15 episodes in a unique way so that each episode focused on one character.
Previous seasons played around with
foreshadowing and jokes that were only truly funny on
repeat viewings, but Season 4 took the idea to its full
potential. "Brick jokes" constantly hit you
over the head, revealing the true story behind a previous
episode and surprising you every time. There's never been
a season like this for any show, not even AD. Critical
response was mixed, but I'd say they nailed it.
That said, the novelty would wear off quickly if repeated, so if Netflix goes for a Season 5, it'd be best to find a way to get everybody on set at once.
Kim was running at a time in which children's networks had a set number of episodes they ordered of each show. None went over 65 no matter how successful the show became. Kim Possible was one of the first programs with a strong enough fanbase to break that mold, and an additional 22 were ordered after the big wrap-up movie where the villains were sent to jail "forever this time" and the lead female confessed her romantic feelings for the lead male. Uh-oh, what now?
Fortunately, the writers were smart enough to know what to do in this situation. They understood what made the show appealing and continued to focus on that, rather than adding any extra melodrama. The new season was simply 22 more Kim Possible stories, only Kim and Ron were dating off-camera. The whole series remains seamless.
This show hadn't had a new episode since 1997 and its characters and content put it firmly in the 1990's. Yet after Mike Judge's Goode Family show flopped, he expressed interest in reviving the show that launched his career. By this point, MTV had executives in power who watched and loved B&B growing up, and they were all too eager to start again with more. But how could the thing possibly be relevant in 2011?
It turned out to be very worth it, though unfortunately for a short time. Judge put all the skills he'd learned from his long animation career into twelve new episodes and applied it beautifully. The two morons now mocked MTV's reality show schedule instead of music videos, and it worked. The results were some of the funniest B&B cartoons ever made....but ever since Daria was cancelled, MTV has completely sucked at renewing scripted shows. After initial rumblings and rumors another new season was inevitable, nothing happened. It was sweet, but short.
Another victim of the 65-episode rule, the comedy/adventure/anything cartoon Teen Titans was massively popular yet was pulled after five seasons and a direct-to-DVD feature. Awhile later, Cartoon Network launched a programming block devoted to DC Comics properties (which they owned wholesale, so why not). New, serious action shows Young Justice and Green Lantern were paired with hyperactive one-minute shorts in between. Several of these shorts starred the Teen Titans.
Then the serious shows flopped in the ratings (sticking them in the morning with no repeats will kinda get you results like that), and a Teen Titans revival was created in their place...only in the spirit of the shorts, not the original show. Though the return of the Titans was cautiously welcomed, fans were not pleased to lose two excellent programs for an untested experiment.
In honesty? Yes. I was apprehensive at first, but I've enjoyed what I've seen. These are some seriously funny shorts and you owe it to yourself to give them a chance. It's not the original show, but it's not trying to be. It does its own thing and does it well. Teen Titans GO!
I loved this show, and so did most everyone who got to see it during the only time it ran in America, on Nickelodeon in the late 80's. The last episode was open-ended, but the last thing I expected was more episodes of it......THIRTY YEARS after the first season wrapped.
If that's not a record, I don't know what is. But it's true -- the French company who co-produced the series has restarted it from where it left off. They announced this right before the season started airing -- new episodes of this show just suddenly existed. It's in CG this time, but cel-shaded CG very faithful to the look of the original.
Who knows? No one can watch it unless they live in France, and the likelihood of any English company picking it up and translating it is slim, given how long it's been since the show was last seen here.
So....Johnny Test is still on, and it's now got over 100 episodes. That's....unfathomable.
Johnny Test started out as one of the last new shows Kids WB aired. A sort of reverse Dexter's Lab where Johnny's sisters are the brainy ones and he's the one who gets experimented on, the first season was made in-house by the WB with full animation. Then it was sold to a Canadian company, who made seasons 2 and 3 on the cheap in Flash. And I used to watch it. I also used to tape it, because I figured it would become rare and near-impossible to find in a few years. (Haha, yeah....)
Usually, obscurity is what happens to shows that air on the tail-end of a block's existence. But then the show started airing on Cartoon Network and somehow did so well, additional seasons were ordered, and then more and more.....and they're still running new ones as I write this.
I haven't been able to watch the newer ones, but all the witnesses I've heard say no way. Until Ultimate Spider-Man started being made, Johnny Test was the cartoon I heard the most grumbling about. "It's not funny, the main character is annoying, it's juvenile, he turns into a superhero with fart powers...." But he's a Totally Cool Dude and his dog talks!
I also have the Mill Creek DVD set of the first two seasons. (Don't look at me that way, it was $4.)