Why Do Great Comedy Series Get Cancelled
I’ve seen too many hilarious tv shows getting canceled to not get curious about the reasons behind it. I’m talking about the shows that receive super positive reviews from the viewers, but still get cancelled. And there are probably so many more hilarious pilots that didn’t get picked up and we don’t even know about them. So i started my research, and picked Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared and Arrested Development as my test examples. Even Seinfeld, the most successful tv show of all time, was barely saved from cancellation after its first season.
The obvious reason for networks cancelling these excellent tv shows were low ratings. And low ratings were mostly caused by networks changing their time slots. When these tv shows didn’t seem to attract enough viewers, networks treated their promotion poorly, and shows ratings got even worse until they got canceled. So it is kind of similar to chicken and the egg problem. Undeclared even went off-screen for a month or two, and when it returned, it never had same ratings. So i think the networks are the problem. They should listen to the critics and when show is well liked, should focus on marketing it much actively than other poorly rated tv shows. Especially if a show is Emmy and golden globe winner like Arrested Development. David Cross, who played Tobias in Fox series, has put it perfectly : if you can’t get audience for golden globe-winning show, you should probably fire your whole marketing crew and get new one.
And main reason for watching comedies is to have a good time, but it’s not the only way. If you ever go ice fishing, you’ll need decent ice auger, and you can’t find those without reading the reviews.
Rarely, the problem is that show is too complicated for average viewer, which also happened in Arrested Development’s case. The running gags and subtle jokes were funny as hell, but even i didn’t catch most of them until i re-watched the series for second time. While on the other hand, more broadly popular tv shows have laugh tracks, which kind of serve as reminders to laugh. I personally hate them, but they seem to work well for gaining wide audience.
Even creators of Seinfeld, who took the world of comedy by storm, had to give up a lot of creative control to keep the series alive. Originally it was intended to be one camera comedy, but it was changed to three-camera and laugh tracks were added. Although Larry David, Executive producer of seinfeld, still got to make one camera comedy – Curb Your Enthusiasm. And it’s hilarious – if you haven’t watched it, i highly recommend it.
Seinfeld was saved by guy who wasn’t even working in sitcoms but in variety and specials. He saw the potential that experienced NBC executives missed. So experience can sometimes work against you – it can keep you from appreciating original ideas, the ones who don’t comply with what worked before.