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Screwed by the Network

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"Team LMS was in the sixth inning, ahead by four runs, stands were packed and then for no reason, they call off the game."
Tim Allen on the premature cancellation of Last Man Standing

Typically the success and failure of a work depends mostly on the content of the work and its execution. Is the base premise compelling? Does the work have relatable (or if not relatable, then fun to watch) characters? Is the world in which it is set well-developed and believable? Et cetera, et cetera. When works fail, we can then understand why and how by pointing to the flaws in the work itself.

But sometimes a moderately successful work fails due to no fault of its own (no major issues in the story or its execution) but because of some Executive Meddling. Some classic examples including: moving a thriving show to an undesirable and underwatched time slot, releasing a movie or game in a crowded release season where it's not allowed to breathe, switching the premise drastically in between seasons or installments to cash in on a trend and alienating the existing fanbase, forcing a change in the cast that is ill-received, airing episodes Out of Order and making a once coherent story-line nonsensical, adding in distracting Product Placement to please corporate sponsors that turns viewers off, giving a sudden and unexpected Executive Veto on a planned storyline causing the writers to slapdash an underdeveloped story, etc.

If the result of such network-led, behind-the-scenes action causes a noticeable downturn in a work's popularity and reception, then it's safe to say the show has been Screwed By The Network. What follows can be anything from just a much smaller fanbase all the way to outright cancellation.

The reasons behind such changes are to the average viewer baffling, to say the least, and can come off as intentional sabotage. Indeed, sometimes, as is the case with Invisible Advertising, it very well could be. But many of these changes are done with good intentions, or at the very least, could be seen as the rational actions of someone trying to help. For example, increasing product placement may have been the only way to get revenue for an underwatched program; ousting an actor causing issues on set can move a stalled project forward. Both are objectively good calls from a production standpoint. At the end of the day creating a work is costly: slowly killing a show that's already airing, for example, rather than just pulling the plug is such a waste of valuable time and money that it makes sabotage in this way highly undesirable.

Still, even if the actions were done with the best of intentions, if the show suffers a noticeable drop in its viewership due to such changes brought upon by executive demands, it qualifies as this trope.

Often the cause of Follow-Up Failure and Too Good to Last. Compare Executive Meddling, Executive Veto, Invisible Advertising, Screwed by the Lawyers, and Screwed by the Merchandise. See also Torch the Franchise and Run for when a work's creator (and not an exec) intentionally destroys or sabotages their own work to ensure that no one else can use it in the future. May be why there's No Export for You.

Rarely, the situation will invert itself with Network to the Rescue. Contrast with Adored by the Network.

Example subpages:

Networks with their own pages:

Other examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • In 2019, despite good sales and some titles even getting critical acclaim, the Hanna-Barbera Beyond line of comics was cancelled explicitly due to Warner Bros. executives not being happy with the way the characters have been reinvented. It is also presumed that the cancellation was in conjunction with the company beginning to develop and release more straight-forward, family-friendly incarnations via projects like SCOOB! (which itself was intended to launch its own Hanna-Barbera Shared Universe) and wanting to avoid all risk of consumer confusion.
  • In 2015, Marvel Comics decided to end all their series as a marketing stunt to promote the Secret Wars (2015) crossover event, to tie in with the plot of the Marvel universe being destroyed. Following its conclusion, they ended up relaunching all the titles, majority of them maintaining their creative teams and picking up right where the previous series ended. However, audience confusion led to every single of those books suffering from huge sales drops; many books would see themselves canceled for real, while others would struggle to regain their previous readership.

  • V. C. Andrews' first novel, Gods of Green Mountain, got this in a way; written sometime in the 1970s, it was supposed to be split into three books and published in 1986, but wasn't (presumably due to Andrews' death that year). It seems that her publisher and estate sat on it for almost 20 years, and when it was finally published, it was as an ebook in 2004, when ebooks weren't as widespread.
  • Northanger Abbey was the first novel that Jane Austen tried to publish but was published posthumously like Persuasion. She did sell it to a publisher for £10 but for some reason he never published it. She asked for it back so she could send it to someone who would. He told her if she tried to publish it without giving the money back, he would take legal action; not having much money to spare, Austen had to leave it. After successfully selling her other novels, Austen sent along the money, got the manuscript back, and then told him that he'd passed up the opportunity to publish the author of Pride and Prejudice.
  • Disney heavily underutilized the Star Darlings series, with near-invisible advertising, a lack of merchandise in general, focus on the Star Darlings band of 5 instead of all 12 girls, and a shallower, shorter webseries compared to the more serious books, but the dolls are where things really get bad. Of the 12 Star Darlings, only the core 5 had both a Starland outfit and Wishworld outfit in the US (Cassie's Starland look was UK-only), none of the supporting cast got dolls, and Scarlet's doll barely resembles her official art and cartoon look. The books were canceled in January 2017 with three planned books being shelved, the webseries last aired in late 2016, and the toyline is similarly inactive, with Jakks Pacific ceasing producing the toys.
  • Karen Traviss's Republic Commando Series was mostly jossed and had to be cancelled after the first Imperial Commando novel due to developments in the canon Star Wars: The Clone Wars.canonicity  George Lucas had an entirely different vision of the Mandalorians than Karen Traviss, though Dave Filoni did borrow quite a bit of Traviss's worldbuilding for the Mandalorian story arcs in Clone Wars and Rebels (Lucas's vision of a pacifist, neutral Mandalore being represented by Satine Kryze's "New Mandalorians"). This led to Traviss rage quitting the EU (and posting a nasty rant on her blog comparing Jedi fans to Nazis).
  • Terra and Terra's World were written as YA books, but published and marketed as adult science fiction. The poor reception resulting from this meant the publishers weren't interested in keeping them in print or publishing the third in the series. Mitch Benn eventually completed the trilogy through self-publishing.

  • Democracy Now! was infamously, albeit temporarily, screwed over by Pacifica Radio in the year 2000 after Pacifica executives suddenly fired key staffers in the middle of the night and made its flagship station WBAI adopt an all-jazz format at the expense of its talk programs. Amy Goodman and others, fearing that this decision would allow Network Decay to set in, left WBAI in protest and temporarily Channel Hopped to another station. After five months of negotiations, Pacifica management caved and allowed Amy and her staff to return in January 2002.
    • As of 2015, Pacifica Radio has been mired in public spats between presenters and executives over (among other things) promoting alt-med quackery and conspiracy theories; cutting hours and pay, and laying off some staffers, in violation of union rules; and failing to pay Amy Goodman an estimated $2.1 million in broadcast fees.
    • WBAI's very survival has been an issue for two decades. Several disparate studio locations, millions of dollars owed to the Empire State Building for not paying for their transmitter, and a whole 'too many cooks in the kitchen' issue where a simple sale of the frequency to someone else in exchange for a smaller-range signal is a no-go have exhausted most New Yorkers (and the radio community at large) so much, the end of WBAI would be a mercy killing to most.
  • Ronald Reagan's cuts to NPR's federal funding meant that the KUSC-FM radio play adaptation of Return of the Jedi got shelved for over a decade.

  • Prior to changing their name to VeeStar, VEE Entertainment had a tendency to do this to shows that aren't Sesame Street Live. Barney Live in Concert only toured in select parts of the United States (along with Toronto, Canada), while Curious George Live! and Kidz Bop Live! had their tours cancelled without notice. A touring Hello Kitty convention produced by the company was also cancelled after only three stops. The only aversions that VEE has done were My Little Pony: The World's Biggest Tea Party! and The Muppet Show Live!, where both tours' last stop was Madison Square Garden, as well as producing DVD releases of the Bear in the Big Blue House and My Little Pony shows. This has toned down significantly following their acquisition of the PAW Patrol license, and the loss of their Sesame Street license to rival producer Feld Entertainment.
  • The same thing Vee did happened to a few other companies' shows. Alvin And The Chipmunks and the Amazing Computer only stopped in a handful of cities including Chicago, while some of the Ice Capades shows have never come to any of the Mexican or Canadian border states, mainly the ones featuring Teddy Ruxpin and Barbie.
  • Despite decent ticket sales, the Shubert Company demanded that Beetlejuice be evicted from the Winter Garden Theater due to a contract stating the 2020 revival of The Music Man had to play at the Shubert and no other Shubert theaters were available for Beetlejuice. This was alluded to in the show, where Beetlejuice's line "Fuck Brigadoon!" was changed to "Fuck The Music Man!" for a night. The show would have closed on June 2020, fourteen months after its first performance, but all Broadway productions were shut down in mid-March due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, and The Music Man never got its planned October 2020 opening either, making all of this for naught.
  • The SpongeBob Musical had its Broadway run cut short less than a year after its opening because the Palace Theater wanted to perform renovations, though the show's ticket sales weren't ideal either.

    Theme Parks 
  • In 2005, Disney, J. K. Rowling and Warner Bros. were in negotiations to create a Harry Potter theme park in Singapore. Around that time, then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner, who was the main architect of the negotiations, was fired and replaced with Bob Iger, who had little care for Harry Potter and significantly downsized the project to just a single ride, where guests could shoot at screens with interactive wands. Naturally, Rowling rejected Disney's plans and the negotiations broke down. Warner and Rowling eventually got better treatment when they went to Universal Studios, who proceeded to create The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which became a major threat for Disney's place in the Orlando theme park market in the years that followed.
  • According to various rumors, Disney screwed the original version of Journey into Imagination over by moving the entrance for Honey, I Shrunk the Audience to the front of the pavilion, thus making the entrance to Journey less noticeable and causing it to suffer a massive drop in attendance, which Disney used as a justification to overhaul the attraction, as both they and Kodak (the pavilion's former sponsor) wanted to revamp it. This ended up leading to disastrous results as the refurbed attraction received reviews so terrible that it was reworked again in 2002, to still mixed reviews.
  • It's been alleged by insiders that Disney purposely allowed the condition of The Great Movie Ride to deteriorate over the years so that the attraction would receive terrible guest satisfaction scores, thus giving them a reason to shutter it, as they didn't want to continue paying to keep the ride open. There's also the fact that Disney's back catalog of films was much bigger than it was in 1989. It made the idea of licensing movies from rival studios feel rather pointless in comparison.
  • The Creature of the Black Lagoon stage show in Universal Studios Hollywood had its run cut short when the theater it was housed in caught fire and was forced to close. An investigation revealed Universal rarely cared about the theater's condition and ignored multiple safety violations. As a result, Universal was forced to revamp the theater, and a year worth of millions of dollars later, the refreshed and much-more successful Special Effects Show opened in the theater.

    Web Original 
  • Channel Awesome:
    • Obscurus Lupa's story of her departure reeks of this. First, Mike Michaud (and later Doug Walker) ripped into Lupa for putting extra midroll ads into her videos, saying that it was hurting everyone else by making people use AdBlock, even though she needed the midrolls to pay her bills. Then, Mike and Rob Walker forbade Lupa and the other reviewers from promoting their Patreon pages until a bad PR incident involving Suede forced them to relent. Finally, Mike and Doug tried to chat with Lupa while she was away from her computer and didn't know they wanted to speak to her, and waited fifteen minutes. When she got in touch, they told her she would be let go and have her videos removed for "ignoring them." The move clearly backfired as it caused Phelous and Andrew Dickman to leave the site in protest. Kyle Kallgren also left about the same time, but for unrelated reasons.
    • Mike "The Birdman" Dodd was dropped from That Guy with the Glasses in April 2014 without being told, and he only found out about it a few weeks later when he tried to submit a new video to the site.
    • Benzaie was similarly dropped in December 2014, though he found out when none of his videos were moved from the old TGWTG site to the new Channel Awesome site.
    • T.J. Kincaid (The Distressed Watcher) claims that he started to get this treatment after Mike Ellis left the company. According to him, all of his new videos were pushed to the bottom of the upload feed, despite him being one of the more popular producers on the site, which led him to start to lose interest in making content. It came to a head when his "Gayest Music Videos of the 1980s" video was rejected - he initially thought that the channel heads had mistaken it for being homophobic, but was later told that it wasn't uploaded because Channel Awesome thought their audience would be too homophobic to accept it. Shortly after, he was called into a meeting with the company heads who told him that they'd be letting him go because they were afraid that his YouTube alter-ego (The Amazing Atheist) would scare off potential advertisers to their site.
    • A document of stories from former staff and producers, released in April 2018, brought to light that this was and is a much more common occurrence than was previously known. A particularly egregious example detailed is Dr. Gonzo's account of his tenure at TGWTG, in which he was isolated from the rest of the contributors by Mike Michaud and was subsequently singled out for Michaud's gaslighting and abuse. Michaud also dismissed Gonzo's idea for the tribute show for JewWario following his suicide, reportedly telling him: "Nobody knows who you are. They won't care about anything you're gonna put together. We're gonna have Doug or Lewis or someone put something together. Someone people actually come here to see." Gonzo's show was abruptly and unceremoniously erased from the website during TGWTG's transition to Channel Awesome.
    • According to the same document, MarzGurl was also targeted by Michaud. After she took Linkara's suggestion of starting her own channel on the now-defunct Blip, Michaud berated her for doing so without his permission, and only backed off after she apologized profusely and told him that Lewis had done the same thing. He repeatedly mislabeled her videos when they were posted on TGWTG, and attacked her again when she explained one miscommunication to confused viewers, accusing her of trying to make him look bad. He also frequently neglected to post her videos across TGWTG's social media platforms, giving her the impression that he was trying to make her "invisible" on the site and compel her to quit. When she did leave in September 2017, all of her videos were unceremoniously erased despite her nine-year contribution to the site.
    • Another allegation put forward by former creators was that when To Boldly Flee was being filmed, nobody was told that the plot involved the final appearance of the Nostalgia Critic, since Doug Walker wanted to retire the character for good. Naturally, once the creators found out about it, many were less than pleased since the Nostalgia Critic was the main draw to the TGWTG site and his unilateral departure meant everybody else would likely see decreased views on their videos.
    • Guru Larry, despite joining the group very early on, infamously wasn’t invited to the anniversaries and got extremely minimal promotion from the site. So much so that very few even realized he was a Channel Awesome contributor until the #ChangeTheChannel Controversy broke out, where he stayed on the site strictly to spite them for ignoring him and earned a reputation as a Memetic Troll.
  • This seems to have happened to Thug Notes. When Wisecrack took over the channel and switched to being slightly more entertainment based over educational, viewers would often be left unaware of new episodes, as the other content would overshadow the show. Apparently, Wisecrack aren't putting new episodes out on YouTube anymore, and have switched over to a podcast format.
  • Nomad of Nowhere was severely hindered by Rooster Teeth, slashing its budget (while gen:LOCK kept hogging resources) and rushing it into a pre-production state, while then-Head of Animation (and gen:LOCK creator) Grey Haddock refused to appoint Georden Whitman, the man who pitched the show in the first place, to a director position, giving him no power within the show and forcing him to work the normal hours of intense crunch, the start of Creative Differences that would leave to Whitman's departure. And right as the show was getting steam and moving into its darker second half, it got subjected to a four-month hiatus with no signs of it returning to kill momentum.
  • Barshens was a collaborative variety channel started by Barry Allen and Stuart Ashen in 2016, made in large part thanks to direct support from YouTube via their London YouTube Space. However, despite promises of eventually being provided a dedicated set, the support the duo received took a nosedive around mid-2017, with YouTube suddenly revoking many of their privileges and resources, even refusing to store a paper backdrop that Ashen made at his own expense in the studio. No official reason was given for why they decided to let the channel bleed, but eventually the duo pulled the plug in 2019 in part due to their inability to access the recording space.

  • Cinema chains:
    • Played with by AMC regarding Knoxville-based Windsor Square 7, a Cinemark acquisition inherited from Carmike. The cinema has not once been renovated since the Cinemark days (with the possible exception of removing all references to Front Row Joe in order to avoid paying royalties to a competing theater chain), meaning the very '80s color scheme of the interiors remains to this day, but, proving Tropes Are Not Bad, the now-dated, tacky, and shabby interior look has been taking on a "vintage" appeal for having had to be put up with by more modern moviegoers for a long while.
    • Regal Entertainment Group is doing this to Downtown West 8 in Knoxville, Tennessee, where it is headquartered. When one moviegoer complained about having to go all the way to Asheville, North Carolina, just to see Pina in 3D, Regal's official excuse was that 3D was too expensive to install in Downtown West 8.
    • This is exactly what AMC is doing to all of the former Metro Detroit-based Star Theatres locations that they had acquired in 2006. Most notably, all of the special effects eye candy that Star was famous for was disabled entirely by AMC. It has gotten to the point that AMC has even closed former Star locations in Taylor, Rochester Hills, and Southfieldnote , the latter of which was a flagship for Star, while permanently shuttering a six-screen wing at the Gratiot location in Clinton Township, Michigan.
  • This trope is the reason Apple created its own retail stores. One of the problems compounding the company's Audience-Alienating Era in The '90s was a lack of attractive displays in stores. Retailers devoted floor space to more popular (and profitable) PCs instead of Macs, usually relegating them to a corner of the store, if they sold them at all. They also often left the machines turned off, crashed, or set them up without a mouse, leading to an unfavorable first impression with potential buyers. The fluorescent lighting also didn't help, helping show off the various PC beige boxes, but doing no favors for Apple's machines. Apple stores were created to give Macs and other Apple products an aesthetically pleasing showcase. Apple has since gone back to selling their products in major retailers, though they insist on its products being presented in specialized displays.
  • Children's series:
    • Jumbo Pictures, producer of many fine Nickelodeon and Disney cartoons and shows, can be said to have been screwed by both Disney and Nickelodeon. The company started out producing Slice of Life puppet shows like Gullah Gullah Island and Allegra's Window, and animated shows like Doug for Nickelodeon. However Nickelodeon started showing less interest in educational values and more towards generic slapstick as time went on, and Jumbo's terms with Nick started degrading. Disney then made them dump Nick and subsequently bought them over. So far so good, right? After Disney's version of Doug, JoJo's Circus and PB&J Otter, Disney went against their wishes and used some of their characters in a music video that aired on multiple children's channels entitled "We Are Family: A Musical Message for All". Pinky Dinky Doo, their only success since they broke up with Disney and renamed themselves Cartoon Pizza, was cancelled in 2010 and they have since gone dormant.
    • Polygram Home Video did this to two of their kids' properties: The Crayon Box and The Noddy Shop. Both were supposed to be released on home video. The Crayon Box's releases were cancelled for unexplained reasons, but the Public Service Announcement based on the poem still appeared on other Polygram releases. The Noddy Shop, however, only had the Noddy's Toyland Adventures segments released.
  • The Qubo over-the-air network was Screwed by the Parent Company in early 2021 when Ion Television's new parent company E.W. Scripps chose to shut down the network and sister channel Ion Plus as part of an excuse to move Scripps' digital subchannel networks to the Ion owned-and-operated stations.
  • The German dub of the Chinese animated series The Legends of Nezha ran once in its entirety on RTL 2, and never reaired, making it hard to find online.
  • Back before the creation of Amtrak, the Southern Pacific railroad was notorious among railfans for reducing the quality of dining aboard its passenger trains to reduce demand and justify cancelling passenger routes.
  • Fandom has booted the "reception wikis", several language versions of Uncyclopedia, the Random-ness Wiki, most humour/joke wikis other than UnAnything, and several Polandball-related wikis from the platform, with most of them migrating to Miraheze, a MediaWiki hosting service.

In-Universe Examples:

  • American Flagg!: Reuben Flagg, star of the hit series Mark Thrust, Sexus Ranger loses his job to his own CGI Tromplographic™ duplicate, then gets drafted into the actual Plexus Rangers.
  • In The Amy Virus, the teenage singer Amy Zander is forced by her label to record a song she hates. When she can't get it right, the label drops her and gets another girl to record it, and Amy herself falls into obscurity.
  • Barry: Sally's autobiographical streaming show Joplin is almost immediately buried and canned by the streamer upon release, since it wasn't hitting the required demographic corners for its algorithm to consider worth keeping.
  • Lampshaded In-Universe in Calvin & Hobbes: The Series:
    Hobbes: We can't stay here forever? What if Red Dwarf: The Movie comes out while we're trapped here?
    Calvin: Pfft! As if.
  • Boy Meets World: in reference to their own show being moved to a worse time slot, Billy and Cory discuss a show being moved past Billy's bedtime.
    Billy: It used to be on at 8:30 but this year they moved it to 9:30, those idiots.
    Cory: Wait a minute–they moved that show to 9:30? Why?
    Billy: No one knows!
    Cory: Well was it doing badly at 8:30?
    Billy: No!
    Cory: Well why didn’t they leave it alone?
    Billy: They’re trying to kill it! They’re trying to kill it!
    Cory: Those are bad, bad people.
  • The Mr. Potato Head Show: happens often, with the TV executives changing their minds about things in the middle of filming an episode of Mr. Potato Head's Show Within a Show, such as telling them that their superhero episode needs to be educational or a musical.
  • Reboot (2022): Invoked. Hulu network president Tyler subtly threatens this fate for his rival's reboot: he tries to poach one of their main cast for another show that films abroad, then suggests slowly slashing their production and promotion budgets.
    Tyler:... which we are all hoping will not lead to the show's slow, painful, lingering death.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show: This happens to Haggis McHaggis's The Scotsman Show in the episode "Hard Times for Haggis."
  • Seinfeld: Jerry and George had been pushing for a long time to get their "show about nothing" approved by NBC. Finally, their first episode aired and was successful. However, at the same time, the head executive who had approved the show goes AWOL and is replaced by a vindictive woman who cancels the show out of spite.
  • The Splinter: The network in charge of the games in the Realm has zero problems with killing players for the sake of boosting ratings and creating drama. Dying in the game means you die in real life. It's tough to get screwed harder than that.
  • In Toy Story 2, Stinky Pete claims the Woody's Roundup TV show was cancelled in the middle of a cliffhanger when space toys surged (and, consequently, Woody's Roundup toys declined) in popularity following the launch of Sputnik. He lied. Eagle-eyed viewers might be able to spot the conclusion to said cliffhanger playing in the background in one scene. Perhaps not coincidentally, it immediately leads to Pete's subsequent reveal as the villain.

CDawgVA: I feel bad for all the actors involved, honestly.
Ironmouse: I don't.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Screwed By The Studio


"Why Should I Care?!"

James Sterling asks this question in regards to Outriders when realizing that Square-Enix is just cancelling games left and right, even comparing them to Netflix and their handling of shows (using the Dark Crystal's sequel show as an example).

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheFireflyEffect

Media sources: