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The Real Reason These TV Shows Were Canceled In 2022

All television providers — be they advertiser-driven broadcast networks, subscription-oriented premium cable networks, or streaming services — are a business, trying to earn as much of a profit as possible through the almost completely philosophically opposite idea of providing art, expression, and entertainment to the masses. They aim to reach as broad an audience as possible because more eyeballs means more profit, but sometimes they miss the mark, and even shows that seemed like they'd be a surefire hit just don't resonate with the public. The result is a series that's pulled from the airwave. But there are many reasons a TV show gets canceled. Perhaps the creative forces or stars decide to move on, or maybe it's getting too old and losing the impact it once had. All those reasons and more are major factors in why these shows all had their lives cut short in 2022.

Updated on May 13, 2022: Networks and streamers cancel shows all the time, so check back here periodically to see if any of your favorites will be disappearing from the small screen.

American Rust was overshadowed by other Showtime shows

"American Rust" tells the engaging but tragic story of a once prominent industrial town fading into obscurity, poverty, and crime. Set in the fictional northeastern Rust Belt area of Fayette County, the bleak drama starred Jeff Daniels as Del Harris, the local police chief, usually a paragon of justice and competence. But when he falls in love with Grace Poe (Maura Tierney) and her son commits a murder, he conspires to cover it up, setting of a chain of bad choices and horrible consequences.

The TV version of "American Rust" endured a long and troubled production history. USA ordered an adaptation of Philipp Meyer's novel of the same name in 2017, but it was canceled when producers couldn't find a lead actor they liked. Showtime gave it another shot in 2019 and set up production in the Pittsburgh area. The Tribune-Review, Pittsburgh's newspaper of record, broke the story of the cancelation of "American Rust" in January 2022, three months after the airing of the first season (now series) finale. Despite earning poor-to-middling critical reviews, the first handful of "American Rust" episodes brought in a sizable-for-Showtime audience of 3 million weekly viewers. That audience then dropped precipitously once Showtime launched two shows with way more attention and buzz: "Yellowjackets" and a "Dexter" revival.

It's game over for Ellen's Game of Games

"The Ellen DeGeneres Show" served as a silly and sunny alternative to its syndicated daytime talk show brethren. While the competition offered salacious discussions of serious problems, "Ellen," hosted by the low-key and charming comedian Ellen DeGeneres, served up audience giveaways, impromptu dance parties, and party games. Those activities — "Blindfolded Musical Chairs," "Dizzy Dash," "Hot Hands," and "Oh Ship!" among others — proved so irresistibly popular that DeGeneres spun them off into their own show for NBC's primetime lineup, "Ellen's Game of Games." The main difference is that the prizes got bigger and so did the games, stretched out to involve massive set pieces and gigantic props.

The fourth season of "Ellen's Game of Games" aired on NBC's primetime schedule throughout the 2020-2021 season, and no new episodes will be produced or aired. According to Variety, DeGeneres' exit from television includes not just her 19-year-old eponymous daytime talk show but "Ellen's Game of Games" as well. In 2019, DeGeneres signed a contract extension to keep the parent show on the air through 2022, which wasn't renewed amidst backstage scandal, with former crew members alleging continual mistreatment and severe labor issues. DeGeneres' reputation as the "Queen of Nice" suffered, and ratings for her shows dropped, both for the talk show and "Game of Games."

Bull lost its star, and CBS pulled the plug

Fitting right in on CBS' schedule full of crime and legal procedurals, "Bull" is about the previously little-known world of jury consulting. Brilliant psychologist and court expert Dr. Jason Bull (Michael Weatherly) leads Trial Analysis Corporation, which helps his high-powered, high-paying clients find the ideal jurors and correct angle to bring about an agreeable verdict. Inspired by the former career of talk show host and executive producer Dr. Phil McGraw, "Bull" ran for six seasons on CBS, spending its first two years among the top 10 most-watched shows on broadcast television.

On January 18, 2022, Weatherly announced via a tweet that he was ready to leave "Bull." "I've decided it's time to pursue new creative challenges," the actor explained. As the show was very much a vehicle for Weatherly, a huge star in the CBS family after a 13-year stint on the network's massively popular "NCIS," the network opted to cancel the show rather than continue on without its anchor. And after six seasons on the air, "Bull" was no longer the ratings juggernaut it once was, ranking as the eighth-most watched CBS drama among all viewers and dead last among people in the sought-after 18-to-49 demographic.

Promised Land flopped and got dumped onto Hulu

Midway through the 2021-2022 season, to fill in a gap while hit show "The Good Doctor" was on hiatus, ABC launched "Promised Land," a throwback to the dramatic — if not melodramatic — primetime soaps of the late '70s and '80s. And just like "Falcon Crest," "Promised Land" was set at a successful and picturesque California winery, detailing the machinations and romantic entanglements of several generations of a sprawling, wealthy, spoiled family.

"Promised Land," which brought in the lowest 18-49 demographic-favored numbers of any ABC drama in the 2021-22 season, lasted just five episodes on the primetime schedule, with the network pulling it from its Monday night time slot in February 2022. Subsequent installments weren't aired and instead dropped directly on Hulu (which, like ABC, is owned by Disney), and "Promised Land" ran out its first and only season of 10 episodes in that manner. While creator Matt Lopez claimed on Instagram (via Just Jared) that the move didn't equal a cancelation, the low ratings and unceremonious dumping make a second season of "Promised Land" highly unlikely.

The Lost Symbol was declared a miniseries after the fact

Robert Langdon is a world-renowned symbolist, the go-to expert for finding clues in ancient works of art and historical artifacts so as to uncover far-reaching conspiracies and solve mysteries. He's the hero of multiple bestselling novels by Dan Brown, as well as "The Lost Symbol," a 2020 Peacock original starring Ashley Zukerman as the brilliant Langdon.

"The Lost Symbol" adaption for streaming television is essentially the only piece of Robert Langdon to not register as a massive success. Brown's original novels were all massive bestsellers, and three big-screen adaptations starring Tom Hanks ("The Da Vinci Code," "Angels and Demons," "Inferno") earned a worldwide box office of more than $1.4 billion. But each film made less than the previous, and the last hit theaters more than five years before "The Lost Symbol" debuted on Peacock, so perhaps Robert Langdon's historical mystery solving is a fad whose time has passed. 

In January 2022, according to Variety, Peacock canceled "The Lost Symbol," with a source close to the show reporting that the streamer and producers figured they'd told a full story with its one season, retroactively turning the continuing show into a limited series.

Gentefied never broke through for Netflix

Praised and notable for bringing oft-neglected voices and perspectives to television, Netflix's "Gentefied" is set in East Los Angeles and explores the experiences of Latino individuals in the United States, people maintaining a unique culture while also finding a place among the broader national identity. An outgrowth of a crackling and sensitive digital series by Linda Yvette Chavez and Marvin Lemus, "Gentefied" centered on the Morales family as they kept their grandfather's restaurant open, tenaciously pursued their own dreams, and fought against the twin menaces of immigration officials and gentrification.

Despite early signs of success — the critical and cultural buzz helped the series earn a Season 2 renewal just a couple of months after its first season debuted — "Gentefied" traded in quality over quantity and never attracted a sizable audience or at least one large enough for Netflix to justify a third batch of episodes. Netflix doesn't release specific viewership numbers for any of its shows, but according to Deadline, the second (and ultimately final) season of "Gentefied" never made an appearance on the Netflix Top 10, the one public barometer of success on the major streamer.

The Baby-Sitters Club didn't get binged

Ann M. Martin's beloved "Baby-Sitters Club" books are cultural touchstones for many readers who grew up in the '80s and '90s. These warm, funny, and relatable stories explore adolescence and small business management from the perspective of the titular club, which is comprised of tween girls growing up in suburban Connecticut. While the books have been adapted before, Netflix's 2020 series, "The Baby-Sitters Club," earned especially ardent praise. This new take faithfully adapts and updates the classic characters for the screen, offering warm, funny, and relatable stories about growing up.

Despite this critical success, The Hollywood Reporter revealed in March 2022 that Netflix had canceled the show after two seasons. In conversation with Vulture, creator Rachel Shukert noted that though the series pulled in solid viewership numbers, it's possible subscribers didn't consume the show in the manner most preferable to the company. Shukert hypothesized that Netflix wants to devote more resources to widely appealing shows that are immediately binge-watched upon release and draw in new markets, rather than quieter shows with a niche audience. 

Space Force was too expensive for Netflix

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Netflix was highly motivated to land "Space Force," which premiered on the streaming service in 2020. It marked the return to series television for Steve Carell, star of the enduring hit sitcom (and one-time Netflix magnet) "The Office." Plus, he would be collaborating again with the creative force behind Carell's big show, Greg Daniels. In a satire of government life during the Donald Trump administration, Carell played an Air Force general picked to head up the fledgling, flailing new branch of the military known as "Space Force."

The second season of "Space Force" debuted on Netflix in February 2022, with a new co-showrunner and production transferred from Los Angeles to Vancouver. Such changes were undertaken to improve the show's critical quality and buzz (Season 1 earned middling reviews from viewers and writers), as well as to cut costs. The first season of "Space Force" was among the most expensive shows on contemporary television, with Netflix paying Carell more than $1 million an episode. The show's viewership figures didn't justify such an expense, especially after April 2022, when Netflix (per Forbes) reported a massive subscriber loss and endured a $55 billion decline in value. Within a week of that financial disaster, "Space Force" was grounded.

Batwoman's numbers weren't good enough for The CW

"Batwoman" extended the mythology of Gotham City and its criminals vs. vigilantes underworld. Inspired by Batman-adjacent DC Comics, the show was part of The CW's ambitious and expansive "Arrowverse" of interconnected superhero shows, initially starring Ruby Rose as hero Kate Kane and then starring Javica Leslie as criminal turned caped crusader Ryan Wilder.

Showrunner Caroline Dries broke the "sad news" on Twitter in April 2022 that "Batwoman" would not return for a fourth season. According to Variety, The CW might be cleaning house of its underperforming scripted series as it prepares for an ownership change. Currently owned by WarnerMedia and ViacomCBS, Nexstar Media Group — a consortium of TV stations — is preparing to buy a majority stake in The CW. "Batwoman," which survived behind-the-scenes controversy and an on-screen shift when original star Ruby Rose left the show after alleging an unsafe working environment and was replaced by Leslie, was among the least-watched shows on its network in the 2021-2022 season, averaging around 760,000 viewers, a drop of 20% from the previous frame.

Legends of Tomorrow will be a show for yesterday

Involving more time travel, humor, and cast members than the typical small-screen superhero show, "Legends of Tomorrow" (technically "DC's Legends of Tomorrow") follows an often-changing team of young superheroes (as well as villains and rogues) who move through space, time, and the universe to prevent apocalypses and other threats to the continued existence of humanity.

Once the single most dominant programming source in its lineup, The CW's "Arrowverse" of intertwined DC Comics-based action-adventure shows is shrinking. In the 2022-2023 season, the only pre-existing comic book shows that remain will be the recently launched "Superman and Lois" and "The Flash" in its ninth and likely final season. "Legends of Tomorrow" was among the oldest and least popular "Arrowverse" shows, concluding after seven seasons and attracting fewer viewers than the superhero series that survived, according to TVLine. "Legends of Tomorrow" pulled in an average of just 860,000 watchers in what wound up being its final season on The CW, a network taking a hard look at what shows to keep and save in the wake of a potential sale to a new ownership group.

Less than a month after this axe fell, The CW continued to clear out its schedule and production slate when it canceled seven more hour-long dramas, including the rebooted "Dynasty," "Charmed," "4400," and "Roswell, New Mexico," as well as "In the Dark," "Legacies," and "Naomi."

CBS got rid of multiple sitcoms to make way for new dramas

As reported by Vulture, the 2021-2022 season marks the 14th straight year CBS has been able to call itself the most-watched TV network in the United States. This is impressive, given cable and streaming services siphon off more broadcast network viewers every year. Yet even in this rapidly changing landscape, CBS maintains its sizable audience. This means it has higher and more narrow standards of what constitutes a hit and which shows are worthy of renewal. This was made apparent in May 2022, when CBS canceled one long-running drama and three sitcoms with middling-to-low viewership figures. Such a culling makes way for a slew of new series more in line with the network's hit crime dramas.

According to TVLine, CBS axed comedies "B Positive," "United States of Al," and "How We Roll," as well as its "Magnum P.I." remake, which ran for four seasons. At the same time, Deadline reported that the network ordered three new drama series: Cop show "East New York," legal series "So Help Me Todd," and firefighter yarn "Fire Country." Though "So Help Me Todd" garners a laugh every now and then, you couldn't really call it a comedy — and that's fine with CBS.