Cancelled Too Soon: The Exorcist

By | July 19, 2018

Our ongoing look back at sci fi / fantasy TV shows that were cancelled way too soon or pilots that never made it to series.

This series debuted on FOX in the 2016-17 season and acted as a continuation from the original 1973 film (ignoring the sequels). Focusing on Father Tomas Ortega’s attempts to deal with a possessed girl with the assistance of disgraced priest Father Marcus Keane and against the wishes of the Catholic Church, it takes place in current time but has direct links to the original movie. The series received a warm reception from critics and developed a loyal fanbase, but it never found much of an audience, in part because it aired on low-viewership Fridays. It debuted to low ratings and saw those slip even further during its ten-episode run and appeared to be headed to cancellation at the end of the season. But The Exorcist received a surprise renewal announcement, partially because it played well internationally and also because FOX network execs liked the show.

When the show returned for its second season, it brought back Fathers Ortega and Keane and gave them a new, season-long story arc dealing with possessions. It received and even higher approval from fans and critics in its second year, but it still did not breakthrough with the larger audience. The ratings were down from its first season and continued to slide, leading to its cancellation by the end of the season. To FOX’s credit, they stuck by the show after its first season and gave it a chance to find more of an audience by bringing it back for a second year. But the Friday night scheduling did it no favors, and this show really was out of place on the broadcast networks. Like NBC’s Constantine from 2014, the show’s dark themes did not play well to the general television audience. The Exorcist likely would have done better on one of the cable channels (particularly HBO or Starz) or one of the streaming services where it could better explore its dark themes. Fans did make an attempt to save the show, but this one did not develop as much of a following as Lucifer or The Expanse, and the efforts to save those shows overshadowed the fan campaign for The Exorcist. But we do have two well-regarded seasons that were mostly close-ended (a wider story arc was developing but never resolved), and those twenty episodes will likely live on in streaming where it should develop some cult infamy.

Aired: 2016-17, 2 Seasons Totaling 20 Episodes

Developed By: Jeremy Slater

Starring: Alfonso Herrera, Ben Daniels, Alan Ruck, Geena Davis, John Cho

Buy The Exorcist on DVD from

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