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The Real Reason Manifest Got Canceled

Sometimes, the sheer amount of quality TV out there means that even the best shows aren't safe from the chopping block. Take NBC's "Manifest," one of the network's greatest hits. The enticing supernatural drama tells the story of the people aboard Montego Air Flight 828, which somehow lands five and a half years in the future. The intriguing concept and exciting plot have made the series a fan favorite, and as a result, "Manifest" has been a reliable workhorse — easily the network's most popular show of its kind (per Deadline). 

Unfortunately, the world of small-screen entertainment is a volatile place, and even these considerable accolades weren't able to keep "Manifest" afloat. Recent news indicate that NBC has opted against greenlighting "Manifest" Season 4, and as such, the show is canceled. This means there's a very real chance that fans will never find out exactly what happened to the people aboard the fateful plane — which is all the more frustrating when you remember that the ending of Season 3 added a seemingly never-ending conga line of cliffhangers to the already impressive mountain of mysteries. Despite this, the show's fate appears to have been sealed, so for now, there's only one real mystery that needs to be solved: Why on Earth was "Manifest" canceled in the first place?

The surprise cancellation may have been prompted by dwindling ratings

If you think that the cancellation news came as a bit of a surprise, "Manifest" creator Jeff Rake certainly agrees. "My dear Manifesters," he tweeted after the hammer dropped. "I'm devastated by NBC's decision to cancel us. That we've been shut down in the middle is a gut punch to say the least. Hoping to find a new home. You the fans deserve an ending to your story. Thanks for the love shown to me, cast, and crew." He also included the hashtag #savemanifest, which might very well see a fair amount of use in the coming weeks.

The news of the show's grim fate arrived on June 14, and as Deadline reported, the die was cast shortly before the actors' options expired. This, of course, means that "Manifest" only got halfway through its planned six-season arc before it joined "Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist" and "Debris" in the network's cancellation pile. 

As for why anyone could even consider canceling a seemingly super-successful show like "Manifest" in the first place, the answer is still up in the air. However, TV Series Finale has noted that the show's Season 3 didn't manage to attract quite as many viewers as the previous two, to the point that its ratings dropped 31 percent in the 18-49 demographic. Still, considering that "Manifest" was nevertheless quite popular, the decision not to renew it couldn't have been an easy one ... which could explain why the network waited until the last moments to do the deed.

There may be hope for Manifest yet

Though "Manifest" is down for now, there's a decent chance that it's not out. Obviously, the show has no shortage of plot left — and, as Deadline notes, creator Jeff Rake has made it clear that he'd still like to wrap up the remaining three seasons. Likewise, Warner Bros. TV is reportedly putting out feelers to see if the show can be rescued. 

Even if the series ends up finding a new home, there may still be some wrinkles in the plan, since it appears that the options of the cast of "Manifest" have expired. So, regardless of what happens, a potential return would likely have plenty of hurdles to clear, and even a best-case scenario might mean that fans will have to wait for quite some time before new episodes arrive. 

Then again, fan-favorite shows of a sufficiently high profile have been rescued from the scrap heap before. The beloved sci-fi show "The Expanse" is heading toward Season 6, because Amazon Prime picked it up after Syfy dropped it after Season 3. NBC itself rescued popular cop sitcom "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" after Fox canceled it after Season 5. Hopefully, some platform or network will extend the same courtesy to "Manifest" and its manifold unsolved mysteries.

Luckily for fans, "Manifest" is no lemon, and might hold plenty of allure for the right buyer. In fact, before the show got the ax, it spent three days at the coveted #1 spot of Netflix's U.S. Top 10. Time will tell if this means that the streaming platform is interested in further seasons of the show, but it may not be outside the realm of possibility.