5 TV shows that thrived after a network change

Can a switch to TBS save ‘Cougar Town’?

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What does "Cougar Town" have in common with, say, "The Mentalist"? Both shows are ringing in 2013 with network changes. But while Jules and company's jump from ABC to TBS may make for a happier happy hour, is a network switch a magic bullet for a once-neglected show? ("I don't know if you've seen them, but there's commercials for this show now; it's insane," show creator Bill Lawrence recently gloated.)

The Courteney Cox sitcom has endured an uphill battle since its 2009 debut -- starting with its name, which quickly became irrelevant when the show's plotline strayed from its original cougary premise.

But while possible name changes, such as "Family Jules" and "Wine Time," never came to fruition (too risky to change the title, it was decided, due to the possibility of DVRs failing to record it), the network switcheroo -- and subsequent promotion, which severely lacked at ABC -- could still pave the way for this sitcom's success.

Here are five network changes that breathed new life into TV shows.

"Leave it To Beaver" (1957-1958 on CBS; 1958-1963 on ABC)

Gee whiz, Beav. With only one fledgling season under its belt on CBS, the all-American fam on "Leave It To Beaver" moved to ABC, where it thrived for five more seasons, and it could have been more. Child star Jerry Mathers -- who was a teen by the end of the show's six-season run -- decided he wanted to take a break from acting, signaling the end of the series. Who knows, we could have been in for "Leave It to Beaver: The College Years" otherwise. By the way, a 1980s revival of the series fared well, too, lasting five seasons amid a network switch of its own from Disney Channel to TBS.

"Futurama" (1999-2003 on FOX, 2008-present on Comedy Central)

Matt Groening's animated science-fiction sitcom started out on FOX in 1999, and it's still going strong in well into the new millennium, albeit on a different network. After a lengthy hiatus (from 2003 to 2008), Comedy Central revived the critically acclaimed "Futurama." (Think of it as being cryogenically frozen for five years.)

In a 2010 interview, Groenig said it was great to be on Comedy Central, because "we get to do what we want to. We have received no censorship notes ever." Except one. Exec producer David X. Cohen said that for the episode "In-A-Gadda-Da-Leela" -- in which a giant spaceship, who censors things that he finds offensive, beeps things out when he hears a word he doesn't like. "The one note we got was, 'What was the word he beeped out, because maybe you can say it on Comedy Central?'"

"JAG" (1995-1996 on NBC; 1996-2005 on CBS)

NBC put the legal drama "JAG" on the chopping block after one season, but the series found a new life on CBS, and even spawned a pair of spinoffs. The show went on for nine seasons following CBS' first-season cancellation (one episode even went unaired) and paved the way for "NCIS" and "NCIS: Los Angeles." According to the Los Angeles Times, "JAG" was originally pitched as "Top Gun" meets "A Few Good Men," but show creator Donald Bellisario wanted to focus on courtroom dramas and personalities over action, which gave the show a troubled start at NBC.

"My Three Sons" (1960-1965 on ABC; 1965-1972 on CBS)

It has the distinction of being one of the longest-running situation comedies in television history, but "My Three Sons" split its success among two networks. The sitcom about a widower with three sons aired for a whopping 12 seasons, first on ABC and then on CBS, chronicling the growth of Fred MacMurray's TV sons from boys to grown men. (Included was a pair of weddings and the birth of a set of triplets -- three sons, of course.) It's been been rumored that MacMurray personally pleaded with CBS's then-head honcho Fred Silverman not to cancel the long running series in 1972, but the show was axed amid a massive primetime schedule revamp.

"Politically Incorrect" (1993-1997 on Comedy Central; 1997-2002 on ABC)

The late-night political talk show "Politically Incorrect" survived a move from Comedy Central to ABC, lasting a surprising five seasons amid the stuffier confines of network television. But the controversial show's undoing came after host Bill Maher was too politically incorrect in the days following the 9/11 attacks. Maher's comments about the war in Iraq were interpreted as saying the U.S. military was "cowardly," spawning outrage that resulted in the show's cancellation in early 2002. Maher later said his show was "politically annihilated" and took his panel of celebs and political figures to HBO for a similar format with "Real Time With Bill Maher."

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