News Column

DEAD SHOWS WALKING How three canceled shows found new life this summer

June 2, 2013



Few shows have stumbled so far, so fast as AMC's "The Killing." After a critically acclaimed premiere in 2011, the producers angered viewers by not resolving the Rosie Larsen murder at the end of the season and drove them away by dragging it out for another. The show, which was based on a Danish series that tracked a single case over 20 episodes, was canceled last summer. From cradle to tomb, it wasn't that long a stay.

Then came an improbable resurrection. Nearly six months after AMC pulled the plug, "The Killing" is back on the air. A third season of 10 episodes premieres tonight.


For star Mireille Enos, who plays former Detective Sarah Linden, it was another surge on the show's rollercoaster ride. She'd already plunged from the peaks of praise to the valley of vilification. She had TV whiplash.

"In Season 1, we could do no wrong. In Season 2, there was no way to get past people's anger," she says, calling from Vancouver, British Columbia, where the series films. "It was so strange." "This rage, I found that a bit odd. It felt like the people who didn't like it were so loud on the Internet," says Joel Kinnaman, who plays Det. Stephen Holder. "People kind of got carried away." When the show was canceled, Kinnaman had "mixed feelings" about it, but he was ready to move on. Thanks to "The Killing," he and Enos were two of the hottest actors in Hollywood. Kinnaman was signed to play the lead in the "Robocop" remake. Enos booked several movies, including "World War Z"with Brad Pitt.

When "The Killing" was resurrected, Enos says she had to "rearrange my brain.

"I was shooting 'The Devil's Knot.' I was in the middle of shooting 'Ten,'" she says. Enos had to go forward, imagining it was "the best thing that could have happened." "The Killing" found new life through some corporate synergy.

Netflix made a deal with Fox Television Studios, which produces the series, to change the show's distribution for the new season, getting episodes into its queue more quickly after their AMC broadcast as well as offer exclusivity in certain territories. That deal convinced AMC a third season was viable.

Moreover, says Enos, executive producer Veena Sud has retooled the show.

The season zeroes in on a serial killer who has murdered 17 girls and a man named Seward (Peter Sarsgaard) whom Linden arrested years ago for killing his wife. A piece of evidence connects the crimes and suggests that Seward, who is on death row, may be innocent.

The case will be solved by the two-hour finale, August 4.

"It felt like a series premiere in away," Kinnaman says of the first episode. "It was a great format that the show was based upon. This time around, it feels like this is all new. This is from the writers."

Does Kinnaman think the audience will come back? "I have a feeling they will," he says. "A lot of people liked the tone of the show." Retooling a show is a handy way to save it after cancellation. That and an enterprising studio.

When CBS put its 2011 drama "Unforgettable" on the chopping block at the end of its first season, despite an audience of 12million viewers, it looked like a mistake.

"CBS has high expectations and it was a tough call for them," says executive producer Ed Redlich.

"But the show did so well overseas that Sony was able to make [a relaunch of] the show financially appealing to CBS." And that's how the series, which stars Poppy Montgomery as Carrie Wells, a former police detective with perfect recall of crime scenes, ended up on the summer schedule.

A 13-episode run debuts July 28.

Redlich believes picking up the show again was easier than the network developing another series or importing one from Canada, given its impressive ratings. "It's a win-win fo rCBS," he says. "The impetus for this came from Sony, which wanted the foreign sales, but they can't just have the show run in foreign countries," Redlich says.

"Unforgettable" is starting with a clean slate. Redlich is not picking up the threads of the series' first finale, in which Carrie slept with her ex, Detective Al Burns, played by Dylan Walsh.

"They're really viewing this as a relaunch of a show," he says. "I would have liked to pick this up the morning after. The message was:

Let's not assume anybody saw the last episode." The series, which films in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, will relocate its case load from Queens to Manhattan, get a new set and the detectives will have a new boss played by Dallas Roberts, who has a recurring role as Julianna Margulies' brother on "The Good Wife." "We won't be doing street murders in Queens. Carrie will go undercover with a team of bank robbers," Redlich says. "There'll be a lot of big stories where she's out running around. I wanted to make the show much more fun. Capture the mood of summer." "Drop Dead Diva" is the third series returning this summer after being pulled; in the case of the Lifetime drama, the reversal of fortune only took a month and a half.

"We were just told it was a financial decision," says creator and executive producer Josh Berman.

The power of social media turned things around. "Within days, there were petitions with thousands of signatures online asking to bring the show back," Berman says. "The show had never trended on Twitter until we were canceled. And once we were, the show trended on and off for two weeks." Meanwhile, Berman called the cast, some of whom had started to audition for pilot season, and told them not to panic. "Because the outcry was so strong, I felt we could save the show," he says.

He went back to the drawing board and looked at his budget, finding a way to bring to make "Drop Dead Diva,"which films in Georgia, less expensive for Lifetime to license from Sony. He says the reductions will be invisible.

"What's great about a fifth-year show is that we've built all our sets. We've spent the money on the edit base and soundproofing," he says "It's not that hard to make a couple of changes that ultimately prolong the life of the series." The series, which stars Brooke Elliott as a plus-size lawyer whose body is inhabited by the soul of a vapid fashion model, will have its fifth-season premiere June 23 and air 13 episodes.

"Internally we are calling Season 5 the season of the fans. The cancellation got us more publicity than anything before," Berman says. And the title for the first episode? "Back From the Dead," he says.


Tonight, 8 p.m.,AMC


THERE is precedent for TV series to come back after being canceled. Netflix released 15 episodes of the reborn "Arrested Development" on May 26 after several years off the air.The number of downloads will never carry the same weight as ratings. So"The Killing" and"Unforgettable" will be held to a higher standard.

Other shows that enjoyed a second lifespan:

CAGNEY& LACEY (1982-1983; 198488) The cop show was canceled twice by CBS, in 1982, after only six episodes, and then again a year later. Producer Barney Rosenzweig organized a letterwriting campaign among fans and got the show back on the schedule in 1984. It went on to win a clutch of Emmys for stars Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly.

FAMILY GUY (1999-2002; 2005-) Fox canceled the animated series after three seasons. But a combination of strong DVD sales and high- rated

reruns made the network reconsider.The show has been on since 2005.

JERICHO (2006-2008) The cult series about the survivors of a nuclear attack was canceled by CBS after one year.Viewer protests prompted a seven episode reboot, but that, too,was put to death.

Originally published by and ROBERT RORKE.

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