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Next week, all the major networks will finalize their fall schedules in order to present them at this year's Upfronts presentation, and we're currently watching a deluge of cancellations and renewals altering our primetime expectations. Tonight, ABC showed an impressive lack of chill by pulling the plug on six pretty big shows, including the The Catch, which aired its Season 2 finale tonight, and the critically lauded American Crime. Not to mention The Real O'Neals, Imaginary Mary, Secrets and Lies and Dr. Ken. Kablooie!
Thursday nights on ABC are a Shonda Rhimes buffet of high-octane drama, but shows have a much higher chance of staying on the air if Rhimes herself created them. A crime caper that had a steady audience despite not being very zeitgeist-friendly, The Catch starred Mireille Enos and Peter Krause in a high-stakes cat-and-mouse-and-others game of fraud and other deceitful tactics. Despite having a pretty successful first season, the audience started to fall off in Season 2, which certainly wasn't helped along by its already limited episode count coming in the middle of the midseason schedule. But still, to cancel it on the night of the finale. That's rough.
If it's shocking to get cancelled on the night of your finale, it's bamboozling to get cancelled when you're a critical darling featuring an ever-changing but always lauded cast of thespians like Regina King, Felicity Huffman, Timothy Hutton and more. That's what happened with the John Ridley-created anthology American Crime, according to TV Guide, which lasted three increasingly shortened seasons before getting axed. The Season 3 finale just aired less than two weeks ago, and the numbers were positively paltry compared to what they were just two years ago. (A 0.4 demo rating is just asking to be thrown into the ditch.) It's a crime without a mystery that this intense drama won't be around anymore, but somebody scoop up King and Sandra Oh, pronto.
Dr. Ken has maintained a perhaps surprisingly solid audience for a Friday night ABC comedy coming years after TGIF was a thing. As such, it's another rather puzzling cancellation. Sure, the medical-ish comedy wasn't scoring a very high rating in the 18-49 demo, but its second season was so consistent, the finale had almost the exact same viewership stats as the premiere. Which is understandable, since that finale featured a rocking cameo from Ken Jeong's former Community buddy Dan Harmon, who'd created the twice-cancelled comedy.
Based on the Australian series of the same name, the anthology crime drama Secrets and Lies boasted stars like Ryan Philippe, Michael Ealy and Juliette Lewis, as well as a recognizable lack of critical acclaim. Still, Season 1 was a pretty big success for ABC and the audience was consistent and strong. Unfortunately, Season 2 debuted to a fraction of the previous year's crowd, and those numbers didn't do much to impress anyone as the season went on. No secrets or lies here, just cancellations.
Everything about Imaginary Mary's cancellation feels like it was already set in motion as soon as the show got the greenlight. After an episode cut and a delayed to midseason, the comedy debuted to pans by critics everywhere, and not even a CGI lump voiced by Rachel Dratch could save this show from fading back into the imagination of those involved. It didn't help things that Jenna Eflman's ties to Scientology were prevalent at a time when that following hasn't made for very polite headline fodder. It did score higher ratings than others on this list, though.
The Real O'Neals seemed like the kind of comedy that ABC would keep around for a long time, if only because the network thrives on its diverse comedy slate, and a show fronted by a gay teenager is one-of-a-kind in the network realm. But even though the viewer numbers weren't too terrible or varied, and even though the demo rating stayed mostly consistent, The Real O'Neals still failed to create a strong enough foundation to stand upon. And I'm sure the decision had nothing to do with a small string of controversies involving bisexual jokes and star Noah Galvin's unhinged 2016 interview.
Maybe tomorrow will be better for struggling TV shows. Or maybe it'll be worse. Either way it goes, check out our summer TV schedule to see what's yet to debut in the coming months.