Television is a highly competitive market. Eventually, every show must come to a close, either by their own doing or by executives bringing the hammer. Either way, everything that is good must come to an end at some point. Some shows, however, almost get the boot before reaching air. The television process can be a murky one at best. It is a subjective process whereby TV executives put their brains together and attempt to come to a consensus on what the viewing public will want to watch. It sounds a lot easier than it actually is.
Companies spend thousands of dollars having focus groups watch show after show. They attempt to extract as much information out of these focus groups in hopes that they will give them a definitive idea if a show will sink or swim. Sometimes executives don’t like what they see and they kill a show after just one episode, known as the pilot. Television executives are under great pressure to deliver great results. Hit shows can mean millions upon millions of dollars gained. Losers come at a high cost as well - the cost of money and jobs.
Sometimes shows last a season or two and fan support swoops in, saving the fan favorite from the dreaded axe. Either way, some shows that ended up having epic success either almost never got made, or hit major speed bumps along the way. Once television executives got out of the way, these shows went on to be monster hits. Here are the Top 10 Television Shows That Almost Got Cancelled.
10 Everybody Loves Raymond
The television show was released in 1996 with terrible ratings. The show premiered so poorly on Friday nights, TV execs were interested in sticking a fork in it. Instead, they moved the show to Monday at 8:30 p.m. The ratings were still bad and it was on the chopping block. CBS was going to cancel the show but instead tried one more timeslot: moving it to Monday at 9 p.m. This made a big difference and the show continually gained in ratings year after year. A little over 200 episodes later and a handful of awards, the show continuously runs through re-runs. Hard to believe it was a moment away from being cancelled.
9 Breaking Bad
Vince Gilligan, creator of the show Breaking Bad, had some serious obstacles when he made his pitch for his television series. The story of a teacher from suburbia who turns to drug dealing was awfully similar to another successful show on Showtime, Weeds. After intense pitching and convincing, they gave a tentative go-ahead. After some hiccups it was deemed “different enough” to take a chance on. The show became a huge success with a dedicated following, numerous awards and a heck of a storyline. Walter White lasted five kick-ass seasons.
8 Beverly Hills 90210
In 1990, the Fox television network was considered a joke. It was attempting to make waves into network television but was a very distant forth to the “Big 3” (CBS, NBC, and ABC). They launched Beverly Hills 90210. Ironically, Fox executives hated the show and the ratings were so poor, they wanted to cut it from their line-up. But they had nothing to replace it with. Instead, they stayed the course and aired it during the summer months before the show gained big traction and became a fan favorite. The show ended after 10 successful seasons with characters who looked like they were 35, not in their 20s!
The launch pad for George Clooney’s successful career, ER was almost never released. With other hospital shows on air, network executives were very nervous. It took the gravitas of Steven Spielberg to push this show through despite having Jurassic Park writer Michael Crichton on board. Airing from 1994 to 2009, the show became a monster hit and won 116 awards as well as launch the careers of many successful actors.
6 Family Guy
Seth MacFarlane has been enjoying massive success due to his television series, Family Guy. The adult sitcom first premiered on Fox in 1998. But after 2002, with struggling ratings, the show was cancelled. However, between reruns and the evolution of Adult Swim on Comedy Central, the demand by fans was so overwhelming, Fox went back to MacFarlane to reprise the series. And reprise it he did! The success has led to over 13 seasons of the hit show dominating both Fox and Adult Swim on Comedy Central with MacFarlane adding a spinoff series, The Cleveland Show, and numerous Family Guy specials. Talk about an incredible comeback story.
Chuck is a little bit of everything. It’s an action-comedy/spy-drama television series that featured an average computer nerd who receives a strange email from a former college friend who now works for the CIA. Fans were obsessed with the show despite below average ratings. Executives had Chuck on the chopping block after the second season. Fans enacted to save the show. Petitions and letter-writing campaigns were conducted along with a “Have a Heart, Renew Chuck” program which asked fans to donate money to the American Heart Association on behalf of NBC. The efforts helped raise over $17,000 and the fans were given five fun-filled years.
4 Friday Night Lights
Following on the heels of the successful film with the same name, Friday Night Lights chronicled the drama surrounding a high school football team and the obsession their town has with winning at all costs. The show won numerous awards during its five-year run, but television executives wanted to shut the show down after sub-par ratings in season two. Fans were quick to react. They raised money to send troops overseas 20,000 footballs and Friday Night Lights DVDs. NBC teamed with DirecTV to keep the franchise alive for five intense football seasons.
3 Grey's Anatomy
Medical dramas on television seem to be a dime a dozen. There are a ton that end up appearing on television and some succeed while others flounder miserably. When Shonda Rhimes pitched the pilot for Grey’s Anatomy, she found her female-centric show idea being peddled to a boardroom filled with men. One executive even hollered that no one wanted to watch a show in which a woman hooked up with a guy she just met prior to her first day at work. Well, Grey and McDreamy went on to have a tremendous run since airing in 2006 with 11 magical seasons and more steamy hospital drama to come!
How do you pitch a show about nothing? Well, NBC wasn’t very impressed at first with Jerry Seinfeld’s kooky show about nothing in particular. In fact, NBC disliked it so much they only gave the production of four episodes the greenlight. The letter from NBC to Seinfeld had such an impact on him he framed it. It hangs on his wall to this very day. Called “Too New York” and “Too Jewish” by NBC executives, test audiences also expressed dismay when the show first aired during the summer months of 1989. The show turned out to be an absolute giant, ending on May 14, 1998 with NBC begging the Seinfeld cast to reconsider and stay on board for $100 million. That’s a massive turnaround from the four episode order.
1 Star Trek
As a television series, Star Trek struggled to find its audience. The show premiered on NBC in 1966 and struggled to gain ground in audience share. After season two aired, rumors began to circulate that the show might be cancelled. Trekkies went to work to save Captain Kirk and Spock. A massive letter-writing campaign ensued and over 200 students from Caltech marched from their campus to NBC’s studio in Burbank, California carrying signs that read “Vulcan Power” and “Draft Spock.” Needless to say, it worked and the show stayed on the air. But it only lasted three seasons. Execs may not have been on board, but now the original show has spun off into a monster hit of movie franchises, television shows, books, animated series and a heck of a lot of money. Too bad those TV execs didn’t see this one coming.
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