In a surprising move by ABC, Nashville fell victim to the wave of cancellations dealt out by networks yesterday, bringing the musical-drama’s run to a sudden end after 4 seasons. This evening Lionsgate gave fans a small boost of hope, announcing that they will shop the show to other networks, including streaming services.
Unless a deal comes through quickly though the series has just two episodes left. And unlike Castle, there’s been no indication that the creators are ready with standby series finale. In fact, Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick were just gearing up for next season, set to take over as showrunners when Dee Johnson exited the role at the end of this season. The two have a long list of successes in TV (thirtysomething, Once & Again, My So-Called Life) and film (Blood Diamond, Traffic, Legends of the Fall.)
That’s what makes the cancellation puzzling; but not unprecedented. Deadline reports that the series was always a tough deal for ABC and Lionsgate to hammer out because of the cost. A large ensemble cast, including Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere as leads, doesn’t come cheap. I’m guessing neither did Oscar winner T-Bone Burnett, husband of the show’s creator Callie Khouri, who served as the show’s executive music producer.
ABC presents their schedule to advertisers at the upfront meetings in New York next week, and they’ve cleaned house like this prior to the upfronts before. Along with Nashville, they also canceled Castle and The Family yesterday, leaving 3 solid drama holes in primetime. Among the slate they’ll present advertisers will be 5 new dramas: Kiefer Sutherland’s Designated Survivor, Conviction with Hayley Atwell, law drama Notorious, Still Star-Crossed which picks up where Romeo & Juliet left off, and Time After Time chronicling the story of a young H.G. Wells.
While Nashville has always pulled middling ratings—between 6 and 7 million viewers roughly with delayed viewing—it’s been a critical darling. The second and third seasons received 100% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and the series overall scores 85 on Metacritic. The Critics’ Choice Awards dubbed it the Most Exciting New Series in 2012, and both the writers and cast have been continuously nominated for everything from Golden Globes, to Primetime Emmys, to Teen Choice Awards. Nonetheless, it has struggled on Wednesday nights opposite CSI: Cyber, and Chicago P.D., regularly coming in third in ratings.
Refinery 29 pointed out that there may have been elements behind the scenes we’re unaware of. Though nobody has made any official statements about it, the show had to juggle to handle star Hayden Panetierre’s medical absence last fall. She has been vocal about her recent struggles with post-partum depression, and after the news broke she took to Twitter to share her immediate plans to step back and focus on her health:
— Hayden Panettiere (@haydenpanettier) May 12, 2016
Good luck indeed, Hayden! No word yet on what Britton’s next step may be.
The city of Nashville may be most heartbroken by the cancellation announcement as the show has resulted in a boon of tourism and production income for the city. One interesting note: local business group Ryman Hospitality takes credit for creating the show according to The Tennessean: “The show was the brainchild of Nashville-based tourism and entertainment company Ryman Hospitality, which pitched the concept to ABC. Nashville had a three-pronged production team of Lionsgate, Ryman Hospitality and ABC.”
Today the city’s mayor, Megan Barry, commented on the news:
We are incredibly disappointed to hear the news that ABC has not renewed the show Nashville for another season. The show has been an enormously successful promotional tool for our city, which is why the state of Tennessee and Metro Nashville were prepared to support production for a fifth season to be filmed here. This is a loss for ABC and for the millions of fans across the world who have grown to love this show. We have enjoyed hosting the cast and crew of the show over the last four years and look forward to future opportunities for film and television production here in Nashville.