Q: Why did they cancel "Designated Survivor"? It's just the sort of show we need more of on TV.

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Adam Thomlison / TV Media

As is often the case, ABC had a lot of reasons for canceling "Designated Survivor," the political thriller starring Kiefer Sutherland, a man who knows his way around a political thriller.

As usual, however, it came down to ratings. After a solid first season, the show's ratings dropped significantly in its second year.

That drop may have had a lot to do with constant upheaval behind the scenes. The show went through four different head writers in its first two seasons, and season 3 would have been led by yet another one.

Variety magazine wrote a sort of post-mortem of the show after it was canceled, and it reported that the constant change was upsetting the show's star (who also happened to be an executive producer). Sutherland was said to be frustrated with the fact that the instability in the writers' room had led to instability in the storyline -- that it was constantly shifting between being a political thriller and being a drama about the president's family life.

There's also the fact that, again according to Variety, Sutherland's contract stipulated that if the show earned a third season, it would move production to Los Angeles (the first two seasons were produced in Toronto). The move would have added to the show's already large budget.

But as I said, these problems would have evaporated if the show's ratings had been better, but they weren't.

Variety's post-mortem of the show summed it up like this: "Like politics, prime-time TV is a fickle business."


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