10 Surprise Hit TV Shows No One Saw Coming

C'mon, be honest. None of us expected much from a reboot of a makeover show from the 1990s, until Queer Eye launched on Netflix a few months ago.

Then everything changed. Experts Jonathan Van Ness, Tan France, Antoni Porowski, Karamo Brown, and Bobby Berk quickly changed our minds with their wit and the warmth they displayed towards their subjects, and the show became a huge global hit.

As the second season arrives today (June 15), we put together a list of some of our favorite television shows that nearly didn't make it.

1. Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969)

The Pythons spawned immortal sketches such as the dead parrot and the fish slapping dance, not to mention four feature films, numerous albums, books and umpteen live tours. Their surreal sense of humor wasn't to everyone's taste, however, and the BBC almost cancelled it after one season.


2. Stranger Things (2016)

Fans love its thrilling sci-fi plot, obsessive 1980s pop culture references and charming portrayal of middle-American life, but Netflix's sci-fi show wasn't a guaranteed hit. By rights it should have failed: The show's creators, brothers Matt and Ross Duffer, had previously only written a few episodes of Wayward Pines, and the cast was unknown, with the exception of Winona Ryder. Word of mouth quickly led it to being a global hit.


3. The Office U.S. (2005)

It's fair to say shows don't always survive the journey across the Atlantic. U.S. versions of Spaced, Ab Fab and The Young Ones never made it beyond the pilot stage, and those that did, like Coupling and The Inbetweeners, didn't fare well. It was therefore with heavy hearts we heard the news that The Office would be remade with an American cast - until the show aired, that is.


4. Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)

TNG has gone on to become a classic of the franchise, but Sir Patrick Stewart has gone on record to say he didn't expect it to last beyond one season when he auditioned in 1986. He was a classically trained Shakespearean actor, after all, who'd never seen a single episode of Star Trek. Not only was it a success, but he went on to film 178 episodes as the inimitable Jean-Luc Picard, and remains the ultimate captain of the Enterprise for many.


5. Sherlock (2010)

The original pilot episode of this wildly successful show was scrapped, meaning hopes were not high when "A Study in Pink" finally premiered in 2010. Many also felt the 1980s TV adaptation starring Jeremy Brett was the definitive on-screen version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories. So, a modern-day version? Starring some guy with a weird name and that bloke from The Office? Nope. Never gonna work.


6. The X-Files (1993)

Get your irony meters ready for this one: Fox initially balked at the idea of a series about paranormal activity, apparently for fear of "the unknown." Creator Chris Carter was an as-yet little-known writer, and the show he was proposing questioned everything, from the government to science and our understanding of the universe. He returned with a revised pilot, and the network took a gamble that paid off eventually.


7. Game of Thrones (2011)

Critics were not kind to the epic fantasy series when it premiered in 2011, but one of the show's biggest detractors were the showrunners themselves. Dan Weiss and David Benioff hated their original pilot episode. Weiss later described a private screening to some writer friends as "one of the most painful experiences" of his life, with one of the screenwriters present, Craig Mazin, later calling the pilot "a complete piece of s***." Thankfully, they reshot around 90% of it and produced a new series premiere. Phew.


8. Doctor Who (1963)

Legend has it that the BBC intended to retire Doctor Who after its first 13 episodes aired in the early 1960s. It was saved by the Daleks, whose first appearance proved an unexpected success, and whose story, told over the course of seven weeks, sealed the fate of the show.


9. Mad Men (2007)

The idea for a series set in an advertising agency in 1950s New York was initially pitched to HBO, who turned it down. Showrunner Matthew Weiner took it to AMC instead, where it ran to seven seasons, won numerous awards and was named one of the greatest television series of all time.


10. Seinfeld (1989)

When the pilot of Jerry Seinfeld vehicle The Seinfeld Chronicles (as it was then called) winged its way to his desk, the then-president of NBC entertainment Brandon Tartikoff reportedly called it "too New York, too Jewish." He ordered just four episodes, which did badly against Home Improvement in the ratings, then took a risk and ordered 13 more. The rest is history, as they say, and the show became one of the most popular sitcoms of all time.


Which hit show would you have bet on being a flop?