This week the major US television networks gave their upfront presentations, in which they revealed their new shows planned for the 2016-17 season as well as when those shows will be airing. It also marked the end of the line for many shows from this past 2015-16 season. While I wasn’t able to find an exact figure, sites I looked at claimed that in any given season between 65-80% of new series don’t make it to a second season.
Of course, surviving the first season is no guarantee of a long run. Many shows don’t make it past season two. Season three is the closest place to a safe zone there is. For most shows, once they get to season three, they are very likely to receive a renewal for a fourth season so that the series has enough episodes to be sold into syndication. This is particularly true for shows that are made by a production house owned by the same corporation that owns the network airing the show.
So every year a lot of shows are cancelled. No surprises there, and the counts for this year aren’t anything unusual. But this year didn’t seem to get pretty ugly in the “Let’s Cancel Shows Alan Watches” department.
Who am I kidding?
It was a bloodbath.
So now I bring you a brief In Memoriam for this season’s casualties.
Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris – I didn’t plan to watch this show when I first heard about it and I certainly didn’t think I’d enjoy it, but this unusual take on the variety show was just so much fun, mostly because of the sheer amount of energy and charm exhibited by its host. I’m sure the show was expensive to do, and its ratings were meh. Still, I hoped that NBC would keep it around maybe as a series of occasional specials. Alas, it is not to be. Harris will be fine, though. He’s currently playing Count Olaf in the television adaptation of the A Series of Unfortunate Events books that Netflix in making.
The Muppets – I wanted to like this show. Really I did. The Muppets were a big part of my childhood, and I absolutely loved their 2011 “comeback” film. I watched every episode of this new series, but it never really gelled for me, as I discussed in THIS POST. After the show went on its winter hiatus, it returned under the control of a different showrunner, who very quickly set out to undo many of the moves made in the first ten episodes. Kermit’s new girlfriend was quickly jettisoned, and the process of Kermit and Piggy’s reconciliation began. I also approved of the move to get Rolph more involved. Outside of a moment or two in each episode, though, I found myself bored and just not entertained. I don’t know that I would have come back for a second season anyway, but now I don’t have to worry about it.
Marvel’s Agent Carter – Between Captain America: Civil War and the cancellation news, it’s been a tough couple of weeks for Peggy Carter. Haley Atwell, who was so very good in the part, has a new series, Conviction, coming this Fall, so the news wasn’t a complete shock. Still, having Agent Carter running for 8 or 10 episodes while Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD was on hiatus was a nice treat. I don’t know if Atwell’s schedule would allow it or if it would fit with the SHIELD producers’ plans for their next season, but I would love to see them weave in flashbacks to tie up Agent Carter’s loose ends next year.
Mythbusters – After such a long run, Mythbusters was due to end at some point. And really I felt like the series was running out of decent myths to tackle. Far too much time was being spent doing myths from movies, TV shows, and viral videos, none of which I expected to be real anyway. Still, I will miss my weekly time with Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman. The reunion special at the end which featured the returns of Kari Byron, Tori Belleci, and Grant Imahara left me a bit misty-eyed. I know all of them have new projects in the works, so I will get to see them soon. Meanwhile, Science Channel is already planning to bring the show back with new hosts, and to find those hosts, they’re using (What else?) a reality show. This is not something I say very often but TOO SOON!
Galavant – It was a miracle that this quirky show (A medieval musical comedy?!?) made it to a second season, but it did. And that second season was wonderful, even better than the first. Unfortunately, very few people were watching. There’s been a push on Twitter for more Galavant, and William Shatner, Mark Hamill, and David Prowse (Darth Vader himself) have all expressed that they are fans of the series. I cannot imagine that anything will come of it, though. ABC is not changing its mind. I have also heard talk of a stage version. Now that I could see working.
On top of those cancellations, there were a couple of other pieces of news last week (and earlier in one case) that may not bode well for the future of shows that I watch.
First, several months ago, CBS shifted Elementary from Thursday nights to Sunday nights. Based on past seasons and the wisdom of the TV Grim Reaper on Twitter, Sunday is where CBS sends aging shows to die. This year’s victim from that night was The Good Wife. Elementary’s ratings are not spectacular…or even good, so I was actually surprised that it was renewed for a fifth season, where it will remain on Sunday nights. It could conceivably go on a few more years there, but I would not be at all surprised if next season ended up being its last.
Next up is a situation that I discussed in THIS POST. Supergirl is indeed moving from CBS to The CW, and production of the series will be shifting to Vancouver, where the other three shows in The CW’s superhero stable, The Flash, Arrow, and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, are filmed. As far as the show’s longevity is concern, this should be a positive move. The CW’s ratings requirements are MUCH lower than CBS, and Supergirl will be one of the highest profile shows on the network. Additionally, as The CW discussed at their upfront, this means that Supergirl can crossover with the other three DC universe shows. This past season’s visit by The Flash to Supergirl was lots of fun, and I would love to see the rest of Team Flash get to meet Kara as well. Still, I do worry about what the show will look like next season with what I have to assume will be a greatly reduced budget. In most episodes of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, the writer’s find a way to avoid having to show Firestorm, presumably due to the cost of putting him onscreen. Going by that example, Supergirl may find herself being far less super.
Finally, ABC announced that they are not going forward with Marvel’s Most Wanted, a series that was intended as a spinoff of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. Additionally, SHIELD is moving to 10PM Eastern on Tuesday nights. ABC has not had a lot of luck with that timeslot over the last few seasons. Rather than sending another new show there to fail, ABC is going to go with an established series that has an audience that will follow it. At least that’s one way to look at it. However, any younger viewers of SHIELD (And yes there are some. My daughter is a big fan.) will not be able to watch it live, and, despite what networks may want you to believe, timeshifted airings via DVR just don’t matter to advertisers. SHIELD will be going into its fourth season, so the syndication count of episodes will be met by next May. ABC may be planning to end the show. Of course, since Marvel and ABC are owned by Disney, SHIELD could survive indefinitely. I doubt it, though. Despite, ABC’s talk at the upfront about projects in the works with Marvel, I think SHIELD’s days are numbered.
I know I’ve focused on shows that I watch, but if you’re curious about the full scope of the cancellation carnage, I would direct your attention to THIS LIST.
- Alan Decker
@CmdrAJD on Twitter