The Veronica Mars movie looks like it’s happening thanks to fan persistence and an incredible influx of financial support. But there’s more than one way to bring a dead TV show back to life.
1. Comic Books
Buffy the Vampire Slayer ended its television run with Season 7, but Season 8 continued the story — provided fans were willing to switch mediums. Buffy wasn’t new to comics, but Season 8 was unique in that it was canon: Joss Whedon’s stamp of approval assured that whatever happened to the characters in the comics actually happened. (Read: a lot of death.) Though perhaps not as satisfying as watching an eighth season would be, the comics were a great way to continue the story on a much, much lower budget.
Diehard Arrested Development fans never gave up hope that the series would return, however unlikely that seemed. And look, now that long overdue wish is coming true! The idea that Netflix can bring classic shows back is an exciting one, although few series would inspire the same enthusiasm that Arrested Development and Veronica Mars have. Netflix also encourages binge-watching, which is ideal for these cult series, most of which people discovered by marathoning episodes long after the shows had been canceled.
3. New Network
For shows like Damages and Friday Night Lights, the wait wasn’t even very long. Both series looked like they were done for until DIRECTV snatched them up. In addition to permitting more bad language and gratuitous nudity, the network switch allowed DIRECTV to establish itself as a sanctuary for fallen shows. And yes, they could totally spice things up with a liberal sprinkling of f-words. Honestly, it’s strange to think of a time when Damages had to censor itself. I’m pretty sure Patty Hewes was born cursing like a sailor.
Not all continuations of the story have to be canon, and sometimes that’s a good thing. Without any constraints, fan fiction based on beloved shows takes risks the series never could, exploring inappropriate pairings, unlikely scenarios, and lots of other bad behavior that can’t be shown on TV. Sure, fanfic is mostly a poor substitute for the real thing, but a lot of it is quite good. As long as you’re OK with the stories not being consistent, you can enjoy seeing a new writer take your favorite characters in different directions.
Who knew there was still an audience for Dallas out there? Fans don’t lose interest — they just get older. Reboots like Dallas, 90210, and Melrose Place (a regrettable flop) breathe fresh life into old series while carrying over some of the original cast members. They’re really more like long-awaited sequels, and although they’re different from their predecessors, they still feel like a continuation of the classic story. It’s a new model that’s had various degrees of success. Don’t be surprised if in a decade we’re watching Gilmore Girls: The Next Generation.
Futurama seemed dead and gone before the straight-to-DVD movies hit the market. Suddenly it was a hit again — and the series came back for good on Comedy Central. DVDs are a great way to gauge interest, but also to pick up new fans. Let’s not forget that Family Guy, which continues to run on FOX, was canceled before DVD sales forced the network to reconsider. Futurama remains the special case, however, as it produced movies (in effect, four-part episodes) that were originally slated to air only on DVD. They did, of course, make it to Comedy Central eventually.
7. Studio-Produced Films
When the Veronica Mars movie eventually hits theaters, it will be with studio backing. But the film is largely being funded by the fans, which distinguishes it from other TV-inspired movies the studio has put its money behind. Films like Serenity probably wouldn’t have happened without the massive fan support behind Firefly and Joss Whedon, but fans weren’t throwing any money into the mix. Unfortunately, Serenity wasn’t much of a hit — much like the series it followed — so it’s unlikely future studios will follow suit without a Kickstarter intervention.