TV Show Cancelations are So Last Year
Last year, if a TV show wasn’t performing well right off the bat, broadcast networks would pull it off the air after only two or three episodes, replacing it with reruns of something else, or burning through one of their other new shows. This was especially true for pretty much all of the romantic comedy sitcoms. But this year, several shows are not doing so well in the ratings, but they are still on the air. Pretty much all shows start out with a thirteen episode order, and either they stay at thirteen, get the “back nine” for full seasons, or get canceled. But it would seem that now there is a fourth option: get the order cut and run it out.
At NBC, The Player and Truth Be Told have been cut so far. FOX has cut Minority Report. ABC has cut the order for Blood and Oil, and Wicked City is probably not far behind. Only The CW and CBS have avoided this so far. And NBC has also cut the orders for two spring comedies that haven’t even aired yet: Superstore and Telenovela. Not a good sign for them starting out.
There are a couple reasons that networks could be doing this. The first is that there was a lot of criticism for pulling shows off the air too quickly last year. People complained that networks weren’t giving shows a chance to find their audiences when they started out poorly in the ratings. By cutting a show’s order, it allows the show to at least finish an arc and give the fans of that show an ending instead of being cut off without any closure.
Another reason is that they don’t have a lot of faith in their replacement shows. There has been a general lack of enthusiasm over this season’s crop of new shows, even with shows like Blindspot and Quantico doing well. Nothing has really captured the national conversation like How to Get Away with Murder or Empire did last year. It’s entirely possible that the networks looked at the shows they have coming up and they don’t want to replace one failed show with another potential bomb.
The third reason is that replacement shows may not be ready yet. When you cancel a sitcom, it’s easy to play reruns of something else, but not so much with a drama. And so far, Truth Be Told is the only new sitcom with it’s order cut, and NBC has no other comedy to rerun except Undateable, which is doing live episodes, so there’s not even a way to double up on it. And the spring dramas are still shooting, so they probably aren’t ready to air yet, since they’re on a different schedule.
Ultimately I think this is a good thing. It allows the people that do like a doomed show to watch a full shortened season and get a full story. It saves the network the trouble of trying to find something to fill that time slot until midseason. And it allows the people working on the show to be able to craft a full arc and get a sense of closure on the show instead of lamenting the story they never got to tell.
We’ll see if this trend continues into the spring or even to next season, but ultimately, it’s a great way to cancel a show without getting a ton of criticism from fans and allowing a story to end naturally.