Mailbag: Why shows get canceled or moved

By Rich Heldenfels
Beacon Journal popular culture writer

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Simon Baker stars in The Mentalist. (Lance Staedler/CBS)

If it’s Thursday, this must be the mailbag.

Q: Who decides when some of the best series are to be canceled or moved to another night?

A: I’ll leave it you to decide what “the best series” are. But with scheduling, as a rule, the network airing a program decides when to cancel or move it. Among the factors playing into those decisions are ratings (particularly how well a show does with the audience advertisers want), the cost of the show, where it can help the network’s schedule the most, how it fits with other programs on the schedule, what else the network wants to put on, the age of the show and a larger relationship a show may have with a studio or a series creator.

If, for example, a network has four hit comedies on one night, it might move two of them to a different night in the hope that they will succeed there — and to open up time slots for new shows bracketed by the established ones. If a network is doing badly on one night, it might move an established hit there to improve its fortunes. Or, if a show is doing badly on a night, it might be moved to another time slot to see if it can find an audience there.

Then there are the relationships. Writer-producer Shonda Rhimes hit with Grey’s Anatomy, and it has at times served as the lead-in for other Rhimes shows, including Private Practice — which, to be sure, had spun off Grey’s — and Scandal.

Programmers do this knowing that some viewers, having gotten used to a show in a certain place, will complain. I have heard from several readers unhappy with The Mentalist’s move to Sunday nights. But CBS thought it made sense — because the show was already successful, because the network was dumping CSI: Miami on Sundays and needed something else to fill the slot, and because The Mentalist’s old time slot on Thursdays was then available for a new show, Elementary, which still resembled The Mentalist in the broad strokes. Viewers may also have forgotten that The Mentalist originally aired on Tuesday before being moved to Thursdays.

Still, the makers of shows, or their stars, may decide to cancel themselves before the network does so. The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Seinfeld are three classic comedies that ended while still popular. Former NBC executive Warren Littlefield’s book Top of the Rock says that NBC offered Seinfeld $5 million an episode — $110 million for a 22-telecast season — to continue. Seinfeld, sensing that the show was running out of ideas and that he was becoming too isolated because of all the time devoted to the show, still said no.

Q: I am a big fan of “Dexter.” The other night was the last show of the season — or was it the last show of the series? I really would like to know if it is going to return.

A: The Showtime series recently concluded its seventh season, and an eighth is due in 2013. But it appears that the eighth season will be the last. Executive producer Sara Colleton told TV Guide months ago that the ending is “definite. We wanted to end it this year (2012), but the network convinced us that it would be best to do it in two years. In some ways, this is a two-season series-ender. We have worked that out and know where it’s going to end.”

Q: I read that “Body of Proof” was renewed but I’m wondering when it will be back.

A: ABC has set its return for Feb. 5 but don’t expect exactly the same show you saw during its two previous seasons. Mark Valley and Elyes Gabel are joining the show, playing two police detectives, with Valley’s character also a former lover of Megan Hunt (star Dana Delany). Cast members John Carroll Lynch (who played detective Bud Morris), Sonja Sohn (Samantha Baker) and Nicholas Bishop (Peter Dunlop) are now gone. One producer told TVLine.com that “in trying to bring more eyeballs to our show, we wanted to change some of the dynamic and create new characters.”

Do you have a question or comment for the mailbag? Write to the Akron Beacon Journal, 44 E. Exchange St., Akron, OH 44309 or rheldenfels@thebeaconjournal.com. Please mark the email or envelope with “mailbag.” Letters may be edited for publication. Please do not phone in questions. Individual replies cannot be guaranteed.

Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and in the HeldenFiles Online blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Twitter and Facebook.


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