EXCLUSIVE: Drama Unforgettable is living up to its name, coming back from cancellation for a second time. I’ve learned that A&E is finalizing a deal for 13-episode fourth season of the Sony TV-produced crime procedural, which previously aired on CBS for three seasons. It will be on later this year.
Unlike the first time the series was cancelled and then un-cancelled by CBS, the options on the cast had expired, so new deals had to be made with everyone on the show. Stars Poppy Montgomery and Dylan Walsh are both expected to be back, reprising their roles as Carrie Wells, who has an extremely rare condition in which her brain recalls detailed events by date, and her ex-boyfriend/partner, NYPD’s Al Burns. The series creators John Bellucci and Ed Redlich also will be back as executive producers, along with Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly.
Despite A&E’s scaled-back scripted footprint — it currently has only two original scripted dramas slated, Bates Motel and the upcoming The Returned — I hear the network remains committed to scripted programming, a message new A&E and History President Paul Buccieri has been relaying to the creative community.
The pickup of Unforgettable is part of that strategy. I hear A&E brass also believe the drama would be compatible with the network’s popular off-network series, fellow CBS crime procedural Criminal Minds, whose reruns have been a staple on A&E for years.
I hear the pending deal has a major upside for both the network and the studio. Unforgettable has been a big seller internationally for Sony TV, which handles the series’ distribution, and has been very popular in a number of territories — it has ranked as No. 1 in France, for example. To continue to make money internationally, the series needed a U.S. network and, because of the overseas windfall, Sony did not need a high license fee to keep the show profitable.
That is what made Unforgettable attractive for A&E. The network recently drew a lot of attention with its decision to cancel drama series Longmire, also owned by an outside studio, Warner Bros. However, the network was paying a premium license fee for the older-skewing series and losing money on it. (Longmire subsequently was picked up by Netflix.) The license fee for Unforgettable is said to be in line with a high-end half-hour unscripted series, making it a likely profit generator for the network.
Sony TV has a strong track record of fighting on and successfully bringing series back from cancellation, which it also did for Community, Drop Dead Diva and Damages, among others.
Unforgettable would match The Killing‘s feat of cheating death twice. That serialized mystery drama also was cancelled and then renewed by its original cable network, AMC, before getting cancelled for a second time after Season 3. Another outlet, Netflix, stepped in with a pickup of a fourth and final season.
The move by CBS last fall to cancel Unforgettable, again, was somewhat of a surprise. There had been positive signs that the series would get a fourth-season pickup, with CBS and Sony TV — which co-produced the crime procedural with CBS TV Studios while it was at CBS — discussing what the order would be.
Unforgettable first was cancelled by CBS after its freshman run in May 2012 despite averaging 12.1 million viewers and a 2.5/7 among adults 18-49 — it was the most-watched series on any network to get the hook that season. After Sony TV shopped the series to such places as TNT and Lifetime, talks restarted at CBS and the network re-picked up the series about a month later with a 13-episode order for a summer run, followed by a Season 3 pickup, also for summer.
While canceling Unforgettable in October, CBS renewed summer drama series Under The Dome and Extant, both from sister studio CBS TV Studios, which also is the sole studio behind CBS’ newest summer original series, Zoo. The Unforgettable Season 3 finale on September 14 drew 5.8 million viewers and a 1.o Live+Same Day 18-49 rating in its Sunday slot where it often had to deal with NFL overruns and fluctuating start times.