News Column

Networks Resurrect Their Own Canceled Series

June 2, 2013



The death notice was grim and unequivocal.

"After much deliberation, we've come to the difficult decision not to renew 'The Killing' for a third season," AMC executives said in a statement released July 27, 2012.

"The Killing" was as dead as murder victim Rosie Larsen.

And yet, 10 months later, "The Killing" is about to return with a two-hour episode -- on AMC.

The "Walking Dead" network gives new meaning to "undead."

"Canceled doesn't necessarily mean canceled anymore," the Hollywood Reporter said in a "Killing" story from last week.

While it's fairly common for a series dropped by one network to be picked up by a different network -- examples include "Cougar Town" (which went from ABC to TBS), "Futurama" (Fox to Comedy Central) and "Arrested Development" (Fox to Netflix, after a seven- year hiatus) -- it's rare for a network to uncancel its own show. But we have two prime examples of that this summer.

In addition to AMC's "The Killing," there is CBS' "Unforgettable." On July 28, CBS will relaunch the drama -- about a New York City police detective (Poppy Montgomery) who remembers small, crucial details from crime scenes -- that it had canceled in May 2012, only to uncancel three months later.

"We really thought this was dead," Ed Redlich, the show's co- creator, said last week, noting that television is a business where producers learn to be philosophical about finding new life for their axed shows. "If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. But a bunch of time had passed -- several months -- and so, this is a fantastic shock.

"We were thankful that the studio and the network were able to come to some kind of financial arrangement and bring us back. ... It so rarely happens."

But it may start happening more.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, "The Killing" owes its resurrection to "a unique deal among producer Fox Television Studios, AMC and Netflix, which will stream the third season 90 days after the finale airs on the cable network." With so many outlets now needing content, there is an "evolving business model" that could save shows with small but loyal audiences.

AMC President Charlie Collier told The Los Angeles Times that canceling "The Killing" was a "very difficult" decision "based on different inputs and competing needs. But when it came down to it, we just couldn't shake these characters. We were passionate about the storytelling, passionate about the show and we kept hearing from the core passionate audience. Now we have a new case. ... With a new case brings new opportunity."

The old case -- Rosie Larsen's murder -- played out over two seasons, which outraged viewers who expected resolution in one season. Many did not return for Season 2.

Season 3 opens one year after the close of the Larsen case. Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos), no longer working as a detective, is living on Vashon Island, outside Seattle, and has a job with a ferry company. Her ex-partner, Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman), more confident and ambitious now, is working a murder case that points to a serial killer. But the murderer's signature looks a lot like a case Linden closed three years ago.

When Holder shows up at Linden's house to discuss that case, he complicates her new life. The man convicted of that murder, Ray Seward, is set to be executed in 30 days. (Peter Sarsgaard is chillingly creepy as Seward.)

Was he wrongly convicted? And who is the serial killer on the loose? AMC is quick to note that it will all be resolved in 10 episodes, ending with a two-hour season finale.

Most of the old characters are gone, but the show's dark, moody feel is still there. Series creator Veena Sud told the L.A. Times that the writers wanted to "continue what worked -- the atmospheric storytelling, the investigation, looking at the impact beyond the victims, what are the shock waves that go through the world when someone is murdered."

Executive producer Dawn Prestwich, in that same piece, said, "There's much more a sense of urgency and threat than there was the first season. Before, it was the investigation of a murder that had happened. Now it's about killings that are happening."

"The Killing" suffered from low ratings -- which was not the case with CBS' "Unforgettable," which got axed despite an average audience of 11-to-12 million viewers (apparently not enough of whom were in the 18-to-49 demographic).

On the phone last Wednesday -- the day shooting had begun on the show's second season -- Redlich and co-creator John Bellucci said that after the uncancellation, CBS ordered 13 episodes, eight of which will air in a row, starting July 28 (with the other five to be determined).

In the first season, Carrie Wells (Montgomery), who has a rare gift of remembering everything she sees and hears, had come to work with NYPD Detective Al Burns (Dylan Walsh), an old boyfriend, in a Queens homicide unit. In Season 2, the pair moves to "an even bigger playground," a major-crimes unit centered in a high-tech Manhattan headquarters.

The show will be "a little less of a straight ensemble," Redlich says, with the main focus now on Carrie and Al.

"They're recruited by very ambitious, very smart, very politically connected operators," Bellucci says. "And now, they have a portfolio of fighting crime throughout the five boroughs and even the greater New York area, and different types of crimes ... bank robberies, we're doing an episode about an international assassin who's loose on the streets of New York. So bigger stories, 'cause we feel like her gift is worthy of bigger crimes."

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