Some television shows end their story arcs in a blaze of celebrated, award-strewn glory; others with barely a whimper. Some don’t even get the chance to say goodbye. And often the shows are left as merely a historical footnote in TV land, but occasionally, thanks to the dedicated and passionate fans they leave behind, and even the show’s creators, they’re given new life. Here’s what’s happening with some of your favorite shows after their final (and not-so-final) bow:
SPOILER ALERT: This contains spoilers for several canceled and finished shows.
The decade the world spent with Jack Bauer was only ten days in the tumultuous life of the Counter-Terrorist Unit agent-turned-rogue. The show, unique for its real-time format (though remiss of meal times and bathroom breaks), turned the troubled family man, presidential protector, and international target into a modern-day Chuck Norris, solidifying its position in the pop culture spectrum. While the show (and its season 6 prequel TV movie 24: Redemption) frequently raised questions and concerns regarding its use of torture for interrogation, it remained a consistent ratings draw throughout its tenure, assuring the world of the existence of heroes willing to do anything to keep the innocent safe. Speculation swirled of sequels and spin-offs following the finale, which saw the hero finally escaping the dangerous life he had led by walking the railroad tracks into the sunset. The rumors finally proved true in 2014 when a previously announced, but heavily sidetracked and delayed project initially intended to precede season 7 came to fruition in the form of 24: Live Another Day, a mini-series following a terrorist plot based in London. Now, FOX is reigniting the 24 buzz for a possible return in 2016…without Jack Bauer. With Bauer portrayer Kiefer Sutherland declaring no interest in continuing the franchise, saying “My bones are creaking…What am I going to do, Jack Bauer in a walker?” (I’d still watch it), the future expansion of the 24 universe remains to be seen.
Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009)
While Battlestar Galactica’s original 1978 series was promptly canceled after one season despite its dedicated audience, the show was truly able to make its mark in the twenty-first century with its much more successful reboot in 2004. The story, based on the spaceship of the series’ title, revolves around a crew searching for planet Earth after having escaped their home of the Twelve Colonies from an attack by the cybernetic Cylons. And while some could try to dismiss it as generic outer-space sci-fi, the show is anything but: the drama, and its several spinoffs (2008 prequel Caprica and 2012 web series-turned-Syfy movie Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Stone), have helped bring the modern-day issues of race, gender equality, and politics to a new audience, and was honored in 2009 at the United Nations because of it. Though the series took its bow that same year (and Caprica only aired one season before cancellation), the fandom remains highly active: When not absorbing the several forms of media Battlestar Galactica expanded to during its tenure, including video games, board games, books, and comics, they’re meeting each other at highly successful conventions like Galacticon, going into its fourth year this summer.
Breaking Bad (2008-2013)
The unlikely protagonist of chemistry teacher-turned-meth cook Walter White is what lured viewers to AMC’s Breaking Bad in 2008, and what a wild ride they hopped onto. Through five seasons, we saw the character, alongside wife Skyler, DEA agent & brother-in-law Hank, and the former student who brought him into the drug trade, Jesse Pinkman, slowly transform from a well-meaning cancer victim to a villain embedded too deep in the game he’s joined to bow out. Though the show’s explosive finale wrote off any plans for future installments with the Heisenberg, viewers wanting more tales from the Breaking Bad world didn’t have to wait long — months before the show’s finale, creator Vince Gilligan (The X-Files) dropped word at Comic-Con of a possible spin-off, which has since come to fruition in the form of Better Call Saul, a prequel based on criminal lawyer Saul Goodman, introduced in season 2. And unlike many defunct show spin-offs, Better Call Saul may be sticking around for a while — its premiere in February 2015 brought in nearly 7 million viewers.
Community (2009-2014, 2015-Present)
The campus adventures of Greendale Community College’s ragtag group of friends showed for five seasons on NBC before getting the axe, one fewer year than the predicted trajectory of “six seasons and a movie,” a slogan from the episode “Paradigms of Human Memory” that fans took to heart. Though the comedy, featuring the likes of The Soup’s Joel McHale and even Clark Griswold himself, Chevy Chase, was an on-the-bubble ratings mainstay, its critical acclaim came in the form of several awards show accolades and nominations. Alas, fans did not have to wait long after NBC’s announcement to hear some good news — just a month and a half later, internet company Yahoo! announced it was taking over, bringing a thirteen-episode sixth season of the show to its online Yahoo! Screen platform. With a larger online audience now bringing in its ratings and its season currently in full swing, things are looking to be back on track with the original plan — “There’s no way we’re not making the movie now!…I’d be lying if I told you that we have not had some very early and preliminary conversations that are very exciting about what a potential movie could be and who might direct it. It’s early but it’s completely in our thought process,” said Sony Pictures Television executive Zack Van Amburg in 2014. And beyond that, creator Dan Harmon has noted, “We will have six seasons, and we will have a movie, that does not deny us the right to have nine seasons…and a Bethesda video game.” Now that’s experiencing community college in a whole new way!
As far as spy dramas go, a comedic one where the title character uses top CIA secrets embedded in his brain to thwart terrorism and villainy would probably be a long shot in today’s TV landscape. But in 2007, NBC gave Chuck its chance to shine, and critical acclaim followed. Despite its strong reception, however, heavy competition and the Writer’s Guild strike led to its possible cancellation after its second season. Its fans didn’t sit on their laurels at this threat — several renewal campaigns launched to save the show, including the “Save Chuck” campaign, the Watch/Buy/Share campaign from fan site ChuckTV.net, and a campaign that led show sponsor Subway to pen a deal with NBC for the show’s return. Chuck concluded with its fifth season in 2012, but the story may not yet be over: Chuck Bartowski’s portrayer Zachary Levi spoke in March 2013 to Entertainment Weekly of using crowdsourcing website Kickstarter to fund a possible movie: “…because Warner Bros. has now opened that gate [with using Kickstarter to fund the Veronica Mars movie], I feel confident in being able to get the same results for a Chuck movie…I’ve got some great ideas for what the movie would be that I’m very excited about.” Until then, be sure to check out the super spy in the upcoming Heroes Reborn mini-series, set to premiere this year.
This short-lived show about Captain Mal Reynolds and his eclectic crew traveling aboard the spaceship Serenity is probably one you’ve heard of even if you’re not in any fandom. The Joss Whedon-helmed sci-fi, canceled with only eleven of fourteen episodes aired, has amassed such an active following, it’s sparked its fans, the “Browncoats,” to go beyond the typical fandom acts of love: they’ve made their own films (like Browncoats: Redemption, which debuted at Dragon Con in Atlanta), and even established their own charity, Can’t Stop the Serenity, which annually raises money for women’s rights organization Equality Now. Despite peoples’ intense devotion to the show and its compelling characters, Fox never resurrected the series. However, fans did get one last dose of the Old West-influenced world with the 2005 feature film Serenity, followed by several Serenity comic books, released sporadically by Dark Horse between 2005 and 2014. But the heartbreak of cancellation forever lingers, probably most prominently with its creator Whedon, who, despite now being the go-to guy for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers movies, has said he’ll “never really accept it…And I always, in the back of my head, think, ‘What if I could get the old gang back together?’”
Futurama (1999-2003, 2010-2013)
The adventures of Planet Express employees Fry, Leela, and Bender stand as one of the most memorable shows to bring cartoons to the adult crowd, paving the path of success for shows like Archer and Adult Swim, and its fans don’t hesitate to show their love. Fox’s backing of the show began waning during the third and fourth seasons, ultimately canceling the sci-fi in 2003. However, outrageous demand from fans and creators alike sparked Comedy Central to pick it up for initial syndication; this quickly led to the production of two new seasons, with the show getting its final cancellation in 2013. The fandom fervently lives on through the internet, though, keeping Fry on frequent rotation on your Tumblr dash with his “Not Sure If…” memes. But the demand is still high for yet another revival; just don’t expect it in the form of a new season. Co-creator David X. Cohen has stated, “I think we’re actually done this time,” though he has waxed poetically about his “number-one secret fantasy” being a Futurama feature film. Though that has yet to come to fruition, Futurama did pop up in 2014 in a crossover episode with co-creator Matt Groening’s other baby, The Simpsons; the episode boasted approximately 6.7 million viewers in its initial airing in November.
The story of ordinary people with extraordinary abilities isn’t a new one, but few have done it quite like NBC’s Heroes. The drama boasted a huge ensemble cast whose lives were unique but intertwined by common enemies, and fans followed them fervently. However, despite its initial reception and the media extensions it spawned, including magazines, action figures, games, and interactive web experiences, its ratings slid throughout its five-season run, leading to its cancellation in 2010. But the sci-fi, with its stories and slogans having permeated the pop culture spectrum (anyone not living under a rock can vividly recall the omnipresence of “Save the Cheerleader, Save the World”), wasn’t about to fade into obscurity. In addition to avid fan support through petitions and campaigns touting “Save the World,” even NBC wanted to give the show some new life. “The enormous impact ‘Heroes’ had on the television landscape when it first launched in 2006 was eye-opening…Shows with that kind of resonance don’t come around often and we thought it was time for another installment,” said NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke. That’s coming this year in the form of mini-series Heroes Reborn, which has so far added aforementioned Chuck star Zachary Levi and Once Upon A Time’s Peter Pan, Robbie Kay, to its roster. Mastermind Tim Kring is back for the revival, but it’s still a mystery who of the original cast (besides Jack Coleman’s Noah Bennet) will be returning to help save the world once again.