There is blood flowing in the streets of Hollywood tonight, as the television networks’ annual Black Friday purge has cancelled a deluge of series, such as the shocker of Brooklyn Nine-Nine plus Designated Survivor, The Exorcist, Quantico, Lucifer and The Brave this week. Click on the photo above to launch our gallery of this season’s canceled shows so far.
While there is talk, hope and rosary bead prayers that the Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher-led cop comedy could actually find a new home after the soon to be “New Fox” stuck in the knife, the fact is that the rules of this Peak TV era remind all of us why this is show business and not show friends. To paraphrase the original Blade Runner flick, if you’re not prestige or a hit, your little people and the small always get crushed in pursuit of the large, regardless of how many showrunners see themselves as a David battling a Goliath – sorry Lucifer, but you know it’s the truth, even if you aim for a new demonic perch.
The higher perch and bigger picture is ABC, NBC, an evolving Fox, and even CBS are fighting on new fronts, as Netflix, Amazon and broadcast co-owned Hulu redefine the game and how shows live and die. As the streamers roll out new series week after week all year long, the small screen for broadcast is being forced to become like the big screen studios – stick with blockbusters or go in search of proven IP.
However, like Victorian fog, there is also some ambiguity behind the logic that saw several shows pink- slipped. Sure, the Kiefer Sutherland-starring POTUS drama Designated Survivor never really became the West Wing of our time, and failed to catch on as the antithetical to Donald Trump’s real-life outsider in the Oval Office. Yet, as convoluted as it could get on screen, and essentially melding a lot of Sutherland’s past 24 hit to become Jack Bauer as the President, the David Guggenheim-created ABC political thriller had a solid delayed viewing afterlife that would have likely made a Season 3 renewal possible just a few years ago.
Though one of my favorite Big 4 shows in recent years, the death of the exquisite The Exorcist by Fox after two seasons of weak Friday night ratings looked to be a done deal months ago. Same thing for lesser efforts like ABC’s unwatchable Marvel’s Inhumans and the terrible Kevin (Probably) Saves the World, Fox’s atrocious The Mick, and NBC’s forgettable Taken and Rise. I’ll miss the Ben Daniels and Alfonso Herrera-led Exorcist, but battling CBS’ rock solid Friday line-up, the Jeremy Slater-created horror series based on William Peter Blatty’s famed novel was extremely lucky to get a second season last year. Not gaining any ratings traction despite a smart reset last year, lacking the force of nature known as Empire co-creator Lee Daniels to preach its salvation, and as Fox prepares for a leaner scripted and NFL- juiced future, Exorcist was a dead man walking.
As Rupert Murdoch and sons move toward slicing off chunks of their media empire to the Walt Disney Company or maybe even long shot Hail Mary bidder Comcast, the Fox situation is somewhat unique in cancellation lore. On that lonely path, that the likes of The Last Man on Earth, Lucifer, The Exorcist, the winding up New Girl, and Nine-Nine have been force marched. as well as bubble surfers Lethal Weapon and Gotham, Fox is a network with an uncertain event horizon once all the regulatory hoops are leaped through.
These are business decisions that impact art and creativity as has been the case for centuries. But the hard reality is that while you or I may be losing a beloved show, there are people who lost their jobs today – a point that This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman took to social media to offer condolences for this afternoon:
A show gets cancelled and hundreds of people lose jobs, their work families, all of it. Years of 24-7 work ended w a phone call. Sucks. I’ve been there, too many times. The whiskey’s on me tonight, Hollywood.
Hey #Netflix be a hero and just pick up everything!
— Dan Fogelman (@Dan_Fogelman) May 11, 2018
Focus on that, and that for all the talk that networks, cablers and the streaming services love to declare about locking up talent, FBI drama Quantico, with an international superstar like Priyanka Chopra, was fatally on the unsentimental chopping block today after three less-than-stellar seasons. Like Designated Survivor, the Chopra-led series was an ABC Studios and Mark Gordon production, but the bottom line simply fell too hard to justify continuing, even with the reduced license fee of the stunted third season and healthy international sales.
Glacial in its approach and resolute in its much-viewed programming, CBS offered the least friendly fire this week. Having cast aside some shows like the scandal plagued Wisdom of the Crowd earlier this season, the House of Moonves still hasn’t made a final public call on if Scorpion, contemporary and always unsteady Sherlock Holmes series Elementary, or comedy 9JKL will be returning, though the latter does look pretty much over.
With the Season 11-ending The Big Bang Theory, the NCIS franchise, and Blue Bloods, which ends its eighth season tonight and will be back next year, each magnetizing eyeballs week after week, CBS has reserves to draw on if it wanted to give some of its lesser offerings another run. In or out of talks to meld back with Viacom, CBS also has its online All-Access service, which could provide a platform for no longer network- worthy series or, as was the case with The Good Wife’s The Good Fight, spinoffs.
Yes, there were a lot of deep cuts today and the days leading up to Black Friday. As tears and perhaps even careers are shed, recall that though the dogs may bark, the still-very-lucrative caravan known as broadcast television will move on – and a whole new set of shows will head to the gallows this time next year.
In the meantime, see you at the upfronts in NYC next week, when the future will be sold to us as all green lights, parking spaces and hits galore – until they’re not.