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The Real Reason These TV Shows Were Cancelled In 2020

2020 has been a year of bad news, and the world of television hasn't been impervious to this trend. Among the sour developments that greeted TV this year has been a slew of cancellations. Cancellation is a fate that eventually comes for all television programs — it's certainly not one unique to 2020. However, several of the shows that got the ax in 2020 were long-standing stalwarts that had endured through new showrunners, rating struggles, and even network name changes. These were programs that seemed like they could survive anything. As 2020 has constantly demonstrated, though, nothing is certain, and nothing lasts forever.

The reasons for the cancellations of these assorted TV programs are almost as varied as the assorted genres these now-ceased shows belonged to. Some simply wanted to end before a decrease in quality started kicking in. Others, particularly shows that were in their first season, were canceled in a much more abrupt fashion, leaving storylines and character arcs permanently in the lurch. Whatever the reason, here are ten television shows that got canceled during the gloomy year of 2020.


The reality program Cops started in March 1989 and continued airing new episodes for 30 years. This is despite the show getting canceled by its original network home, Fox, in May 2013 before getting a second lease on life at Spike TV, which later became the Paramount Network. "Cops is a remarkable series that has been able to sustain strong ratings well into its third decade, a monumental achievement in television," Spike president Kevin Kay said after the network picked up Cops, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

But "this remarkable series" would not last forever. In June 2020, the Paramount Network made the announcement that Cops had finally reached the end of the line. The show's abrupt ending came in the wake of worldwide protests against race-based police brutality. This is a matter that many have long accused Cops of minimizing. According to The New York Times, in 2013, civil rights group Color of Change proclaimed that shows like Cops "have built a profit model around distorted and dehumanizing portrayals of black Americans and the criminal justice system."

In the wake of protests over the murders of individuals like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, such complaints took on extra levels of impact and likely influenced its cancellation. Also aiding the decision to end Cops was the fact that, "Paramount Network has been moving away from all unscripted programming," per Deadline. Whatever the reason for its demise, Cops has officially turned in its badge after decades on the air.


What Iron Man was to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Arrow was to the Arrowverse. A barrage of superhero shows spun off from this Green Arrow TV show, which kicked off its run in October 2012. However, all TV shows, even influential ones, must end eventually. So it was with Arrow, which aired its final episode on January 28, 2020.

The news of Arrow ending after its eighth season was announced through a tweet by its lead actor, Stephen Amell. "Playing Oliver Queen has been the greatest professional experience of my life... but you can't be a vigilante forever," Amell tweeted. "Arrow will return for a final run of 10 episodes this Fall. There's so much to say... for now I just want to say thank you." Amell later expanded on his thoughts on leaving the show while revealing that not only was he the primary impetus for the show's ending but that he originally hoped Arrow could go on without him.

"I had always hoped that ... there was a possibility that the show could live on beyond me," Amell said, as reported by IGN. "It was [a] decision ... based off of what they thought was best for the show creatively and being very honorable and respectful as it pertains to my wishes, that we were gonna end after a 10 episode run next year." Like Iron Man, Arrow is now gone from the universe it started, but its legacy will live on for years to come.

BoJack Horseman

Netflix's first original animated cartoon aimed at adults kicked off its run in August 2014. Initial reviews were mixed, but it wasn't long before BoJack Horseman, with its inimitable mix of lighthearted humor and heart-wrenching forays into addiction, depression, and the dark side of Hollywood (or rather "Hollywoo"), became one of the more acclaimed programs on the streamer. "Bittersweet and brilliant to the very end, BoJack Horseman's final season manages to keep surprising viewers with its empathy and depth, solidifying its place as one of TV's greatest offerings," read the Rotten Tomatoes consensus for the final season of the show.

But like all shows, BoJack Horseman came to an end in January 2020. The conclusion was not one imposed by the program or its creator, Raphael Bob-Waksberg, but rather came from Netflix, which gave BoJack Horseman advanced warning of the end being near. "They don't have to do that, obviously," Bob-Waksberg said to IndieWire. "But I said I would appreciate it if I could have the forewarning to give the show a proper finale, and not set up some cliffhangers that will never pay off. So when they picked up season six, they said, 'Hey, remember how you asked for that heads-up? We think that this is your heads-up.' So I'm very grateful that we got that notice."

BoJack Horseman may have come to an end, but the show's episodes will always be up on Netflix for those who wish to horse around with a brutally real animated comedy.

Fresh Off the Boat

When it debuted on ABC in February 2015, the sitcom Fresh Off the Boat was "the first network primetime show to feature an Asian-American family in 20 years," according to NBC News. As Eddie Huang, whose memoir the series was based on, said to over 1,000 guests at Fresh Off the Boat's premiere party in New York City, "Today, we've arrived." Starring Randall Park and Constance Wu, the landmark program would go on to run for six seasons. After exceeding 100 episodes, ABC announced that Fresh Off the Boat would be pulling into port once its sixth season wrapped up in February 2020.

"We couldn't be prouder of this game-changing show and the impact it has had on our cultural landscape," ABC president Karey Burke said in a statement regarding Fresh Off the Boat's cancellation. Absent from the statement was a specific reason for why exactly Fresh Off the Boat was canceled. In reporting on this news, Variety observed that, "The series had seen its ratings decline as it went on and was moved to Friday nights for its fifth season." Diminishing ratings would easily explain the show's cancellation, as would the increasingly busy schedules for lead actors Randall Park and Constance Wu. Though it has come to an end, the impactful legacy of Fresh Off the Boat is certain to keep on resonating.

The Good Place

In June 2019, The Good Place creator Michael Schur dropped a bombshell about his beloved NBC comedy. The Good Place would be wrapping up after its fourth season. Whereas many of the comedies on this list ended at the instruction of network executives, The Good Place ended exactly where its creator wanted it to.

"After The Good Place was picked up for season two, the writing staff and I began to map out, as best we could, the trajectory of the show," Schur explained, per Deadline. "Given the ideas we wanted to explore, and the pace at which we wanted to present those ideas, I began to feel like four seasons — just over 50 episodes — was the right lifespan." This aligned with prior comments Schur had made about the temporary nature of The Good Place. In particular, Schur mentioned to The Hollywood Reporter in December 2018 that "this is not a show that is destined to be on for nine years. It's not a 200-episode, Friends kind of a deal. It's not a hangout show."

It's understandable if Good Place fans wanted this comedy to go on forever. Nobody wants to see their favorite show come to a close. However, those fans can rest assured about why The Good Place went off the air. Long-term planning from Michael Schur ensured that The Good Place, unlike so many other network comedies, got to end on its own forking terms.

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels

"Skillfully shot and superbly acted, Penny Dreadful is perplexing in a good way — even if it's a bit silly at times." So declared the Rotten Tomatoes consensus for Penny Dreadful, a British TV show that garnered acclaim from viewers and critics alike. Given how widely liked the program was, it was inevitable that a spin-off would continue the Penny Dreadful saga. Such a production emerged with Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, which took the franchise across the pond to Los Angeles, California, in the 1930s with a whole new cast.

Despite the show's producer, John Logan, publicly teasing details of a second season for City of Angels, this Penny Dreadful offshoot would not last beyond its ten-episode run. "Showtime has decided not to move forward with another season of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels. We would like to thank executive producers John Logan, Michael Aguilar and the entire cast and crew for their outstanding work on this project," Showtime said in a statement on the cancellation. No reason was given for the cancellation, but speculation has attributed it to low viewership. "The series premiere ... only amassed 0.807 (in millions) total viewers. That was the high point for the show ... From there, it went downhill, and ended with 0.659 viewers (in millions) by the season 1 finale," wrote Screen Rant. Despite hailing from the acclaimed world of Penny Dreadful, as far as spin-offs go, City of Angels ended up being far more of a Joanie Loves Chachi than a Frasier.

Katy Keene

Riverdale has already done a lot of strange things over its 76-episode run: Archie fighting a bear. Kids burning their houses down. Betty doing a striptease to the tune of "Mad World." By comparison, doing a spin-off would practically be a routine undertaking. Such a spin-off emerged in the form of Katy Keene. Starring Lucy Hale as the titular character, Katy Keene began its 13-episode run in February 2020 before wrapping up in May with a cliffhanger ending involving Keene confronting her possible father.

Unfortunately, that and other storylines from Katy Keene's first season will never get resolved. The show was canceled in July 2020, becoming The CW's only canceled show from the 2019-2020 season. According to The Hollywood Reporter, "a renewal decision [hinged] on the show's digital performance on the recently launched HBO Max streaming performance." With the show failing to perform on that platform as well as in traditional TV ratings, Katy Keene was doomed for cancellation. Inside sources speaking to Variety directly after Keene's cancellation suggested that the show could move to another platform. However, in the three months since that was reported, no word has surfaced on a revival for Katy Keene

The Riverdale gang accomplished a lot of crazy things across the show's four memorable seasons. Making a spin-off work was not one of them.

The Ranch

"Netflix might be rewriting the rulebook with a business model that involves shows often running for two to three seasons," wrote Deadline in May 2019. This practice has led to short lifespans for shows like Daredevil or Altered Carbon. An exception to this rule, though, is the Ashton Kutcher sitcom The Ranch. The half-hour comedy kicked off its run in April 2016 and proceeded to go for eight seasons and 80 episodes before wrapping up in January 2020.

Upon reporting news that the end was near for The Ranch, Deadline reported that the show "had not been expected to go beyond four seasons." The idea of The Ranch being able to go out on its own terms was reflected in comments from its leading man. "The story [of The Ranch] was told. I love everything that we did," Kutcher told the WTF with Marc Maron podcast shortly after the series finale. "Netflix owns the show, so it's not like there was this big syndication boon that's going to come if we shoot two more seasons." Though The Ranch has been put out to pasture, it can hold its high head over being, according to TVLine, "Netflix's longest-running multi-camera comedy, surpassing Fuller House (which ends its fifth and final season at 75 episodes)."


"The 'Empire' has fallen," Variety declared in May 2019. "Fox announced Monday that music drama Empire's recently announced sixth season will be the show's last." The news came as a shock for Empire creator Lee Daniels, who did not expect the show to end so soon. ""I was surprised, honestly," Daniels said to The Wrap. "I was told that it was possible this could happen but it has become realer and realer the closer we get to the end and I am sad. Sad that our show is done."

Why did Empire crumble after six seasons? Fox gave no official word on the matter, but The Hollywood Reporter noted that Empire shifting to being a Disney-owned show likely played a part in the matter. The outlet also noted that Jussie Smollett's ongoing legal affairs (which began three months before Empire was canceled) likely played a part in the series being brought to a close. It also can't be forgotten that Empire suffered a sharp drop in ratings over the years, going from 9.9 million viewers for its series premiere to just 2.9 million viewers for its series finale. 

The reasons for Empire's abrupt ending were many, though the drama for Empire didn't end with its cancellation. The 20-episode final season was cut down by two episodes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This didn't just result in a shorter season — it meant that Empire's intended series finale was never filmed, wrapping the show's run on a sour note.


For the longest time, it appeared that Supernatural would be like The Simpsons in just running forever. Having kicked off in September 2005 (all the way back when The CW was known as The WB), the fantastical exploits of Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) managed to go on for 15 seasons and a whopping 320 episodes. The duo managed to conquer a variety of otherworldly beings, like ghosts and demons, in that timespan. But even they couldn't defeat the prospect of cancellation.

The news of Supernatural's 15th season being its last was announced via Padalecki's Instagram account. "Dear #spnfamily , Season 1 @jensenackles and I want you to know that next season, SEASON 15, will be the last season of #supernatural," Padalecki said in an Instagram caption. Fellow lead actor Ackles said the decision to end the show was an intentional one. ""It was months and months if not years of discussion between he and I, between the rest of the cast, between crew, between our writers, between our producers, between the studio, between the network. Nobody wanted to see this show fizzle out," Ackles explained per E!

True to form, Supernatural's final season has managed to go on much longer than expected. The series was originally set to conclude in May 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic shut down filming for the final season. The production was only able to resume in August, meaning that the Supernatural series finale won't air until November of 2020, five months later than originally expected.