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The Real Reason These TV Shows Were Canceled In 2021

As the year 2021 dawned, the world was still in the midst of the deadly coronavirus pandemic. Billions of people and nearly every industry on Earth adjusted throughout 2020, including the world of television. Shutdowns and expensive precautionary measures meant to slow the spread of COVID-19 led to numerous TV show cancellations, delays, and reworkings, which carried over into 2021. Television was already in flux, what with the continued advent of streaming services and rise of new delivery methods. All these factors culminated in some shocking and surprising cancellations of popular, important, and vital TV series across broadcast, cable, and online providers, although the regular reasons for shows ending were also in play — stars ready to move on, fans losing interest, or creators deciding they'd told the story they set out to tell. Here are all the familiar favorites leaving the airwaves in 2021, and the often strange reasons why.

Peaky Blinders will end with a movie instead

Peaky Blinders is one of the most ambitious crime dramas to ever grace television. Based somewhat on the true story of a street gang that terrorized Birmingham and other parts of the U.K. in the years between World War I and World War II, the dark, violent, and stylish show evoked underworld sagas like The Godfather while presenting a view of the interwar period rarely approached in media, along with showcasing an all-star cast that included Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, and Anya Taylor-Joy.

Peaky Blinders remained a popular, much-discussed series well into its run, both on the BBC in the U.K., and on Netflix in the U.S. In May 2018, creator Steven Knight told the Birmingham Press Club (via The Independent) just before the debut of season five that a sixth season of Peaky Blinders was on the way, with a seventh season likely, if not probable. However, after pandemic-related shutdowns delayed shooting of season six, Knight changed his plans. "COVID came along, and we lost a year of production," he told Variety. "So we put our heads together and thought that it would be a good idea to do a movie instead of doing series seven." That means Peaky Blinders fans can at least look forward to that.

Insecure has finished telling its story

In 2016, HBO debuted Insecure, starring co-creator Issa Rae as Issa Dee, a woman in her late twenties trying to balance all the disparate threads in her life while searching for fulfillment and purpose. When the series begins, Issa works at a Los Angeles nonprofit designed to help young students of color succeed while also maintaining her intense connection with old friend Molly (Yvonne Orji) and slowly, maybe, emerging from a stale relationship with boyfriend Lawrence (Jay Ellis). Acclaimed for being a thoughtful and vital look at 21st century life for African-American women, Insecure made stars out of Rae and Orji and scored an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Comedy Series.

Insecure was a fully fleshed-out, grander realization of Awkward Black Girl, Rae's confessional YouTube series from the 2010s. Along with co-creator Larry Wilmore, Rae mapped out a show designed to tell a finite story about a certain period in the life of her character and her social circle. "We always planned to tell this story through five seasons," Rae told Deadline. HBO renewed the series for its fifth season in May 2020, which Rae confirmed in January 2021 would be its last.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine was ready to wrap up

Set in a police precinct deep in New York City, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is one of the most acclaimed sitcoms of the 2010s and beyond. Revolving around the goofy but actually talented detective Jake Perralta (Andy Samberg), the crew of the Nine-Nine is more like a family, led by stone-faced captain Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher) and involving neurotic sergeant Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews), Jake-worshipping detective Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio), and self-absorbed community liaison Gina (Chelsea Peretti). Brooklyn Nine-Nine s pull is strong: When Fox canceled it in 2018, it was immediately revived by NBC.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine's eighth season was already delayed. Set to air during the 2019-2020 season, coronavirus-related shutdowns of Hollywood productions pushed back those episodes. Then, after a spate of deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement — including those of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd — the anti-police-brutality and overall anti-police sentiment that in part fueled coast-to-coast protests led to a reckoning over cop shows in the entertainment history. Shows thought to glorify police, like Cops and Live P.D., were immediately canceled, for example. Producers for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, a gentle comedy about police officers, tossed all the scripts written for its eighth season in order to start over with recent events in mind. All of this weighed heavily on an aging show that was not a ratings hit. NBC announced that Brooklyn Nine-Nine would return for its eighth — and final — season in 2021, with a limited run of just 10 episodes.

The Haves and Have Nots ended because its producer moved on

OWN's The Haves and the Have Nots is a good old-fashioned 1980s-style, scandal-free, family drama-loaded primetime soap, in the vein of Dallas or Dynasty. Set in the beautiful and moneyed city of Savannah, Georgia, the story centers in part on the locally dominant Cryers and Harringtons, who have abundant wealth and resources at their disposal. Those are the "haves," while the "have nots" are the Youngs, a working-class family led by single mother Hanna (Crystal Fox), who works in the home of the Cryers. There's plenty of intrigue with the servants, as well as when the two sides of the socioeconomic coin interact, making for a show that feels like a modern-day Downton Abbey.

The series comes from the mind of prolific show creator and producer Tyler Perry. In 2017, he signed a deal to make scripted series for Oprah Winfrey's OWN channel. The first show under that deal was The Haves and the Have Nots, OWNS's first scripted series, which drew an average of three million viewers — huge for the sometimes struggling OWN. After a run of eight years and nearly 200 episodes, The Haves and the Have Nots will end its run in May 2021, the last vestige of Perry's OWN contract. He moved on from the channel in 2017, signing a development deal to make shows for Viacom outlets, including BET. The end of his original OWN show marks a clean, contractual break with Perry's former creative home.

Mom changed drastically and lost its star

Mom was a tricky sitcom from day one, but the cast and crew pulled it off. Co-created by Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory mastermind Chuck Lorre, Mom mined humor from addiction recovery. Scary Movie star Anna Faris played Christy, a recovering alcoholic in the early stages of putting her life back together while balancing family responsibilities and dealing with the handful that was her mother, Bonnie (Allison Janney), also dealing with her own addiction issues.

In September 2020, just days before Mom was set to start production on its eighth season, Faris abruptly walked away from the series. When the show returned to the air two months later, Mom writers got rid of Christy by explaining that she'd moved away to attend law school at Georgetown University. Months later, CBS announced that Mom would end at the conclusion of its only season without Faris. The show arguably couldn't suffer the blow of losing its star, but Christy's exit also marked the final step in the Mom story arc. When the show began in 2013, it was a vehicle for Faris, and the action centered on her character, a single mother raising two teenage children. Over time, the kids were completely written out and the spotlight moved over to Christy's mother Bonnie, and her Alcoholics Anonymous group.

NCIS: New Orleans was the weak link in the NCIS chain

The NCIS format — in which a team of elite, highly-trained Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents investigate and solve naval-related crimes — is a premise that keeps on giving. Since 2003, the franchise has generated more than 400 episodes of Washington, D.C.-based NCIS, nearly 300 of spinoff NCIS: Los Angeles, and about 150 of NCIS: New Orleans, starring veteran TV actor Scott Bakula as team leader Supervisory Special Agent Dwayne Cassius Pride. This iteration of the crime procedural saga hit CBS in 2014, and at one point, ranked among the top 10 most watched shows on TV.

But that was years ago. In February 2021, CBS announced that NCIS: New Orleans would end at the conclusion of its current season, its seventh. The cancellation comes in part due to falling viewership. In the 2020-'21 season, no CBS drama suffered a bigger drop than NCIS: New Orleans, which also loses 750,000 viewers from its lead-in show, NCIS: Los Angeles, and accumulates a total draw of about half of the original NCIS. It especially didn't make sense for CBS to keep making new episodes of the New Orleans series because it didn't generate big money in reruns and on streaming, the way the other two NCIS shows do. Meanwhile, NCIS: New Orleans showrunners Jan Nash and Christopher have already agreed to take over a potential new CBS drama... NCIS: Hawaii.