Our annual review of the year in television starts by taking a look at those programmes which were cancelled/axed in the past twelfth months with daytime soaps One Life to Live/All My Children, spy drama Spooks and the revived Charlie’s Angels amongst those covered.
The BBC‘s clear out of its long-running dramas continued this year with the announcements that Hustle would return for one final series while the 10th season of Spooks would be its last. Period drama Lark Rise to Candleford was discontinued after four seasons to the anger and dismay of many a fan. ATV Today still gets emails and posts on the website about the drama’s demise, from fans around the world, months after its big finale.
Critically acclaimed, award winning Spooks, ended this year after 10 years of spy drama and killing off cast members quicker than Torchwood ever managed. It’s axing was a surprise to some; after all our borders will always need protecting so surely there’s more stories to tell? The BBC though felt otherwise; they want to axe long running serials to replace them with new dramas though the likes of Casualty and Waterloo Road survive.
The 10th and final season of Spooks should have been something worth celebrating and should have aired with much fanfare. Unfortunately someone at the BBC decided to air it opposite Downton Abbey on ITV1; it was slaughtered in the ratings. Had the BBC given the series a decent time-slot for its final series it would have gone out in style.
One Life to Live/All My Children
Soap fans in America were dealt a double blow this year when ABC announced it was axing not one but two soaps; All My Children and One Life to Live. The news was even more painful for fans as, just weeks before, the broadcaster denied it had such plans to cancel either soap. The soap genre in America has been in decline for over a decade now with recent casualties including Passions, Guiding Light and As The World Turns.
The cancellation of One Life to Live came as a surprise to fans as it was ABC’s top-rated soap and had successfully turned its fortunes around. Not so long ago the soap was constantly rumoured to be near cancellation but its fortunes changed – or so fans thought. All My Children meanwhile had seen its fortunes decline in recent years. The two soaps were created by Agnes Nixon and have been on air for decades; both have large and loyal fan-bases.
Fans hopes for the two soaps continuing were raised when Prospect Park signed a deal with ABC to continue the soaps online. It was not to be however. In November Prospect Park announced it was scrapping its plans due to financing issues. Fans were dealt another terrible blow. All My Children ended in September while One Life to Live will air until January though production has already wrapped.
The long-running BBC One comedy was cancelled by Danny Cohen this year after 11 seasons and 120 episodes. The comedy starred Zoe Wanamaker and Robert Lindsay as parents of a dysfunctional family; very much carrying on the tradition from shows such as 2.4 Children. My Family was not always a favourite of the critics but for many years it attracted huge audiences.
While Lindsay and Wanamaker appeared in all 11 seasons its line-up over the years varied somewhat with Kris Marshall exiting early on and Daniela Denby-Ashe leaving but later returning to the series. In more recent years Gabriel Thomson’s character of Mikey was turned gay in an attempt by producers to make the series more relevant to modern audiences.
At the time of its cancellation there were claims in the press Cohen axed it because he felt the comedy was too middle-class. Cohen reportedly wanted more “working class” comedies on BBC One.
Brothers and Sisters
ABC’s soapy drama Brothers and Sisters had always been a show “on the bubble” – a term coined in America meaning a show that could be renewed or cancelled; i.e it could go either way. Brothers and Sisters never enjoyed the ratings success of Desperate Housewives and nor did it generate as much press interest or publicity.
However, it did manage to run for five seasons and 109 episodes before ABC finally decided to do away with. The drama also had a fairly impressive cast with Sally Fields, Calista Flockhart and Rachel Griffiths amongst its leading ladies while Rob Lowe was amongst the male cast.
Doctor Who Confidential
When the BBC revived Doctor Who in 2005 it also launched the behind-the-scenes series Doctor Who Confidential. The documentary series aired on BBC Three usually immediately after each episode of Doctor Who and gave viewers insights into how episodes of the sci-fi series are put together. Key cast and crew members would also be interviewed for the series about the events of the episode and key story-arcs. Cast members such as David Tennant, Billie Piper, Catherine Tate, Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, John Barrowman and Freema Agyeman and crew members such as Russell T Davies, Steven Moffat and Julie Garnder would regularly appear.
However, the arrival of Zai Bennett to BBC Three, as the digital channel’s new controller, marked an axing spree of which Confidential was one of the victims. The series still rated well for the channel but Bennett felt six seasons of behind-the-scenes action on Doctor Who was quite enough and he’d rather spend the money elsewhere…perhaps on luring Kerry Katona to the channel?
A campaign was launched by fans to save the series with thousands signing an online petition. Allas though Bennett’s mind was made up and Confidential remained axed.
Also axed in 2011:
After several years in development Charlie’s Angels returned to television with three angels for the 21st century; Minka Kelly, Rachael Taylor and Annie Ilonzeh. ABC had high hopes for its revival of the iconic 1970s detective drama but after a handful of episodes the plug was pulled; audiences were just not impressed. While not officially axed yet 1960s based Pan-Am, starring Christina Ricci, looks almost certain to be axed due to its low ratings. Once again Pan-Am was another series ABC had high hopes for; a Mad Men in the skies it was dubbed. The allure of 1960s glamour and airline hostess though didn’t seem to be high amongst viewers.
The Playboy Club was quickly dispatched by NBC after only a few episodes; its ratings were dire and it had attracted the attention of the Parents Television Council. As did MTV‘s remake of Skins; the teen-drama series. The drama’s depiction of sex, drugs and alcohol upset the P.T.C who called for a Federal inquiry! While the first episode rated well for MTV subsequent ratings saw big ratings decline and in the end Skins attracted too much negative publicity making it more trouble than it was worth. Another remake of a British series that failed to take off was Prime Suspect on NBC. The broadcaster gave the detective drama a longer shot at establishing itself than The Playboy Club but ratings matter and Prime Suspect just didn’t have them.
Technically speaking Desperate Housewives was not axed by ABC but instead a final season commissioned; a “mutual agreement”. Talks between ABC and the leading ladies took some time and while they all signed up with an option of a ninth season ultimately the broadcaster decided it didn’t want one. It was pinning its hopes on Charlie’s Angels and Pan-Am which has obviously backfired somewhat. Another series not technically axed but only commissioned for a final season was NBC’s spy-drama Chuck. Never a big ratings puller but critically acclaimed and with a loyal fanbase Chuck had faced cancellation in the face several times but had always managed to survive. NBC commissioned a fifth season on the pretext of it being the show’s last.
Also axed this year was ABC’s remake of V perhaps proving that 2011 just wasn’t the year for remakes. Law & Order: Los Angeles was cancelled following the axing of mothership Law & Order last year while fellow spin-off Criminal Intent also ended this year. The franchise in America is now left with Special Victims Unit on-air though internationally it still has Law & Order: UK.
Zai Bennett’s arrival at BBC Three as the digital channel’s new controller saw a raft of programmes ditched. As noted above Doctor Who Confidential was one of them but mostly it was the station’s comedy output which suffered from Bennett’s axing spree. Long-running comedy Two Pints of Larger and a Packet of Crisps, surely the longest programme name ever, was ditched after nine seasons and 80 episodes. Johnny Vegas comedy Ideal was axed amid record ratings – something the actor was none-too pleased about. Other victims of Bennett’s axe included Coming of Age, How Not To Live Your Life and Lunch Monkeys.
Over on BBC One Italian crime drama Zen was axed by Danny Cohen after just one series because he felt there were too many detectives on television; a statement contradicted by the renewal of Luther and the arrival of Waking the Dead spin-off The Body Farm. Sci-fi series Outcasts starring Hermione Norris and Liam Cunningham struggled to find an audience and was axed after just one season. Comedy-drama Candy Cabs, starring EastEnders‘ actress Jo Joyner, similarly struggled to pull in viewers and was also canned.
The BBC’s remake of The Lives and Times of Reginald Perrin, simply titled this time around as Reggie Perrin, was also cancelled after its second series because of low ratings. Channel Four comedy Sirens, about three male paramedics, was cancelled after one series though an American remake is in development. Paul O’Grady Live, the prime time ITV series, was axed at the end of its second series after disappointing ratings.
The fates of sci-fi’s Primeval and Torchwood remain unknown. Primeval returned for a fourth and fifth season this year, spilt between ITV and Watch, but once again ratings plagued it. The dino-drama was only saved after its third season but a co-production deal whether it can work the same magic again remains to be seen especially given the Canadian spin-off in development. Torchwood: Miracle Day, the fourth season of the Doctor Who spin-off, was met with mixed reviews and average ratings. It remains to be seen whether or not it will return but if it does it likely won’t be for a few years.