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'The Muppets,' 'Castle,' among TV shows canceled ahead of 2016 Upfronts

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ABC's Channing Dungey isn't the only network chief to clean house before the 2016 Upfronts in New York City, where networks will work to woo ad buyers for the upcoming TV season.
Earl Gibson III/Getty Images
ABC's Channing Dungey isn't the only network chief to clean house before the 2016 Upfronts in New York City, where networks will work to woo ad buyers for the upcoming TV season.

A bevy of shows have been canceled as TV networks prepare to woo advertisers at a series of presentations in New York next week

If you're a fan of "Castle," "The Muppets," or about a dozen other TV shows, we've got some bad news for you: they've been axed from the airwaves. 

A bevy of shows have been canceled in the past few days as TV networks prepare to present their lineups and schedules to advertisers next week in New York. In addition to "Castle" and "The Muppets," the list of other recently canceled shows includes "Agent Carter," "The Grinder," "CSI: Cyber," and "Nashville."

The presentations known as the Upfronts are where ad buyers and journalists gather to see what the broadcast networks have in store. In past years, ad buyers have chosen to spend up to $9 billion of ad time based on these presentations.

Margaret Lyons is the TV critic for the New York Times' newsletter, "Watching," and when she joined us on The Frame today she talked about ABC's rash of cancellations, The CW's increasingly strong grip on quirky dramas, and what one should expect might they end up at an Upfront presentation.

Interview Highlights:

The Upfronts haven't started yet, but we've already got a lot of news to talk about. First of all, ABC has canceled a lot of shows — "Castle," "Galavant," "Nashville," "Agent Carter," "The Family," and even "The Muppets." What do you make of all those changes in terms of the direction of ABC? Are you going to miss any of those shows?

I'm going to miss "Nashville," even though I don't even like "Nashville." [laughs] I feel like it's been such a disaster, but it's also a show that I watch so adamantly. There was some talk about having new show runners next season and I was excited for a revised, revamped "Nashville," so I'm a little disappointed to see that get the axe. But creatively, I think it's probably the correct decision for the show.

This is a signal that ABC's excited about new shows and they're not just going to keep middling performers around. Their hope is that one of their new shows will blow up, but that's a tough gambit — it's harder to make a new show than it is to keep making the shows you have, so when someone really cleans house like that, it's a sign that there's a lot of network anxiety, I guess.

The other news that stuck out to me is that CBS sent "Supergirl" to what is essentially its Minor League affiliate, The CW. The CW has done pretty well with superheroes, but is this any kind of indication that superhero shows don't really work on the big networks and are better suited to either smaller networks or streaming services?

I don't think it's that they don't work, it's just that they may not be a good fit. Given CBS's viewer profile, I think "Supergirl" makes much more sense as a CW show. It skews very young, and I don't think there are other shows on CBS with that kind of tone and style, while The CW has a lot of shows like that. Of course, it has "Arrow" and "The Flash," but it also has quirky, female-led dramas like "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" and "Jane the Virgin," and you can imagine "Supergirl" being part and parcel with those shows. 

As for "Agent Carter" being canceled, I think the issue was that it just wasn't that good of a show. If a show fits within a network's sensibility, there's no reason it couldn't succeed, and I think examples like "Jessica Jones" and "Daredevil" demonstrate that there's a huge appetite for grittier, more adult-oriented shows that are more akin to prestige dramas.

I don't think the path for a superhero show on network is necessarily bleak, but it's hard to make good shows. If everyone knew how to do it, we'd do it all the time.

Were there any shows on the bubble that you loved that will make it back for another season?

Yeah, I was extremely relieved that The CW kept three of my favorite shows from this year, "iZombie, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," and "Jane the Virgin." I think the last two are two of the best shows on TV right now — they're interesting, they're different, they have unique storytelling styles, and they're always about more than just what's in the show itself.

I think they have so much to say and I find them thrilling, exciting, and emotional every week, and I look forward to those shows more than anything else I watch. But they're not ratings hits, and I thought The CW would be within its rights to cancel them, because they don't do that well.

Margaret, I've spent almost all of my professional life covering and writing about the movie business, but I'll be at the Upfronts for the first time this year. Anecdotally or from personal experience, do you have any tips that I should follow to make sure I survive all the presentations?

[laughs] If you dislike forced applause, take a Xanax. When I was a kid, I hated when birthday party magicians would say, "I can't hear you!" and they'd make you clap again. I hate that, and the Upfronts are a lot of that.

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