Well, it’s happened again. Two of my favorite shows have been canned. The Cartoon Network has decided to axe fan favorites Green Lantern: The Animated Series and Young Justice. I know some of my compatriots might think I’m reaching with "Green Lantern", but I dug it. The animation style was original, characterizations consistent; plus it was waaaaay better than the feature film but so are certain types of algae. "Young Justice" however has been a much-beloved piece of animation with a strong fan base who apparently don’t have Nielsen boxes. There’s an online petition keep "Young Justice" on the air, which is super great and flattering to the creators, but at the end of the day that isn’t worth a hill of virilium in this crazy world. So why end them?
Well, as someone who’s done a bit of work in television and frankly been on a few “fan favorite” canceled series, I can tell you this, there is no rhyme nor reason. It’s all commerce. Someone once said, television shows are advertising delivery systems, and it’s basically true. Look at all the hoopla over what commercials are airing during the Super Bowl. That’s the only reason I watch the thing. Not to be your typical nerd, but I don’t get sports, never had. Sorry Dad.
You always hear about ratings, and how shows are doing, and what the Nielsens say. I’m not going to get into the antiquated system that is the Nielsens, which even they know needs to change (DVRs people), but I will say they are the root of the problem. "Young Justice" and "Green Lantern" were in great time slots on Saturday morning, part of the DC Nation whose animated shorts I really enjoy, but they must not have garnered the numbers say, oh I don’t know, "Ninajgo" did. We knew someone was up when both shows disappeared from the schedule last year so you can’t say we didn’t see this coming.
I like to think "Young Justice" was just too cool to keep around. Some things are better finite. "Green Lantern" had its moments for me but it was cheeky and the torsos were too big. "Young Justice," however, was really playing the long game with its character development and story line. You KNOW that one kid is going to become Apache Chief and we were psyched to see it. I hope we still do. Plus, I was really looking forward to the allowances the writers gave themselves with jumping forward in time five years. Do we see Tim Drake becoming Robin? Was there a Jason Todd? And Arsenal is set to be one of the most interesting takes on a DC character since Miss Martian began mind blasting. It’s a shame.
But why do shows with a loyal fan base get axed? Is it me? Every band I love usually breaks up (then reunites, except for Jawbreaker – c’mon dudes) and most television shows I like seem to get taken off the air prematurely ("Freaks and Geeks", "Firefly"). Or even shows that start out with a long storytelling premise that would have developed interestingly over time (my wife is still irked about "Alcatraz," and who didn’t see the hammer falling on "Last Resort"?) The answer usually lies between the sad magic of a ratings system that is just learning to account for DVR recordings and ad sales. Toy commercials pay the network who pay the artists who give us the joy in hopes we buy the toys and keep the cycle working. It’s an old sad tale that no one has been able to write a new ending to. So do it.
Steven Smith tries not to take it personally when his stories are canceled, the new episode of his weekly podcast Going Off Track is up singer/songwriter Jenny Owen Youngs, and soon Steven will be at Toy Fair grabbing all the Young Justice figures he can.