Tag Archives: Cancellation

CBS vs. End Times: Notes on the Apparent Death of Limitless

If you’re CBS, End Times—the term TV journalists have adopted for describing the collapse of traditional broadcast viewership and the advertising revenues drawn from it—represents a problem.

CBS’ business model, more than the other broadcast networks, has been built around broad-skewing procedurals, generating large total audiences in live, same-day ratings. The network is then able to sell these procedurals both internationally and into syndication, markets that are looking for content that is proven to draw large audiences.

But in End Times, these types of shows are increasingly rare, and same-day (and Live+3) ratings are declining across the board. However, for some CBS shows, this is not an immediate problem: same-day ratings declines for shows that have already run for multiple seasons and sold into syndication—like Elementary or Hawaii Five-0, for example—are totally fine, since CBS will eventually make money on additional episodes through existing syndication deals on that content even if they earn less from advertising revenue. CBS’ problem, rather, is that it becomes tougher to sell shows into syndication when they’re launching in End Times, and where shows are lucky to be drawing above a 1.5 in the demo (or above a 2.0 in Live+3).

And thus a show like Limitless was caught in a bind. On the one hand, its ratings were not terrible in the context of End Times—new shows with lower demographic ratings are getting picked up by other networks, and its numbers were not dramatically different from other new shows at CBS or the other shows in the 10/9c timeslot. It’s also owned by the studio, which means they would benefit from its long-tail in other markets.

However, on the other hand, creating long-term value for CBS requires the show to be enough of a hit to generate a long-tail market, and those markets have not yet reached the point where they are desperate enough to invest in a first-season show that is very clearly not garnering a broad audience. CBS knows ratings are unlikely to increase in subsequent seasons—it almost never happens—and there is no questioning that the show’s after-market value has been irrevocably damaged, and so CBS would appear to be doing something objectively rational in the context of End Times by canceling Limitless: Deadline reports that it’s unlikely to move forward, and is being “shopped” (although I can’t think of any outlet that would pick up a first season cast-off).

I would be sad about this situation under any circumstance as a fan of the show, as I wrote about at The A.V. Club on a few occasions, but End Times is not the only context here. The other context is what else CBS is picking up instead of Limitless. Among these projects is a MacGyver reboot that was ordered to pilot without a script, went through extensive reshoots, and fired all but two of its cast members and hired a new writer in the process of being picked up to series. The network’s pickups are also expected at this point include Code Black, a freshman medical procedural that CBS co-produces with ABC Studios, and which drew a lower average rating than Limitless. Suddenly, what appeared to be an objective financial decision tied to shifts in the TV marketplace becomes something different: how are two actors and a franchise name worth gambling on compared to a show that grew and evolved over its first season, and how does a co-production beat out an in-house production with higher ratings in an End Times environment where ownership was expected to matter more than ever?

Continue reading

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Limitless

Handicapping Hannibal’s Future: Netflix, Amazon, and Gaumont’s Unknown Design

Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 2.22.38 PM

NBC did not “cancel” Hannibal.

Well, okay, that’s maybe a bit confusing. NBC did in fact announce that Season 3 would be the end of the show’s run on the network, following a slide from “problematic” to “abysmal” demographic ratings this summer. But while the rhetoric of cancellation was perhaps logically used to describe this decision, the simple fact is that NBC does not have the authority to cancel Hannibal. They are, in this case, one licensee of an international co-production, who Entertainment Weekly has revealed is paying only $185,000—this is absurdly low for a broadcast series, even in summer—in order to air season three of the show produced by Gaumont International Television. And so what’s really happening here is that Gaumont and its other producing partners—including Sony Pictures Television, who distributes the series and co-produces through its AXN international cable network—are losing their U.S. distributor. [I talked a little bit more about this in a Periscope broadcast you can watch if you’re more connected to nascent social media platforms than I am]

This type of inside knowledge regarding the show’s production is, admittedly, not going to be something your average fan knows. But it’s something fans should know as they make efforts to save the series, because finding a U.S. distributor is very different from finding the show a new home more broadly. They are not asking someone to “save” a show from outright cancellation—they are asking a streaming service or cable channel to step in as a licensee (and potentially production partner) as part of a pre-existing cocktail of financial interests, which shifts the show’s value in significant ways. And so the below is an effort to handicap how this reality shifts the logic by which different parties would be interested in the series.

Continue reading

27 Comments

Filed under Hannibal

Negotiating 101: Sony, Hulu, and Community Season 6

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 10.17.32 PM

As I wrote in 2012—and expanded on here at the blog—when Netflix was reportedly in talks to resurrect The Killing after it was canceled by AMC, there is reason to be skeptical of reporting that refers to “conversations” or “talks” surrounding a series potentially being resurrected.

It turns out that, in the case of The Killing, those talks were productive – AMC picked up a third season with help from Netflix chipping in for an exclusive streaming window, and Netflix would return once more to pick up a short fourth and final season of the series when AMC chose to end the series. However, for every The Killing there is a Pan Am, or a Terra Nova, which were reported in a similar fashion but amounted to nothing.

There is plenty of logic behind the idea of Hulu having “conversations” with Sony Pictures TV regarding picking up a sixth season of Community. As Joe Adalian outlines at Vulture, Hulu is in need of a big original content splash to compete with Amazon’s money and Netflix’s prestige, and Community has been a strong performer on the service. It’s also the only logical place it could go, given that Hulu purchased exclusive streaming rights, meaning that neither Amazon nor Netflix would be likely to chip in given they would only have access to new episodes. It has long been presumed, since the day NBC chose to cancel the series, that Hulu was its only option.

However, it’s also an option that seems infeasible for a platform that doesn’t have Amazon or Netflix’s deep pockets, and an option that seems particularly infeasible given the contract burden of a sixth-season broadcast sitcom. The value proposition of Community to Hulu sounds great in the abstract, but when translated to dollars and cents behind the scenes it seems likely that the risk may be greater than the reward.

Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Community

Lone Star Lament: Kyle Killen Discusses the Series’ Rise and Demise at Flow 2010

Lone Star Lament: A Q&A with Kyle Killen

October 1st, 2010

While the online narrative about Lone Star‘s demise considered the show as an example of the divide between cable and network, or as a sign that critical praise actually hurts television series, I personally chose to take something positive: although I was sad to see the show progress into the rest of its first season, which I think had the potential to be a very good television series, I was pleased to see that creator/writer Kyle Killen seemed to be approaching the cancellation with a sense of purpose (in putting himself out there to promote the series between the first and second episodes) and class (by resisting any sort of vitriolic response to its cancellation).

As a result, I was extremely excited for Killen’s appearance at Flow 2010, a television and media conference at the University of Texas at Austin; not only would it give us a chance to learn more about the series, but I could also see whether or not my impression of Killen (pieced together from interviews, tweets and some press tour quotes) would hold in person. During the Q&A after a screening of the series’ pilot, Killen was honest about the show’s failure, open to more complex discussions of the series’ gender representations, and realistic about the way the television industry operates. While the show’s failure identifies much of the cruelty in terms of how the industry evaluates a series’ success, Killen rose above the victim narrative and focused on what he learned from the process, what he wishes he could have achieved, and how he feels about how the process unfolded.

The result was a glimpse into a world of disappointment that, even after learning that we’d be screening the pilot instead of the unfinished third episode, was not close to being disappointing in and of itself.

Continue reading

10 Comments

Filed under Lone Star

Why I Wouldn’t Save Dollhouse from Cancellation

dollhousetitle

Why I Wouldn’t Save Dollhouse from Cancellation

November 11th, 2009

Today, the news came that many expected. Already shelved for November Sweeps in favour of reruns, and with FOX having confirmed that it would be burning off six episodes on Fridays in December, the chances of Dollhouse living to see a third season were always slim. And, to no one’s surprise, the show was officially cancelled today, according to the Hollywood Reporter, thus ending a strange journey for Joss Whedon’s newest series.

And while I will always be a fan of elements of this particular series, and I will miss having it as part of my weekly lineup, I will not be making any effort to try to save the series from its fate. It is not out of a lack of love for the show and what it accomplished, but rather an acknowledgement that it accomplished more than it might have, and that for all that FOX will be getting flack for this decision it was given chances that very few other shows would have received. The show always felt like an experiment, constantly being tinkered with to find the right gear for Whedon’s vision and FOX’s view of the show to become one and the same, and like any good experiment there are some tangible results that can now be put to work by Whedon, the network, and the show’s viewers. Amongst those results:

1) Some great television. Say what you will about some of the show’s weaker episodes, but “Man on the Street,” “Spy in the House of Love,” “Omega,” and “Belonging” were great hours of television independent of the show’s struggles, and some other episodes (like both “Echoes” and “Needs”) managed to take premises that could be either gimmicky or potentially overwrought and showed how this cast and crew could make intelligent, philosophical, funny and sometimes brilliant television. And the unique narrative experiment known as “Epitaph One” will be confounding people for years, further contributing to the show’s legacy of sorts.

2) Being introduced to two really great acting talents. Enver Gjokaj and Dichen Lachman were playing second fiddle to Eliza Dushku in the show’s premise, but they stole nearly every episode they were featured in. On a show that values the ability to be a chameleon, these two managed to slip into the skin of entirely different characters for either extended periods (like Lachman as Priya) or in short scenes (like Gjokaj becoming Reed Diamond’s Dominic) in a way that made them a weekly highlight. While I’m sad they’ll no longer be playing these characters, I know these two will land on their feet, and I’m sure casting directors took notice of their work. The greatest compliment I can pay them is that I learned how to spell their names, which says how often I sang their praises.

Continue reading

5 Comments

Filed under Dollhouse

Series Finale: Pushing Daisies – “Kerplunk”

pushingdaisiestitle

“Kerplunk”

Series Finale – June 13th, 2009

I should have known this day would come.

No, I don’t mean that I was actually in denial that, after the show struggled to regain its ratings foothold towards the end of Season One and bombed out the gate during season two, the show was short for this world, and that its final episode would be tossed aside in a ridiculous Saturday timeslot by ABC. Rather, I should have known when I first watched and fell in love with this pilot, but struggled to convince people I talked to that the show was worth watching, that it would never get the ending I knew it deserved.

When I reviewed that pilot (oh, sorry – “Pie-Lette”), I said the following:

…Pushing Daisies is as much a fairy tale romance as it is a dramatic television series. Unrequited love is one of those concepts that you see a lot of in television, but never has it been so whimsically (and maturely) portrayed. The entire pilot is about love and loss, and how mending those fences can be more difficult than you realize.

We, of course, don’t have Ned’s power to bring things back to life, but if we did I think all of us who watched until the end would, in an instant, touch this show and rescue it from the television graveyard as Ned did with Chuck. However, we can’t do that (although, presuming Lost would be protected, I’d be totally willing to let fate choose which ABC show has to die as a result of keeping it alive), and we’re left with a finale that we know shouldn’t be the end, that promises more than it concludes and that captures in its aquacades and elaborate disguises the whimsy that has set the show on a well-deserved pedestal that ABC chose to knock down late last year.

But I will give ABC credit for inadvertantly assisting in my ability to mend the fences of love and loss, delaying the airing of this episode until the show’s cancellation was no longer fresh. It may still hurt, certainly, but it’s given me a less angry and more celebratory perspective. While not everything you want a finale to be, and ending on a cliffhanger that seemed poised to breathe new life into the series, this finale finds the show joyously entertaining in a scenario and an environment that could only exist in the world of Papen County, the mind of Bryan Fuller, and, as fate has decided, the fond memories of viewers.

Continue reading

5 Comments

Filed under Pushing Daisies

Series (Season?) Finale: Scrubs – “My Finale”

scrubstitle2

“My Finale”

May 6th, 2009

ABC made a decision last year to save Scrubs, which at the time seemed like a mistake: the show was struggling mightily with its creative focus, and if you go back and read my review of the out-of-order finale NBC aired you’ll find that I was more than ready for the show to die. At the same time, there was a sense that a show seven years running deserved a better sendoff. So while I was frustrated that ABC chose to pick up the series on some level, I also hoped that it would be worth it.

It was. The show’s eighth season has not been amongst its most novel, but it’s probably the most consistent the show has been since at least Season 4, and as the series faces yet another finale with an uncertain future this time I find myself entire ready to say goodbye. The show has been on a victory lap all season, giving each character their time to reflect on the past seven years through a vacation, a new set of interns to remind them of themselves, and a new set of memorable if familiar patients that brought the show back to its emotional roots.

There are some rumblings that “My Finale” will actually be “J.D.’s Finale” more than that of the series: the first-person narrator of a majority of the series has been the series’ star, and his relationships with the various characters (his bromance with Turk, his relationship with Elliot, his mentorship with Dr. Cox) are the series’ most memorable. And it’s this reason that this doesn’t just feel like J.D.’s finale: his future is the future of all of these characters, and the idea of them continuing on while he’s off at another hospital doesn’t feel right.

For me, I want the show to be over: I want to go out on a good season, and on a great episode, one which takes some shortcuts but gives John Dorian the kind of exit that feels right for this character, and thus one that felt right for the series. It’s not that the series can’t continue beyond this point, but rather that in many ways it shouldn’t.

But, after a season of good will after seasons of struggle, I’m willing to keep an open mind should they make that decision.

Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Scrubs