Cancelphobia: A Serious Condition Affecting Millions of Americans

I’ve recently been meeting more and more people who appear to be affected by a new phenomenon I’d like to dub "cancelphobia."

People suffering from chronic cancelphobia refuse to start a new TV show because they’re simply too afraid it will be cancelled by the end of its first season—or even sooner.

Firefly

First I would like to send a message to people with cancelphobia: this is not your fault. You’ve contracted this condition as a direct result of the four major broadcast networks (NBC, ABC, CBS, and FOX). While these networks provide America with the bulk of its most popular primetime sitcoms and dramas, in years as of late, they have adopted policies not unlike that of the late, great warriors of Sparta. In Sparta, if a child was born weak or sick, rather than care for said child and raise it, they would—quite literally—chuck it off a cliff and leave it to the wolves. Major networks, with their ruthless, cannibalistic ways have had a deeply negative effect on television audiences; people are just too afraid to get attached to a show, in case it’s abandoned and fed to the wolves.

Now I could go deep into the reasoning behind the networks’ ruthless decisions to cancel shows, and explain why they have all adopted these similar, highly competitive and unforgiving policies, but that’s not why I’m writing this. No, I’m here to (metaphorically) pat you on the back and tell you it’s going to be OK, and provide you with a piece of advice that might help:


Keep watching TV!


To fight your cancelphobia, remember why it is that you watch television in the first place. Your condition is telling you that it isn’t worth the pain of getting attached to a show only to have it be pulled out from under you, but I ask you this: isn’t it? Witches of East EndYou, like I, love television; that’s why you’re a member of SideReel. You love the suspense, the action, the laughter, and most of all, the emotion that comes from watching the characters you root for week after week. You love to support potential onscreen romances like #Casket or #Olicity. You love to tweet your favorite celebrities’ compliments in the hope that they’ll send you a two-word reply. How can you receive any of these great 21st century gifts if you choose not to start watching a show? Yes, it may very likely be cancelled, and quite frankly, going by the numbers alone, it probably will be—but that doesn’t matter! Enjoy it while it lasts, like Cadbury Mini Eggs™. They only come out at Easter, and it’s that exclusivity that helps make them as phenomenal as they are.

Let me ask you this: Do you think Firefly would be the cult classic it has become if hadn’t been canceled? Was it not worth it to watch those 14 episodes if only to know what everyone was talking about? Of course it was worth it!

So I ask you, not for my sake, but for your own, keep watching television, and banish cancelphobia forever.

Comments

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May 12, 2016 11:03AM EDT

Thank you so much for your article, I have indeed suffer this condition in the past.

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Mar 11, 2015 7:47PM EDT

This is a condition I repeatedly suffer from, generally in short, sharp bouts... Unfortunately, cancelphobia (CP for short) comes part and parcel with our modern day world, like PTSD comes with motherhood. Not everyone gets it but all the contributing factors are there, someone's bound to get it! However, like said in this post, don't forget, sometimes the cancel is what makes a show! And if it isn't, just remember, they may always bring the series back, or remake it!

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Mar 15, 2015 9:24AM EDT

I record a series and wait to hear it has renewed before i watch it. I have had to delete many a season due to it being cancelled.

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UnknownfearContributor
Mar 15, 2015 8:01PM EDT

Why not watch it anyway? Sometimes its worth it and they resolve themselves by the end of the season. Like "The Event" -- that got canceled after its first season and I loved it anyway. Oftentimes its not worth it, but you should at least watch the pilot to see, I think.

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Mar 16, 2015 5:28AM EDT

Yeah - I hate that feeling of not every knowing how it'll end. Like Red Band Society recently, it wasn't incredible, but I really wanted to know where each of the original kids was gonna end up. Dead or alive? Happy or not? It's the same with the upcoming finale for Glee. I've been obsessed since day 1, but ever since Cory Monteith's death, it's been like a cancellation. All of a sudden, the ending everyone was expecting/hoping for isn't happening, and sure, we will see an ending but not THE end! I will never regret-regret watching those series now, but had I not watched them, I wouldn't be sat here now still wondering how it will end. (BTW - my TV taste isn't totally teen obsessed - I could also have talked about Firefly, Chuck, Almost Human, Sinbad or more, just went for the first two to mind)

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Oct 20, 2015 2:25PM EDT

I only watch a show once I see generally positive TV.com, Metacritic and RT Reviews. Then I wait for a Season 2 renewal. Once all that's confirmed, I'll try the pilot and decide.

Extreme Cancelphobe!

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Mar 16, 2015 9:34AM EDT

This article makes me irrationally angry. Metaphors are fun. Too many metaphors are the opposite of fun. A network is not both cannibalistic while also feeding their show to the wolves. Firefly is only loved because it was cancelled? Networks cancel shows because people don't watch them. There's no complicated explanation behind it. Cancellation to cult classic, correlation or causation?

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UnknownfearContributor
Mar 16, 2015 3:51PM EDT

I originally wrote carnivorous, rather than cannibalistic.
Firefly is overrated. It was a procedural space opera with no serial elements and no explanations for anything. However, it was different, and back in 2003, its SFX were golden. Sci-fi fans wanting a new space-series flocked to it and were outraged by its cancellation, driving it into cult status.

My article is not a protest to the general reason why a network cancels a show. Rather, I object to the general detachment networks have for their shows. Rather than rebranding, advertising, switching it to a different time or day, networks just drop the proverbial guillotine. A network makes its money through advertising, yes, but it all comes down to the number of people who watch their programming; the fans. My complaint is that the 4 major broadcast networks don't treat their viewers like fans, they treat them like numbers. Yes, its a business, but if they would spend as much effort on advertising, or finding a good timeslot for a show as they do lining up new ones, I think they would find they would have a much better relationship with their fanbase, and cancelphobia wouldn't even be a thing.

I hope to someday become the director of programming for a major network and change their policies so that more effort is put into saving a show rather than canceling it right away. I think showrunners and networks owe it to the fans to see their shows through. Afterall, TV shows are an artform. It's writing, and its someones baby. Its crushing to see someones potential life's work just be up and cancelled because of a 0.8 rating. The vast majority of the time the low ratings come from retarded programmers airing their new shows at the same time as a show that pulls in 10 million viewers.

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Mar 16, 2015 5:16PM EDT

Hey all, a little perspective here: Shows don't get greenlit if they're expected to fail. They're not intentionally put in bad slots so that they don't garner an audience. The traditional networks have more competition than they did 20 years ago -- not just from cable channels, but from streaming TV and the movement towards timeshifting. Reminder that as a viewer, you're the product being sold; it's your eyeballs that advertisers are paying money for, so if a show isn't getting those eyeballs, it goes off the air. A show with no viewers will be killed regardless of how good it is, and it hurts. Trust me, I was one of the Knights of Prosperity's 18 viewers and I still miss that show like a Heroin junkie misses smack.

You're not going to be able to change the nature of the business without a wholesale move away from ad-supported television. Unless the entire TV viewing community is willing to put up money sight unseen for a program to be developed, produced, and aired, this is the way the it is going to continue to work.

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Mar 16, 2015 5:47PM EDT

Bring back Knights of Prosperity!

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UnknownfearContributor
Mar 16, 2015 7:45PM EDT

Certainly some shows are unsavable, but many have decent numbers that could only be drastically improved by switching to a better timeslot.

Surely no show is deliberately placed in a time slot where it gets eaten away by its competition, but its very easy to check this before it happens and yet it keeps happening over and over again. Why on earth do they do it? Oh, hey, lets air our new show during the Blacklist, that way everyone will watch it.

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Mar 16, 2015 7:59PM EDT

Something has to air opposite The Blacklist!

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Mar 16, 2015 8:24PM EDT

what may me mad about Witches of east end was we didn't get a true finally plus they did the same with drop dead diva but thankfully the brought the show back to give it a true end to the series which i'm really hoping they do with witches of east end . it not that the show end it's the way it end in the mid of the story line which a lot of us viewers angry

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Mar 16, 2015 9:43PM EDT

I get the fear but I just watch shows that interest me. If they get cancelled and don't end up wrapping up the story that can be pretty disappointing and, even sometimes, a little infuriating but I'd rather watch and get a taste of an idea that I enjoy than never have that idea to chew on at all.

What really annoys me is that from my, judgmental view point, there are some rank ass shows that keep getting continued... that's really, ultimately, what makes it hurt more for me but I don't see this as being a problem with the networks but with the viewers. It's like the music on the radio... 95% of it is simple, redundant blah and it's there because so many people like easy to digest content most of the time.

That Fringe lasted as long as it did will never cease to amaze me.

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daviswaldenContributor
Mar 17, 2015 1:43AM EDT

I'm not guilty of Cancelphobia, more like of Cancel Forcasting

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Mar 17, 2015 12:58PM EDT

I don't suffer from Cancelphobia, just Cancel Anxiety. That period between The Librarians ending and hearing that it got renewed? Utter terror.

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UnknownfearContributor
Mar 18, 2015 1:50AM EDT

Perception just aired its last episode tonight ;__;.

The only thing that should air on other networks during the Blacklist are
Reruns, and/or comedies, because those pull in higher numbers than dramas.

But the Blacklist's numbers have gotten lower this season. This season, the numbers were really high for How to Get Away with Murder -- which .. I don't really get. I gave up on it after the first season.

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Mar 18, 2015 8:31AM EDT

I too watch new series with caution.
But I have never had cancelphobia, I do feel a bit sad, angry, depressed when I find out that something that I love watching is cancelled. But then I just move on. I watch over 30 shows regularly, and find new ones to watch every season and mid-season.
To be honest sometimes I suffer watching shows. I just cannot seem to stop. Once I have started with a show, and watched it for years, I need to see how it ends. I was waiting for Two and a Half Men to finish three whole seasons. I was jumping of joy when the news came out that the 12th season is their last.
I currently watch several series, that have been renewed season after season with no real value to the watcher. The just keep telling the same story with slight modifications, with the same jokes and/or thrills in it.
Why? Why do networks keep some series, that should just be concluded, on air and some that deserve to be on air, get cancelled?

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UnknownfearContributor
Mar 18, 2015 11:24AM EDT

Gooood question my friend. E.R. got SO ridiculous in its latter years.
Each season was literally just some extremely slight variant of a vehicle crash.
Bones got so stupid after the first few seasons that the entire show just became about
their stupid banter and relationship issues.
NCIS takes cases that they have absolutely no jurisdiction for
The Mentalist keeps getting more cocky
It really is a wonder how some shows run for so long.

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Mar 19, 2015 2:22AM EDT

Unknownfear, your response to my possibly unwarranted criticism of your post is more like the kind of article I want to read. Write more like that and less like you are staff at Buzzfeed and I'll read whatever you dose out. As for Firefly, no serial elements? I'm not sure I even know what that means but I'm positive that stupid show was full of those. And as far as explanations go, if you need anything explained, I'm sure I can explain it. Browncoats, woo!

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Mar 19, 2015 2:34AM EDT

I just realized I never responded to the central thesis of your terrible, terrible, just awful original post. It was just... just dreadful. Just the worst. Like, eons beyond anything else in the.. sorry, I digress. I have never experienced cancelphobia. I like to dive head first in to any show that looks interesting and I think everybody else should too. I think that's what you were getting at but when I read what you wrote it seemed like you were suggesting the viewer act in response to the network's decisions. Like, even though they might cancel a show that you like and you'll be bummed or they might cancel a show and you'll be left disappointed, you shouldn't be afraid and just watch it anyway. I say, bring it on [faceless network]. I dare you to cancel my show. I'll watch every episode and then buy the DVD when it comes out. Then what. Who's stupid now?

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Mar 19, 2015 2:41AM EDT

My philosophy about Cancelphobia is this. I'll watch most of the new season pilots to see if i kind of like them. If I do I will continue to watch and hope it doesn't get the early axe. If it does I just chalk it up to watching a long 3 to 11 hour movie. Lots of movies I have watched seem to end on a type of cliffhanger, otherwise way are the so many sequels and prequels. Most tv episodes have a some type plot that is concluded in it, solved the murder, worked thru the comic situation, etc. Enjoy the shows while you can, don't worry be happy.

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Mar 19, 2015 2:56AM EDT

I more have mediocriphobia. Where if I don't support shows that are different, or at least trying to do something different, then networks will continue to pump out the most mediocre shtuff that they can haphazardly throw together that they know will appeal to the masses. Then we are just living in 1984, or Aeon Flux, or Blade Runner, or Equilibrium, I don't know which one, why are you asking me?

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May 6, 2015 11:03PM EDT

I am still crying!!

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Oct 6, 2015 4:11PM EDT

The finale of witches of east end is one of the reason why people don't start cancelled shows. 0 conclusion and very very bad cliffhanger scenes.

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UnknownfearContributor
Oct 7, 2015 2:17AM EDT

I've already forgotten the vast majority of what happened in Witches of East End, so it doesn't really matter that there was no conclusion. Our brains working in our favor for once.

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Sep 15, 2016 5:29PM EDT

I do suffer from "CP". I admit I get very attached to my shows. And I hate to see them end, or worse, get cancelled. It takes me a very long time before I summon the courage to start a new show fearing it will end. Sometimes I look for long running shows to watch.

Yes it happens, a show deviates at times from the original line, and gets focused on the characters, probably unlike most, that is very okay with me. I just like to see those characters do whatever as long as they keep going on.

I get it when they cancel/end a show for financial reasons. But recently, popular and high rating shows get cancelled abruptly, others just conclude. More and more good shows go. And what about the new trend of short season orders? It become annoying common now to see a 10 or 13 max episodes season.

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UnknownfearContributor
Sep 19, 2016 11:20PM EDT

Yes, those are now being referred to as Anthology series. They make sense financially, as, they are originally intended for only one season, but if they do well, additional seasons can easily be ordered. I believe we have the success of American Horror Story to thank for this new format. In the next month we'll be seeing Syfy taking a spin at the Anthology with "Channel Zero" I suspect that will bomb pretty hard, heh. The CW took a crack earlier this year with Containment, which I thought was pretty good -- ultimately that was canceled because they had more shows than they had time slots, and non anthology shows took priority. So.. having a new format of show with a lower priority than recurring series seems like a setup destined for failure. In that sense, I completely agree with you.

In regards to your cancelphobia, It would seem to me that if you find yourself to be a person that gets attached to characters more than plot, than youre in a difficult position when it comes to TV. Character development is important, but for fast-paced, genre and action shows, it has to take a secondary role, else people will lose interest in the subject matter. But Slice of Life shows thrive in other formats, such as the soap opera, which is entirely character driven, comedies, entirely character driven, and serialized dramas without an action element, such as the upcoming series Notorious, and shows like How to Get Away with Murder, and so forth.

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Sep 20, 2016 12:18AM EDT

Thank you for your response, Unknownfear.

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