I’ve been covering the TV beat for 20 years and there’s one part of the job that never gets any easier.
Sometimes I have to break the shocking and gut-wrenching news to readers.
Yes, it’s painful when I have to inform someone that one of their beloved programs has passed on. Died. Pink slipped. Kicked to the curb. Axed. Canned. Canceled.
The cancellation of a series after one or two episodes (Emily’s Reasons Why Not, Anchorwoman) or 20 years (Gunsmoke, Law & Order) is always hardest on those who liked them and watched faithfully.
In the case of long-running hits such as MAS*H, Cheers, Frasier and Friends, their demise is almost like losing a family member. After all, they were welcomed into our living rooms each week for years and many viewers may have grown up watching them.
But the most frustrating cases are those programs that were on for a season or two, developed a loyal following (no matter how small) and were then unceremoniously cut by the network without warning.
That sort of ending rules out any chance for closure for loyal viewers. It’s a slap in the face and demonstrates every time that TV is, at its core, a business. If the network suits decide a series is a losing proposition and it ends without resolution, well, too bad.
The latest drama to receive such treatment was The Glades. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t receive an email or two from readers wanting to know when their favorite show is returning.
It’s not. A&E let it go quietly in August at the end of Season 4. It must have come as a surprise to the show’s producers because The Glades ended with seriously unresolved issues.
It’s not that The Glades was groundbreaking like The Sopranos or Breaking Bad, but it was pleasant enough and deserved a better end.
In what turned out to be the series finale, our hero, Detective Jim Longworth (Matt Passmore), gets shot twice in the chest just before his wedding to Callie (Kiele Sanchez).
Does he die? Do they live happily ever after? We’ll never know.
This wasn’t the same as the long-planned ambiguous ending to The Sopranos where we’ll never know whether Tony lived or died. The Glades finale was obviously a cliffhanger intended to be resolved in the next episode.
Imagine if Dallas never came back after 1980’s “A House Divided” episode. That’s the cliffhanger where J.R. (Larry Hagman) was plugged twice by an unknown assailant. Who Shot J.R.? Imagine if we never found out.
CBS (and a Screen Actors Guild strike) milked that cliffhanger for all it was worth, making America wait from March 21 to Nov. 21 to find out the culprit was J.R.’s sister-in-law and mistress Kristin (Mary Crosby).
No closure? It’s nothing personal, it’s just business.
Fox gets ax. A perfect example of the bottom-line nature of TV happened just last week when NBC finally pulled the plug on the struggling Michael J. Fox Show.
The network had given the series a rare full-season order of 22 episodes based solely on the popularity of sitcom veteran Fox. It was Fox’s first leading role since he left Spin City 14 years ago, after going public with his Parkinson’s disease diagnosis.
The comedy was considered a sure thing in the pre-season. It failed miserably.
A respectable 7.5 million curious viewers watched the premiere. Only 2.18 million stalwarts were still around after 15 episodes. It’s not known when (if at all) NBC will air the final seven episodes. Meanwhile, new episodes of Hollywood Game Night will fill the Thursday night void after the Olympics.
Psych ending. It will be a different matter for Psych, which had a nice eight-season run on USA. The network announced last week that the comedy/drama will gently close the doors after the March 26 episode.
At 9 p.m. that night, USA will broadcast the Psych After Show, a live interactive chat with the cast, including James Roday, Dule Hill and the show’s creator, Steve Franks. They will answer audience questions and feature favorite clips from the show.
That will be the very definition of closure for series fans.
Super numbers. For readers who keep score, the Super Bowl on Feb. 2 was the largest audience in American television history. Ever.
A total of 112.2 million watched Seattle put on a clinic, embarrassing Denver 43-8. I believe the game was jinxed from the beginning when Joe Namath flipped a premature coin toss.
It was 2-0 Seahawks after 12 seconds and went downhill from there. That didn’t keep folks from staying tuned in.
Last year (Ravens vs. 49ers) only had 108.4 million viewers, but there was a half hour power failure during the game that probably cost ratings.
Not everybody was watching football. On a night of reruns from everyone else, PBS boldly aired a new episode of Downton Abbey. It welcomed 6.8 million viewers - down from the previous week, but slightly more than average.
The TV Column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Weekend, Pages 32 on 02/13/2014
Print Headline: Cancellations sans warnings leave fans hanging