Losing a favorite TV show isn't the end of the world. So why do we act like it's exactly that?
It’s Pink Slip Season for TV actors, showrunners and all the hard-working folks behind the scenes.
The past week saw dozens of shows get the very bad news. They won’t be coming back in the Fall. Here’s just a sampling of the programs heading to the broadcast graveyard:
- “Designed Survivor”
- “Superior Donuts”
- “The Brave”
- “The Mick”
- “The Last Man on Earth”
- “Brookyn Nine-Nine”
Except the latter show got a reprieve. NBC swooped in and announced it will air new episodes of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” come Fall. That comedy proved the exception (so far).
So how did the public react to the news? Suffice to say not very well. Viewers flooded entertainment sites with their emotionally charged complaints. Those sites, in turn, treated the cancellations with all the gravity of a mid-term election.
Every year dozens of shows either get canceled at spring’s end or never make it that far. TV history is littered with shows which got the heave ho in record time. The 2013 drama “Do No Harm” made it all the way to episode 2 before NBC pulled the plug on it. We didn’t collectively freak out after hearing the news.
So what changed? The following seven reasons help explain why seeing a TV show bite the dust feels like a personal affront in 2018.
1. Those Neverending Stories
Older television shows followed a tried and true formula. They began a story at the start of an episode and wrapped it up in the final minutes. Nice. Tidy. You could set your watch to “The Love Boat” and how it capped each episode’s love stories. At 52 minutes after the hour it was time for love, exciting and new (again).
Now, many shows embrace a longer narrative. Storylines that begin today may extend for weeks, months … even years. The technique allows for richer, more nuanced storytelling. it also keeps us coming back for more. A show’s cancellation can mean the sudden end of a story we’ve been tracking for some time. That hurts.
2. Too Many Shows Get a Second Chance
Remember when Fox called it quits on “Family Guy?” The show came back to life in 2005, and it’s still going strong. It recently celebrated its 300 episode.
That was novel back in 2005. Not anymore.
Shows routinely get a second lease on life. “The Mindy Project” bounced from FOX to Hulu. Older shows like “Roseanne” and “The X-Files” came back due to pent-up demand from loyal viewers. “Longmire” jumped from AMC to Netflix.
The advent of streaming channels makes it easier than ever for a canceled show to get a second chance. So when a TV show gets canceled now it’s only normal for fans to expect another outlet to swoop in for the rescue. And they suspect the more noise they make, the better the chances of a last-minute revival.
3. We’re So Easily Outraged
A culture that takes umbrage in a Chinese-inspired prom dress will lose its cool over just about anything.
4. Remember That Burger King Motto?
To paraphrase Mick Jagger, “You can always get what you want…”
Today’s consumer watches TV on massive flat screen sets that dwarf the models we were weaned on. They select when they’ll start and stop their favorite shows, regardless of any network programmer. And, as is often the case with streaming services, they’ll watch as many new episodes as they please back to back if time permits.
We’re so used to “having it our way” we rebel against the notion of a channel interrupting our viewing patterns.
5. Media Mourn Along with Us
Every major Hollywood news outlet carried all the latest show cancellations. And, along with it, any outrage the reporters’ sensed on social media as a result. It’s one reason “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” got such a swift reprieve. NBC likely sensed the social media uproar, read all the subsequent headlines, and figured it made good sense to save the show.
Fans and media outlets alike spread the news about the various cancellations with a sense of despair that was oddly … similar.
6. Niche Shows Have a Pull on Us
The fairly new saw says “there’s riches in the niches.” Today’s shows often speak to much smaller audiences than ever before. The days of mega hits in the “Seinfeld” mold are mostly gone. That leaves smaller, more devoted audiences for the surviving programs.
When those shows bite the dust, the attachment felt by their modest followings is intense.
7. We Watch Our Favorite Shows Everywhere
When “Seinfeld” left NBC we collectively mourned, and for good reason. It was (and remains) one of the best TV comedies of all time. Only we watched it faithfully from our living rooms, bedrooms and that was mostly it.
Today, we carry our favorite shows along with us on our tablets and iPhones. We watch them at the gym, in the car and even on airplanes thanks to the wonder of downloadable content.
So when a show is canceled it breaks the bond we have with it across media and viewing stations. That makes the loss more meaningful.