Requiem for the Three Cancellations of the 2024 TV Season I Will Miss The Most

David B Morris
9 min readMay 16, 2024

And A Reminder to Critics That TV Is A Business And Why These Things Happen

One of those things you never get used to, either as a TV fan or critic, is how many of the series you love when a season starts will not survive it. I’ve been dealing with these kinds of departures my entire history as a fan, from 1998 when Cupid was cancelled to late 2023 when Cruel Summer and Single Drunk Female were cut down in their prime, and it hasn’t gotten any easier from when I was a teenager.

I’ve mentioned in the past that the problems with so many critics is that they view TV as an art rather than the business it is. That is the reason so many so called intelligent critics are mourning that the Golden Age of television is now officially over, something I dispute. What these critics all seem to have forgotten is that the very thing that allowed the Golden Age to last — the fragmentation of the audience — was never going to be a sustainable business model for an extended period. This was true for every source that provided it, from cable to streaming, but the area that’s felt the greatest loss has been network television.

Had this show debuted in 2000, it would have been dead in one season.

Those who have marveled at so many of the classic comedies on network TV over the 2010s in particular have forgotten something very critical: how few people were watching them. Series such as Parks and Rec and 30 Rock would never have been able to survive even one season, much less seven, even in the 2000s when the network’s share of the market was still sizable. But as the network numbers grew smaller across the board, these shows survived not because of the critical love but rather because they were one of the few shows with a loyal audience. Brooklyn Nine-Nine wasn’t cancelled by Fox and reclaimed by NBC because the executives on the former network were idiots and the latter smarter; it’s because Fox could no longer afford to keep it on the air and operate at a loss. I think the only reason NBC purchased was because of its own financial peril: it needed something that was a proven success.

As much as the recent strikes among the creative guilds last year were based on the idea that the studios were hoarding money from them, the reality is that almost all of them were running at a loss. This is verified by the fact of the many entertainment mergers and the fact that several cable stations part of those conglomerates have stopped airing original programming: they have to pick and choose where to put their money. The fact that there are far too many shows airing on television didn’t help; Jon Landgraf was right when he said there were far too many shows to follow. That is going to mean that there will be fewer shows in the years to come.

I don’t think that’s a bad thing, honestly: I’ve struggled for over a decade to even follow a tenth of the major shows on TV and as my followers were note, much of my reviews of award winning series involves a lot of selective decision making. Having fewer shows may be judged harshly by those who’ve thought there was always something great on, but it’s a better business model for networks and long term I think it might be better for the audiences who’ve never been able to keep up. But we have to accept that going forward that what we’ve long considered the great thing about TV — that series keep getting renewed without a second thought — will become more of a scarcity. And we have to accept that the shows we come to love will be surviving less and less.

This brings me to the point of this article. The 2024 season for television is now on the verge of its conclusion, at least for the purposes of the Emmys. May 31st is the deadline for Emmy consideration and it also marks the period when network television decides, to put it bluntly, what lives and what will die. (To be fair the pruning has started far earlier in most cases, as I’ll explain later.)

Because of the strike most networks aired very few new series this season, and all of them are coming back for a second one. But several shows that had been renewed for a second year and have been on the bubble have been cancelled and some of them cut me deeper than others.

I have to say that, when it comes to network television, it is almost always the series that get cancelled after two seasons where I feel the loss more than some others. Don’t get me wrong: last year when The Company You Keep and Alaska Daily got cancelled in May, it stung at a level I’m still not over yet and I have a long list of series that lasted for a year whose cancelation I’m still getting over years and even decades after the fact. (A part of me is still mourning the loss of The Chicago Code and Awake.) But for whatever reason for more than a quarter of a century of viewing, it’s those series removed after their sophomore season where I feel the sting the most. I felt it with Sports Night, it hurt with Joan Of Arcadia, and I know I’m hardly alone in mourning Pushing Daisies given all of the love for it shown on the net more than fifteen years after it was cancelled.

I wrote quite a bit about the effects of the 2007–2008 strike on network TV and I expected a similar result. But this time it played out differently, at least with the three series I’m about to mention. All of them had premiered in the 2022–2023 season and had managed to air their seasons before the strike so trying to call them victims of it is probably unfair. It is more likely due to the precarious financial state of the TV industry these days — which again, the five month strike did nothing to help. (Yes, I will keep beating that horse because everybody needs to be reminded of it.

I guess he never found his way home.

The first show to be cancelled was the reboot of Quantum Leap. It’s hard to know what the ratings for the series were during the 2023–2024 season, and it was always on the bubble during the first season. And the network was more than willing to give life to the only two series of 2023: The Irrational and Found and they will be starting what is essentially a clean slate next year.

Still I find much of this at the core striking because of NBC’s devotion to all things Dick Wolf. It has already been pointed out that the Organized Crime franchise of Law & Order is moving to Peacock but Quantum Leap isn’t. This fact speaks volumes about how little NBC seems to want to do to irritate the man who is single-handedly propping up two whole nights of their programming and how unwilling they seem to be keeping with other franchises. The reboot of Magnum P.I., which the network saved from CBS only to cancel during the strike also shows that their priorities have been skewed.

Admittedly for me to be speaking out for the continuation of a reboot would seem to go against my normal pitching for creativity but it speaks to a problem networks have when it comes to doing anything imaginative with the formula. Both Quantum Leap and ABC’s reinvention of The Wonder Years are frankly the only versions of this I have seen and enjoyed over the last five years and I’m struck by the fact that they are now gone. I don’t know what the future of the reboot is, but this is not a promising sign.

Slightly less surprising but no less painful was the cancellation of Not Dead Yet earlier this week. I’ve raved about this show for two straight seasons, calling it one of the funniest network comedies on the air. As it moved further away from the gimmick it became something both more funny and more human as all of the characters — not just Nell — began to have to deal with new challenges. Sam had to deal with the collapse of her marriage and facing a new life. Dennis dealt with becoming a parent and showing his signs of his talent. But I was struck the most by the wonderful work of Rick Glasman and Lauren Ash as Edward and Lexi, who had become my favorite couple on television as I’ve never seen two people more suited to each other romantically in a long time.

Ash was particularly moving in what was the series finale as she had to deal with the possibility of the death of her father (Brad Garrett). She spent the season doing everything to focus on making the hospital serviceable for a gathering that would be fitting for her father, rather than deal with his mortality. Lauren Ash gave one of the most remarkable performances over the course of this season and I truly hope that she, as well as Gina Rodriguez, receive Emmy nominations for their work.

I’m going to miss this show even if more people won’t: this series had the right mix of humor and sadness that has been lacking in network TV.

The most surprising loss was So Help Me Todd. In the case of this show, it was the victim of the fact that CBS is the most successful of the networks and therefore has a higher standard to meet that the others. Still, it hit me very hard because this was the kind of series I thought network TV needed more of.

At this point network TV is drowning in procedurals that are ridiculously, horribly serious and repetitive and endlessly formulaic. So Help Me Todd was formulaic but it was also wonderfully, joyfully fun. (Indeed, it took me a long time to realize why it had been classified as a comedy rather than a drama.) The series also featured two impossibly lovable protagonists played by the incomparable Marcia Gay Harden and Skylar Astin. Apart, they were joyful. Every time they shared the screen, it was pure joy.

When the series cancellation was announced last month, I continued to DVR every episode but I have yet to watch them. That is how painful the loss of this show has been to me: I’m afraid to say goodbye to it. The fact that it ended so suddenly that the writers never had a chance to wrap it up is appalling; the fact that it has no future on streaming even more. I could argue that Todd really deserves help from some streaming service but that would be low hanging fruit (the kind Todd himself would love to take)

I can, however, take comfort in the fact that its spiritual heir Elsbeth was renewed for a second season and I can hope that there will be other series to take up the mantel that Todd laid down. I truly think series like that are the hope for the evolution of TV’s Golden Age going forward.

In any case the Astra (formerly HCA TV Awards) will be giving its nominations in the next month. Last year they were generous to Quantum Leap and Not Dead Yet in the nominations for network drama and comedy, respectively. I hope that they will do the same this year and that they might show some love to So Help Me Todd going forward. I would love it if the Emmys did the same, but I’m a realist. Recognition here would be the best way to honor these series that are gone too soon.

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David B Morris

After years of laboring for love in my blog on TV, I have decided to expand my horizons by blogging about my great love to a new and hopefully wider field.