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The real reasons Jericho was canceled

Despite the rabid devotion of a group of dedicated fans, Jericho was canceled—not once, but twice. Even though it only survived for two short seasons from 2006 through 2008, it remains one of the most beloved cult TV shows in recent memory. The network, of course, blamed poor ratings. But here's a look at some of the real issues that led to the show's demise.

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It was a political hot potato

Jericho had a simple premise: The United States was attacked by terrorists using nuclear bombs. Coming in the middle of the second Bush administration, with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq still raging and the effects of the attacks on September 11, 2001 still very much present in the minds of viewers, the series was destined to be a lightning rod for controversy. The subject matter allowed the show to tackle timely themes, which may have helped attract such a fervent fan base, but it also made marketing the show difficult for the network.

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Scheduling woes

During Jericho's time on the air, network executives got the brilliant idea to split TV seasons in half rather than run the season straight through from beginning to end. Jericho was just one show that was severely damaged by this ill-advised scheduling tactic—it went on hiatus after episode 11, landing 10.25 million viewers on November 29, 2006 for its mid-season finale. However, the next episode didn't air until the middle of February. By the time it returned, Jericho had forfeited much of its momentum, losing nearly two million viewers. Ratings slid from there, and the show never recovered from its scheduling snafu.

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Peanuts weren't enough

The show's producers thought Jericho was safe despite sliding ratings, and they (not to mention the show's fans) were caught by surprise when CBS canceled the series instead. Fans organized a grassroots effort to convince the network to reverse its decision, bombarding their offices with online petitions and mailing millions of peanuts to executives. Why peanuts? It was a reference to one of the characters on the show quoting General Anthony McAuliffe's famous refusal to surrender to the German army during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II with the defiant statement, "Nuts!"

Sufficiently convinced, CBS renewed the show for a short, seven-episode second season. But this wasn't quite the reprieve many were hoping for. CBS president Nina Tassler tipped the network's hand when she said in a statement that they hoped to "develop a way to provide closure to the compelling drama that was the Jericho story." Fans didn't want closure, of course—they wanted the show to continue. But when CBS "renewed" the series, they were just planning to end it a second time all along.

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The writers strike

Of course, getting more episodes on the air did at least open the possibility that a jump in ratings might make the network consider bringing it back full-time. That hope was dashed, though, before the second season even aired. Why? The Writers Guild of America went on strike—and while all seven scripts for the new season were already completed before the strike started, there was no way for the showrunners to plan any follow-up material. So even if Jericho had gotten better ratings in its truncated second season, the network couldn't have ordered additional episodes anyway.

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Internet leaks killed interest

Internet leaks were just becoming a real thing when Jericho returned in 2008. The show became one of Hollywood's first high-profile victims of piracy, as the first three episodes were leaked online before the season premiere. Apparently burned off a screener copy provided to critics, the pirated episodes were quickly torrented and downloaded by fans around the country. Correlation doesn't always imply causation, but still: the second-season debut earned the show's lowest ratings ever, with numbers declining drastically after that. After all, why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?

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The passion lives on

Though it's been more than eight years since Jericho went off the air, the passion lives on among the show's fans and creators. Though plans for a big-screen revival seem to have stalled out, the show's creators have continued the saga in comic book form, publishing Season Three in 2011, and Season Four in 2014. Though it seems unlikely at this point that Jericho will ever return to the air, one thing is certain: it enjoyed a level of fan fervor that many shows would love to achieve. It seems as though fate—and insufficient support from the network—doomed Jericho to failure from the start.

Nuts.