'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.


  • Tom

    I don’t believe that TVBTN has trademarked the term “Cancellation Bear” or, for that matter, copyrighted any of the original content on this site.

  • Observer

    I kind of am a bit ashamed to say it but I came to this site originally for a hateful reason… I hated SGU so much I came back each week to see how low it would go before getting cancelled. But I got addicted and now check the site daily for ratings info, in particular the genre shows. It’s been very entertaining reading. :)

  • TVDude

    This goes to show how big TVBN has become. You’re changing the way people view TV and even influencing TV. Amazing how this website has changed your lives. The funny thing is, it’s not all that significantly different from when it started. It’s grown, but it still has a lot of the same features and articles that have always been around (since the site started). Great work guys!

  • ToXiX


    I second that

  • Jenna

    We’ll said TVdude! Agree 100%!

  • David Howell

    I love how the showrunner reads TVBTN all the time and yet is still a retentionista.

    Although if she’s implying that ABC are retentionistas, well, that would explain some of their decisions.

  • Jon

    Couldn’t they just do a back order of 9 episodes to get it to 66 and then a full season order of 22 in the fall. Its only Jan they could easily run straight through till early may.

  • PRW

    I think Suburgatory will be on Fridays at 8:30 next season and Neighbors will be cancelled.

  • Matt M.

    I really do think Suburgatory will rise next week. Just suffered this week due to PREMIERE of Idol.

  • Melanie

    Geez, the Cancellation Bear is getting so famous! I remember when I first came to the site, it was to see a comparison of Supernatural and Reaper’s ratings to see which one would outrun the bear.

  • Brad


    You are under the impression TV Shows are made for free?

  • paddii

    Considering what happened to Cougar Town, the show is far from save. But on the other hand all the new ABC shows flopped so hard so they might keep this to fill some schedule holes next season.

  • Contrarian

    As a long time advocate of retention as a factor in decisions for bubble shows, I approve of this interview.

  • Carmen

    It’s interesting to read that the producers and show runners for Suburgatory avidly follow the shows ratings – as reported by the Neilsen service and presented by TVBTN.

    I hope they have the sense to evaluate how their various storylines are being received based upon (Neilsen) rating trends as opposed to the vocalized opinions of 200-300 rabid fans.

  • Alex Mang

    I second what Jenna said, I’ve been coming to this site daily for a few years now. I love it. Wouldn’t know what I’d do with myself with it ;)

  • Joseph

    The Cancellation Bear needs his own reality show titled “I Cancel Your Favorite Show”, on which camera crews follow the Bear as he makes the rounds of Hollywood (and occasionally New York), devouring and cancelling shows right and left.

  • OERM

    I think suburgatory will take TN spot on Friday at 8:30 pm, it will be have a 22 order that will almost have 80 episodes. If the show does well enough with LMS maybe another short season.

  • Chris

    Man, if Suburgatory goes to Friday then why not make the 2 hour TGIF block? ABC never goes for the kill when the killing is good. You’ve got Shark Tank with its 2.1 rating then why not move Shark tank and kill on another night? Why not move The goldbergs to Wednesday and build a stronger cohesive night? Mediocre is thy name. I mean all ABC needs on Fridays is for the comedies to get mid 1’s. That shouldn’t be hard to do.

  • Carl


    I question the utility of the examples you listed of shows being cancelled before syndication. Until the last several years 100 episodes was the benchmark for syndication. All three examples you give are early 2000s shows and execs were probably looking at 100 as the magic number, which none of them were close enough to. 8 Simple Rules probably would have made syndication but the star of the show died (yes, it continued for a season and a half after that but it wasn’t the same).

  • Rebecca

    I came here first because of Chuck, too, lol. And now I just like to see how my other shows are doing.

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