Shawn Ryan has to be one of the most Zen showrunners you're going to find, at least in public. At midseason, when FX canceled Terriers, his highly regarded but little-watched private-eye drama, his Twitter account was free of vitriol and he encouraged the show's passionate fans not to blame FX for making the call based on low ratings.
Last night, Ryan's highly regarded but also relatively little-watched cop show, The Chicago Code, was one of several programs canceled by Fox as it prepares for next week's upfront presentations (when networks present their fall schedules to advertisers). And when one of his fans tried to support Ryan by tweeting to him, "It is a good show, the Fox suits just don't see it," he responded: "Fox suits love the show, but have a business to run."
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Fox also canceled the Tim Roth drama Lie To Me, the light action show Human Target, and comedies Traffic Light and Breaking In, both of which were new this season.
But the one that's likely to lead to the most consternation is still The Chicago Code. There's no getting around the fact that it's just a very, very difficult environment for serialized dramas, no matter how good they are — Ryan alone has now seen two go down in one season, one on broadcast and one on basic cable. Broadcast networks can still make a go of semi-serialized shows like The Good Wife on CBS and Grey's Anatomy on ABC.
Still, a quick look at a sample week of the top 25 broadcast shows will show you that there's not a true serialized drama in the bunch with the possible exception of the aging semi-comic Desperate Housewives — NCIS, Grey's Anatomy, Bones, Criminal Minds, Castle, House, NCIS: Los Angeles, The Mentalist, and Law & Order: SVU are all essentially case-of-the-week procedurals (either criminal or medical) rounded out by longer character stories that are either fairly prominent, as they are in the romantic storylines on Grey's, Bones and Castle, or almost nonexistent, as they are on SVU.
Fox's own pickups indicate that they haven't entirely given up — they're apparently taking on J.J. Abrams' Alcatraz, starring Jorge Garcia (that's Lost's Hurley to you) in — that's right — a long-form mystery show. There will be other attempts. Nobody has given up yet on the next Lost or, for that matter, the next Desperate Housewives. At the moment, though, it remains a tough world in which to be a serious, ambitious drama series.