Has a Popular TV Show Ever Been Cancelled Because Critics Panned It? Or Vice-Versa?

I notice that the CBS comedy Yes, Dear, has been taken off the fall schedule. Yes, Dear was a marginally funny, if somewhat bland, sitcom that got modest ratings. However, critics were almost unanimous in their hatred of the show.

This begs a question: has a popular (even modestly so) TV show ever been canelled strictly because critics disliked it?

Conversely, has an unpopular show ever been kept on the air simply because the critics liked it? I’m reminded of Fox’s Arrested Development. Critics love it, though it has gotten consistently poor ratings. Fox has renewed it for next fall, although I note that it is likely that Fox is trying to give the show time to find its audience. NBC had to do that with Seinfeld in the early going, too.

Goddammit, now how am I supposed to get my Jerry Van Dyke fix??

As for your question, if a show got good ratings no matter what critics thought of it, I’m sure it would stay on the air.

I believe 7th heaven got pretty bad ratings but good reviews and was kept on the air presumably to find an audience.

Gilligan’s Island was #1 in the Neilson ratings in its first season, #22 its second , and in its third season was #49 … so it’s position was deteriorating, but there were plans to run a 4th season — but it was, somewhat surprisingly to it’s production team, cancelled.

Supposedly this was because a Network’s Exec wife loved Gunsmoke … Sherwood Schwartz has said the Network was embarrassed by the show and was just looking for a reason to kill it. It isn’t a leap to say that the critics’ opinion probably helped push this one over the cliff.

At that time, William Paley ran CBS. From what I’ve read, he had highbrow tastes and was embarrassed by some of the shows like Gilligan’s Island. So I’m not surprised that they cancelled it.

Today, I think all of the networks are mercilessly profit-driven, so shows like Fear Factor stay on the air. (The television critic at the local paper criticized NBC for failing to create and air a Bob Hope tribute show. Given the length of his relationship with the network, that demonstrates their lack of sentiment.)

They’ll cut a show like Arrested Development a little slack because it is highly rated, but only for so long. On the other hand, I think historically some long-running shows took more than one season to find an audience, so their current quickness to cancel shows may be hurting them.

Taxi is kind of a good example.

It was cancelled and then another network bought the show and ran it, till it found it’s audience. The critics liked the show and I guess the people at the new network felt they could do it.

I know Cheers took a while to find it’s audience.

Politically Incorrect was cancelled despite high ratings, mainly due to Bill Maher’s controversial remarks about 9/11.

The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer only lasted four episodes and was heavily derided by critics. I don’t think it ever got high ratings, though.

Police Squad! qualifies, I think. I wasn’t around when it came on, but I don’t see how someone could not like it. I heard that it just didn’t get enough Neilson ratings even though it was popular with the rest of the country. The result was only 6 episodes.

Ratings always counts more than any critical opinion (though advertisers’ opinions can also count a bit, too – CBS cancelled a bunch of shows in the early 70s because advertisers thought they were too “rural” and would go elsewhere).

From time to time, a critically acclaimed show will get a little extra slack. Hill Street Blues struggled quite a bit in the early going, as did Quantum Leap. In both cases, they had good critical reception and – more importantly – the network programming executives liked the show. So they were willing to try things out to promote them and eventually turned them into successes.

As people pointed out Arrested Development is getting that now, but there’s the addition factor is that Fox probably feels they can’t come up with anything that will do better, so they might as well stick with what they have.

Police Squad had terrible ratings – all over the country. It wasn’t until the movie came out that people were interested in it.

As an answer to the OP one show I can think of that might come close is Who wants to marry a multi-millionaire? It got shut down because of the outcry regarding whassisname’s criminal record. I seem to remember the critics loathed the whole concept of the show to begin with so they probably helped get it shut down. I don’t know what the ratings were like, though.
To this day I am surprised Fox showed the restraint they did and didn’t try another episode. Not like them, really.

A little more specificaly, it was cancelled because the sponsors started running like hell. And it might be worth keeping in mind that Disney runs ABC.

One of the major excecutives at NBC (Warren Littlefield?) managed to keep Seinfeld around despite poor ratings during the first season. Only thirteen episodes of the show were ordered at first, which was the lowest of the low at the time.

It was a one-time-only show, though, not a series. They couldn’t have shut it down unless they actually stopped the broadcast in the middle of the show, which of course they did not.

They didn’t run another one, but it’s not quite the same as cancelling a series.

Lots and lots and lots of shows have been kept on the air for awhile despite poor ratings because the network was convinced they’d find an audience. That’s common. I can’t think of ANY really highly rated shows cancelled because of critical panning.

It’s safer to say that critics have contributed more to saving low-rated shows than to killing high-rated shows.

Usually when a marginal, crtically hated show gets canceled, it has more running against it than just critical disapproval:

  • Cost/difficulty of production
  • Affiliate disapproval
  • Advertiser disapproval
  • Pressure to open the time slot for a new program


Vice Versa has indeed occured. A Popular TV show has been cancelled because critics loved it (cf. most new Fox non-reality shows.)

I’m pretty sure just mentioning this show in a thread about popular television shows is against some law.

On a serious note, I’m not sure how Family Guy shakes out, but I’m sure critical commentary had a lot to do with Fox’s shuffling the program out of their lineup.

Ironically enough, fan support of the DVD sets has led them to bring back the show to their lineup in 2005. IIRC, it’s the first time in history that a cancelled show has been brought back to the network that axed it.

I can’t believe Yes Dear lasted as long as it did. I remember watching the first episode and thinking, “This thing is gonna get cancelled immediately,” then to my surprise, it stayed on for a few seasons. It’s about as horrible as a sitcom can get, and I am not picky so that really says something.

Part of what may determine whether a show gets canned or not is who is behind it. I personally think that Arrested Development survived only because of Ron Howard’s involvement. A show with lower-than-expected audience numbers and no one powerful backing it is dead meat, no matter how critically praised it might be.

My recollection was that they DID originally intend for it to be a series, or at least a semi-regular event. I don’t have a cite though.

It’s the first time because of DVD sales, anyway. The DVD sales and strong ratings on Cartoon Network made FOX change their minds yet again and decide maybe there was an audience. I don’t remember what critics thought of the show, but I think those things had a lot more to do with it.