It’s always a little disappointing when your favorite show is ripped from the TV programming schedule like a wand from a magician. Even when the media makes a forward announcement of upcoming cancellations, it’s hard for us to get used to the idea that our beloved stories and characters have gone for good.
Very often, the axing of a show is down to viewer numbers. After all, drops in audience figures are usually the death sentence for shows of all sorts, regardless of genre, and it’s sometimes difficult for audiences to comprehend why, especially when a specific niche works for them. Very often, a program that seems to fit all the bills of subjective entertainment, returns viewing figures akin to a Lib-Dem conference roll-call.
Admittedly, on occasion, it isn’t the viewing figures that cut a show down but cast or crew issues, conflicts, infighting, and bad reviews. After all, TV programs, films, and stage plays have all fallen foul over the years to disagreements in-house, which have gotten bad enough to impact performances (Charlie Sheen’s departure from Two and a Half Men was seated in prior “erratic behavior” on-set). In the end, despite fans’ chagrin, the world of show business is just that — a business — and the men and women behind the camera are the ones who call the shots, for good or for bad.
Let’s take a look at how the axing of 15 great shows caused fans’ consternation and surprise.
Written by David Milch and sporting a plethora of big names, including Ian McShane, Deadwood was an American television series set in the old western. Set on the harsh plains of the 1870s, it aired from 2004 to 2006 with 36 episodes in total. It gained massive popularity and was received well by critics. All of this made HBO’s decision to ax the show even more surprising; yet, the old chestnut of budgeting was gleaned as the reason for the show being “an expensive shoot” and consequently closed.
Milch himself has campaigned for the reinstatement of production and a “save our show” campaign came with the suggestion that “HBO subscribers cancel their paid subscriptions following the airing of the last episode of the third season.” Fighting talk indeed, but when you consider the show was “regarded as one of the greatest TV dramas of all time,” it’s quite possibly something worth fighting for.
14. Arrested Development
Originally aired on Fox between 2003 and 2006, Arrested Development is an American sitcom following the fictitious Bluth family, “formerly wealthy and habitually dysfunctional.” Created by and starring Mitchell Hurwitz, the show also featured Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, and others. The series was received extremely favorably by critics and audiences, winning six Primetime Emmy Awards and one Golden Globe. Despite its cult following and happy audiences, Fox axed the show due to low viewing figures.
The show’s end caused great consternation. In a Radio Times article in 2013, even the cast of the show said of Fox, “We spent over half the existence of that show going into work every day not knowing whether it was our last day.” Fortunately, a new season was taken up by Netflix and released in 2013. Take that Fox!
Even Joss Whedon — yes, the Joss Whedon — he of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fame, is seemingly not impervious to nonsensical whim at the hands of TV execs. That’s right. The genius that wrote and directed the whole frickin’ Marvel Cinematic Universe glue (aka The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron) couldn’t keep Firefly on TV — not even to complete its first and only season!
When a storyline is proposed that involves a gang of humans colonizing planets after being on the losing side of a civil war, you’re expecting to be in for the long-haul. Unfortunately, despite its devoted fan base, the ratings were disappointing throughout the short-lived run, and Fox canceled the show after just 11 episodes.
Fortunately for fans, Firefly was given a proper send-off via the movie Serenity, which picked up where the final episode left off. At least they were able to get some closure — which is a lot more than can be said for most others on this list — even if the desire for more Firefly still burns strong today.
Starring Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy, Linda Gray, Josh Henderson, Jesse Metcalfe, and Jordana Brewster and developed by screenwriter Cynthia Cidre, this is the 2012 remake of the vastly popular 1978 soap opera. With a generally positive reception, the show ran for three seasons, but numbers quickly dwindled following its reschedule-to-winter broadcast. By the time producers decided to return it to the summer, it was dying a death.
On hearing the news, fans literally protested. A petition received by US network TNT contained 86,000 signatures; cast members also jumped in to save Dallas, and Twitter was once again sounding the alarm: “@realDonaldTrump Right first job being President is to #BringBackDallas !!!!” “#SaveDallas #BringBackDallas we the fans should try and find out how much would it take to get Dallas back and start a go fund me page,” “We’re Dallas fans and that makes us unbeatable.”
11. Veronica Mars
American teen noir mystery drama Veronica Mars was written by author and screenwriter Rob Thomas. It aired first on UPN in 2004 and starred, among others, Kristen Bell, Francis Capra, and Tina Majorino. The show was a critical success; however, as Mars spun into its third season, many fans felt that it was becoming “disappointing” and lacked innovative storylines.
In the end, tumbling viewing numbers were to blame for its axing in 2007. However, Kelly West, writing for Cinema Blend at the time speculated that UPNs successor, The CW network, failed to correctly push the promotion of the show to audiences, saying that The CW “was trying to sell the show to the wrong audience.” Fans knew they’d lost something good and were particularly inventive with their own campaign to bring the show back, including flying a plane and a banner above network offices.
10. In the Flesh
BBC Three supernatural drama In the Flesh was created by Dominic Mitchell and stars Luke Newberry and Emily Bevan. It follows the story of “reanimated” teenager Kieren Walker after the zombie apocalypse. The program first aired in 2013 to some critical misgivings, especially about the zombie aspect. However, critics soon warmed to it with Den of Geek’s Louisa Mellor calling some of the storylines “reflective” and set apart from clichéd apocalypse films. BBC Three axed the show because of the necessity to make cuts in its final televised year, according to the corporation.
Twitter was alive with demands for its reinstatement and the usual outpouring of venom: “So annoyed that @bbcthree have cancelled In The Flesh – it’s the best thing they’ve produced in years. #SaveInTheFlesh,” “I hate you, @BBCThree! #InTheFlesh was your best show! I hope #NetflixUK save it!”
Written by playwright Dennis Kelly and starring Fiona O’Shaughnessy, Adeel Akhtar, Alistair Petrie, and Neil Maskell, Utopia is a 2013 British Thriller broadcast on Channel 4. The show was critically acclaimed and won an international Emmy, but the ratings were dropping, prompting the broadcaster to pull the plug even prior to the resolution of some of the stories. Neil Maskell, who played Arby on the show, thinks the reason for the ratings drop was geographic. “It alienated viewers outside of the capital,” he told the Radio Times in 2015.
Meanwhile, fans were distraught and began campaigning (fruitlessly) on Twitter: “Can’t believe @Channel4 can afford £75 million for Bake Off but couldn’t give Utopia a final series to wrap up due to budget. #SaveUtopia.” “Accepting there is no season 3 of #utopia is still hitting like this today 😓.”
8. Dead Like Me
Written by American screenwriter Bryan Fuller and starring the likes of Ellen Muth and Mandy Patinkin, Dead Like Me is a comedy drama series about two female grim reapers working out of Seattle, WA. In the two years it ran, the show was nominated for eight awards, including an Emmy award for Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Series. However, according to reports, the Showtime network axed the show because they wanted to “clear some of [its] programming budget for newer projects.”
It was also speculated at the time that ratings had caused the plug to be pulled. However, creator Bryan Fuller had his own opinion on its demise after he abandoned the production five episodes into Season 1. He claimed a “lack of professionalism… made it really difficult… it was like being at war… they were constantly trying to strongarm me. It was the worst experience of my life,” according to a Media Village article in 2008.
7. The Fades
Written by Jack Thorne and starring Iain De Caestecker, Natalie Dormer, Joe Dempsie, and Tom Ellis, The Fades is a British supernatural drama televised on BBC 3. The show won a BAFTA in 2012 for best drama and was critically acclaimed for its “boldness and innovation.” Although running for a joyous six episodes and everyone seemingly on board, the Beeb cut the production dead claiming it didn’t “engage with young adults” and that its audience was “much older” than the 16-32 age bracket that the channel aimed to entertain. It looks as though a budget re-designation is to blame for this one.
Again, Tweeps were in full voice: “Honestly! The BBC have axed ‘The Fades,’” “What are you playing at BBC!? The dumbest decision ever,” “I LOVED #TheFades. Such a freaking great show. Still bitter they didn’t get a Series two.”
6. Pushing Daisies
American comedy-mystery Pushing Daisies first aired on ABC in 2007. Again written by Bryan Fuller and starring Lee Pace, Anna Friel, and Swoosie Kurtz, among others, the show follows the exploits of Ned (Lee Pace), a pie-maker “with the ability to bring dead things back to life with his touch.” The show was critically enjoyed and won 18 awards, including seven primetime Emmy awards. However, such accolades couldn’t prevent the show from being axed by the broadcaster after 22 episodes.
Fans were in disbelief at the news, which was announced to E-Online by Fuller in 2008. It seems the Writer’s Guild of America strike which took place 2007-2008 was to blame for a fatal hiatus in the show’s production with ABC then deciding to shelve the show entirely. That said, Fuller was already negotiating with DC Comics and movie producers to keep the show alive elsewhere.
5. The Coroner
Written and created by Sally Abbott and starring Claire Goose and Matt Bardock, among others, The Coroner is a British daytime drama. First aired in 2015, it arrived to positive reviews with an article in The Guardian calling it “an old friend already.” It follows the return of coroner Jane Kennedy to her childhood haunts of a fictional South Devon coastal town.
Yet, despite the program winning a Royal Television Society award, the BBC took the decision earlier this year to ax the show, claiming it was “look[ing] for opportunities to bring through new programs for the BBC1 daytime audience.” Fans were positively angry at this: “Madness not to renew #TheCoroner by BBC Daytime – fantastic cast, great scripts, amazing ratings. What more do you want?!” “BBC dropped another clanger, show too good for them,” “Awful decision. This was an excellent show! I’m really going to miss everyone.”
4. Home Fires
Created by screenwriter Simon Block and starring Francesca Annis, Samantha Bond, and Chris Coghill, Home Fires is another stunning British period drama about the Women’s Institute during the Second World War. First broadcast by ITV in 2015, the program received positive attention from the media and was critically successful. This is one of those that truly baffled fans because shortly after the final episode of the second season, ITV announced it had axed the show.
The decision, which was based on a need to “refresh the channel’s drama portfolio” left storylines undone and fans furious. To date, a petition of around 30,000 signatures has been levied. This time, even the Women’s Institute took to the streets to protest, and Twitter once again proved a valuable soap box: “We homefires fans aren’t going down without a fight #homefires,” “6,000,000+ viewers outraged Pls don’t ignore us! We want season 3.”
The Telegraph online reported in March of this year that one of the mainstays of British light entertainment was about to be lost forever. Neighbours, broadcast in the UK since 1986, is rumored to be struggling in negotiations with Channel 5. A spokesperson for Channel 5 was reportedly quoted in The Sunday People as saying, “The renegotiation of the Neighbours Channel 5 deal has become very fraught and is in jeopardy. Channel 5 really want to keep the show.”
Fans are muted at the moment with one saying on Twitter, “I think Viacom need to realise how important @neighbours is in the UK! It’s an iconic soap that I’ve watched since birth #keepneighbours.” But the usual Twitter hashtag hasn’t exactly been dripping with bile. A change.org petition is ongoing but also hasn’t gained that much support. However, the show has a huge fan base and is watched by more UK-based viewers than its native Ozzies, so let’s watch this space.
2. Ripper Street
Written by Richard Warlow and starring the likes of Matthew Macfadyen and Adam Rothenberg, Ripper Street is a 2012 British mystery drama set in Victorian London. Its reception was generally positive although some erred on the side of caution when it came to too many gory scenes. However, when it was beaten to death and savagely mutilated by ITV’s “I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here,” BBC commissioners pulled the show unceremoniously.
The network axing caused a great amount of wailing among fans, and even actor Jerome Flynn, who plays DI Bennet Drake, urged the Beeb to reconsider the move. Tweeps added their voices to those of the cast. “Just watched the second last #RipperStreet – what an absolutely brilliant series. Will be sad to see it end,” “I’m seriously having issues with this! I feel dread about finishing S4 because I want to protect my heart. I love #RipperStreet!”
1. DCI Banks
Adapted from author Peter Robinson’s novels, DCI Banks is a British crime drama starring Stephen Tompkinson as DCI Alan Banks. The first episode, “Playing with Fire,” went out in the autumn of 2011 drawing around 4.5 million viewers. Generally, it was considered a success, but last year, ITV announced that it would not be commissioning any more series, with the familiar gambit of “seeking to continually refresh our drama portfolio.”
Understandably, most fans were shocked, and the cast, we can assume, just as much. The Twitter soapbox was busy but somewhat controversial, with one Tweep up in arms: “#ITV scrap another drama. This time DCI Banks. They’re as bad as the #BBC for not re-commissioning programmes the viewers watched.” Another was more sanguine: “Disappointed it’s been given the shove…but given what happened in the last few episodes, maybe not completely unexpected. #DCIBanks.”
Sources: geektown.co.uk, radiotimes.com, telegraph.co.uk, metro.co.uk