The cancellation blues

Last Friday, ABC cancelled <em>Suburgatory</em>. For the most part, I&rsquo;ve outgrown high school shows, but <em>Suburgatory</em> was one I loved for its balance of drama and comedy. The latter came through the absurdly drawn suburbs of Chatswin, where colourful houses and materialistic mothers ruled the town (&ldquo;I won&#39;t crawl the pubs if he promises not to attend any pageants, fashion shows, or fashion-show pageants!&quot;). Strong world building begets ample episode ideas (think of the odd civilian personalities on <em>Parks and Recreation</em>), and within Chatswin&rsquo;s ostentatious exterior, <em>Suburgatory </em>wrote relatable, resonating stories.

Tessa, the show&rsquo;s lead character, narrated the show as a city-raised New Yorker stuck in &ldquo;suburban purgatory.&rdquo; I&rsquo;ll miss Jane Levy&rsquo;s acting; along with Allie Grant&rsquo;s Lisa as Tessa&rsquo;s best friend, they made <em>Suburgatory</em> a sitcom worth watching despite its (multiple) weaknesses.

I&rsquo;m also pouring one out for <em>Community,</em> whose second season remains an accomplishment in ambition and execution. Community aired 97 episodes, more than fans ever hoped for. You might rage on NBC for cancelling it today, but its poor record in developing sitcoms kept <em>Community</em> on TV longer than its ratings would allow on other networks.

Television creates bonds between viewer and show &mdash; a weekly one lasting nine months per year &mdash; and each May, network executives break millions of hearts when choosing which series to renew, cancel, and green-light. Ratings motivate these decisions, which in turn, motivate money. Shows in later seasons cost more because of rising cast and crew salaries. That, along with <em>Community&rsquo;</em>s low ratings (its finale garnered a 0.8 18&ndash;49 demo rating) likely factored into NBC&rsquo;s decision.

Simply put, it&rsquo;s cheaper to produce a new comedy (of which NBC green-lit five).<em> Community</em> attracts an established audience, but it&rsquo;s a small one that NBC doesn&rsquo;t generate enough profits with. Any of its rookie comedies could become hits &mdash; at the very least, they&rsquo;ll surpass <em>Community</em>&rsquo;s weak ratings. And if they don&rsquo;t, it&rsquo;s easy to axe them immediately without incurring severe costs.

Speaking of those new NBC sitcoms, <em>A to Z</em> interests me the most &mdash; a rom-com co-produced by Rashida Jones starring Ben Feldman from <em>Mad Men</em> and Cristin Milioti (the mother from <em>How I Met Your Mother</em>).

NBC&rsquo;s other cult comedy, P<em>arks and Recreation</em>, notched an underwhelming 1.0 rating in its sixth season finale. It&rsquo;s another show that&rsquo;s stayed alive because of the network&rsquo;s mediocre development (this year, four new sitcoms were cancelled, one renewed; 2012&ndash;13, four cancelled, zero renewed; 2011&ndash;12, four canceled, two renewed &mdash; both canceled the next year). However, NBC renewed <em>Parks</em> for a seventh season earlier this year. What differentiates it from <em>Community</em> is the show&rsquo;s owner/distributor &mdash; the latter is co-produced by Sony, while the <em>Parks</em> solely belongs to NBCUniversal, owned by NBC themselves. <em>Parks</em> represents a full-revenue (or close to) opportunity for NBC, while <em>Community</em>&rsquo;s revenues must be shared with Sony.

I realize rational business decisions won&rsquo;t soothe the heartbreak of losing a beloved television show, but I&rsquo;ve found that knowing them lessens the blow &mdash; ratings foretell a show&rsquo;s fate quite accurately, and observing weekly declines conveys the reality of a show&rsquo;s eventual cancellation. But maybe being blindsided isn&rsquo;t so bad after the initial sting.

I haven&rsquo;t caught up with the shows I like &mdash; or read related material &mdash; because work and sports are happening right now. Within that statement lies two truths: there are too many great shows to watch, and life is too busy (for all of us). TV becomes a nice escape when needed, and whenever one show gets cancelled, there&rsquo;s always another waiting for you to love.

<em>Andrew Koo (@akoo) still misses </em>Happy Endings<em>.</em>


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