FOX announced the cancellation of Almost Human, its fourth highest rated scripted series based on season to date averages, this last week leaving many fans asking wtf. I will address the possible reasons in two parts below. First, I will consider the practical, business reasons they may have decided to cancel the series. Then I will just rail on the network for this head-scratching decision.
Almost Human premiered to decent numbers when it debuted on a Sunday night in late Fall bolstered by a lead-in from NFL Football. But its ratings took a sharp drop almost immediately when it moved to its regular Monday 8 PM EST timeslot, and they continued to fluctuate through the rest of its run. Still, FOX’s numbers were down in general over the 2013-14 season and Almost Human currently stands as its fourth highest rated show based on season to date relative ratings. And its averages are higher than The Following which took over its timeslot and did receive a renewal nod. So why did AH not also get the greenlight for a second season?
There are any of a number of behind the scenes factors that could have come into play. Almost Human is a heavy special effects entry which could mean that it is a more expensive series than The Following (although that one has a huge cast and I’m sure Kevin Bacon’s paycheck is not cheap). FOX also may not have had as good of a deal with the studio that produces AH, making a renewal a less financially viable move. It may not have played as well to the key demographics that the network might be targeting (i.e., Adults 18-34, Women 18-34), something that is always difficult to put a finger on because the nets keep that close to the cuff. The late start for the series last Fall (it was originally scheduled for an earlier debut) may have been the result of production delays and that may also have been what caused the frequent preemptions, which could have easily irked the network. All of these are possible reasons for the cancellation, though it is difficult to say if any of these were a driving force because the networks are usually very tight-lipped about the reasons behind their cancellation decisions.
Which leads me to the point that I get to tear into FOX a bit for what I consider their blown handling of the series.
I talk at length in my book Why Were They Cancelled? about the fact that the television networks are businesses and it would make no sense for them to sabotage sci fi shows as fans of the genre often contend. They sink tons of money into developing and producing these shows, so why would they not do everything they can to help them succeed? It would just be bad business and seems like an unlikely scenario. But then you see cases like Almost Human and can only step back and say what the f$#! were they thinking?
By all appearances, it surely looks like FOX worked against Almost Human practically from the start. It debuted late in the Fall, and despite having a decent lead-in for its premiere, it then aired most of its early episodes at the start of the holiday season as television viewing was dropping off across all of the networks. When it returned in January, it actually pulled relatively decent numbers then started building up its audience. But then the network preempted it (first for the two-hour Sleepy Hollow season finale then for a repeat of The Following), then it aired the series directly against Olympics coverage at a time when most of the networks were running repeats instead of hurting their ratings. To make matters worse, it aired the show’s episodes out of order making the story arc somewhat confusing to follow (déjà vu all over again, Firefly fans). In addition, the show ran in the 8 PM EST “family friendly” hour which did not fit well with its subject matter. Despite all this, Almost Human’s numbers never fell to disastrous levels and the show gave all the indications that it could sustain an audience if not hampered by constant scheduling hurdles.
So all of that leaves us still scratching our heads and saying what the f$#! FOX? Sure, some of the practical factors I considered above could have led to the cancellation decision, but in these days of broadcast network audience attrition, can the nets really be so careless with their lineups? AH showed potential and definitely earned the chance to prove itself with at least one more season. But FOX saw it differently and the show now stands as yet another sci fi entry that looks to have been cancelled before its time.
So can it still be saved? Absolutely. If its studio is willing, I’m sure there are other parties that would be interested in taking a flyer on this one. Fans of the show already have multiple petitions going and have been making noise on Twitter and Facebook. As far as channels that they should consider targeting to lobby for a pickup, I believe NBC is a prime candidate. Their ratings are struggling as well, and this series definitely showed potential to pull a 2.0 score or higher (sadly considered a decent rating these days) if given a stable timeslot. No sense it pestering Syfy, though, because that cable network already has a full slate in their development queue and I don’t see them squeezing Almost Human in. But the better choice would likely be Amazon or Netflix. Both have shown a willingness to save cancelled shows and this could be a big PR win for them. Whether the show is too expensive could be an issue, but they might still be able to work something out. A campaign targeted purchasing the episodes of the current season from Amazon and/or iTunes would be a good way to sway the streaming services.
Almost Human is definitely gone from FOX, but I do believe that if the fans come together and make noise then there is a chance that this one could live on elsewhere. Keep an eye on this site and the Cancelled Sci Fi Twitter Site in the coming weeks for any further developments.