9 Hit TV Shows No One Thought Would Be a Success
It's always a surprise, and a delight, when a telly underdog takes the world by storm. Back in the summer of 2016, few could have predicted that Stranger Things would land with such ferocity and become one of the biggest TV shows in the world.
But Netflix's 1980s pick 'n' mix isn't the only example of a surprise hit—you'd be surprised how often the actors, writers and networks behind some of the biggest series on television had very little confidence in their babies.
Just look at this little lot.
Game of Thrones
Dan Weiss and David Benioff, showrunners on HBO's fantasy behemoth, hated their original pilot episode. They originally screened a rough cut for some writer friends, which Weiss later described as "one of the most painful experiences" of his life.
Craig Mazin, one of the screenwriters present, called the pilot "a complete piece of shit" – and while it bears little resemblance to the final series premiere, with around 90% being reshot, some critics were still savage when Game of Thrones launched in 2011.
The Wall Street Journal wrote: "We're back to the familiar favourites of the infantile, e.g. spurting blood and gore, bastard sons, evil vixens, blond nymphets, quasi-lesbian action, crude talk among men about their private parts, incest, rough couplings, and more random bare breasts than any other contender in the adolescent-boy-action-show contest this month."
The New York Times similarly branded GoT "boy fiction... that no woman alive would watch." We can only imagine that these critics later ate their words faster than a Dothraki eats a horse's heart.
Sherlock Holmes in the modern day? Starring Tim from The Office and some posh bloke with a funny name?
The early signs weren't good for Sherlock, either—like Game of Thrones, its original pilot episode was scrapped, so expectations were fairly low when the final 90-minute version of "A Study in Pink" went out on BBC One in July 2010.
In fact, the series went on to become a huge success, with an absolutely rabid fanbase, something even co-creator Steven Moffat didn't expect. "We didn't know Sherlock would be such a hit—it felt like a vanity project," he admitted. "I never thought it would be an instant monster. That never happens—having good reviews with a huge audience and all the awards. You couldn't expect it to happen."
It's one of ITV's biggest drama series, essentially replacing another period mega-hit, Downton Abbey, in the schedules and in the hearts of viewers.
But Victoria creator Daisy Goodwin has suggested that the channel underestimated the show's appeal, revealing it turned down her offer of a festive episode for Christmas 2016.
"I don't think they knew how big the show was going to become," she said. "I bet they are wishing they had one now."
Happily, once the show had bested BBC One's Poldark in the ratings, ITV saw the light and we'll be getting a Victoria special in our stocking this Christmas.
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Believe it or not, Patrick Stewart didn't believe that Star Trek: The Next Generation would Engage audiences. "My agent in Hollywood...he assured me, 'Don't worry, this thing isn't going to work. You'll be lucky to make it through the first season. You cannot revive an iconic series like Star Trek.'"
Can't? Pfft. Stewart and his fellow shipmates managed to Make It So, with TNG surpassing the run of the Original Series by four years (followed by four spin-off movies).
Legend has it that, back in the early 1960s the BBC intended to air just 13 episodes of Doctor Who, after which the series would be quietly retired. It was the unexpected success of the first Dalek story, which aired from late '63 to early '64, that saved the show.
Just think: the Doctor...saved by the Daleks!
Nearly 50 years later and again the show was saved at the—*ahem*—Eleventh Hour, with BBC bosses apparently planning to end the show when David Tennant departed. "The idea that Doctor Who could go on at all in the absence of David was a huge question," revealed Steven Moffat.
"I didn't realize how many people thought it wouldn't succeed at all. That was quite terrifying when I found out about it later."
Having rejected the show the first time it was pitched by creator Chris Carter, FOX later picked up The X-Files, but still had reservations about a series based around the paranormal.
What's more, Gillian Anderson was at that time predominantly a theater actress, with the role of Scully only her second screen credit.
In the end, of course, the spooky show made a believer out of us all, becoming one of the first TV series to build its popularity through the internet, with dedicated forums, discussion groups and fan pages all helping to build its audience.
Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers
Saban Entertainment founder Haim Saban worked for the better part of a decade to bring his vision of a US version of the Japanese series Super Sentai to the screen.
It was rejected by every network in Hollywood, until Fox Kids head Margaret Loesch—a fan of Super Sentai—gave Saban the go-ahead. Even then, her superiors weren't convinced that the remake, christened Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, would be a hit.
24 years and dozens of spin-offs later, it's fair to say that Saban and Loesch knew what they were talking about. Go go, Power Rangers!
It's been a hit for ITV not once, but twice, but series star Fay Ripley had written off Cold Feet as a failure back in 1997.
"I thought it was absolutely brilliant, but it was a flop," she later admitted. "Nobody watched the first episode and we thought ITV was going to drop it."
Thankfully, ITV didn't get...erm...cold feet. Some awards recognition and a subsequent repeat showing helped save the show. It ran for five series between '97 and 2003, before relaunching with a sixth in 2016. An eighth run will arrive on our screens next year.
Before Gal Gadot, Lynda Carter was Wonder Woman, playing the Amazon warrior on the small-screen from 1975 to 1979.
But before the series launched, network bosses were uncertain if it would find an audience. Rather than seeing the appeal that a strong female lead might have to women, they instead expected a backlash.
"They said, 'Women are just gonna hate you, so get ready'," Carter later remembered.
Guys, everybody likes Wonder Woman. This is proven. One to jot in the old notebook.
From: Digital Spy
This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk.
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.