Regardless of the earlier-than-expected season finales, one thing hasn’t changed this spring. Cancellations and decisions about this fall still have to be made.
God Friended Me, which survived two seasons on CBS, has been cancelled. Fortunately, producers were given fair warning so they could shoot a somewhat satisfactory ending for the show. And leave it open a crack should another network decide to take it over.
But what are the odds? GFM was about an atheist who received friend suggestions from a social media account named “God” that led him to people he could help. No dead bodies, bad guys or conspiracies. No dark twists. Just everyday people doing small things to help a stranger which often had a ripple effect to others.
The idea was that we’re all connected and by helping one, you’re helping many. It’s reminiscent of the biblical verse in Matthew 25: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.
But that doesn’t always make for great ratings. Positivity is a hard sell on television today despite GFM’s small but dedicated following.
Another one of the shows at risk for cancellation is NBC’s Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. This feel-good dramedy is about the face we show the world and the feelings we’re too afraid to reveal – but should.
It, too, aired its season finale recently. Zoey’s father passed away and she sang “American Pie” about “the day the music died.” This could either wrap up the story completely or act as a catalyst for season two. The network still hasn’t decided.
Many shows are in a similar limbo amid the COVID pandemic because nobody knows when they can start shooting again or under what conditions. Also, writers like to be timely with their stories. But what topics will be appropriate or even realistic over the next few months?
However, this is when positive stories would resonate the most. And when they’re needed the most.
Yes, it’s strange to call Playlist a positive show when I spent the finale sobbing as I relieved the last hours with own my father at his bedside. However, the show reminds viewers that even before social distancing, we kept each other at arm’s length. But if we open up or reach out to others and try to connect on a deeper level, life can be better.
Ironically, connecting has become harder and thus, more precious in this quarantine atmosphere. Now, making eye contact with a stranger, offering a smile or even just a nod, is becoming almost as welcome and intimate as a hand-shake.
So while the network schedule has certainly relied on the darkest of stories in the past for its ratings – Criminal Minds, American Horror Story, Riverdale, Evil – now would be a good time for a re-set. Not just for the environment or for more sustainable economies.
Post-COVID, we too will be a blank slate that has the opportunity to start fresh on a positive note. If only the networks will support that.