Plenty of Hollywood success stories have faced obstacles during production. Many successful TV series were initially rejected because networks predicted they would fail. Given the massive recognition and accolades that each of these series went on to achieve, there is no doubt that those who rejected the pitches are kicking themselves for their decision.
Thankfully, these once-rejected television shows were eventually able to find producers and networks who were willing to take a chance on them. Fans nearly didn’t get to see certain popular TV shows.
10 Squid Game Was Deemed Too Unrealistic
Squid Game is one of Netflix’s most-watched shows of all time, but it faced repeated rejections during the development process. The South Korean drama series, created by Hwang Dong-hyuk, was originally envisioned as a feature film. Hwang Dong-hyuk completed a script and pitched it to producers in Korea, but it was deemed too grotesque and unrealistic to be accepted.
Looking for more international productions, Netflix saw potential in the script. In 2019, it was announced that the script would be developed into a nine-episode series. Squid Game achieved massive success and has been renewed for a second season.
9 The Queen’s Gambit Took Nearly 30 Years To Be Approved
A Netflix original miniseries, The Queen’s Gambit has achieved notable success, taking home 11 Primetime Emmy Awards in 2021, which included Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series. Yet, the adaptation of Walter Tevis’s 1983 book faced significant rejections and setbacks in the development process.
The Queen’s Gambit was rejected by many studios who believed that a script about chess would be too boring. A film adaptation starring Heath Ledger, who was incredibly passionate about the book, was in the works before Ledger’s death in 2008. The adaptation was finally accepted by Netflix as a miniseries in 2019.
8 Networks Wanted Less Gore In The Walking Dead
The hit AMC series The Walking Dead has been on the air since 2010 and has spawned multiple spin-off series due to its immense popularity. However, the show was rejected by both NBC and HBO. The networks demanded a significant compromise in order to develop an adaptation of the comic book series of the same name.
The Walking Dead‘s producers were asked to reduce the comic series’ violence and gore, but they refused. AMC, however, agreed to develop the series as the production team had originally planned.
7 Game Of Thrones’ Pilot Was Poorly Received
The original pilot of HBOs Game of Thrones was so poorly-received by networks that it nearly ruined the show’s chances of premiering at all. The unaired pilot remains largely mysterious to fans, with the show runners keeping the failed starter under wraps as much as possible.
After viewing the pilot, HBO asked for extensive re-shoots, citing significant problems in the exposition and an unclear plot. The pilot was filmed again with drastic changes to the script and several re-castings, including the addition of Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen. Though the original pilot has never been released, some scenes from the original shoot were used in the aired episode.
6 The Sopranos Was Rejected By Several Networks
The crime drama The Sopranos may be considered one of the greatest television shows of all time, but it was no stranger to rejection during the development process. After first being developed as a feature film, The Sopranos was later reworked as a television series.
Fox was interested in the initial pitch but rejected The Sopranos after receiving the pilot script. CBS and NBC both rejected it as well, with one criticizing identifying Tony attending therapy as a major flaw in the show. The Sopranos ultimately aired on HBO for six seasons.
5 Desperate Housewives Struggled To Convince Network Executives
Desperate Housewives aired for eight seasons on ABC from 2004 to 2012, but it faced repeated rejection when it was first being developed. Fox, HBO, Showtime, CBS, NBC, and Lifetime all rejected the series. Desperate Housewives was particularly criticized for featuring a cast of mostly middle-aged women.
ABC finally gave Desperate Housewives a chance, and the show’s popularity grew quickly, making it a significant success for the network. The series was the recipient of Emmy, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild Awards over the course of its run.
4 HBO Passed On Sons Of Anarchy For Another Biker Pilot
During the development of Sons of Anarchy, creator Kurt Sutter believed that HBO would be the best fit for the show due to the graphic nature of its content. Unfortunately, HBO decided to pass on the show because it was developing another series about bikers at the time.
The show in production was called 1%but things did not go to plan, as the founder of the Hells Angels biker gang sued HBO for cutting him out of the pilot that he helped to develop. Sons of Anarchy was ultimately released on FX.
3 Buffy The Vampire Slayer Was Declined By Fox And NBC
Joss Whedon’s initial idea for Buffy the Vampire Slayer was first developed with his screenplay for the 1992 film of the same name. Unfortunately, the movie did not resonate well with critics or general audiences.
However, Joss Whedon was unwilling to give up on his idea and decided to rework it as a television show. Whedon approached several networks with a pilot, but he was rejected by both Fox and NBC. Thankfully, the pilot was picked up by the WB, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer became the network’s first major success.
2 HBO Had No Interest In Breaking Bad
Another AMC success, Breaking Bad also faced rejection from multiple networks before finding its home on AMC. The crime drama, which went on to win 16 Primetime Emmy Awards, was declined by Showtime, HBO, TNT, and FX.
HBO was so uninterested in the pitch that they didn’t even bother to tell Breaking Bads creators that they declined. TNT producers loved Breaking Bad‘s pitch but feared they would lose their jobs if they accepted a show about a meth-producing teacher. FX and Showtime both rejected Breaking Bad due to similarities with other shows on the network. Ultimately, the series was picked up by AMC and earned the Guinness World Record in 2013 as the most critically acclaimed show of all time.
1 Stranger Things Was Rejected Because Of Its Young Cast
It’s hard to imagine anyone passing on the ultra-popular Stranger Things. However, that’s exactly what happened when the Duffer Brothers pitched the idea of the show to numerous networks.
Stranger Thingsoriginally titled Montauk, was rejected by every cable network that it was first pitched to. Many of the network executives made the decision because of the show’s young cast, as they believed it could not work without being a children’s series. The Duffer Brothers were asked to focus on Hopper if they were not willing to make it a children’s series. Stranger Things was ultimately accepted by Netflix in 2015 and has since been nominated for 31 Emmys, among other nominations and wins.
NEXT: 10 Netflix Series That Were Canceled Before They Could Grow An Audience