CBS cancels “The Millers”

Millers1_434x250 The sophomore season’s surprise cancellation leaves the sitcom genre in a tailspin

In a surprise move, CBS on Friday canceled The Millers just five episodes into its second season. The multi-cam comedy, which had The Big Bang Theory as a lead-in on Thursday night last season, recently made a disastrous move to Monday.

Replacing The Millers in its Monday time slot beginning on Dec. 8 is the return of Mike & Molly, which begins its fifth season.

Set in suburban Washington D.C., the series stars Beau Bridges, Margo Martindale, and Arrested Development’s Will Arnett, and was about a 42-year old news anchor (Arnett) whose mom moves in with him after her 43-year old marriage comes to an end, while his dad moves in with his sister. This season saw former Will & Grace star Sean Hayes being added to the cast.

The Millers aired Monday night with an original, its sixth episode of the season, but it is unknown when the other five episodes would air, though its likely they may be burned off next summer.

While cancelling The Millers nearly midway into its second season is unusual, it is not uncommon for veteran series to abruptly end before the season concludes. ABC canceled 9 to 5 shortly into its third season in October 1983, after two non-productive seasons (based on the 1980 film of the same name, the series would be later revived for first-run syndication in 1986.) Rhoda bit the dust in December 1978, midway during its fifth season after falling into the Nielsen ratings basement. NBC canceled Bonanza during its fourteenth season, in January 1973.

According to Nielsen, The Millers averaged around a 1.5 adult demo (18-49) rating so far this season, down considerably from its 2 Broke Girls lead-in. In its original Thursday slot following Big Bang, Millers earned significantly higher ratings (near a 3.0) but also lost a significant amount of its lead-in.

CBS hoped it would cash in on syndication riches as it was the only sitcom on the schedule owned entirely by the network. The Millers attracted star talent behind the scenes, including Greg Garcia (Yes Dear, My Name Is Earl) and director James Burrows (Cheers).

But at the end of the day, the oft critically-panned show didn’t live up to expectations.

The cancellation of The Millers is bad news for the syndication marketplace, where product is drying up faster than a front lawn in Tinley Park. The number of sitcoms over the last decade have dropped considerably due to the success of reality TV and dramas, which are easier to sell internationally.

And station groups such as Tribune, Fox, and others have opted to fill early fringe and prime access with news and first-run shows – slots that once went to off-net sitcoms. For example, Fox-owned WPWR airs four back-to-back episodes of Family Feud every weeknight from 5 to 7 p.m.

That’s right, Charles is no longer In Charge. Steve Harvey is.

L14A8332.DNGIn a rather odd (and funny) circumstance, when Variety reported on The Millers’ cancellation on Friday, they accidentally inserted a photo (left) for theatrical We’re The Millers instead (besides, who can tell the difference anyway?)

How bad is it for sitcoms these days? Even the man responsible for the sitcom’s rebirth thirty years ago (Bill Cosby) is now under fire for rape allegations. Cosby is currently developing a sitcom with NBC and Sony Pictures Television. But given the media firestorm he’s under, fat chance it’ll even get on the air.

And even worse, the genre is facing competition from unexpected sources, at least around here. With the bumbling Chicago Bears and Derrick Rose’s “excellent public speaking skills” providing us with laughs, who needs sitcoms?

After all, Will Arnett and Beau Bridges have nothing on Brandon Marshall and Jay Cutler.