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Vindicated by Reruns

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A subtrope of Vindicated by History that deals specifically with television. Some shows keep going for years until one can't help coming across an episode of it while flipping through channels. Other shows get only one or two seasons before cancellation, but those one or two seasons are so awesome that eventually someone decides to give them a repeat broadcast... and that repeat becomes an established tradition of reruns for that particular show. Each passing generation will then give the show an appreciation that it wasn't given in its day.

Sister Trope to Vindicated by Cable. Compare Germans Love David Hasselhoff, where foreign interest outstrips the domestic success.

Contrast Better on DVD, wherein the key to the series' redemption is the compiling of the episodes into a united whole. "Reruns" has the vindication achieved through the continued/increased exposure alone requiring few, if any, changes in publishing format.


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  • Several anime shows have gotten vindicated through premiering and rerunning on other countries' TV networks.
    • Cowboy Bebop is probably the biggest example. When it was dubbed and ran on [adult swim] as the first anime on the block, it got a vast amount of attention from people who saw both the first run and reruns and has become what most people consider the best anime series in history, which successfully vindicated it after a poor first run in Japan.
    • The Big O is another big instance; originally a planned 26-episode series that was cut down to half that because of low viewership, Cartoon Network later worked together with Sunrise to produce the other half of the series based entirely on how well it did in America when it was dubbed and aired on Toonami two years after its original run.
  • Similarly to Gundam below, Aim for the Ace! performed very poorly in its initial run and was cancelled after a mere 26 episodes out of 52 planned. Reruns however turned out to be so popular, both a movie and a second tv show were produced.
  • Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z had an interesting history with American audiences. The first successful attempt to get it on television after the Harmony Gold dub failed was The Ocean Group's dub of the first story arc of Dragon Ball, but was cancelled after one season. A little while later, they tried again, but with Dragon Ball Z, but it was aired early in the morning and was cancelled midway through the Namek Saga. The Dragon Ball franchise didn't truly see popularity in the states until it started airing on Toonami in the after-school hours. The reruns were so successful that Funimation was tasked with finishing the English dub for not only DBZ, but also the original Dragon Ball, with a voice cast that's completely different from the Harmony Gold and Ocean dubs.
  • FLCL was adored enough from its constant repeats on Adult Swim in the US that they decided to collaborate with Production I.G over fifteen years later to produce a second and third season of the show (Progressive and Alternative). And then they did it again to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Toonami in 2022, ordering another two seasons of the show (Grunge and Shoegaze).
  • Lupin III: Part 1 had poor ratings and was cancelled, but due to popularity in reruns was later brought back as Lupin III: Part II.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam performed so badly the first time around that the series was initially cut down to 39 episodes, only to be brought up to 43 to wrap up the series. When it was shown in reruns, the show became a hit (combined with model sales), giving a greenlight for a movie. The movie became a hit, and the rest was history.
  • Kinnikuman Nisei, better known to Americans as Ultimate Muscle, was considered a failure in Japan, being cancelled at the end of a filler arc breaking off in the middle of the Chojin Crown Arc. It was 4Kids Entertainment that funded 26 more episodes to finish it off due to its popularity in the States. In Japan these episodes were known as Ultimate Muscle 2, or Kinnikuman: Ultimate Muscle.
  • Similar to DBZ above, DiC's English dub for Sailor Moon was not a hit when it first aired in syndication and actually was cancelled due to low ratings thanks to its early morning and afternoon timeslots being unsuitable for its target audience. Then a fan petition convinced USA Network to start showing reruns and the ratings were good enough for DiC to finish dubbing the remaining episodes of the second season... only for it to get cancelled again. Then Cartoon Network got a hold of it in 1998 and started airing it in the after-school timeslot with the Toonami block and the ratings took off to sky-high heights, eventually leading to Cloverway dubbing S and Super S with less censorship and keeping the original soundtrack. The success of the dub was arguably a big reason why the 90s-00s anime boom happened.
  • Sonic X was cancelled after only two seasons in Japan, despite a third season being produced, but it was fairly popular outside of Japan, where the third season had its first airings. However, the show has the honor of being the Sonic series with the longest life in reruns, since the show would still continually air until the end of Vortexx in 2014, eight years after the show ended its original run in 2006. During that time, plenty of fans would be introduced to the show, or even the franchise itself through these reruns.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A variation: While new episodes of The Big Bang Theory have always enjoyed good-to-great ratings, many credit its seemingly endless climb in Prime Time dominance (roughly 18 million average viewers in Season 6 and a minimum of 2 million new viewers each season) on its constant reruns on TBS creating new fans.
  • The Addams Family faced heavy competition from The Munsters, suffered in the Nielsen ratings, and was cancelled at the end of its second season. Before too long, however, reruns propelled Addams Family into its current status as a pop culture phenomenon, surpassing Munsters in its appeal to modern audiences.
  • Arrested Development was receiving Emmy awards for best show during its run, but it always received low ratings and was pricey to produce, so it got cancelled after three seasons airing on FOX. Many noted it was beloved in Hollywood because of how it played with the sitcom format, but others struggled to get it. The series did very well on DVD and acquired some syndication packages despite being a comparatively Short-Runner show, which gave it more fans and became a huge phenomenon. Years later, it got uncancelled by Netflix for a fourth and fifth season.
  • Bear in the Big Blue House was one of Playhouse Disney's first big hits, and was hugely popular with preschool aged children from the late 90s to the mid 2000s. However, it saw a noticeable increase in attention upon its arrival to Disney+. Many millennial-aged parents went and introduced the show to their own kids.
  • The Brady Bunch wasn't really a hit when it originally aired; in its five years on ABC it was only fully renewed once with the rest for half-seasons. Shortly after its cancellation, syndication markets picked it up for afternoon time slots whose audiences consisted of children returning home from school. Ratings rebounded, and eventually the series became part of the pop culture lexicon into the present day.
  • Breaking Bad was critically acclaimed since day one, but didn't have the best ratings on AMC for a number of years. Thanks to its skyrocketing popularity on Netflix, the show had a surge in ratings for the fifth season, and an even bigger leap when the final season aired. This also increased its critical acclaim, both because the show got better every season and because people found the little intricacies and Foreshadowing from previous seasons that they didn't see before. By the series finale it achieved its highest ratings ever, had one of the most critically acclaimed final seasons in history, and had become an internet phenomenon, seeing the show end in a blaze of glory, both critically and commercially. On top of that, Breaking Bad completely swept the awards season that its final season was eligible for, winning the SAG award for Best Ensemble, the TCA prize for Program of the Year, and the Critics Choice Award, Golden Globe, Writers Guild of America Award, and the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series.
  • Cobra Kai was acclaimed by critics and had a sizable fanbase ever since it debuted on YouTube Red in 2018, but its audience was bottlenecked by the service's limited subscriber base. When the show made its Channel Hop to Netflix in 2020, its larger audience allowed it to quickly became one of the most streamed shows of the year.
  • The Doctor Who '60s story "The Enemy of the World" for years was considered the odd one out of a season dominated by "Monster of the Week" and the "Base Under Siege" plots. The only existing episode was part 3, a slow middle episode and one which didn't give an accurate picture of the entire serial. But that was all fans had to go on. Now, with all six episodes recovered, there has been a major fan reevaluation, and the story is considered fresh for its time in integrating political intrigue with Doctor Who. Doctor Who Magazine pointed out that in their top 200 stories poll of 2009, it was the 30th rated story of the 60s at 139 overall, but in 2014 it was the 10th rated and at 56.
  • Firefly only lasted one season but had record breaking DVD sales, to the point where it had a feature-film adaptation on the strength of its post-cancellation fandom.
  • Fraggle Rock gained a new generation of fans when it was added to The Hub in the early 2010s. The DVD releases from Hit Entertainment may have also given it a boost. Fans who grew up with the show bought the discs to relive nostalgia, while new fans were intrigued after seeing advertisements on their Thomas & Friends and Bob the Builder discs.
  • The George Lopez Show lasted for six seasons on ABC from 2002-2007 but was only ever a modest hit thanks to the network changing its timeslot several times from season to season, sometimes putting it up against American Idol (which, at the height of its popularity, was comparable to putting a show on the Friday Night Death Slot). In an interview, Lopez said ABC's poor treatment of the show was because they did not own it (Warner Bros did). Once the show started airing on Nick at Nite in late 2007, it gained a much bigger following, quickly becoming the highest rated show on Nick at Nite, leading to them often doing marathons. The show's renewed popularity lead to the remainder of its seasons finally getting DVD releases in the 2010s (the first DVD release of the first and second seasons was in 2007 before the show had ended) and the show getting a proper HD release on iTunes and Amazon. Luis Armand Garcia even commented on this trope on his appearance on Lopez's Talk Show Lopez Tonight, noting that more people recognized him in person after the show started airing on Nick than in its original run.
  • Gidget was cancelled by ABC in 1966 after only one season. However, reruns of the show which aired that summer garnered tremendous ratings. While it wasn't enough to convince ABC to reverse their decision and revive what had become a hit series, the network did develop another vehicle for Sally Field, The Flying Nun, on the strength of Gidget's ratings in reruns.
  • Gilligan's Island enjoyed only so-so ratings during its network run on CBS but became a fixture in daily syndication, which made it a pop-culture touchstone.
  • Gilmore Girls has maintained a strong following years after the show's end thanks to dependable daily reruns on ABC Family. It even helped establish that network as the successor to The WB that The CW wishes it could have been, with truly successful original shows like Pretty Little Liars enjoying a fanbase who came for the Gilmore reruns and stayed for the network's primetime. The success of reruns on Netflix prompted the service to revive the show in the form of four TV movies.
  • The Goldbergs was already a big hit for ABC, but its popularity doubled when reruns of the show started airing on Nick at Nite, gaining ratings on par with the original series of the network it shares time with.
  • The Honeymooners lasted only one season of 39 episodes in 1955-56. The show aired against The Perry Como Show, which kept beating the show in the ratings week after week, and critics felt the filmed show wasn't as good as the live "Honeymooners" sketches on Jackie Gleason's previous variety shows. Now it's one of the most remembered and celebrated sitcoms of its era, with a more prolific rerun history than any other series ever broadcast. The 1955-56 episodes are now known as the "Classic 39".
  • Judd Apatow struggled to find an audience with two sitcoms before jumping to the movies and hitting the jackpot. Freaks and Geeks, the teen sitcom which starred James Franco and Seth Rogen and in time became a syndication favorite, alienated critics and was a ratings flop in its initial airings in 1999, and Undeclared also lasted only a single season. Once Apatow became more successful, though, both shows were rediscovered and recognized as classics.
  • The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour did poorly in its first run back in 1983 due to a combination of the quality of the series and being scheduled against General Hospital for its entire run. When Buzzr started airing reruns in 2019, they got such high ratings that more timeslots were added for the show.
  • Money Heist first aired in Spain by Antena 3, and it was a moderate success. Then it was released on Netflix, and became a worldwide hit, so much that Netflix renewed it for three more seasons, in which the show became one of the most streamed foreign shows in 2020.
  • While The Muppet Show was popular back when it first premiered, it saw a major surge in popularity when it was added to Disney+.
  • My So-Called Life lasted for one season and was largely forgotten until it was re-aired on teen-aimed cable networks and streaming services, bringing in a new generation of fans who believe the show deserved better.
  • NewsRadio was jerked around by NBC, who subjected it to every trick in the book except for the Friday Night Death Slot. It was finally cancelled in 1999 due to the drop in quality resulting from the untimely death of Phil Hartman, who played one of the most important characters on the show. Through syndication, however, it was discovered by others and now is regarded as the great TV show it really was.
  • Nickelodeon has done this twice over.
    • First, their Nick @ Nite block caused numerous examples of this in the late '80s and '90s. As a cable TV network devoted to children's programming, they were naturally confronted by the dilemma of what to air at night when the kids were asleep. Their answer, inspired by oldies radio stations, was Nick at Nite, a late-night block of TV shows from The '50s through The '70s whose syndication rights were cheap and which those kids' parents probably remembered when they were young. The block was a hit and helped many of those shows build new audiences, particularly among kids watching Nick's daytime lineup who stayed up past their bedtime, such that it eventually spun off a entire separate cable network, TV Land, devoted to reruns of classic shows.
    • TeenNick proceeded to do this again in the 2010s with their own late-night block, known at various points as The '90s are All That, The Splat, NickSplat, and finally, NickRewind. As its original name suggests, it was devoted to reruns of classic Nickelodeon kids' shows from The '90s, later expanding its purview to both The '80s and the Turn of the Millennium, much like how Nick at Nite was devoted to nostalgic sitcoms from decades prior.
  • The Odd Couple (1970) kept shifting timeslots while on the air, so only during summer reruns, when it was on at a consistent time, did it gain a significant audience. When the series finally ended and went into syndication, it got those consistent timeslots once again. Its popularity skyrocketed (just as Klugman himself had confidently predicted).
  • The Office (US), to a minor extent. It was popular in its first run, as its nine-season run can attest. But once Netflix bought the reruns, its popularity skyrocketed. In 2018, it became Netflix's most popular show, beating out the network's own original programs, and quite a feat since its last episode aired in 2013. When NBC announced that it will pull The Office from Netflix in 2021 in favor of streaming it on its own subscription service, analysts had concerns over how many subscribers Netflix might lose as a result of this action.
  • Starting in 2013, Once Upon a Time has been doing better through DVR recordings and reruns than it does live.
  • Out of the Box was not as popular as other Playhouse Disney shows during its original run, but had its fans. The show experienced a surge in popularity when it was added to Disney+, most likely due to nostalgic parents sharing the show with their kids.
  • Parks and Recreation had a very clumsy first season that caused most critics and viewers to write it off as a pale clone of The Office (US), not helped by the fact that Parks was originally conceived as a spinoff by the same writers and producers before they decided to make it into its own independent entity. Even though it had found its footing by its second season and continued to improve from there, Parks was still largely a Quietly Performing Sister Show in comparison to The Office and struggled in the Nielsen ratings for its whole run on NBC, though it did manage to avoid cancellation (albeit just barely) and lasted for seven seasons (125 episodes in total) thanks to its small but very loyal fanbase. Eventually, reruns on FXX and other networks, as well as help from streaming services (as the series was available on Netflix, Prime Video, and Hulu until late 2020) led to good word-of-mouth and a bump in fans that missed the show's initial run. Moreover, thanks to having lasted longer than its ratings would've normally allowed, Parks has also managed to avoid the "critically beloved but short-lived" label that usually plagues shows that go through this, with most critics and TV fans considering it equal to, and in some cases, better than its parent show. Fittingly, when the series returned to NBC's hands via Peacock, it was touted as one of the freshman streamer's signature offerings.
  • Party Down, one of Starz's first forays into original scripted series, was not a major success in the ratings, but it did become a huge success on Netflix Instant Viewing and got star Adam Scott a lot of notice for his performance. A third season was considered due to the cult success, but Starz forgot to renew the cast's contracts in time, leading production to cease. A revival was announced in 2021 and released in 2022.
  • Police Squad! aired 6 episodes before ABC and the general public were fed up with it. Those 6 episodes survived a brief period of obscurity and became extremely well-regarded in reruns for their zany, unpredictable comedy. Eventually, the series spawned the movie The Naked Gun and its sequels.
  • The Game Show Press Your Luck was a modest hit by game show standards, lasting for three years in its original run on CBS. However, its status as a Cult Classic game show was cemented throughout The '90s, when it was rerun heavily first on USA Network, then on GSN in the following two decades. It was also on Buzzr's schedule when it debuted in 2015; it has never left Buzzr, still getting plenty of airplay into The New '20s. It even got a primetime revival on ABC in 2019!
  • Riverdale didn't do too badly when it premiered, but it didn't become a true breakout hit for The CW until the first season hit Netflix, which is credited with providing the Season 2 premiere with a massive bump in the ratings.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series is the Trope Codifier.
    • Lasting only three seasons (five had been planned and were integral to the show's concept), it was a modest ratings success until NBC developed the habit of switching its timeslot around. The limitations in television production made the studio very hostile to the show and started bleeding some of their best writers, which caused the quality to slip noticeably in a short time. It was canceled after the second season, but quickly Un-Canceled following an extensive letter-writing campaign from its fans. The third season saw even worse ratings, and NBC canceled it for real.
    • Shortly afterwards was the historic Moon Landing, which caused a major switch from Westerns to Sci-Fi in popularity. The television industry also started accounting for demographics with their ratings. Local stations noticed that according to the new standards of how ratings were calculatednote , Star Trek snagged the highly coveted 18-49 year old demographic so firmly it was actually one of the most successful shows on TV (and that NBC had killed what could have been their golden goose). Not only did they rush to throw on Star Trek reruns to attract the young demographic that it had been popular with, but the networks launched what came to be known as The Rural Purge, a massive shift towards more urban and youth-oriented programming in the early '70s aimed at capturing the upmarket demographics that Star Trek was most popular with.
    • It didn't take many years of reruns before the show's modest fanbase grew into a force to be reckoned with, with massive fan conventions leading to talks of a Sequel Series to head a new Paramount Pictures network. When the network didn't pan out, they went on to make a blockbuster movie. The rest is history.
  • Step by Step: Although only getting average (at best) ratings, reruns of the 1991-1998 sitcom spent nine years on ABC Family's schedule - far longer than reruns did in syndication.
  • The Three Stooges' shorts are a rare example of this trope not to originate on television itself. When the short Stooges films first appeared as curtain-raisers to full-length features by Columbia, they were regarded as little more than a second-rate slapstick sideshow. However, when these short films began appearing on TV in the late 1950s (after Curly and Shemp's deaths), their popularity took off in a big way. Fortunately, Larry and Moe lived to see the Stooges become firmly established as comedy legends (both died in 1975).
  • The Thundermans was a minor hit for Nickelodeon, but it wasn't as big as Henry Danger. In the early 2020's, the show became a hit on Netflix to the point where it did better than SpongeBob SquarePants.
  • Twin Peaks gained notoriety in the press for being the most thought-provoking (to say the least) detective series on TV, but failed to gain a strong audience during its 2-season run. Like many of David Lynch's works, it has gradually carved itself a place in history.
  • WKRP in Cincinnati was the unwanted child of MTM Productions to the point where Mary Tyler Moore herself said publicly that she wouldn't watch it, and CBS kept moving it around the schedule so much that the series only lasted four seasons. However, in syndication, it grew to be considered a classic sitcom.

Any song that isn't a massive hit on the charts, but still gets significant recurrent airplay after the fact and stands the test of time as a famous song. For instance:

  • "Who Let the Dogs Out?" by the Baha Men only got to #40, yet its cultural pervasiveness far outshone its relatively low peak.
  • The same is true of "Let Your Love Flow" by the Bellamy Brothers. It only got to #21 at country in 1976, but as it was also a #1 pop smash and a Top 10 hit in many countries, it has remained popular on classic country.
  • "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)" by Big & Rich only got to #11 on the country charts and #56 on the pop charts, but it is their most-downloaded song and the one song by which most would recognize them.
  • Clint Black's cover of Eagles' "Desperado" was never released as a single and barely cracked the country music airplay charts through unsolicited airplay, yet it's still one of the most famous songs in his catalog. It probably helps that the original Eagles version was not a single.
  • David Bowie's "Changes" has never charted in the UK, having gone unnoticed on its original release and never afforded a proper reissue after he made the big time, while it fell just short of becoming a Top 40 hit in the US, peaking at #41. That hasn't stopped it from becoming one of his best-known and most-played songs, to the point where most people would confidently name it as one of his biggest hits.
  • Kenny Chesney has two. His cover of Mac McAnally's "Back Where I Come From" has eclipsed the original, even though Mac's version was a single and Kenny's wasn't. This is due to both popularity in concert and occasional radio play. There's also Chesney's 1999 single "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy", which only got to #11 but is far more popular than some of his #1 hits due to fan demand.
  • Many Country Music stations play "Work Song" by Corbin/Hanner on Monday mornings and "Finally Friday" by George Jones on Fridays. However, the former never came anywhere close to the Top 40, and the latter was never even a single.
  • Billy Ray Cyrus's "Some Gave All" was never officially released as a single, and charted very low due to unsolicited spins as an album cut. However, it is one of his most popular songs, and is often played on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.
  • Fort Minor, the hip hop side project of Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda, had a Top 5 hit in 2006 with "Where'd You Go?" The follow-up, "Remember the Name," stalled at #66. For the next several years, the latter track would gain new life from use as a sports anthem and its inclusion in multiple movies, whereas the former largely faded from public consciousness.
  • Fountains of Wayne's "Stacy's Mom" has held up much better than its #21 peak suggests, due to it being one of the quintessential "fad songs" of the 2000s.
  • Lee Greenwood had 7 Number One hits on the country music charts, with 5 other songs hitting the Top 5 - none of which was "God Bless the U.S.A." (which peaked at #7 in its initial chart run). That song has become an iconic patriotic anthem for the United States.
  • Billy Joel's "Piano Man" was only a minor hit at first, reaching #25 on the charts in 1974. It practically vanished from radio play overnight. It was not until the success of "The Stranger" in 1977 that the song was rediscovered and become the classic it is today.
  • Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" was a #9 hit in 1981. While one of their better showings, it was far from their biggest hit; that would be the #2 "Open Arms" a year later. In the middle of the 2000s, the song was starting to be used more and more in media, notably on an episode of Family Guy. Then, it was used at the end of The Sopranos, and sales of the song soared. It kept a very high profile and established itself as a generational anthem, especially after it became the first song ever covered by Glee. It has sold over six million copies in the U.S. alone, by far the most of any 20th-century song. In the UK, where Journey were never a mainstream act, Glee in particular had the effect of suddenly elevating both band and song from obscure footnotes in music history to part of the classic rock canon overnight.
  • Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" was never released as a single yet received extensive radio airplay as time went on and ultimately become one of the most famous rock songs of all time. Same with "Kashmir," to a lesser extent.
  • Martina McBride's "Independence Day" only got to #12, but it's one of her Signature Songs. The low peak is due in part to some stations refusing to play the song given its theme of domestic abuse.
  • Reba McEntire has "Fancy" and "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia", covers of Bobbie Gentry and Vicki Lawrence respectively, that only got to #8 and #12. Yet they are by far the two most well-known of her output in The '90s, and two of her most famous songs overall.
  • Many new wave songs from the 1980s that were, first and foremost, hits on MTV and early modern rock radio later became Top 40 mainstays long after their initial release. For instance Modern English's "I Melt With You" only made it as high as #78 on the Hot 100 when it was released in 1982 and didn't chart at all in their native UK. A re-recording from 1990 only improved on the song's original placing by two positions, peaking at #76. Over the years, it has grown to become one of the most enduring radio hits of the entire genre.
  • Strange example with Craig Morgan's Breakthrough Hit "Almost Home". The song limped to the #33 position on Hot Country Songs and then fell off, as it met the requirements at the time for doing so (at the time, songs were removed from the chart if they were more than 20 weeks old, below the #20 position, and did not experience a gain in airplay from the previous week). However, radio stations continued to play it after it fell off, causing Billboard to reinstate it at the #25 position three weeks later, with an eventual peak at #6. Several years later, the same thing both "Carolina" by Parmalee and "Love You Like That" by Canaan Smith, which both fell off after limping into the Top 40, suddenly gained in airplay to the point of re-entering the charts... and both of which went all the way to #1. A few other songs have been re-added to the charts for similar reasonsnote , but none rebounded as successfully as those songs did.
  • "Whiskey River" by Willie Nelson was not one of his bigger hits, only getting to #12, but it's also one of his most famous. (It's also an example of Covered Up, as Johnny Bush released it six years prior.)
  • New Radicals' "You Get What You Give" only made it to #36 when it was first released in 1998, but it has grown in stature over the years to become one of the most beloved and critically acclaimed One-Hit Wonder songs of the 1990s. It can found in rotation on adult contemporary, alternative rock and classic hits radio stations all across the United States to this day.
  • Juice Newton's 1982 hit "Love's Been a Little Bit Hard on Me" only got to #30 on the country charts, but it's one of her most popular songs on the classic country format. This is probably because it fared much better with pop and AC.
  • When The Postal Service released Give Up in 2003, their indie-electronic sound was far removed from what was being played on the majority of modern rock stations at the time, and as such, very few of them played their singles. A decade later, that same sound was all over the format thanks to the success of groups like MGMT and Passion Pit. The Postal Service's "Such Great Heights" and "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight" have now become regular fixtures on most those stations' recurrents playlist.
  • Rascal Flatts' cover of "Life Is a Highway" from the soundtrack to Cars was never officially a single, but some stations played it anyway, giving it a #18 peak on the country charts. It has also remained a popular cut after the fact, getting more recurrent airplay than even some of their Top 5 hits.
  • The Romantics' "What I Like About You" was only a moderate success at the time of its release, hitting #49 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was only towards the end of the 1980s, after the song was licensed to appear in television commercials, that it grew to become one of the most popular rock anthems of all time. Their 1984 hit "Talking in Your Sleep", which hit #3, still gets a decent amount of airplay.
  • Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll" only got to #28, yet it is one of his most famous songs (partly because of its use in the film Risky Business).
  • Bruce Springsteen's "Atlantic City" from 1982 was never released as a single, but is now one of his most popular songs largely because of its inclusion on his 1995 Greatest Hits album.
  • The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" was a big hit on alternative radio, yet made no noise on the pop side and fizzled out at #76. Its reputation increased dramatically as the decade went on, often appearing in top-10 lists for the decade, ultimately becoming one of the most acclaimed rock songs of all time.
  • Warren Zevon's "Werewolves Of London" has become an oldies radio staple in the UK despite never reaching the Top 75 at all.
  • ZZ Top's "La Grange" didn't made the Billboard Top 40 in 1973, topping out at #41, but is now considered their Signature Song in many quarters, largely because its inclusion on the massively popular Greatest Hits album from 1992 gave it renewed attention at a time when Classic Rock was experiencing a resurgence as a radio format.

    New Media 
  • gen:LOCK did not bring in enough new paying costumers to Rooster Teeth's website to offset how it was a costly and difficult production. And then months later it actually aired on television, namely Toonami, drawing good enough numbers for HBO Max to pick up the show for a second season.

    Western Animation 
  • [adult swim] is where animated shows go to get reborn. In addition to its most famous example, Family Guy (as discussed below), it's perhaps the reason why Futurama got four DVD movies and a Comedy Central revival; Home Movies only lasted half a season on UPN but eventually got another three and a half as an Adult Swim original. Thanks to Toonami, Samurai Jack finally had a fifth season and a finale. This even happened to an anime once — The Big O received terrible ratings in Japan, but it was Cartoon Network that funded a second season.
  • Animaniacs and Tiny Toon Adventures were already popular shows (the latter getting more popular after its initial run) but when The Hub aired the series, both shows found a whole new audience getting as popular as My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic at one point. This attributes to them airing frequent marathons and giving tons of promotion despite both shows being over 20 years old. However, the former got canned in October 2014 when The Hub was changed to Discovery Family and the latter stood around, with less promotions, before also getting canned in July of the next year.
  • Batman Beyond was positively received, but it was never considered as good as predecessor Batman: The Animated Series. Reruns on Cartoon Network and later The Hub have helped boost its reputation, especially among those who like the darker side of DC Animated Universe.
  • Despite continuing with, and even improving upon, the high production value of its predecessor Beast Wars, Beast Machines was decried by Transformers fans for various reasons, including depicting certain characters inconsistently with their established personalities, the "epic novel" style of how the story unfolded which made it harder for newcomers to jump into the show through a random episode, and being much darker than Beast Wars. As time passed, though, and the Unicron Trilogy came and went with lukewarm reception, hostility towards Beast Machines has died down and the show has received more positive light since.
  • Clerks: The Animated Series was grossly mismanaged by ABC, which ran only two episodes (and not even in the proper order). Runs on Comedy Central and [adult swim], plus a fairly thorough DVD, have made it a Cult Classic.
  • Clone High only saw weak ratings during its original run on MTV and the protests it received in India over the portrayal of clone Gandhi as a party dude gave the network a convenient excuse to pull and cancel the show before it could even air all of its thirteen episodes. Then, reruns on Canada's Teletoon Detour (technically its home networknote ) gave it a cult following, while an announcement of a reboot in 2020 and clone JFK suddenly becoming a Fountain of Memes shortly afterwards led to an even wider audience watching it via uploads on YouTube. Tellingly, ViacomCBS, MTV's parent company, later put the entire series on Paramount+.
  • Family Guy was actually cancelled by Fox, then brought back as a result of this trope.
  • Freakazoid! and Road Rovers both struggled in ratings during their original runs on Kids' WB! due to the "Big Kids Go First" movement. This movement would put the shows that were popular with mostly adults very early in the morning to get ratings low enough to justify cancellation. However, reruns on Cartoon Network gave both shows a huge cult following, with the former notably having a massive cult following to this day.
    • To a lesser extent, Waynehead fell into this trope as it did very poorly during its Kids' WB! run. Most people didn't find out about the show until Cartoon Network started airing reruns. However, the following wasn't as big as the two shows mentioned above as the show has basically been lost media for years but HBO Max will have the entire series at some point.
  • Several of Hanna-Barbera's series were just overlooked note  and ruthlessly criticized for their Limited Animation and sound effects, especially ones that were just rehashes of their more popular series. However, reruns on Cartoon Network and later, Boomerang gave several of those shows, including their biggest series, like Scooby-Doo, newfound popularity and more recognition. There are still some critics (and hardcore animation fans) that criticize the shows, but most people have generally warmed up.
  • Hey Arnold! was quite popular while it was airing, but its fan base dwindled following its abrupt ending in 2004 following inconsistent airing schedules and its theatrical film disappointing many. However, once the show was added to The '90s Are All That block on TeenNick, it regained its popularity and the previously-cancelled sequel film Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie was Uncancelled a few years later.
  • Invader Zim was never able to get the ratings necessary to keep airing during its first run, but increasingly grew to Cult Classic status over the years, and became much more popular during its reruns that Nicktoons TV finally released the unaired episodes of the series and got a movie on Netflix in 2019.
  • The Jetsons lasted just one 24-episode season on ABC from 1962-1963 during the early 1960s boom of primetime animated sitcoms, but it became a favorite Saturday morning offering for over 20 years afterwards on all three major networks, despite recycling those same 24 episodes over and over again. An early 1980s surge in popularity finally got new episodes made for syndication from 1985-1987, along with a handful of full-length movies.
  • During the original run of KaBlam! on Nickelodeon, the show managed to get forty-seven episodes across four seasons, but suffered from low ratings, and didn't have much of a fanbase (it was polarizing at best in the '90s). The show gathered a bit of a cult following and gained a number of fans once it began airing on the Nicktoons TV channel in 2002. Since then, it's been considered one of the best Nicktoons of the 1990s.
  • King of the Hill was reasonably popular during its run on Fox, but suffered from Executive Meddling as the network constantly shuffled its timeslot and forced writers to abandon its ongoing storylines. Thanks to reruns on [adult swim] it's gained a devoted following years after its cancellation.
  • Many Looney Tunes animated shorts that weren't fully appreciated or respected in their original big-screen showings were kept alive with The Bugs Bunny Show (and its countless spinoffs), and obscure characters such as the Tasmanian Devil and Michigan J. Frog have joined Bugs and Daffy as comedy legends.
  • While Mickey Mouse Clubhouse was Playhouse Disney (later Disney Junior)'s biggest original series during its run, it saw a massive growth in popularity once Disney+ launched, to the point where it's often one of the top trending series on the service, and usually it's the most popular children's series on the service (or in some cases the second-most popular, as Bluey sometimes tops it). It got to the point that a revival would be announced for Disney Junior with a set release of 2025.
  • Miraculous Ladybug got this in the United States. The show originally aired on Nickelodeon, where halfway through its run, most ads for the show stopped airing and the show was moved to Nicktoons. It was thanks to Netflix acquiring the rights to the show that it would become a hit in the United States, which lead to Disney Channel acquiring the American cable rights to the show.
  • While Olaf's Frozen Adventure was released in theaters with Coco, the short was widely hated because of its length. When it was broadcast on TV a few weeks later, it pulled in seven and a half million total viewers, all of whom gave it better praise than those who saw it in a theater.
  • Rugrats, which was in re-runs from 1994-1997, steadily gained in popularity until it returned with new episodes and evolved into the Cash-Cow Franchise it became.
    • History has repeated itself. After the show (and the brand as a whole)'s popularity crashing and burning in the mid to late 2000s, Nickelodeon started to bring Rugrats reruns back to the network to commemorate its 20th anniversary in late 2010 to mid 2011, followed by regular reruns on TeenNick's The '90s Are All That (Now called "The Splat") starting from late 2011. This ended up creating a whole new generation of Rugrats fans who had never seen the show when it was first airing while bringing back long time viewers, enabling the show to regain its popularity and become a cult hit. Since then, the show has seen memes spawned off of it, new DVD releases, multiple airings of the first two movies on the main network thanks to popular demand, a marathon to coincide with the Superbowl in 2013, syndication on other Viacom related networks (It aired on Nick Jr during the Nick Mom block in 2013, and aired on primetime in mid 2014), new merchandise, clothing, fans reciting quotes from the show on a regular basis, references in popular media and several fan campaigns to resurrect the show. This has caught the eye of Nickelodeon's executives, as in addition to greenlighting Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie, they created an All-CGI Cartoon revival of the series.
  • In 2006, NBC ran a broadcast version of VeggieTales on their qubo block that featured segments taking place at Bob the Tomato's house and was more secular in nature. Despite having good ratings, the show was very controversial since all references to God were edited out. This version lingered in obscurity for several years, only remembered by those who watched it as it aired. It wasn't until this version hit syndication in 2015 that it began to grow in popularity.