What’s old is new again appears to be a prevailing trend on television these days. In addition to plenty of new series in development based on films like Big, Rush Hour and Real Genius, beloved shows are staging comebacks as well.
Most recently, Showtime announced plans to revive Mark Frost and David Lynch’s 1990-91 cult thriller Twin Peaks, proving that the gum you like will, eventually, come back in style. The wonderfully weird series joins fellow returnees Heroes — now dubbed Heroes Reborn — at NBC and a percolating a live-action Tick relaunch, which will possibly star a returning Patrick Warburton.
With that in mind, we take a look back at six other prematurely canceled series that deserve another shot. Not only did these shows rack up an intense fan following, they also have real potential for resurrection as films, ongoing series or limited-run events.
6. Firefly (2002)
Of Joss Whedon’s major television attempts, Firefly not only had the best start, it fell victim to the ax the earliest. Fox canceled the space Western after airing just 11 episodes, leaving fans to wonder what would happen to the ridiculously charismatic Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) and the Serenity crew.
Some of those adventures were told in the 2005 film Serenity, as well as the handful of comic stories from Dark Horse, but with a vast galaxy out there to explore and a relative lack of space-based shows these days, Firefly should definitely make a comeback.
Sure, Joss Whedon is busy helming the good ship Avengers for Marvel Studios, and Fillion headlines the ABC cop drama Castle, but they both have gone on record that they’d love to return to this world. Just last year Whedon said he “never really accepted” the show’s cancellation. “I always, in the back of my head, think, ‘What if I could get the old gang back together?’” Considering he helmed a film that made $1.5 billion worldwide in The Avengers, we’re hoping Whedon has the swing now to get those engines started back up Kaylee-style!
5. Pushing Daisies (2007-2009)
Another beloved series that deserves a second shot is ABC’s Pushing Daisies, the Bryan Fuller fantasy comedy-drama that starred Lee Pace as Ned, a man with the ability to resurrect the dead with a single touch. After reviving a person,Ned has one minute before another life in the vicinity is taken, but if he touches the resurrected a second time, they’re dead for good.
For a while, Ned got along fine running his pie shop and helping his pal Emerson (Chi McBride) solve murders. But the status quo crumbled when his childhood sweetheart Chuck (Anna Friel) died, only for Ned to bring her back to life. Of course, they fell in love, which is inconvenient when a passionate embrace would end the romance — and her life. Between the surrealistic visual style, quirky relationship and weekly murder investigations, the series developed a strong and loyal fan following, but not huge ratings.
It didn’t help that the first season was interrupted by the writers strike, resulting in just nine episodes being produced. Its second second season ran for 13 episodes before the network pulled the plug due to low ratings. Fuller has talked about continuing the story as everything from a musical to a TV miniseries, but nothing has materialized. A comic book was planned, but it was scrapped when DC Comics shuttered its WildStorm imprint.
Thanks to his current series, Hannibal, Fuller has a lot of heat on him which might re-stoke the Pushing Daisies flames. Meanwhile, Pace has plenty of eyes on him over on AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire. So, let’s get the increasingly popular players back together and give viewers — including the increased fan base the show has developed thanks to things like Netflix — a deeper look at what happens to this seemingly ill-fated couple.
4. Jericho (2006-2008)
Airing on CBS, the post-apocalyptic drama Jericho centered on the residents of a small town in Kansas in the aftermath of a nuclear attack on 23 U.S. cities. The series was canceled after its first season, only to be revived due to the efforts of fans, who but then brought back for a second the next year. Axed again after the second season, Jericho continued in comic form at IDW, but the fans — who sent nuts to the network in an effort to get the show back — still want to see what happened on the small screen. Since the show’s writers worked on those comics, you’ve already got a springboard to launch into the new adventures that could explain just what happened in the wider world, and to these characters viewers fell in love with.
The large ensemble cast included stars Skeet Ulrich, Lennie James and Ashley Scott, all of whom we’d hope could be enticed to return. In this case, it might make the most sense to get everyone back together for a limited series that could finally explain the show’s many mysteries and give the dedicated fans the conclusion they’ve been waiting for.
Back in 1996, Fox decided to invest in more goodness from X-Files creator Chris Carter. The result was the intrigue-filled Millennium, starring Lance Henriksen as Frank Black, a profiler who hunted serial killers. He worked for a mysterious organization called The Millennium Group that was secretly planning for the end of the world in 2000. As the series progressed through its three season run, supernatural elements continuously popped up for Black to investigate.
The series ended in 1999, with Black on the run with his daughter Jordan (Brittany Tiplady). The X-Files did pick up on Frank’s story in their seventh season with an episode named after the cancelled show. Unfortunately, the results didn’t satisfy many fans.
Carter recently returned to TV with The After for Amazon, but helming two shows is far from unheard of these days. Plus, Henriksen continues to work in TV, most recently as a voice actor on The Legend of Korra. He also appeared in Hannibal and is the narrator on The Strain. With the major players still in the game, and the rise of cult comebacks, this is the perfect time to get the team back together and catch up with Frank. Supernaturally themed shows are super popular these days from Grimm and Supernatural to newcomers Constantine and iZombie, and who doesn’t want find out what happens to an organization like the Millennium Group when the world doesn’t end exactly when they want it to?
Before American Horror Story got in the Freak Show business, HBO’s Carnivàle showed how hard life under the big top could be during the Great Depression. Running from 2003 to 2005, the circus show with supernatural elements presented viewers with two main characters whose ability to see the future lead them into direct conflict. Nick Stahl’s Ben Hawkins and Clancy Brown’s Brother Crowe moved closer and closer to one another as the second season finale came to a head. Unfortunately, the fates of many characters were left hanging in the balance thanks to the one-two punch of cliffhangers and cancellation.
Creator Daniel Knauf planned to do the show as a series of “books,” each one consisting of two seasons. With only two seasons completed, there’s still two books just waiting to be filmed. Four more seasons might be a little tough for HBO to sign up for, but fans would love to see the return of Stahl, Brown, Adrienne Barbeau, Clea DuVall and Carla Gallo in a few movies or limited series. This type of show, with supernatural leanings, an interesting time period and a deeper mythology is far more common these days, so HBO may actually consider reassembling the three ring circus, re-airing the first two seasons and then launching right into new material to get new and old viewers on board.
NYPD Blue co-creator David Milch created something special when he teamed with HBO to develop the Western drama Deadwood. An immersive, violent and dramatic experience, the series enthralled fans thanks in part to to a cast consisting of Ian McShane, Timothy Olyphant, Molly Parker and others. Even though it’s considered one of the best shows of all time by many, Deadwood also has the distinction of never completing its story. HBO gave the series three seasons between 2004 and 2006, but dropped the hammer before the fourth could wrap up most of the dangling plot threads.
Milch kept hope alive for several years after the 2006 cancellation, when the plan was to return with a pair of two hour films. In more recent years, though, he seems to have given up the ghost a bit. In a 2012 Vulture interview, he was asked about the films and said, “No, I don’t think so. We got really close about a year ago. Never say never, but it doesn’t look that way.”
Hope is not lost, though. If a nearly 25-year-gone show like Twin Peaks can get another chance, with its offbeat tone and large cast of unusual characters, saddling back up for a return trip to that down and dirty South Dakota town doesn’t seem quite so far fetched.
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