Fox has cultivated a well-deserved reputation for killing off young shows before they get a chance to establish an audience.
Add two more to the pile: A Fox executive has officially sounded the death knell for comedies Running Wilde and The Good Guys. Both ran for a single season.
While at a Winter TCA press event, Fox entertainment chief Kevin Reilly confirmed that both series had been axed. He told Futon Critic reporter Brian Ford Sullivan:
"They've been sent out to the netherworld. We never announced their cancellation but they will not be back."
At the same event, Fox executives took time to discuss their habit of premature cancellation. When asked how they reacted to critical success Lone Star's abysmal ratings, entertainment chairman Peter Rice noted the negative prediction from online entertainment news outlets: “We went online and [the news] was like, ‘Lone Star Dead!” Kevin Reily elaborated:
"It was a real bummer. We made a show that we really loved. You guys really believed in the show. But not enough people showed up. We were very disappointed, but that’s the reality of the business. I’d much prefer to fail with a show we are creatively proud of than fail with a show we’re embarrassed with."
Running Wilde was the latest creation from Mitch Hurwitz, the creator of Arrested Development (yet another Fox victim). Reilly said that his own involvement watered down Hurwitz's vision, and that it "failed to find its feet." Unfortunately, after shooting two pilots for the failed series with two completely different casts (aside from the three leads), Reilly's statement of watering down Hurwitz's vision may hint at the series being a failure from the start.
One interesting tidbit was the executives' implication that good shows like Lone Star can only work on cable.
Reilly was quoted as saying:
“I guess I take umbrage with the idea that all the great shows can only be on cable."
Cable TV has certainly seen a groundswell of excellent programming while network lineups continue to fill up with cop dramas, game shows and reality TV. But the implication that shows on cable are somehow safer is patently false: Fox's cable channel FX proved that when they cancelled Terriers, after its first season, late last year - amid critical acclaim and disappointing ratings.
Science fiction enthusiast might have the most to complain about. In 2009 Fox declined to renew Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles for a third season. The same fate befell Joss Whedon's Dollhouse in early 2010. The most stinging of Fox's cancellations involved another Whedon project, the critically-acclaimed Firefly, which was canned before it finished a single season in 2003. Fans fear that J.J. Abrams' sci-fi detective show Fringe is not long for TV after being moved to the infamous "Friday night death slot."
As Fox and other networks continue their ruthless battle for viewership, the message to producers and showrunners is clear: perform well out of the gate and keep up your numbers, or face cancellation.