“Cleveland Show”: In or Out?

The Cleveland ShowIs it in or out?

That’s what many in the industry were asking Wednesday when word surfaced The Cleveland Show was canceled.

However, Fox strongly denied this assertion.

As tweeted by yours truly April 14, a TAG Animation Blog post (a blog for union animation personnel) stated Cleveland was out of production after a source visited Fox Animation Studios a little over a week ago. The source noted Seth MacFarlane’s other two shows (American Dad and Family Guy, the show Cleveland was spun-off of ) were happily humming along.

On Wednesday, TV Line’s Michael Ausiello reported The Cleveland Show was canceled, due to the TAG report. A few in the industry questioned the validity of the source and hours later, a Fox spokesperson denied the report, stating no decision has been made on the fate of The Cleveland Show.

Displaying typical Fox arrogance, the spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter “only Fox can dictate whether a show has been canceled.” Remember, this is the same network who jerked us around over WFLD-TV 9 p.m. news anchor Robin Robinson’s contract renewal status last year, so its no surprise Fox management would do the same with The Cleveland Show.

The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers, and MacFarlane’s two other shows were renewed last year, given their long lead time to produce animation (typically between six and nine months), but there was no announcement on Cleveland’s fate. However, Fox did clarify they were not ordering any additional episodes “for the time being”.

Ratings for Cleveland have declined significantly over the last two seasons, with the most recent original episode airing on April 14 averaged a 1.1 adult demo rating, compared to a 1.5 for a April 29, 2012 episode (the only original Cleveland to air in April 2012.) Cleveland was the weak cog in Fox’s Animation Domination lineup and was bounced around the Sunday schedule like a beach ball; it seemed like The Cleveland Show had a new time slot every week.

Cleveland premiered on September 27, 2009 and was critically panned throughout its entire run, often becoming the butt of jokes – even from MacFarlane himself. Given the numerous Family Guy cast member cameos over the years (not to mention importing those famous cutaways), Cleveland never found its own voice and never stood on its own, with critics referring to the show as a “black Family Guy”. The show became more and more unwatchable.

Fox already has ordered a new animated series titled Murder Police, which is expected to land the plush spot between Family Guy and The Simpsons this fall.

The Fox spokesperson pointed out series have pulled before only to return at a later date, citing Family Guy and King of the Hill as examples. However, Family Guy was outright canceled – twice, while Hill remained in the production through its fall 2006 hiatus. But there is precedent: in 2001, Fox dropped nighttime soap opera Pasadena after four episodes, but was never officially canceled. NBC never officially canceled Deal Or No Deal when the game show left the network’s primetime schedule in 2009, leaving open the possibility of bringing it back to fill the schedule as a utility player (Deal hasn’t returned to NBC since.) Oddly, NBCUniversal Television Distribution did officially cancel the syndicated version of Deal after two seasons in 2010.

Recently, ABC announced it was pulling ultra low-rated Don’t Trust The B—- in Apartment 23, while CW yanked similarly low-rated Cult off the schedule – both nets carefully avoided using the dreaded “C” word in their releases while others in the press  went on and said their shows were “canceled” since the writing was on the wall, anyway. In other words – the nets just don’t want to admit when they failed with a show.

And you wonder why the broadcast networks become more and more irrelevant with each passing day.

Meanwhile, Cleveland wraps up its fourth season on May 19, and with a total of 88 episodes, heads into off-network syndication, sold to TBS and Adult Swim. Cleveland was also sold to local broadcast stations with a start date of September 16, but no clearances have been announced.