My theory on TV shows and “insta-cancelling”.

I used to think that I cursed shows. I would look at a show and think it looked really awesome. I would sit and watch it and then get disappointed that it would die after one season (or more frequently sooner). It got so bad that coworkers begged that I not watch Game of Thrones for at least three seasons lest it get cancelled by my curse. It survived and I started watching it from there.

However, I started noticing some more details about the shows that were being cancelled. Shows that I would think should have gotten cancelled much sooner (like Defiance on Syfy) would last for several seasons while shows on one of the four major networks (NBC/CBC/ABC/FOX) wouldn’t even get the time for a story to develop. Some shows got the ax after one or two episodes. A show like Zero Hour had the same ratings as Mad Men on AMC. However, Mad Men would stay on and was a success while Zero Hour got canned. At least they allowed the season to finish over the summer so fans could get some closure.

I came to the realization that it was no longer my fault that shows got cancelled. I am just a more patient viewer than your standard viewer. I am willing to sit and allow a plot line to develop before giving up on a show. Many people need something to hook them in immediately or they will lose interest. Bundle that with the ridiculous ratings requirements that shows must have on the major networks and you get an environment where only certain shows will last.

So what makes a show last on network television? You need an automatic built in audience. Take Agents of Shield on ABC. With the millions of people worldwide loving the MCU, you had a guaranteed hit from day one. Agent Coulson being part of the cast also did not harm the formula because he was a fan favorite and fans would want to know how he was still alive. Joss Whedon was able to have a longer plot line development. Some people did stop watching the show because they felt it was taking too long. However, once it did most of them came running back and got caught up.

You do not need something like the MCU to attract people to a show on a major network. Sometimes you just need star power of an individual or a group of individuals to bring in the people who are willing to watch it. This is why I believe Designated Survivor will last long enough to get an audience hooked on the story. People will watch it just for Kiefer Sutherland.

Without an established fictional universe fan base or established actors, a major network show will have to basically make the story interesting from the first 15 minutes of the show. There is no waiting around and allowing a plot to develop. Zero Hour had a twist that happened in the first episode. However, it happened in the last 15 minutes of the hour. People had already stopped watching the show 30 minutes in. That show died.

So if I post about a new show and I believe it will be insta-cancelled, it will be because:

A) It is on a major network

B) It lacks the star power to hold an audience.

C) It lacks the story to hook the audience.

And now you know. And knowing is half the battle.