Why ABC Cancelled Designated Survivor

ABC Designated Survivor
(Image credit: ABC)

Unfortunately for fans of the Kiefer Sutherland series Designated Survivor, ABC did not designate the series for survival. If you are among the many who want an answer for why the alphabet network axed the political drama after two seasons, you are about to get it, and the reasoning for the decision may come as a surprise. In a call with the press, ABC's president Channing Dungey explained why the show was denied a third season, saying:

Creatively, we've had a lot of behind-the-scenes churn on the show in terms of the number of showrunners involved. We were less confident with the creative path forward than the other shows we brought back.

It is a startling disclosure, since most series are principally cancelled due to low ratings. Channing Dungey's explanation runs contrary to that tendency, as she cites the series' troubled creative backdrop as the reason. While the series' ratings played a role, TVLine reports that it was not the major reason behind the show's cancellation, which is a rare thing to hear in these instances.

Given the change-ups in creative forces behind-the-scenes, it makes sense that the momentum that comes from having a constant voice behind a series' narrative was disrupted. In what is turning out to be Designated Survivor's final season on ABC, Keith Eisner was the series' showrunner. It is not entirely clear if he would have returned for Season 3. Speaking of which, is there still hope for a third season?

While ratings had slipped since the premiere of the series, Kiefer Sutherland had remained optimistic about the show's chances for renewal back in April. Sutherland had even suggested a reduced episode count as a possibility for a potential Season 3, citing creative reasons. Whether or not ABC considered taking that direction remains unknown. NBC recently rescued comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine after it was cancelled by Fox; could a rescue for Designated Survivor from another platform be in the cards?

Viewers will have to see how Designated Survivor closes up its second season when the finale airs this week. Considering that the series did not know its fate heading into the season-ender, fans may be facing their share of cliffhangers when the season wraps up. It's a scenario that would make its cancellation all the more bitter.

The drama could join other series that took a similarly bold step to closing up its tenuously-fated seasons. While Designated Survivor is facing the end of its run on ABC, the show may not be over yet. Deadline reports that distribution company eOne is seeking a new home for the series. For now, it is hope. In the meantime, fans will have to sit tight and wait to see if a Brooklyn Nine-Nine type of miracle happens.

Until news surfaces on that front, we know for sure that the Season 2 finale of Designated Survivor will air Wednesday, May 16 at 10 p.m. ET on ABC. For when TV's other season finales are coming around the bend, check out our guide to find out when all of the season finales air. Need to warm up after the cold cancellation news? Then check out our guide to all of TV's summer premieres. To learn what shows have been cancelled and renewed, check out our 2018 network TV rundown.

Britt Lawrence

Like a contented Hallmark movie character, Britt happily lives in the same city she grew up in. Along with movies and television, she is passionate about competitive figure skating. She has been writing about entertainment for 5 years, and as you may suspect, still finds it as entertaining to do as when she began.