'Suburgatory' Showrunner Reveals The Story Behind The Show's Cancellation Bear Shout-Out

Categories: Broadcast TV

Written By

January 17th, 2014


Last season, ABC’s comedy Suburgatory gave a huge shout out to the Cancellation Bear when the show’s main character Tessa launched a television series on her high school’s television station. It proved so unpopular that her principal cancelled it by handing her a very familiar looking “Cancellation Index” which prominently featured a picture of a bear.

Today, after the TCA Suburgatory panel, showrunner Emily Kapnek shared why she decided to make the Bear a very special guest star, how she feels about his latest predictions for Suburgatory and why the whole writing staff has tvbythenumbers bookmarked.

How did last season’s tvbythenumbers shout out happen? We loved it!

Obviously, it’s so much part of the culture and we just thought it would be really funny to have their school TV station governed by the same panic and hysteria that everyone feels watching their shows live and die and get discussed online so we thought it was just a really fun shout out because we’re all on your site all the time.

How do you feel about the Bear’s take on Suburgatory this season?

The Bear said he thinks we’re safe because of the Syndication Gods. I hope he’s right. This is a really crazy time for television in general. The ratings just – you have your eye on one number and then all of a sudden the landscape completely changes and all you can really do is hope for good retention on any given night and I think that sort of changed the way you look at ratings and look at the block as a whole and so for us, our premiere, getting to hold onto 88 percent of our lead-in, that’s a victory that we’re celebrating and ABC was happy with that and we’re just so happy to be in the mix.

Is it weird for you that ratings have gone from being something that were only followed in the TV industry to something the general public checks every morning like sports scores?

It’s just odd to me how much writers and showrunners and producers are suddenly, like, people know who you are. Like, why me? Even on these panels, the actors, I get it, but sometimes you’re like really? But everyone is involved. And not just my parents. My dad is always like, “Numbers look good!” or whatever it is. It has allowed everyone to kind of play a role and look after their shows and get involved on that level. So I guess it’s fun. It adds to the anxiety a little bit for sure.


  • Rebecca

    I don’t watch the show, but that’s pretty cool.

  • jenna

    Wow, congrats guys! This really goes to show what a success your site has become! I remember when I first discovered your site several years back and I have never turned away. I still check your site on a daily basis to see how my favorite shows are doing, and generally to see how the networks are performing. Wishing you continued success in the years to come!

  • jenna

    Just realized I typed the words “your site” about 17 times. Scrambles for an edit button. Sad face.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    Jenna: hah, and you didn’t type CHUCK once. What’s up with that!?

  • Charmed

    I just saw the first two lines “Suburgatory” and “cancellation” and almost had a heart attack

  • jenna

    HAHA I don’t know!? How strange…


  • Charmed

    Weird to see someone in the industry talk so bluntly about ratings. And now we know at least 1 network (ABC) looks at retention

  • Kitsune

    That doesn’t mean retention means anything in final decisions, though. A 1.6 for a premiere on ABC is honestly pretty bad. ABC wants to renew Suburgatory, too, for syndication. The last thing ABC needs is bad morale on a production. Had to find something to be positive about.

    Not really slamming Suburg. Only seen it a couple times and liked it. But there’s not a lot positive about that 1.6 :\

  • Shepherd

    One mystery solved, 7 to go. ;)

  • enri

    Chuck-it brought me here and has kept me here. ????

  • enri

    Not sure why it put questions marks….it was supposed to be a smiley face.

  • Alvar

    Considering that most shows were down on Wednesday against Idol, I think the premiere ratings were okay. Second in its slot and a high retention from its lead in. Hopefully it lifts in the coming weeks.

  • Niallers92

    Same here. Checking your site is part of my daily routine.

    TV landscape has changed dramatically since the 80s/90s so I need to know how my favorite shows are doing. Other TV ratings sites are very sided towards a certain show or biased against certain shows, but TVBTN stays neutral and goes by the facts thats is in front of us. And let us make our own conclusions. I hope the site continues for years to come.

    Well done to you guys, keep up the good work.

  • TheFrenchGuy

    I hope the bear will become a recurring character ;)

  • Tom

    I believe a lot of viewers were put off by the direction Suburgatory took during its second season. Putting Jenna together with “the Body” made absolutely no sense. We’ll see if Suburgatory can recapture some of its ratings but, after this week’s slow start, I’m only giving it one or two more episodes to impress me.

  • Douglas from Brazil

    In the premiere week of fall 2009, I remember searching for something like this: “american tv audience” and then tvbythenumbers website showed up and I checked here.Never left.It’s part of my daily routine and it’s bookmarked.

    Keep doing the great job.

    1.6 is not bad even for ABC,the con is that Suburgatory is not owned by ABC and we know that ABC cancels shows in their 3rd seasons(i.e. Cougar Town,Happy Endings).

  • pete5125

    Yep, ABC does not seem to care when it comes to syndication, they premiered 3 sitcoms, only one owned by abc was cougar town yet they canceled it.

    ABC goes either 3 years or 80 episodes or less on most sitcoms that they have made in the last decade or so outside of According to Jim, Middle, and Modern Family.

    Have to go back even further to get George Lopez and my Wife and Kids.
    In that time period Hope and Faith, Less Than Perfect, and 8Simple RUles where all dropped before they hit the magic 88 episode mark

  • Donof

    I thought that was such an awesome moment and Suburgatory is very clever in general. The Neighbors and Suburgatory are extremely underrated. Two shows that are zany but have smarter writing than almost all of the other comedies (besides Community). I know the Neighbors is almost definitely gone……..but I’m hoping Suburgatory survives. I think it if stays around 1.7 or above, it should be fine.

  • Dan

    Well number wise Suburgatory will be in the same boat as Happy Endings. 3 seasons and 57 episodes. Also produced by a different company than the network that airs it. Happy Endings was produced by Sony and Suburgatory I produced by Warber Brothers. But unlike HE, Suburgatory isn’t tanking in the ratings, it’s doing modestly at 8:30 but at least an improvement over Back in the Game. Given that The Goldbergs may be the only comedy renewed from this season ABC will probably renew bubble comedies Last Man Standing and Suburgatory for full fourth seasons (Along with the certain to be renewed Modern Family and The Middle)

    Even if ABC renews Suburgatory for a full fourth season they would only need another 13 episodes to have it reach syndication, which is doable. They should have never benched it for midseason but that was ABC’s mistake.

  • brutony!

    How DARE they use a copyrighted trademark like the Cancellation Bear! They are infringing on registrered property! We must attack them from ALL sides!

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