It’s springtime! The weather’s getting nicer, there’s blossom in sight and, I don’t know, there’s likely newborn lambs frolicking somewhere around. It’s the perfect time to celebrate themes of rebirth, and what better way to do that than with the release of the Kickstarted Veronica Mars movie? And a giveaway – all the details about it are below!
That’s right, dreams really can come true and cult TV shows can get a second lease of life with a crowd-funded film to continue the story!
Veronica Mars, a show about a Private Investigator’s daughter solving crimes in a California town, ran for three seasons but suffered from low ratings and despite its teen characters was an odd fit for its network (UPN, until that merged with the WB into the CW) with its dark themes and determined focus on race and class. After its unceremonious cancellation, creator Rob Thomas made a trailer for a more grown up potential fourth season featuring Veronica beginning a career at the FBI, but that came to naught and a new season never materialised.
Although cast and crew continued to give interviews claiming that they planned on carrying on the story via a film, it seemed like the show was doomed to be just another in the list of prematurely ended fan favourites. But it’s happened! The film is out! And I’m excited to see it!
So to commemorate, here are ten other ways shows have come back from the great beyond to live on in new ways. Fan power! And to add an extra splash of fun, we’ve got a Veronica Mars limited edition trucker hat to award one lucky UK reader via the Veronica Mars blog app! (which allows you to play Veronica Mars: Purity Test Marshmallow Super-fan Trivia)! You can enter by simply commenting on this post before March 30th.*
Just because a critical darling of a show can’t get the ratings to keep it on the air, doesn’t mean that it won’t have a devoted fanbase – and so seven years after Fox cancelled Arrested Development, it got a fourth season from Netflix. On-demand online distribution of shows seems perfectly geared towards an existing hardcore group of fans in a way that network TV really can’t be. The fact that the entire fifteen-episode season become available on one day also allowed people to binge-watch the whole lot in its entirety, which worked well given that the episodes weren’t exactly chronological – they covered one chunk of time seen from different perspectives. The season wasn’t universally beloved, it was solid but had its problems, but hopefully the experiment might allow for other shows to be saved in this way in the future, It doesn’t seem to have put off creator Mitch Hurwitz – who is apparently working on a follow-up movie and then perhaps a Netfix’d season five, It’s nice to see digital platforms being used to deliver creative content more and more, rather than just as a way to burn off episodes of cancelled shows like Don’t Trust the B- in Apartment 23, Ben and Kate and Friends With Benefits.
Lots of shows have tie-in novels and comics throughout their runs, often not seen as part of the official canon however. It easily make sense for them to carry on the story in graphical form once the television era is over. Buffy the Vampire Slayer has continued on for a season eight and beyond, as has sister show Angel. Perhaps this works especially well for genre shows like these and Smallville, Charmed and Dollhouse, because the shows were often inspired by the comic medium in the first place, and are full of action and larger-than-life superheroes. In some ways it’s a freer medium – depicting explosions and destruction doesn’t require a big budget, and there’s no concerns about the schedules or physical appearance of actors. However, other aspects like huge chunks of dialogue and quiet character moments don’t necessarily translate as well. But hey, if that Pushing Daisies sequel comic ever comes out I’d definitely read it! Comic book spin-offs are a nice way to continue the story of favourite characters and worlds, without being beholden to the small-screen they may’ve outgrown.
Veronica Mars isn’t the first TV show to get another lease of life on the silver screen, Firefly (cancelled after just 14 episodes) got a shiny motion picture continuation with Serenity (and indeed follow-up comics too), aided by fan support (and DVD sales). The X-Files actually had its first feature film as a bridge between the fourth and fifth seasons, but there’s also the 2008 I Want to Believe sequel, set after the ninth season (with a release held up for years due to getting stuck in development hell) that’s just… not very good. Dead Like Me, another cult favourite that was cancelled early on, eventually followed up with a disappointing direct-to-DVD offering which lacked one major character, replaced another actor (poorly) and didn’t seem to have much of a point all around. The jump from the kind of serialised storytelling that works on television to a feature-length one doesn’t always go well, and perhaps the lesson here is not to bother unless there’s actually a good idea to go with it!
One way to get around the end of a show is to take the characters and just plop them into something else! When a show finishes but has an existing sequel this can be easy to do (for example, Spike’s move to Angel after the end of Buffy), or when a spin-off ends its characters can get reabsorbed into the main story again, at least for a time (as with Joanie and Chachi coming back to Happy Days). Or the actors can get hoovered up by a new mothership, as two Farscape actors did, after the show’s cancellation, by Stargate SG-1, allowing for some complex meta cross-referencing. This gives me hope that whichever of Cougar Town or Community gets cancelled first, their characters can be housed by the other show at least!
A simple way to get around being axed by a network is to get another one to take you on. Cougar Town managed to avoid the possibility of cancellation drama at the end of its third season by neatly hopping over to TBS instead, ensuring a 15-episode run, the possibility of further seasons (it’s now in its fifth) and plenty of reruns. Likewise, legal thriller Damages was on FX for three seasons, but its relatively low ratings and high production costs threatened to doom it – until the production company made a deal to get it aired on DirecTV instead, where it ran for its final two seasons. Futurama has managed to get itself almost- and actually cancelled a number of times and then revived for episodes and films, the first time being when Fox got rid of it and it was picked up again by Comedy Central. The rights involved in this kind of situation can be complex, but its nice to know that this is at least a potential option, as many shows just might fit better on another network.
It can be a little frustrating when all new television and cinema releases just seem to be remakes and reboots of something that already existed, but sometimes classics are ready for a little reinvention. Bryan Fuller’s Mockingbird Lane, a reimagining of The Munsters, looked set to be a fun, spooky ride that played homage to the original sitcom yet did something different with it, and I think it’s a real pity it didn’t get picked up. Shows like Battlestar Galactica, V, and Hawaii 5-0 have all been popularly remade in recent years, and NBC’s critical darling Parenthood is a remake of a late 90s/early 80s movie-to-TV spin-off. And Buffy-the-show was essentially a reboot of the dodgy film that preceded it. Of course classic TV shows can also get remade as films, this can have uneven results ( The Dukes of Hazzard; Scooby-Doo, Charlie’s Angels), but sometimes you get The Addams Family, and everything is good with the world.
A spin-off can continue the world of a show that’s ended. Frasier, a spin-off of Cheers, purposefully moved geographical, character and thematic focus, but by its very nature it gave you further insight into Cheers‘ characters Frasier and Lilith, as well as featured guest appearances from many of the parent show’s other characters such as Sam, Diane, Carla, Woody, Cliff and Norm. Daria took its titular character from Beavis and Butt-head, allowing it to be spun-off during the latter show’s end (though B&B has since been revived), Hercules gave us both Xena and baby Ryan Gosling as Young Hercules, while The Simpsons began as shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show, which has since gone the way of the dodo, before beginning its own million or so season run.
Why bother remaking a show when you can simply revive it?! This can mean that its set in the same world but updated to a later date, with original characters as well as new ones (as with the recent version of 1970s-1990s soap opera Dallas), or with sci-fi shows like Doctor Who and Red Dwarf not too much explanation is needed for the hows and whys of the continuation! Classic Australian kids show Round The Twist (original era: 1989 to 1992), which was full of delightful abject weirdness, was revived in 2000 for another couple of seasons full of more ridiculousness – when you’ve got a load of ghosts and incomprehensible Australian accents to contend with, no one bothered to question the re-casting going on.
One way to deal with the end of the show is to go back to before the beginning and make a prequel. This happened with Caprica (a spin-off prequel to Battlestar Galactica, itself a remake), Enterprise (the most recent addition to the Star Trek television franchise), and Young Macgyver (which sadly only ever had a pilot made). There’s also the direct-to-DVD movie sort, as with Recess: All Growed Down. We’re all eagerly awaiting Better Call Saul, the Breaking Bad prequel set to begin airing this winter, and hopefully it’ll have its own tone which will allow it to expand the world of the original show and flesh out the back story while letting it stand firmly on its own.
If you’re not going to have a prequel, surely the natural conclusion would be to make a sequel show, perhaps something in the vein of The Legacy of Reginald Perrin (made decades after The Fall and Rise) or Saved By the Bell: The College Years, which transported many of the original characters to a new setting – and surely we’re all extremely excited about the Boy Meets World follow-up, set to air this year! Animated versions (shows such as Supernatural, Star Trek, Mr Bean and Happy Days have all dabbled with these) seem like a good bet for longevity. The safest option however might be a franchise, Star Trek, CSI, Law and Order and, arguably, Blackadder have all managed to keep on going with new versions of the same show. But perhaps most satisfying of all is the creation of a spiritual successor, which acknowledges that the original show is indeed gone, but that the same magic can be created again. For the beginning of Studio 60‘s run at least it was like the Sorkin-penned West Wing was back, Bunheads was of course very Gilmore Girls-esque, and Cougar Town and Ground Floor fulfil the early season Scrubs feel that was absent from television for so long.
It’s lovely when a show gets a chance to shine again, but of course that’s not always feasible, or necessarily advisable! What are your favourite success stories? Or what are you glad about ending when it did without a chance to ruin it? Tell us all in the comments! And don’t forget that you could win a Veronica Mars trucker cap if you do!
*To make sure everyone has an equal chance of winning each household is only eligible to win One (1) Veronica Mars “Neptune” Trucker Hat via blog reviews and giveaways. Only one entrant per mailing address per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you will not be eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.