Canceled comedies find a second life online

'Community,' 'The Mindy Project,' and other shows have been brought back by streaming services after being canceled by networks. How does this benefit streaming services?

Jordin Althaus/FOX
'The Mindy Project'

TV viewers may feel as if they are on a roller coaster ride at the state fair when it comes to seeing their favorite shows canceled only to be brought back by streaming services.

Shows finding a new home on a different network after being canceled has a long tradition. “Leave It to Beaver” left CBS for ABC and “My Three Sons” ran for seven more seasons after CBS picked up what ABC had dropped. But these days, fans of a beloved show have even more reason to hope that favorite shows can avoid being relegated to the rerun schedule for a bit longer. 

A few recent examples: “Arrested Development,” the comedy that aired on Fox from 2003 to 2006, was brought back by Netflix. “Community,” the critically acclaimed but perennially low-rated NBC sitcom, was canceled by NBC in 2014 but recently finished a season on Yahoo Screen, a free streaming service. And Fox’s recently canceled “The Mindy Project” will now air on Hulu.

The proliferation and growing preference for on-demand shows doesn’t mean that canceled network shows will automatically find a second life streaming online. The odds are better if a show can prove it has devoted fans, as was the case with “The Mindy Project.” 

“It’s definitely a branding opportunity [for the streaming services],” says Aymar Jean Christian, assistant professor in the department of communication studies at Northwestern University.

Mr. Christian notes that of the shows saved, most are comedies. “Comedies are just a little bit cheaper to make [and] have dedicated fan bases,” he explains. And he thinks most fans are willing to make the effort to seek out their shows on another platform. Many “Community” fans and reviewers “are continuing to pay attention to the show,” he says. “I think this [practice] will continue.”

Netflix has already proved that it is a cultural force with its Emmy Awards for original content and millions of subscribers. Time will tell if this strategy of picking up canceled shows can give other streaming services the same prestige.

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