Television in Review: 2011-2012 Series Cancellations and Renewals

It’s that time of year again – when television networks have to make that final decision: which shows stay and which get the ax? After all, we have to make room for the new (hopefully amazing) pilots rolling into the studios. [Click here to check out the current list of cancellations, renewals, and pilot pick-ups.] Of course, Neilson ratings have a big hand in this decision, which often results in some shows getting cancelled in spite of their small, yet die-hard, fan bases.

This year, several networks have made some decisions that have many fans sitting back scratching their heads – and, in some cases, sharpening their pitchforks – and right now, the CW is probably at the forefront. For instance, we look at The Secret Circle and The Ringer – both of which, granted, had a bit of a slow start. However, once they got going – they really took off. Their cancellations ignited a war, and these days, nothing shows fan bases like social media. Both The Secret Circle and The Ringer hit Twitter as a world-wide trending topic within an hour of the CW’s announcement of cancellation. [Personally, with the online-streaming deal the CW has with Netflix and Hulu, I think they could have given them another shot in the Fall.]

Meanwhile, Gossip Girl got renewed solely on the basis of seniority – despite the huge number of fans commenting on its downward spiral [myself and other writers here at HRC among them]. Fortunately, Gossip Girl was only granted a shortened season – only 11 episodes – supposedly just long enough for the writers to give it a proper send-off. Another surprising renewal was Hart of Dixie, which is somewhat cliche and fairly uneventful – especially when compared to CW’s other shows.  These strange decisions aside aside, in one wise move on the part of CW, both Supernatural and The Vampire Diaries got their well-deserved renewals for next season.

Missing and The River have been dropped from ABC’s lineup – much to the aggravation of some serious fans. Also, ABC’s GCB – a new mid-season pick-up with a sardonic, outrageously comedic outlook on Texas living starring Kristin Chenoweth – seems to be another one that’s getting dropped just when it was beginning to hit its stride.

ABC’s popular competetive gameshow Wipeout is still up in the air – which is strange considering it’s a better reality-style comedy than some of ABC’s already-renewed shows  – like Wife Swap [honestly, I didn’t even know that show was still being made – how many different variations of household swaps can you do before it gets repetitive?].

CBS probably has the highest renewal list so far, having only cancelled a few shows – A Gifted Man, CSI: Miami, Rob, and How To Be a Gentleman among them. Although, as they’re running high-rated shows such as 2 Broke Girls, Big Bang Theory, and How I Met Your Mother, this really doesn’t come as a surprise.

NBC and Fox networks’ cancelled/renewed ratio are both fairly even. Fox’s long-standing medical show House and new-comer prison series Alcatraz didn’t make the cut, but it’s hard to stand up to comparisons with New Girl, Saving Hope, and Bones – all of which are surviving to see another season. NBC (home of hits such as The Office, 30 Rock, and The Voice) pulled Best Friends Forever (BFF), before it’s first season even finished. They are also, understandably, giving their new show Are You There, Chelsea? the boot. Trying to bank on Chelsea Handler’s huge following fell through – not surprising considering Chelsea wasn’t the star of that show. [Not that there’s anything wrong with Laura Prepon (famous for playing Donna on That 70’s Show), but she’s no Chelsea Handler.]

Meanwhile, other long-running shows, such as One Tree Hill (CW) and Desperate Housewives (ABC) have reached their finales after years – and a hundred plus episodes – of air time. While these shows are going to be missed, we all know that keeping shows running indefinitely is an impossible task. Eventually, you just run out of story to keep things interesting without being repetitive [not to mention the actors and actresses can’t be expected to remain ageless].

However, though both had a good run, there will always be fans that aren’t ready to let go, and these shows were no exception. Eight to nine years is a long time for a television show – unless you’re a cartoon sitcom [like The Simpsons or Family Guy – both renewed (on Fox), by the way, to no one’s surprise] or a criminal show [such as CSI (of CBS), renewed for a 13th season] that can manage stand-alone episodes that don’t rely on an over-arching plot.

Again, an important thing to keep in mind is how much the Neilson rating system affects these decisions. With the age that we’re living in right now, however, many are beginning to wonder if Neilson is outdated. With instant streaming and [granted, illegal] downloading so common, it might be time to consider a new way of tracking a show’s viewership and advertising.

Looking at entertainment sites, such as GetGlue [where viewers check into shows to earn “stickers”], the top trending shows are often in sharp contrast to Neilson ratings. Of course, this could be due to a generation gap as the targeted audiences for the younger, more technologically savvy, generations (around the 18-35 age range) are often the highest trending shows on that site.

At any rate, rarely do we have a cancelled show that doesn’t leave at least a few viewers disheartened, but sometimes it’s just a necessity. Of course, it is also possible for one or two of these cancelled shows to get picked up by another network [such as Cougar Town, which is making the move from ABC to TBS], although, granted, that option is unlikely as most networks are reluctant to pick up someone else’s failing television series. However, the end of May is fast approaching. This means it’s time for network upfronts, which, as a key time for networks to draw in advertisers, means anything is possible. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if any of our favorites can manage to get resurrected.

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