When Fox announced it was cancelling some of its shows earlier this year, fans were up in arms about the decision of not renewing Brooklyn 99 and Lucifer with online petitions and social media backlash within hours of the announcement. Within days NBC picked up Brooklyn 99 and a few weeks later Netflix announced they were saving Lucifer. But for me, one show was cancelled and although the fans shouted loud, nobody paid attention; that show was The Exorcist.
Starring Geena Davies, Alan Ruck, and Ben Daniels, The Exorcist premiered on September 29th, 2016 to generally favourable reviews from critics and audiences. Booked in the Friday 9pm slot, the ratings weren't as good as Fox were hoping they would be, but it can be argued that it was overly ambitious to put a show with a niche genre on at Prime Time on Friday night. The story revolved around a renegade Priest Father Marcus who has been conducting unsanctioned exorcisms around the world, and the Rance family in Chicago whose Mother (Davies) is convinced one of her daughters is possessed and confides in her priest Father Tomas who seeks to help them. This coincides with a visit from The Pope, a conspiracy within the church, and a rise in Demonic activity. Throughout the first season the plot twists to reveal that Davies' character Angela Rance is in fact Regan MacNeil from The Exorcist film, and Captain Howdy has come back to claim what is his.
For a horror TV show, The Exorcist was solid and garnered a supportive fan base who looked past the flaws and saw it for what it was: a good show that delivered to its fan base. However, the ratings continued to disappoint Fox executives and there were rumours of the show not being renewed for a second season, much like The Omen TV series when that was cancelled. However Fox had enough faith in the show to renew it for a second season, this time starring John Cho as a foster father to children, who is mourning the loss of his wife. The ratings didn't get better even though the show was still receiving positive reviews from critics and audiences alike, but with it sill in the Friday 9pm slot, it didn't really stand a chance and the announcement came that the show wouldn't be renewed for a third season, leaving father Marcus and Father Tomas on a cliffhanger that we may never see resolved.
So what went wrong, and why has nobody saved the show like its cancelled counterparts? It could be that the ratings were declining throughout the second season and were a lot lower than the first, so any TV executive looking at that and the high production cost of the show would easily give it a miss. But what if the show wasn't shown at 9pm on Fridays? Maybe it would stand a better chance mid-week while the competition wasn't so fierce and attract more than its core audience? There is no certainty this would work, but I feel that it would help with the ratings. As stated before, critics were in favour of the show and so were viewers. The Fox Chairman defended the decision for the Friday slot by saying "We wanted to tap into a moviegoer crowd that didn't want to go to the movies" and that the slot had "Been tough on the show, but we did get some viewership. It feels as though the decision to cancel the show was a tough one, but business will always come before pleasure in the TV world.
So where does this leave the show now? The story still needs to be resolved but there doesn't seem to be any interest in picking up the show, despite an avid fan-base campaigning for anyone to buy the rights and give us all closure. Surely if Amazon or Netflix were going to do something they would have made their move by now and all is quiet on the rumour mill on networks interest in the show, so begrudgingly we may have to accept that this is the end for a show that, while well-liked, was the victim of scheduling and limited appeal. While I will still light a candle and sign petitions, I know that the devil has won. And that devil was ratings.
Jan Siery is a husband, dad of two kids, two cats, and a dog, and is an all-around nerd. He likes gaming, horror movies, dark and disturbing stuff, Twinkies, and people telling him things.
Follow Jan on Twitter: @jansiery