So Your Favourite Show Has Been Cancelled: DOs and DON’Ts for Surviving the Aftermath
It’s happened to all of us. We open our hearts to a new and exciting program, one with an intriguing premise and unique characters, and become its number one fan within weeks. We are shy at first, but soon enough we are writing AU fan-fictions and posting on forums like the rest of the hooked fan base. Quiet moments of the working week are spent contemplating possible story lines, character development and casting news, thoughts you can’t wait to share with your (probably bored) spouse/partner/pet. This is not to say the show is perfect, far from it, but any imperfections are felt tenfold, as if the writers and producers had physically gut-punched you with their inability to satisfy your increasingly detailed wishes and commands. Then, the unthinkable happens.
It starts slowly, with the show moving to a new time slot, usually late at night before the game-show repeats begin. Advertising drops off, and billboards disappear. The real death knell for the struggling program is, however, the last ditch attempts by fans to save the show. For every success (Chuck) there are ten failed bids for the continuation of ‘unpopular’ programs (Pan Am). Finally, after some belabored last gasps at 11:30 on a Wednesday night, the show disappears, never to be seen from again (except the DVD collectors edition). Perhaps the show was too expensive. Maybe the network thought it was ‘too edgy’ for the audience. Most likely though, it simply wasn’t popular enough. Big name networks tend to ignore the vast online presence of a large number of beloved shows (Parks and Recreation, anyone?), and look only at the Nielsen ratings, or whatever ridiculous and out-of-date system the nation uses to calculate ratings. If you are lucky, the creators will know long enough in advance so they can craft a satisfying series finale, but more often than not you will be left with a frustrating cliffhanger that will never be resolved.
This has happened to me more times than I wish to remember, so much so that I no longer watch series until I am sure they are given a second season pick up. I’ve been hurt too many times. I’m surprised Taylor Swift hasn’t written a song about the intensity of this heartbreak. However, there are ways of dealing with the pain. Below are some of the most common methods of working-through PTCD (Post-Traumatic Cancellation Disorder). Much like acne-treatments, antihistamines and country musicians, though, some are more useful to you than others. This is why I have organised the following list into DOs and DON’Ts. Enjoy!
Don’t Watch the Inevitable Remake
I loved Primeval.
The UK version was equal parts funny, tragic and romantic, with some truly awfultastic CGI thrown in. It’s true that the show has not been ‘officially’ cancelled, but its been years since the last series, so I assume the worst. Then, out of the blue, I see advertisements for something called Primeval: New World. A semi-sequel to the program, it has a whole new cast, but featured an appearance by my favourite character from the original. It is like a faint glimmer of light appearing in the darkness (not to exaggerate). I eagerly Googled the program, and immediately that light was snuffed out by the cold, wet hand of Canada.
Overseas remakes. Look, I’m not going to be all doom and gloom and say they never work, but they never work. Yes, The Office. Well done on naming one of the very few British made programs to translate well to American audiences. However, I argue that The Office (US) isn’t even close to The Office (UK). I like both, by the way, but I recognise key creative differences. After woeful reception of the first few mirror-image episodes, the US version made the premise its own and thus became a huge success. If a remake is the same message in a different font, The Office (US) is the same core idea, but written in a completely different language, new font, and in all caps.
When your show is cancelled, it is only natural to want to watch the remake. It will be the same characters, in similar situations. Surely you can stomach it being in a different accent? If that were all it was then I am sure you could, but we constantly underestimate our attachment to people and places. You might love Lady Cop Character UK, but the US version, even with the same lines, JUST ISN’T THE SAME. By no fault of the remaking nation, we compare their characters to the ones we already love; and they will come out worse every time.
Trust me, you are better off without those comparisons, at least in the months following the cancellation.
Do Watch Shows From the Same Producers/Creators/Actors
You didn’t really think I would make an article about cancellation and not mention Joss Whedon? While not the most maligned producer/creator in history, he does have a reputation for making excellent programs that only last one, maybe two seasons. His most recent effort, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, a flawed show that I nevertheless adore, started strong and is now hemorrhaging viewers, leading Whedonites like myself to have Vietnam-style flashbacks to Dollhouse.
An excellent and in-depth sci-fi series, Dollhouse suffered from indie-fanbase syndrome, whereby the nice families in nice houses with nice televisions that serve as the foundation of Nielsen ratings just didn’t tune in. Thus, cancellation. (Don’t you dare do this to S.H.I.E.L.D, networks. The show needs time to get rid of the irksome characters and focus more on Fitsimmons, May and Coulson.)
When the cancellation happens, however, it might serve you well to look through the backlog of works by its creator. You have no idea how many people I’ve talked to that bemoan the loss of Dollhouse and then, in the same breath, mention that they have never watched Buffy. It isn’t the case with all producers/writers (depending on who has creative control), but a great deal of them tend to gravitate toward similar genres. Whedon, for example, favours strong women, stylised but tasteful violence, and ripping your heart out with a smile. You won’t necessarily love everything they’ve done, but it might put you on a path to something you will adore. Think of them as rebound programs.
It also might be the case that the main reason you love a show is the actors. While Sherlock has is no way been cancelled (stand down, Cumbercookies), I’ve made my way through the excessively long hiatus by watching Cumberbatch, Freeman and Graves in their various small-screen outings. Watching the same actors won’t heal the wound, but it might soothe the burn for a while. Plus, applying a dose of Cumberbatch has never failed to assist in some small measure.
Don’t Listen to Gossip
Let’s pretend you have a partner called Sam (a nice androgynous name). You and Sam are very happy together, but one day the relationship falls apart. You are devastated, as Sam was perfect for you in every way, and now you feel like a little bit is missing from your daily life. Then, you hear from a friend the Sam might want you back. Nothing direct, of course, but just a rumour floating around. That gives you a little bit of hope, so you approach Sam directly. Sam doesn’t want you back. It was a rumour.
Sam is every single cancelled television show I have ever loved, minus Veronica Mars. There is always one rumour about a movie, or a sequel, or a prequel that gets your hopes up high for a continuation of your favourite show. Nine times out of ten, it is some teenager in his basement in Utah (Never been to Utah, I just assume this is where that teen lives) who is either A: disillusioned or B: a mindless troll. Even actors are not immune to this, as the fans of Ghostbusters know well, with Dan Akroyd repeatedly touting a sequel script that has never materialised.
It rarely pans out. Even if it does, like in the case of Arrested Development, (CONTROVERSIAL OPINION AHEAD), it won’t be the same. It might still be a good show, but what you loved died, no question about it. I have high hopes for the Veronica Mars movie, funded by Kickstarter and due for release in the new year, as it seems to have kept the essence of the characters we loved without turning them into stunted caricatures. Nevertheless, it won’t make up for the pain of cancellation, or the multitude of excellent story lines we missed due to the abrupt ending of the show. In addition, the movie could ruin your perception of a series, by turning beloved characters into villains (Mission Impossible) or killing them off (Serenity*. Whedon again).
Until the movie/stage production/comic book materialised, you’re better off closing your ears. Even when it does, tread lightly.
*Yes, it did take me this long to mention Firefly in an article about cancellation. I’m sorry, so, so sorry.
Do Enjoy Fan-made Works
I’m going to say it. I’m going to be brave. I love fan-fiction.
I think it represents something beautiful about the human race, in that if we are dissatisfied with the way in which something is handles, we push up our sleeves and do it again ourselves. I first encountered fan-fiction in my mid-teens, Harry Potter-induced haze. It was an instant hit with me, a person so opposed to Ginny Weasley that she had an issue with gingers for years. Even after Potter concluded, unsatisfactorily in my opinion, people still write the most amazing stories, focusing not only on the main characters but on those people and places rarely heard about, or only mentioned once. When a show is cancelled, this is my first port of call.
Let’s not gloss over a large reason for why fan-fiction and fan-art is popular: Shipping. Too many times, the creators of programs go for slow burn relationships that would work in the long run, but the audience never sees this because the show is cancelled. Allow me to be clear: I want my payoff. If you are going to be cancelled, you should wrap that romantic storyline up fast, lest you have hoards of angry women (and men) upon thy door. In addition, fan sites allow for the development of relationships you know they will never show on television, usually because they are deemed ‘too controversial’ (i.e homosexual or biracial). Many Merlin/Arthur fans (from the excellent BBC series Merlin) are thankful for the power of fan work to realise something that would have been great, but was never an option.
When your show is cancelled, that means there will be no more new episodes by the creators, but you would be surprised at how many excellent artists and authors there are out there who can not only finish the story well, but adapt and modify it so that it seems better than the original. There are duds, obviously, but no-one will treat a show with the same reverence is a true fan. Who knows, you might catch the creative bug and try some writing or drawing yourself!
Don’t Watch Similar Genres Immediately
So your favourite space-western has been put in the bin. Amidst the veil of tears and mucus that now covers your eyes, you realise that now you must choose a new program. Might I make a suggestion? Crime thriller. Sitcom. Historical drama. Anything that is the polar opposite of space-western (Underground . . . romantic comedy?)
The temptation is to find the most similar show you can and try and get into that, a desire that rarely evolves into anything positive. When I said that looking into other works by the director/producer was a good plan, I meant in terms of dialogue or thematic concerns, not an overall carbon copy. Think of it this way, if you (knock on wood) lost your beloved pet toy poodle Pringleton, a beautiful and kind pure white puppy, would you really want another white toy poodle(called Dinkleberg) immediately ? It will seem a pale imitation of Pringleton, and everything Dinkleberg-the-interloper does will be wrong, because he just isn’t the original. You are better off going for a lovable golden retriever, or yapping Chihuahua, or even a tabby-cat called Puddin’ Cup than trying to replace the original.
I tried to watch The Mentalist after I found out Psych was only going on for one more season. Big mistake. Both shows operate on the same basic premise, near-psychic everyman joining the police force to solve crime, but the approach is totally different. Psych is irreverent, uplifting, and packed with jokes, while The Mentalist is mired in depressing story lines and can’t escape the complicated in-series mythology. I should have known better, considering they aren’t marketed as generically similar, but it was the approach to the basic premise that annoyed me. The main character of The Mentalist was too ‘cool’, with Patrick Jane (as played by the gorgeous Simon Baker) gliding through intense situations with practiced, and unrealistic, ease. From what others have told me, The Mentalist is intensely enjoyable, but it is something I couldn’t appreciate from my Psych-based vantage point.
As a starting list for those who wish to branch out, I love Parks and Recreation, Game of Thrones, The Borgias, The IT Crowd, Chuck, Bones and Law and Order: SVU. These are all different genres, so there are plenty of new avenues to explore while you get over the cancellation. Given some time, you may want to go and look at similar programs, and since the loss (yes, dramatics) won’t be so recent, you won’t be so eager to find faults.
There we have it. The most common methods of coping with PTCD, and why they may or may not be a good way of dealing with the fallout. Eventually, you won’t even remember the show, if we are entirely honest, but it is perfectly reasonable to be sad and a little bit angry in the months succeeding the cancellation. Ultimately, nothing really makes up for the fact that you invested your time (and sometimes money) into a program that no longer exists, but the DOs here should give you a few ways to better handle the situation, and to keep that love alive.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
I am calling my future cat Puddin’ Cup now. 🙂
In all seriousness, this is a great article with brilliant sensible advice. Why cheapen your favourite storylines and characters with something that only looks similar? All those series you listed as suggestions for branching all have strong characters with strong actors, a sense of humour and good writing in common. That’s surely what we love most. 🙂
Full disclosure: That is my cat’s name. 100% truth.
I can’t agree more about ‘strong characters with strong actors, a sense of humour and good writing’. Regardless of genre, that’s going to be a good show:)
Will someone please tell me why Castle and Hawaii Five O remain on TV. Not one person in those shows know how to act. Both shows are pathetic. I am heartsick over CBS cancelling CSI NY and Vegas. They were classy shows.
I’ve never watches Castle of H5O personallt, but I’ve heard, at least in the case of the former, that there has been a steep decline in quality.
Fun article. Having been watching for a long time, cancellations of shows that only I liked has become commonplace (Doctor, Doctor, and one?)
It is when the show hits its stride too late to fend off the ax that I get bummed. Shows like Star Trek Enterprise were just getting good when it went ‘poof’!
Absolutely. Would it be so hard to at least give shows a full season? Sometimes it takes a while for a show to find its feet.
NBC ALWAYS CANCELS THE GOOD SHOWS AND KEEPS ON THE GARBAGE SHOWS. THATS WHY THEIR LAST IN THE RATINGS.
I AGREE. NBC MAKES ME ANGRY. YOU WON’T LIKE ME WHEN I’M ANGRY. CAPS LOCK.
I think the networks have come up with a (still) new method of trying to save face in the event a series fails.
They begin by call it a limited series and then watch and see how it is received.
If it is successful it may be renewed for a full order of episodes (18-24 depending) for the coming season. IF failing, they simply shrug and say, Well, it was never intended to be a (traditional) series.
The truth is, they can film a couple of last episode conclusions. They could write it so only the last fifteen minutes or so need to change.
This is the era of streaming services like Netflix. Goodbye TV 🙂
Great post! I feel like with people switching to Netflix, Hulu, etc. as their main source for televised entertainment is causing a lot of these good shows to go under because of “lack of ratings”. It’s a shame. The networks need a new metric for measuring the success of their shows, as those who watch them are often a season behind watching on Netflix.
That’s how I am at least, I don’t watch network t.v. anymore, I don’t have cable. All I watch is what is offered by these media services. I enjoy shows like Fringe or Supernatural, but I’d rather watch them on Netflix at my leisure, over being in front of my t.v. at a certain time and date to catch it on the home network.
Absolutely. I do a lot of my work at night, so I like to watch my shows (that makes me sound old) during the day!
If Hannibal is not renewed, I will need to use this article as therapy.
Think it was renewed a while back. Can’t waiot for season two.
Yep, renewed. Lucky:)
I’m just glad the only show I’m currently following on TV, Orphan Black is renewed for season 2. And I’ll be waiting for the next seasons of Sherlock and Downton Abbey.
Need to get into ‘Veronica Mars’ before the movie comes out. Although, accompanying films almost always pale in comparison (I haven’t seen many. An example I can think of is ‘The Inbetweeners’. Movies just ruin the characters by forcing a 90-minute arc, whereas the shows are usually just about nothing. Definitely agree with the ‘Don’t listen to gossip’ point. I want more ‘Party Down’, probably not a movie (but, I will watch it regardless), even though I know it is unlikely that it will ever happen, as the actors are going on to better things (i.e. Lizzy Caplan in Masters of Sex, Adam Scott, Jane Lynch in Glee). Fingers crossed. Great article.
Veronica Mars had the best first season of television I have ever seen. Personally, I think that the quality slipped in the second season in terms of narrative and then took a steep dive in the third season. I am still excited for the movie, though!
Favorite line because it’s so damn true (although you forget to mention friends as a source of bored loved-ones): “Quiet moments of the working week are spent contemplating possible story lines, character development and casting news, thoughts you can’t wait to share with your (probably bored) spouse/partner/pet.” Great article!
Great Article! Very Humorous and so true! So many shows that are cancelled end on a cliffhanger, I watched Alphas and their was no wrap up to the end of that, haven’t watched firefly yet though I need to. I think the fact that I know it will end after one season is what has held me back.
I know- you know it is fantastic, but knowing there is so much left unexplored is difficult to handle.
Oh, the nostalgia! One barely survived the cancellation of Baywatch.
The Jar Jar of SHIELD? That’s a bit harsh, isn’t it? Skye is better than some Mary Sue type and look, they didn’t even set her up with Grant!
Yet. I just think she is the audience exposition character taken too far. She seems smarmy and entitled rather than inquisitive.
Now this article was EXACTLY what I needed to read right now. I haven’t been watching a show that’s been cancelled as such, but I just finishing watching Death Note and feel a gapping, Light-shaped hole in my chest. Onwards and upwards we go!
Is Dr Who the exception that proves the rule on not watching the enbatable remake ?
Tough question! I guess I never thought of the 2005 version as a remake, more of a continuation. It does merit some thought though.
Love this! Oh man, I have had this conversation with people so many times I was pretty sure, while reading this article, we were the same person for a second there, but we’re not. And I’ve been a victim of DOing the Dont’s and DONTing the Do’s. Sigh. It just makes life harder. These are amazing coping techniques. Thank you.
Brilliant article, which hits right home for me as I currently have withdrawal symptoms for the shows that have been withdrawn from my television screen! All I have to say is lucky we’re not stuck in the 90s: thank you laptop screen, which still allows me to watch my favourite shows!
Funny article! Also I can totally relate to it as I am still heartbroken from the cancellation of Outsourced –the funniest show ever.
Of all the worthy causes I find myself signing up to on change.org, none felt more rewarding than the ‘Bring Back Ripper Street’ campaign.
I love that show. Hits me right in the feels.
As a huge Downton Abbey fan I found that converting to the Mr Selfridge series earlier this year made up for the lack of historical drama in my life; however I can see how converting to similar genres of TV series can completely ruin the seeming originality which first captured you. It is often the case that I tend to find similarities between two characters and merge them together in my hope to cope with the loss of one show – not a good idea! Branching out into other genres broadens your interests as well as introducing to a whole new load of characters. So now I can look forward to the TV series’ in their own right rather than my exaggerated preconception of them.
Unfortunately, I think nearly everyone can relate to this article. I know I’ve certainly fallen into that unbreakable cycle of desperate rumour chasing and fanfic binge reading before. It never ends well.
I’ve never actually considered trying to steer clear of similar genres when you’re in post-show withdrawal, but now that you’ve mentioned it I can retrospectively see that it might have helped me to avoid some very unsatisfactory media experiences in the past; I will definitely keep the advice in mind for the future!!
Sometimes I actually wish shows could end a little sooner and that may be a problem with television sometimes; the networks are always looking how much they can squeeze out of a show (AMC splitting the final season of both BB & Mad Men, or anything Sons of Anarchy has done in the past 3 or 4 years) simply because ratings are good or they have a “signature” show.
Shortening the number of seasons to programs may be a cure for quality. I don’t care for American Horror Story but there seems to be something to the anthology thing and I’m excited to see how HBO does with True Detective.
By the way, love Parks & Rec… Brooklyn 99 may be the new Parks & Rec after Leslie Knope leaves us, so I’m glad it’s getting the slot after the Super Bowl (same creators, very similar feel).
Firefly aside (because let’s face it, there’s no getting over that one really), I’m still nursing grievances over the cancellations of Happy Endings and Warehouse 13. Admittedly the latter is getting a last season of six episodes with which to wrap things up, but I’ll mourn it anyway.
Why cancel Happy Endings? It was consistently funny and had okay if not great ratings. I like New Girl, but I don’t see why that is on the air but H.E isn’t.
Psych is my favorite television show! I’m going to have to follow your advice now that it only has one more season. I’ll probably give fan fiction a try?
Psych fanfic isn’t very prolific, but there are a few good ones! At least we are going to get closure!
This Is Such A Good Article!!! It Captured Exactly How I Felt When My Favourite Shows Have Been Cancelled.
PS. Too Many To Name.
Isn’t that the way? I miss Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.
It had the misfortune of being in competition with 30 Rock. I like both, and Studio 60’s cancellation was yet another example of a great show against another great show, and networks not knowing what to do.
Firefly was perhaps one of the most painful cancellations. When a show is just THAT GOOD, HOW??? I’m still mad. Getting the movie to tie it up was a great gift and I’m glad it’s happening to Veronica Mars now.
There’s quite a bit of cope here. I would simply read a book or do something productive personally if I had such an issue here.