Elizabeth Alsop in the LA Review of Books:
IT’S A GOOD TIME to be a canceled show. Last May, Netflix sent the viewing public into paroxysms when it released the fourth season ofArrested Development, which last aired on Fox in 2006. A month earlier, Rob Thomas made Kickstarter history when fans of his UPN series Veronica Mars massively overfunded — by three million dollars! — the show’s “return” as a feature-length film, now playing in theaters. Since then, former AMC series The Killing has been granted new life by Netflix, defunct soaps like All My Children and One Life to Live have been revived as streaming web series, and NBC’s Heroes, it was just announced, will return in rebooted and “reborn” form this summer.
There are, it seems, second acts in American television. Or, as Lacey Roseput it in The Hollywood Reporter, “canceled doesn’t necessarily mean canceled anymore.” Instead, shows like 24, Futurama, Unforgettable, and Cougartownhave become the beneficiaries of a new televisual world order, whereby any series threatened with cancelation can be, in Rose’s words, “revived thanks to creative deal-making,” or — in the case of NBC’s Community — rescued by socially-mediated displays of viewer displeasure.
All of this, of course, hardly comes as news. Back in 2012, New Yorkmagazine’s Matt Zoller Seitz was already bemoaning the rise of “zombified” media; the byproduct, in part, of new and more potent forms of fan empowerment. Since then, critics have been eager to read the cultural tea leaves. There’s been no shortage of speculation about what this wave of revivals could cumulatively portend for television makers and viewers in the 21st century.
Yet despite the critical attention to this phenomenon, there’s been comparatively little curiosity about the psychology behind it.