There was a long period in television history when the word ‘repeat’ was a dirty word. Fast forward to today’s digital streaming world and the opposite is true, putting a vast library of entertainment at our fingertips and allowing viewers to discover hidden gems and seek out the type of content that they most appreciate.

The rise of streaming has had a tremendously positive creative impact, rendering the usual pitfalls for a series redundant. In the past, great shows have often been felled by poor time slots or bad marketing, and even if they did find success via traditional means, they were often forgotten once the series concluded.

Streaming seems to have changed all that, making a number of shows discoverable to new audiences or generations. Here, we look at the series that streaming has allowed to be reborn, whether it’s an old favourite discovered by new fans, a flop that eventually found its audience, or a non-English language show that found success outside the specialist networks that normally house it. How many have you seen, and how many will you discover?

Friends (1994-2004)

We start with a show that never stopped being popular, but owes its current hype to people who weren’t alive when six friends first stepped into Central Perk. Friends was a ratings monster across the world in the 90s and early 2000s, however once the series ended it achieved popularity on streaming services across the world, thanks to new generations discovering it in the 2010s. Such was the interest that HBO Max bought the US streaming rights for a staggering amount, as well as greenlighting the much-hyped reunion show that aired in June. It’s reported that the company paid $85million for the show, following Netflix’s $120million deal that ran from 2014-2020. Nearly two decades on, they’re still the Friends people want to spend time with!

Call My Agent! (2015-)

The French satire, following the misadventures of a company of entertainment agents, was an enormous hit for domestic broadcaster France 2 when season one debuted in 2015. A couple of years later, the rest of the world would catch up with the fortunes of agency ASK, and its host of famous guests stars including Isabelle Huppert, Juliette Binoche and Jean Dujardin. This was largely thanks to a deal with Netflix, which put the series in living rooms in most regions. Currently working on its fifth season and a big screen adaptation, several countries are looking to replicate that popularity, with British, South Korean, and Turkish versions on the way.

MythBusters (2003-2018)

One of the few reality shows in the 2000s that didn’t bend logic, MythBusters was a joyous science-based show that took common urban legends (such as whether a person can be carried when tied to a number of balloons or stop a bullet with a book in their pocket) and put them to the test under rigorous scientific conditions. The main show ended in 2016, but such was the popularity of old episodes on streaming that Netflix produced White Rabbit Project (2016), a similarly pitched show starring members of the cast. Streaming continues to be a home for other presenters, with main host Adam Savage’s YouTube channel boasting over 5.5million subscribers.

Money Heist (2017-)

You would be forgiven for thinking that La Casa de Papel (The House of Paper) was a Netflix original conception, given how synonymous it is with the streaming giant. However, the Spanish crime drama’s original 2017 run was produced and aired on Antena 3, and enjoyed a popular if not remarkable reception worldwide. Netflix acquired the streaming rights, re-edited the original 15 episodes into 22 shorter episodes, and released it without any promotion with the fairly generic title ‘Money Heist’. The algorithms saved the show, landing in the menus of fans and becoming one of the most-watched non-English language shows in the world and being renewed for more seasons with a fifth and final part on the way.

Peaky Blinders (2013-)

The BBC crime show put the UK’s second largest city on the map globally as Stephen Knight’s drama thrilled audiences with the fictionalised story of The Peaky Blinders, an organised crime family who ruled over Birmingham in the aftermath of The First World War. Despite being excellently written, and featuring a cast that includes Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy and the late Helen McCrory, it was still a surprise to see the regionally-focused show make such a huge impact on streaming services across over 100 countries. Famous fans include Samuel L Jackson, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts.


Mystery Science Theater 3000 (1988-2018)

The premise is very simple: a comedian and several puppet friends crack jokes while watching very old B-Movies. However, the format of ‘MST3K’ became a beloved part of American TV, with legions of devoted fans. Those legions became wider, however, when the show came to streaming services across the world. Suddenly, the small show with a distinctly homemade feel came to other countries and new generations, leading to a revival of the show in 2018 after its original run ended in 1999. The show’s resurgence meant over $6.5million has been raised to produce further series independently online.


Babylon Berlin (2017-)

Another period drama set in the early 20th Century; German production Babylon Berlin won critical raves for its seductive take on a world of crime set in 1920’s Berlin. A smash for the Sky network in Germany, viewers in North America and Australia came to know it through streaming services as it was proclaimed as one of the biggest German shows to make an impact outside of the country. That exposure continues to grow the story itself, with a fourth season set for later this year.

The Office (US, 2005-2013)

American remakes of British TV shows don’t always have a happy ending, but the US version of Ricky Gervais’ work-based comedy is certainly the exception. As with Friends, the show never stopped being a hit, but analysts were stunned as to just how much of a hit it was even seven years on from its ending. The sitcom, which starred Steve Carell, Jenna Fischer, and John Krasinski, was by far the most streamed TV show in 2020 in America, according to ratings monitor Nielsen. Anecdotally, many found the show comforting to watch over and over even in the most trying of times, and a prime example of how the past is as important to our viewing habits as the present or future.


Community (2009-2015)

Community is a great example of the move to streaming ‘saving’ shows from cancellation. Executive produced by The Russo Brothers (Avengers: Endgame) and featuring the talents of Joel McHale, Alison Brie, and Donald Glover among others, Community was a much-loved cult comedy that took place within a community college. Cancelled after its fifth season on network NBC, Yahoo stepped in to produce the Sixth and final season for its own platform, Yahoo Screen, in 2015. While the platform closed relatively quickly, it demonstrated streaming’s ability to round out stories in a satisfactory way. The fan-powered call for “Six Seasons and a Movie” (a joke in the show about the optimal life span for any TV series) was partially answered, although a movie may still be on the horizon.

The Simpsons (1986-)

Yes, that Simpsons. Again, not a show that was unheard of before the streaming revolution, but when a list of the most watched shows worldwide on Disney+ arrived late last year, there was a bit of an upset. Many had assumed that the success of Star Wars The Mandalorian would put it at the summit of the list, but in fact it was third after Mickey Mouse’s Clubhouse and The Simpsons, based on time spent in the top 10. Like Friends and The Office, old episodes are televisual comfort food for fans, while older episodes can be discovered by youngsters. Given new episodes average around 2 million viewers in the US, streaming may be the home for Spingfield fans from now on.

NCIS (2003-)

Running for 18 years and showing no signs of stopping, NCIS may sum up everything one would assume about ‘traditional’ television. A weekly procedural detective show with all the pomp and glamour you would expect from a US drama, it can never be accused of pushing the narrative envelope, but it is more popular than almost anything on this list. It remains the most-watched show in America, and one of the most popular in the world, thanks to the surprising popularity of re-runs on streaming services, which often bring in larger figures than broadcast. It would appear the show, which is commonly associated with older audiences, is finding a place in the heart of more tech-savvy generations as well!

Borgen (2010-13)

Taking a lot of influence from House of Cards and The West Wing, Borgen is a political drama from Denmark about the fictional rise of Birgitte Nyborg Christensen, the first female Prime Minister of Denmark (Sidse Babett Knudsen), and the workings of the system around her from opposition parties to media coverage. The complex plotting, and uncanny parallels with real Danish politics (Denmark elected its first female Prime Minister as the show was progressing) have made it a favourite in Europe, but it became a hit of Lockdown when the series became available worldwide on streaming last year. An American remake has been discussed, but Borgen’s fans will tell you it is tough to replicate the original.


Hannibal (2013-15)

The TV adaptation of Richard Harris’ novels has been seen as one of the great injustices of modern TV not because of the stories, but in the way the show was handled by networks. This new twist on the Hannibal Lecter saga starred Mads Mikkelsen in the cannibalistic lead role as well as the likes of Laurence Fishburne and Gillian Anderson. However, after just two years and three seasons, the Emmy-nominated show was cancelled, much to the chagrin of dedicated fans. Hope springs eternal for a revival, particularly given the show’s recent runs on Amazon and Netflix in various countries, where it has proven popular. Given the cast’s enthusiasm to return, the doctor may yet be planning another meal…

Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005-08)

Another cancelled show that has found an audience in 2020, anime-inspired animated show Avatar: The Last Airbender thrived on streaming, where it has been continually present in the top 10 of Netflix’s most watched shows for 60 days, a record for any series. Memes based on the characters and storylines continue to circulate around social media, and many point to the show’s complex exploration of injustice and racial disharmony as a reason that modern audiences respond to it even 13 years on from its cancellation. With influence far beyond its mere three seasons, a live action adaptation is coming soon.

Pose (2018-)

A discovery of the future. As the show enters its final season on US network FX, its availability via different streaming services around the world has given it success far beyond its initial viewing figures. Set in 1980s New York, we follow the life and loves of a network of LGBTQ+ chosen families, known as ‘Houses’, as they perform on the underground ball scene in the shadow of the AIDS epidemic. It has made international stars of its diverse cast, and its premiere on streaming last year allows for a younger audience to educate themselves about a crucial time in LGBTQ+ history.

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