(Editor’s Note: Due to a wrong draft of this article being posted on November 30, this piece was re-posted and updated as the original contained numerous grammatical and factual errors. You expect a high-quality product coming from T Dog Media and will work to ensure you this mix-up will not happen again. Thank you. – T.H.)
In an era where fans are now left guessing about the fate of their favorite shows for months on end, CBS two weeks ago announced two sitcoms – the revival of Murphy Brown and newcomer Happy Together are ending their runs after thirteen episodes.
But you might want to refrain from pouring a forty on the street corner eulogizing the two sitcoms as they may not be done – yet.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, CBS announced Murphy and Happy would end their runs after their initial seasons, being replaced in midseason by new comedy Fam on Thursdays beginning on January 10 and by the return of Man With A Plan on Mondays beginning February 4, respectively.
On November 29 however, Murphy creator Diane English said in a tweet the show wasn’t canceled and is still being considered for a second season of thirteen episodes. She also said fans would have to wait until the spring – specifically the May upfronts – if they would make the 2019-20 CBS schedule.
This means if you re a fan of either show, you’ll have to wait six long months to find out if your show will be back for a second season.
There is precedent for this – last season, ABC aired the critically panned and low-rated Inhumans, an eight-episode series who wrapped up its run in late November. But despite the obvious pink-slip, fans had to wait six months for its fate to be determined, with these decisions being made days before the upfronts.
Last spring, this blog railed against the practice of the broadcast networks cancelling so many shows in a three-day period after ABC took so long to officially cancel Inhumans even after it was a foregone conclusion. Nineteen shows were canceled in 24 hours as one headline screamed – showing so little respect for fans of some of these programs. I wrote: “The headlines we see about “20 shows canceled in 24 hours” makes the industry look bad and you wonder why the network television business is no longer respected. Look, network television is losing viewers – especially younger ones year after year and this “collusion”- type stunt a measly three days a year hurts the credibility of the major networks and the TV business in general – especially when cable networks and streaming services and even syndicators make renewal/cancellation decisions year-around.”
“Fans of these shows and the people who work on them – whether behind the camera or in front of – deserve better. Tugging along their heartstrings just to build some phony drama before upfronts is crass and cruel.”
And it looks like the major broadcast networks are repeating this again come May as they one-up another in a game of chess as thus far, no series has received an official cancellation – not even the very low-rated Alec Baldwin Show, which was moved to Saturday nights on December 8.
Ironically, the only cancellations this fall were from shows from other networks and/or streaming services, with Netflix cancelling Marvel dramas Iron Fist and Luke Cage. The broadcast networks did cancel some shows recently, but basically summer replacement series such as Nine Lives and Salvation and NBC dropping Megyn Kelly from Today after controversial comments about blackface.
The networks were hesitant about announcing cancellations outside of the upfronts for the last few years: in 2013, there was confusion on whether Fox canceled The Cleveland Show. In 2015, I wrote a piece about the major networks stalling over fates of shows due to a fear of backlash, playing games with viewers in the process.
Both Murphy Brown and Happy Together have underperformed in the ratings. Murphy has averaged around a 0.9 rating in the adult 18-49 demo on Thursday nights while Happy Together has also earned a 0.9 rating and lost a significant amount of its lead-in from The Neighborhood on Monday nights.
But much like scripted series’ obsession with cliffhangers, the broadcast networks now want you to wait until May for the fate of your favorite shows as they use a three-day period – and you wonder why viewers are abandoning network prime-time television as overall ratings continue to drop. Sadly, network executives – and Madison Avenue – still don’t get it in a business that continues to die with every passing day.