Top 10 Signs a Show You Watch Is Going to Get Cancelled

Credits: Rebecca Brayton Jaimie Roussos
Written by Noah Levy It’s the moment you realize your favorite show’s days are numbered. Welcome to and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Signs That A Show You Watch Is Going to Get Canceled. For this list, we’re looking at those bad omens that signal that one of your favorite shows may be on its last legs.
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It’s the moment you realize your favorite show’s days are numbered. Welcome to and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Signs That A Show You Watch Is Going to Get Canceled.

For this list, we’re looking at those bad omens that signal that one of your favorite shows may be on its last legs.

#10: The Will They/Won’t They Couple Ends Up Together

In both comedies and dramas, a lot of the plot and tension come from having two characters that clearly like each other, but they just can’t seem to make it work for certain reasons. Though this guessing game is often the driving factor behind a show’s success, sometimes network execs will force creators to make those characters end up together, ruining the dynamic of the show. A well-known example is “Moonlighting,” a series whose most popular aspect was the romantic tension between Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd’s characters. But after they finally got together at the end of the third season, the show lost its magic and got canceled two years later.

#9: New Young or Child Characters Added

People love children, so clearly the best way to revitalize a dying show is to add a cute little kid or baby into the mix, right? Yeah, not really. One of the most widely cited signs of creative desperation, this trope is also known as “Cousin Oliver Syndrome” in reference to when “The Brady Bunch” added the young Cousin Oliver in the fifth season to punch up the dynamic of the series. The show was then promptly canceled. Other examples include when Raven-Symoné joined the sixth season of “The Cosby Show” as Olivia, the birth of Mabel near the end of “Mad About You,” and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Luke in the last season of “Growing Pains.”

#8: The Showrunner Gets Replaced

Behind the scenes drama can signal the end of a show just as much as on-screen conflicts. Showrunners could leave to pursue other projects or because of problems with executives. While some shows survive this, like “The Walking Dead” and “House of Cards,” oftentimes it’s a sign of internal strife. An infamous example of this was when Dan Harmon was replaced by NBC after Season 3 of “Community,” despite the show being adored by critics. Two of the show’s writers took over in Season 4, but it didn’t lead to better ratings and was considered the weakest season. Even though Harmon returned for the fifth season, the show was canceled by NBC in 2014.

#7: The Show Takes Longer Breaks Than Usual
This issue is actually becoming less relevant, as premium shows usually take longer breaks between seasons because they have fewer episodes and higher production values. Like, remember when “The Sopranos” took an almost two year break between Seasons 5 and 6? But on broadcast networks, if a show takes an extended hiatus, it usually means there are problems under the hood. 22 episode seasons are big investments, and the networks have to make sure they’re getting their money’s worth, which could result in some shows being held until the midseason instead of fall. If your favorite show is constantly being held until the back half of the TV season, then it might be in danger of getting the axe.

#6: The Show’s in the News… For the Wrong Reasons

Negative press coverage about conflicts between actors, creators, and executives, or unrelated off-screen problems could sway viewers from watching the show and advertisers from supporting it. “Two and a Half Men” was somehow able to survive Charlie Sheen’s public meltdown, but not every series is so lucky. Perhaps most infamously, HBO’s horse racing drama, “Luck,” received positive reviews and even an early second season renewal. However, when PETA raised questions about the treatment of the horses used on the show, which involved injuries and euthanization, HBO canceled it to stave off any more negative publicity. Basically, if you see anybody from a show you like in the tabloids, you should start getting worried.

#5: It’s on the Wrong Network

Though there are some exceptions, you generally know what kind of shows the major broadcast networks tend to pick up. FX probably wouldn’t air “The Big Bang Theory” and CBS probably wouldn’t air “Fargo.” So when a network airs a show that's different from their usual content, it might be gone by the end of the season. It’s a miracle that “Twin Peaks” got as big as it did airing on ABC in the early ‘90s, as it likely wouldn’t even be considered for broadcast TV today. Network outliers often end up like the brutal cop show, “Southland,” which only lasted one season on NBC, but found greater success after it was picked up by the edgier TNT.

#4: The Show Jumps the Shark

“Jumping The Shark” is an expression coined by radio personality Jon Hein and his roommate to describe one moment that can irrevocably change a show’s fate, often for the worse. The term comes from a moment in “Happy Days,” when the once grounded, realistic family show had Fonzie literally jump over a shark on water skis. Other famous “shark jumps” include Bobby Ewing returning from the dead on “Dallas,” the Conners winning the lottery on “Roseanne,” and Mulder leaving “The X-Files.” Shark jumps signify that the writers are straining for ideas and thus pull stunts that might bring in viewers, but more often than not end up damaging the show. Not all shows are canceled immediately after these moments, but they definitely contribute to their eventual ends.

#3: It Takes a Long Time to Announce a Renewal

The most stressful thing for fans of any show is the waiting game. While hit shows usually get renewed mid-season or before spring, shows that are less successful or on the bubble will more than likely meet their maker in May, when it’s all up to the networks. Shows that usually find themselves facing this fate are niche or genre shows, or older shows that the network wants to scrap in favor if trying something new. It all comes down to the network upfronts that are usually held in May, where they present their Fall schedules and issue their final judgments on the survival of their programs.

#2: It’s Already Been on the Bubble or Canceled Before

Imagine that a cult show you love gets renewed for another year at the last minute. Great, right? Well, that just means there’s even more a chance of it getting canceled down the road. This usually happens to genre shows with small, but dedicated fanbases, like “Community,” which NBC usually waited until late Spring to renew before dropping it entirely in 2014. Sometimes though, fans can intervene and save their favorite shows. The original “Star Trek” was saved by a letter writing campaign, and CBS’s “Jericho” was actually revived after it was canceled, due to fans sending the network 20 tons of nuts. Unfortunately, these were the final seasons for both shows.

Before we reveal our top pick, here are some honorable mentions:
- Show Is a Critical Darling
- An Actor Leaves the Show

#1: Time Slot Change (Especially If It’s Moved to Friday)

There are a couple of reasons why a network moves a show from its original time slot. Sure, maybe they just want to see how it performs at a different time, but more often than not, it’s because they don’t have much faith in it. The most time-honored method of killing a show this way? Put it on Friday. With very rare exceptions like “The X-Files” and “Blue Bloods,” the Friday Night Death Slot has been responsible for the demise of many shows. “Star Trek” was moved there by NBC during its last two seasons, and despite its success with “The X-Files,” Fox tried several shows on Friday nights that barely lasted one year.

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