When Your Favorite Show Gets Cut: A Follow-up on Fall Premieres

November 23, 2015

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Television is a guessing game. From what pilots networks pick up, to how they structure their schedules, to what they renew or don’t renew. TV execs all want us to think that they know what they’re doing, but in reality they’re throwing a little bit of everything at audiences and seeing what sticks. That’s why there are so many spinoffs (Chicago everything, for example). There’s already a proven formula and familiar characters to draw people in. We played a little guessing game ourselves with our Fall Premieres blog to predict which shows we thought would fall short, and now we’re coming to that time where some of these pilots might not be renewed… but how will the networks decide?


We live in a culture of instant gratification—texting, tweeting, whatever other -ings are out there. Unsurprisingly, this extends to TV networks and how they structure their schedules.


The way networks decide what shows get renewed and what shows get the axe is pretty simple—ratings. If a show has low ratings and a lukewarm critical reception, there is a good chance that it won’t be back for another season. If it’s really bad, they will pull it mid-season, choosing to either not continue production or not air the remaining episodes.


Sometimes, before a network cancels a show, they’ll shuffle it around in their schedule, air it on a different night or a different time, pair it with a more successful show, and see if that boosts its ratings.


So where does the instant gratification come in? Well, not so long ago, we didn’t have overnight ratings, and networks didn’t have the luxury of knowing how their show did the morning after it aired. They would have to wait for the books to come out at the end of each quarter before they made any decisions. Now, they can see every week how Show X is doing, and quickly decide what they want to do with it.


This has both pros and cons. Pro: viewers may not have to suffer through some terrible show taking up a time slot that could be filled with something better. Con: networks may prematurely cancel a show that could pick up speed later in its season.


Because TV is a guessing game, networks are basically assuming that if a show has low ratings a month into its season, those aren’t going to go up, and they say sayonara. Now, sometimes, they’re right and a show is terrible, but sometimes, they cancel Pushing Daisies.


Nets are pretty trigger happy when it comes to cancellations, and understandably so—they’ve got to keep the advertisers happy, but sometimes giving a show some time to build an audience can result in something really great (hello, Friends and Seinfeld), and we’re missing out on that.


Because of the volume of shows introduced every fall it’s pretty much impossible for one person to keep track of it all, so there are a couple of websites that track ratings and make educated guesses about what shows they think will definitely get renewed or cancelled, and what’s on the bubble. My personal favorite in TVLine; they separate everything by network so you can find out how your favorite show is doing pretty easily. Some of us (probably just me) check it regularly—even if you don’t watch a show, it’s good to know how things are going in the TV world.


Of the shows I wrote about this fall, a couple are doing really well according to rating sites. TVLine classifies Quantico as a sure thing (and for good reason, that show is addictive), Blindspot has already been renewed for a second season, and although it’s too early to tell for Supergirl, so far it’s doing pretty well: its ratings went up in week 4, which hopefully means good things for it in the long run because it is a super cute show.


What shows do you think will ‘Fall’ short and get cut? Tweet us @Norbella