Exploring five ways TV networks go about canceling shows and how viewers can spot the warning signs.
We all hate it but it’s a fact of TV life. Some shows are going to get canceled. Soon we will be upon the season once again where the cancelation axe will start swinging and a trail of destruction will be left in its path. So how can you spot the signs when a show you like might be facing its untimely demise? Here are 5 ways to figure that out.
1. Official Announcement of Cancelation
An official announcement of cancelation is probably the most courteous way a network will inform the general public that a show will not return. It is usually placed in the form of a statement from the network or a press release but it gives people some sort of closure as to when a show will end and what will happen to any possible episodes that may still be left to air. Unfortunately only high profile shows or shows that have aired for many seasons get this sort of treatment so instances in which this happens is quite rare.
2. Show Pulled Off the Air
This method of canceling shows may be the most disliked method of all. Generally shows are pulled from the air because their ratings are so low that alternatives such as repeats, specials or replacement shows are all likely to get better ratings with less promotion. Of course when shows are canceled this way, especially after a few episodes such as NBC’s ill-fated The Playboy Club, there are always cries from the fans about the networks not giving shows a chance. The truth of the matter is that if a show has extremely low ratings after two episodes and the third episode doesn’t show any sign of recovery then the network has already given the show a chance to prove itself to no avail and any increase probably wouldn’t justify a renewal.
3. Show Left Off Future Schedules
This practice of canceling shows will prove to be very popular in the weeks ahead. As networks prepare to make their Upfront Presentations to advertisers they will not only have to decide what new shows will get picked up but which existing shows will return. Advertisers, the TV media and fans alike will all be eyeing intently on which shows will get left off of the new fall and midseason schedules as their omission not only signals that the show has been canceled but that the decision may have been a last minute one as well. If you have ever wondered why it seems like so many shows get canceled in the month of May look no further than this reason here.
4. The Silent Treatment
Networks giving shows the silent treatment on their fates is not new. This is typically a popular practice among cable networks as a way to downplay their failures while focusing more attention on their successes. It is quite annoying for fans to watch a show and then realize months later the show has not returned nor has there been any news on a possible return. When networks remain silent on the fate of a show for more than 6 months it is usually a very good sign that the show is not returning because networks do not take very long to at least announce possible plans for another season even if those plans are short of being an official renewal announcement.
5. The Burn-Off Method
Have you ever been delighted to sit down and watch your favorite show only to find that they are airing not one but two new episodes? Sure we all like those but too much of a good thing can actually be a bad thing. If networks begin to schedule multi-episode marathons or blocks where a show may air 6 episodes in a 4 week span that’s likely a signal that a show is about to be canceled. This along with networks moving shows to seemingly odd nights or times, for example Fridays, Saturdays, or outside of primetime in the case of cable shows, are what’s known as “burn-off”. Shows getting burned off are shows that have effectively been canceled by the network but instead of pulling the show off the air they would rather air the show in a lower profile timeslot or in chunks of episodes so they can be quickly and quietly ushered off the air.
I’ve revealed some of the tricky secrets that networks keep when deciding the fates of their shows. As always there are exceptions to the rule but at least the matter of coping with shows getting canceled will be a little easier to bear now that you’re aware of all the warning signs.