How TV Networks Have Duped You Into Thinking Cancelling Shows Is A Good Thing

Ray Donovan shock cancellation

The rise of internet websites was not a good thing for television networks. Every single time one would ultimately cancel a series, there were millions of people with the internet at their fingertips ready and willing to complain about their favorite show being cancelled. Think about it: Even little-watched shows have hundreds of thousands of viewers weekly. Getting to talk about cancellations amplified the news and the headache.

In my myriad time working on the interwebs, I’ve seen a lot of tactics from network attempting to minimize cancellation noise. Cancelling a bunch of shows at once seemed to work for a little while as did not cancelling shows and just quietly never bringing them back. But now networks have a new plan, which involves simply “ending” a series rather than cancelling it.

Criminal Minds Series Finale 2020

What Does Ending A Show Really Mean?

Streamers, network television, cablers and more often employ this tactic these days, which means the network or streamer or whomever will renew a show while cancelling it at the same time. So, let’s take Criminal Minds for example.

Criminal Minds was cancelled in January of 2019, but at the same time the network said, “Hey guys, we’re ending this show but the good news is we won’t end it until after next season airs. So really, y’all, it’s ending and not cancelled.” Those Season 15 episodes shot back-to-back with Season 14 so everything was ready to go for primetime this year.

Look, to be honest, this is a great idea and I don’t want to minimize whichever genius thought of this first. What I don’t get off on is every time we mention a show like Criminal Minds actually being cancelled, people come out of the woodwork to defend the cancellation and inform us it wasn’t cancelled, just ending.

Actually, it’s 100% cancelled. The networks have simply figured out a way to avoid your ire when they wish by giving faithful fans a final season in which to say goodbye to their favorite characters instead of unceremoniously pulling the show from the network.

Often these final seasons are short seasons or wrap-up movies as well, which means less time and effort is needed to wrap up the shows. Again, this is not a bad idea. It makes everyone happier. It gives the fans time to come to terms with the news and assumedly it makes the creative team more comfortable because they are able to wrap up the story and find new jobs in a timely fashion instead of scrambling.

Yet there’s some sort of twisted logic going on if you are the type of person who sees a show has been cancelled and simultaneously renewed for one more go ‘around and you are commenting on social media or a website who is simply reporting the news defending whatever network or streaming service just cancelled your show. I don’t care if it gets 30 episodes before it is cancelled, your show will be ending and it was a decision the network made due to ratings or a combination of ratings and contracts getting more expensive.

Bosch did not get cancelled by Amazon Prime because it was cheap to make and was still getting a ton of views from the fans. Sure, every once in a while a star like Jim Parsons with The Big Bang Theory will be a catalyst for a series “ending” rather than the network cancelling it for other reasons, but those situations are rare. There are more like Bosch out there than like The Big Bang Theory.

The OA surprise ending Season 2

Why Straight Up Cancelling A Show Is Not A Good Idea

The alternative is that a show gets cancelled out of nowhere, which happened recently with Ray Donovan on Showtime and also with a slew of Netflix shows including the niche-but-beloved The OA. Those moments truly hurt for everyone involved. When your showrunner and stars are surprised about cancellation news, it means a lot of people were surprised to be out of jobs, plus there’s the emotional toll on the audience who had invested in those programs.

Think about the audience’s reaction to certain shows being cancelled, with The OA being a prime example of people showing their displeasure online. This isn’t what the networks want. They don’t want to rile people up or give them negative feelings toward a brand.

It’s no wonder the networks and streaming services have tried to go this newer “ending” route in recent years when possible, especially for long-running shows. It’s far easier and less painful and better for everyone. Just don’t be duped into thinking the network or streaming service is actually doing you a favor by cancelling a show in this manner. They aren’t.

Jessica Rawden
Managing Editor

Reality TV fan with a pinch of Disney fairy dust thrown in. Theme park junkie. If you’ve created a rom-com I’ve probably watched it.