Is cancelling TV shows a double-edged sword?

‘Tis a sad day indeed, when an unsuspecting programme gets the boot from a traitorous television network. After all, it’s probably been on-air long enough to steal some hearts that’ll never recover from the tragedy. But… haven’t you ever prayed for certain shows to, like, quit existing already? You know, the kind that’s overstayed their welcome long enough to become parodies of themselves?


A pakka[1] example of this phenomenon would be Supernatural, a dark fantasy series that’s been picked up for Season 14. Fourteen.


Pretty faces can only go so far


It follows the adventures of the Winchesters—two brothers on a mission to save the world from paranormal predators. I liked how the initial seasons focused on villainous entities, creepy folklore and urban legends from a variety of cultures. This kept the show from succumbing to the generic vampire-werewolf-ghost formula that usually fuels this genre. The anthological episodes were cleverly linked by two running threads: Sam and Dean’s search for their dad and quest to uncover the truth behind their mom’s gruesome murder. Not only did this preserve some semblance of structure, it helped etch the duo’s personalities as polar opposites.


But Supernatural’s success started to backfire when the writing turned lazy, favouring titanium-grade plot armour—a fact the makers seem to be aware of, given scenes like these:


Self-awareness justification


The storyline mutates into pure chaos, pulling twists out of thin air and failing to see them through. This lack of accountability does a real number on the protagonists by putting them through so much crap that they’ve been rendered numb and out of opportunities for growth. The tendency to retread steps (how many apocalypses do they need anyway?) and blatant pandering to the audience (good ol’ queerbaiting) are also major reasons Supernatural needs to… just, stahp.


Not even god—who’s a featured character, by the way—can save this show from its descent into the gutter.

Speaking of saakada thanni[2], did you catch the latest episode of Riverdale? I’m guessing the CW didn’t, since they’ve renewed it for Season 4.


Just watch Archie’s Weird Mysteries instead

This teen drama had a ton of expectations riding on its shoulders even pre-release. Any book-to-screen adaptation is bound to have a mob of naysayers—hell, I often lead with the pitchfork—but Riverdale does an exceptional job at failing, even so. Although its debut season was met with positive feedback, it was already plagued by campy dialogue that either sounds too forced to be taken seriously:



The definition of Extra


Or downright abnormal coming from a high school student:


                                     When John Green meets Tumblr

Needless to say, Archie and gang are cookie-cutter stereotypes with little resemblance to the comic’s counterparts. Additionally they lack consistency, saying and doing things that are wildly out-of-character. However, there did used to be a clearly-defined plot: a classic whodunit centred on the killing of Jason Blossom. But subsequent seasons shunned cohesive storylines and began to lead audiences on a wild goose chase, substituting red herrings for clues and hoaxes for breakthroughs.


The show’s outlandish decisions (Archie joining an underground prison fight-club, Betty performing a striptease for a neighbourhood gang, Cheryl randomly announcing her prowess at archery) often seem like the products of a fever dream. Riverdale also tries to weave in commentary on social issues—a well-intentioned gesture that falls apart because of sloppy groundwork and counterproductive tropes such as  glamourising teacher-student relationships and romanticising mental illness. It even tosses around buzzwords like “privilege” and “toxic masculinity” with careless abandon, in a transparent bid to appear edgy.

The sole silver lining throughout has been in terms of aesthetics: costumes, makeup, set design, the overall look. If that entices you to give Riverdale a try, go ahead... but be ready to wave common sense goodbye.

Now that I’ve kazhuvi kazhuvi oothifyed[3] these series, you might think me a nitpicking killjoy. So let’s even this out with a feature on two of my favourites that were canned way ahead of their time:


Agent Carter made it to just two seasons before getting the axe. A real shame, because it gave a minor character from the MCU a platform to shine independently.


Catching bad guys in style since 1946


Set in 1940s America, the show revolves around tough-as-nails Peggy Carter who struggles to earn the respect of her chauvinistic colleagues, while undertaking missions and defeating evil masterminds. One of the coolest things about this series is its dedication towards fleshing out the entire cast alongside the lead. Every main character is nuanced—be it Howard Stark’s inventive brilliance and residual grief over Captain America’s “death”, the delightful quirkiness of Mr. Jarvis and his slowly strengthening bond with Carter, or Agent Thompson’s inner conflict between chasing ambition and making amends.


Both seasons invest in complex antagonists with convincing backstories. Furthermore, the show’s action sequences and emotional moments are masterfully balanced with sprinkles of levity. However, Season 2 isn’t as tightly plotted. The sense of urgency—so crucial for this genre—is gone, thanks to awkward pacing and a generic storyline. But errors notwithstanding, Season 3 deserved a chance. It had plans to delve into Carter’s background, finally addressing the mystery surrounding her brother’s fate. Thus, the last episode concludes on an excruciating cliff-hanger.


Regardless, watching Carter’s self-doubt morph into unshakeable confidence is an experience I’m glad to have enjoyed, even if briefly.


And that’s what I call a “glow-up”

At the age of 24, Kristen Bell was receiving rave reviews for her performance in Veronica Mars. The show was canned after only three seasons but still retains a devoted fandom.


Noir from the female perspective


This series has everything: crime/mystery, teenage angst and family drama. A combo that’s hard to nail, but the first two seasons are dealt with a deft hand. The story stars Veronica—a snarky nonconformist with a heart of gold—who helps her detective dad out with his clients, while moonlighting on her own as a private eye. Think of it as a version of Nancy Drew where the protagonist is actually flawed. And that is this show’s greatest strength: the ability to stay grounded.

For all her witty comebacks and quick thinking, Veronica is never portrayed as superhuman. She can be highly selfish, has serious trust issues, questionable taste in men, and suffers from repressed trauma. In spite of her investigative acumen, there are several instances where she needs to enlist the help of other individuals and doesn’t get a happily-ever-after. The rest of the characters come in shades of grey too, hailing from different walks of life. This pits them against each other in subtle ways that address issues like racism, sexism and classism insightfully. When the tension gets too thick, it’s diffused with comic relief:



Part-time sleuth, full-time savage


Alas, Season 3 loses traction by employing an excess of clichés and introducing new characters who aren’t three-dimensional enough to root for. Interestingly, it plays devil’s advocate to the concept of sexual assault, examining the whys of fake rape claims and hows of legitimate cases. I liked this angle as it seeks to cover both sides of the spectrum without trivialising either. But ultimately, the series was scrapped—right when Veronica was going to start an internship at the FBI. Talk about abysmal timing.


In a last-ditch attempt to tie up loose ends, the team launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a movie. The target amount was met within eleven hours and the film released in 2014. All things considered, it was a decent farewell…


...Until Hulu announced that it was resurrecting the show for an eight-episode season, slated to premiere later this year!



Of course, it could end up like Community or Arrested Development’s revived seasons—pale imitations of their former glory—but under seventeen layers of cynicism I have a reluctant idealist whose fingers are crossed.


Do you agree with my picks? Which shows are you sick of seeing all over your Feed? Any other unfortunate cancellations I should’ve included? Let me know down below.


   for the Peters who pretend not to know Tamil:


  [1] Something too perfect for its own damn good

  [2] What comes out of 50% of the taps in Chennai

  [3] The kind of verbal abuse exchanged on crowded buses




Written By

Shakthi Bharathi

Leave a comment