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The Real Reason Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior Was Canceled

In the world of primetime crime dramas, spin-offs can sometimes work as a way for networks to launch shows with big audiences already built in. However, for every Law & Order: SVU, there's a Law & Order: LA. Not every spin-off works, and sadly for fans of the particular brand of deranged crime investigation that Criminal Minds offered, the series was never able to successfully launch a franchise before it concluded its 15 season run.

Most recently, fans watched Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders flame out after just two seasons. But before that, another spin-off attempted to capitalize on the nerdy psychological profiling and graphic violence that made the original series such a hit. In February 2011, Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior debuted to considerable buzz, mostly owing to the big names the show managed to attract to its cast. However, by spring of that same year, the show had already been canceled before the first season even finished airing.

What was the premise of Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior?

Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior followed a team of specialists working for the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) under the leadership of Sam Cooper (Oscar winner Forest Whitaker), who was introduced in an episode of Criminal Minds' fifth season titled "The Fight." Fans of the original series will recognize this as more or less the same setup as the flagship series, and the draw for this spin-off was clearly intended to be its characters and the actors who played them.

In addition to Whitaker, the main cast also featured comedian and actress Janeane Garofalo as Senior Special Agent Beth Griffith, and Michael Kelly — who would go on to gain notoriety as Doug Stamper on House of Cards — as mysterious Special Agent Jonathan "the Prophet" Sims. Kirsten Vangsness pulled double duty, playing the well-loved role of Technical Analyst Penelope Garcia on the spin-off as well as the original series. The cast was rounded out by Matt Ryan (who portrays John Constantine in the CW's Arrowverse) and veteran actress Beau Garrett, who had guested on series such as House, M.D. and Entourage, and starred in features like Turistas and Tron: Legacy.  

With a cast stacked with talent and a hit show serving as its launchpad, everything seemed primed for this show to join the ranks of such popular spin-offs as NCIS: New Orleans or CSI: NY. So why did Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior get canceled so quickly?

Why did CBS cancel Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior?

The great mystery of why Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior was cut from CBS' prime time lineup is really no mystery at all. It got axed for the most cut and dried reason in the book: it wasn't a ratings success.

The biggest issue with the ratings wasn't necessarily that they were simply bad, but that they began to flatline after the first episode and never recovered. As reported by TV Series Finale, the premiere did solidly in the 18-49 demographic and certainly wasn't a failure on its own. However, by the second episode ratings had plummeted 27 percent, and they never rebounded. For the duration of its run, the show averaged 9.3 million viewers per episode.

Many shows would kill to get those kinds of numbers, but they are considered disappointing for a CBS crime procedural based on a property as hot as Criminal Minds, and starring Oscar-winning talent. The show's high profile cast also meant that it probably wasn't exactly cheap to make, meaning that the network would be looking for big numbers to keep it afloat. When it became clear that the show wasn't catching fire, CBS pulled the plug before the final episode of the first and only season had aired.

The reason Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior was a ratings flop

It can be hard to pinpoint exactly why some shows are successes and some fail, but in the case of Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, the reviews it received point to some very obvious clues. While the original Criminal Minds was never exactly a critical darling, the response to its spin-off was particularly dismissive.

In a scathing review for A.V. Club, veteran TV critic Noel Murray called the plot of the pilot episode "stupid and exploitative," and the criminal profile — which is theoretically the reason to tune into the show — "maybe the dopiest psychological profile of any serial killer in the history of TV procedurals." He also bemoaned the inclusion of actors like Whitaker and Garofalo in parts that didn't live up to their talent, calling the show as a whole "generic crap." Ouch.

In a review written after the entire season had aired, Jim Garner at TV Fanatic called attention to one of the spin-offs biggest failures: its inability to establish memorable characters. He pointed out that the show was extremely slow to give its cast the kind of emotionally grounding backstory that successful procedurals are known for, which likely left viewers feeling like the show as a whole was disposable. He pointed to the inclusion of the character of Penelope from Criminal Minds as a regular cast member on the spin-off as a prime example of how the show failed to give viewers unique characters to become attached to.

While reviews certainly don't always dictate ratings, the issues highlighted by critics of Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior pointed to a show that wasn't able to give viewers a good reason to keep tuning in.