Cancelled Shows: Why Did My Favorite Show Get the Axe?

Why was your favorite show cancelled? It was well written, well acted and maybe even a few notches more mature than half the drivel you see otherwise. Why do the new and refreshing shows flounder and the same old same old keep going strong? Basically, it all comes down to money.

Many times television is relegated as just entertainment. Really entertaining is only part of the overall equation. First and foremost, television is medium. All media are businesses. It isn’t about making quality shows, or new innovation, it is about how much money can the company make. Humans are a creature of habit. We are comfortable with what we know. Because of this, television programming (and media in general) has become formulaic. Very rarely does any thing outside of the formula make it past a test pilot, let alone a first season. “New” shows are really just variations of the formulaic theme. Creators don’t come up with a new innovation, they just present what has already been done in a new and exciting way. People who deviate from that rarely make it the airwaves, or if they do, they do not last long. Even the seasoned pros make a few less than memorable choices. Like Steven Bochco of Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue fame. He once produced a musical crime drama called Cop Rock. Yes, cops and criminals would just burst into song. I only saw this show once while I was in college, but I still will never forget how completely out there it was. It was different and very not what you were expecting. It never caught on and it was cancelled rather quickly.

In television, it is all about the ratings. The higher your ratings are, the more you can charge for commercial time slots. Not only do your ratings have to be high, they need to be strong in the favorable demographics. How much revenue is generate by each show? FOX cancelled Family Guy, and had no intention of bringing it back. Soon the cable networks were showing reruns and when the first season DVD was released, the sales were phenomenal. Based off that response, FOX brought the show back. The network saw the opportunity for revenue, and they pounced on it.

Along with ratings, networks take a look at feedback. Viewers write letters to the networks and production companies, write blogs and articles about shows and in some cases pass petitions to show support (or lack of support) of a show. Sometimes this can be very effect, even after a show has been cancelled. The military drama JAG was originally on NBC. After the first season the peacock network cancelled it. After a major letter writing campaign, CBS picked the show up. A slightly revamped JAG enjoyed many years of success. It even spawned its own successful spin off, NCIS. Other shows have not been as lucky, but it is a strong example of how fan based campaigns can make a difference.

Another determining factor is critical acclaim. Do the critics approve of/enjoy the show. While the critics stamp of approval is impressive, but if the rating and revenue are not there, the show still is not safe. Look at the show Arrested Development. The show had major critical acclaim, it has even won awards, but it did not have the ratings. The show was cancelled. Other shows like SCRUBS have better luck. Even if NBC doesn’t grant it another season, the show still has a chance. The Bill Lawrence comedy was actually developed by Touchstone, an ABC subsidiary. If it gets the axe on one network, the other network can still pick it up. Now it would be up to ABC to properly advertise the show and not shuffle it through time slots like a square dance.

So why did your favorite show get cancelled? Nine times out of ten, it is because it didn’t generate enough interest or revenue. You can try to pull together and send letters to the networks. You can petition the networks and production houses. You can even boycott the network, but once the ax has fallen, there is little hope your show will see the light of day again. Think back fondly on the episodes you did see, and hope they release the DVDs soon.

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