Things I Don’t Like About Television, Episode 4: Premature Cancellation

More specifically, when I say premature cancellation, I’m referring to the abrupt end to good or promising shows. To be even more specific, I’m talking about most programs that are cancelled after one season and short of at least 3 years. Dramas first come to mind. Of course, there may be a few comedies in there, as well as variety and clip shows.

Over the years, I have seen a number of well-written shows get pulled off the air without so much as an explanation. At the same time, truly awful shows have been allowed to stay on past their expiration dates. This may be due to ratings or viewer feedback — or the flat-out disregard for them either way.

Is Premature Cancellation is All about Ratings?

Partially. Often, we get this story that the premature cancellations were based on ratings. As many of us know, ratings are analyzed by demographics; in particular, networks want to see how much of the 18-49 market their shows attract. It boils down to money, as advertisers are trying to reach the 18-49 market (which represents ages of consumers in years). This is supposed to be the group that drives consumerism or something like that.

(I will visit the topic of ratings in a later part, but I will say right now that the Nielson Rating System is bullshit. Gokufievel made a couple of videos on YouTube that addressed this topic, and he estimates that less than 3% of the U.S. population actually takes part in that survey. That means that there can actually be more viewers for certain programs than there are represented. So, some shows can get the axe for merely being underrepresented.)

Anyway, the demographics can sometimes be more important than ratings. If enough of a demographic is watching a particular program, that might be attractive to advertisers, describing why some low-rated shows stay on air longer.

Another thing to consider is the possibility that some executives may love some shows so much, despite any negative feedback those programs receive. These executives save them from cancellation despite the low ratings, much to the detriment of viewers. On the opposite side of things, they may axe immediately popular or promising shows that they don’t care for much.

Do ‘Save Our Show’ Campaigns Work?

Yes and no. In the past, really good but under-viewed programs were sometimes saved by viewer campaigns. For example, you will hear of campaigns for shows like Star Trek,  Arrested Development, and Veronica Mars, but is that the case for recent shows? Additionally, those particular cases were extremely rare and even then, not many shows that were saved would last more than two seasons afterward.

I don’t think “Save Our Show” campaigns will work now, even with instant feedback via Social media. The thing about being more connected to the Internet is that it’s a double-edged sword. There are more options online for the viewing public. Even first-run TV shows will thus have lower ratings as a result. The increased competition for network and cable television most likely reduces the amount of patience executives have for low-rated programs. (As if these executive already had a lot of patience to begin with.)

Which Premature Cancellations Bother Me Specifically?

I still remember quite a few shows over the years, actually, but I will discuss three in particular.

  • One comedy I liked was Help Me Help You starring Ted Danson. I don’t particularly like him, but the show was pretty funny. The show was a group therapist (Danson as “Dr. Bill Hoffman”) and the people he was helping. Dr. Hoffman himself was in need of some help.
  • Although Eli Stone only lasted from 2008-2009, it has still stuck with me. I liked the premise of the lawyer who was granted fantastic visions due to a brain tumor. Now, while I realize the tumor issue would have to be resolved sooner or later, the show was cancelled well short of any type of resolution. Anyone who enjoyed that show was left hanging.
  • The Cleveland Show was also cut short, in my opinion. It only lasted 4 seasons, from 2009-2013. It couldn’t at least get a fifth? I had liked that show more than “Family Guy” or “American Dad.”

Next up, I will talk about the opposite of cutting shows short, as part of a discussion of ruining shows.

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