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Question of the week: what shall we call cancelled shows now that cancelled is cancelled?

Posted on November 21, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Earlier this year, Fred had a request:

Hi Rob, firstly I'm a big fan of your site, many thanks; but as customary I must follow a compliment with a complaint, albeit a small one! As has happened on several occasions, while digesting your daily snippets with a bowlful of porridge, I have nearly choked by the headline that one of my favorite shows has been CANCELLED!! My blood pressure subsequently drops after I've clicked the link and discovered that in fact the show in question (Episodes today!) is actually just ending after it's final season. For me Cancelled means a show has been pulled usually without any chance of resolution (I know sometimes the writers get enough time to create a hurried ending). But a show Ending after it's final season (which hasn't started airing and sometimes hasn’t even finished filming) usually means the creatives will be given an opportunity to conclude their story. I know grey areas exist, but surely if Cancelled and Ending are interchangeable then effectively all shows are ultimately cancelled (except the Simpson, that'll never die!). I hope you could maybe reword some of your headlines in the future, if only just to prevent spike rises in my, and I'm sure a few others, Blood Pressure!

We then mused muchly on what it actually means for a show to be cancelled in this day and age. It involved some legal talk.

However, it seems that we're not the only ones having problems with 'cancelled'. The Hollywood Reporter says that the word is on the way out:

Getting canceled is a television rite of passage that dates back to the early days of the medium. But you're not likely to hear the word often in executive suites these days. As viewership fractures and the bar between success and failure becomes more blurred than ever, broadcast networks have become more gun-shy of outright yanking a show off the air.

Hence the rise last season of wishy-washy buzzwords such as "trimmed" or "reduced" as unproduced episodes foretold a slow death for several shows. That trend has continued this season. ABC dud Notorious was reduced from 13 to nine episodes, and on Nov. 8, the network said it would not order more of Hayley Atwell's barely watched Conviction, but it wouldn't be pulled from the schedule (at least not immediately).

It then lists the different euphemisms for cancelled/dwindling support for, used by various networks over the past couple of years:

  • 'Order Has Been Trimmed': Notorious (ABC), Making History (Fox), Imaginary Mary (ABC)
  • 'Unscheduled but Will Air at a Later Date': Angel From Hell (CBS, 2015), Wicked City (ABC, 2015), The Assets (ABC, 2014)
  • 'Remaining Episodes Will Air on Hulu': Selfie (ABC, 2014), Manhattan Love Story (ABC, 2014), Don't Trust the B— in Apt. 23 (ABC, 2013)
  • 'Actually … You're Canceled': Of Kings and Prophets (ABC, 2015), Welcome to the Family (NBC, 2013), We Are Men (CBS, 2013)

All of which makes reporting the news each day a bit tricky. After all, 'network doesn't order any more episodes of' is difficult to quantify as news - pretty much every day, networks don't order new episodes of anything, and even if they announce they're not ordering any more episodes of show, that's still not cancelled.

So this week's question of the week is: what should I say instead if a network announces that it won't order any more episodes of a show… for now? Should I even mention it at all and if I should, what word or phrase should I use? And should it be used an alternative to cancelled, too? Any suggestions?

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