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Ask Matt: Why Has CBS Lost Interest in ‘Person of Interest’?

Question: I suppose the writing was on the wall, but I was still bummed to hear that Person of Interest was canceled. At least we will get a shortened Season 5, though I wish CBS would air it now instead of the hideous looking Rush Hour retread. Four-plus seasons is a pretty good run nowadays, but do you think it could have lasted longer on cable or streaming services where much of the more “original content” seems to reside nowadays (Mr. Robot comes to mind)? Or would the show have been too expensive to produce? — Brian

Matt Roush: That’s a fair question and an interesting reflection on the state of TV these days. There is still great value in the exposure a show can get on traditional broadcast TV, and on those ever-more-rare occasions when they dare to do something different like this, it can be exhilarating, even when the ratings and demographic pressures have us continually sweating their future from season to season. Person of Interest may have been a little ahead of its time, as it might have been perfect as part of the current rebranding evolution of networks like USA and TNT, and if Netflix and Amazon (and now even Hulu) had been players during its development, maybe Jonathan Nolan and J.J. Abrams might have shopped it there first, knowing what an odd fit this smart, futuristic and prescient series would be on such a mainstream network. It’s all a trade-off, because on other outlets, POI wouldn’t have produced 22 episodes a year (until this last one), and it’s possible that a cable network might have tightened its budget. (Filming in New York City is not cheap.) It’s all speculation at this point, because who’s to say they wouldn’t have wrapped it up in five seasons somewhere else? But Brian isn’t alone in wondering if the show would have been better off airing somewhere besides CBS.

Question: First of all, I’m glad that Person of Interest is being given a chance to end their story (although probably not the way they envisioned it). But I have to ask, what is behind CBS’s horrible treatment of this show? The network has barely promoted POI since it came on the air, waits almost a year to announce not only that it’s canceled but when the final season will be. And to top it off, gives it one of the weirdest schedules I’ve heard of in recent memory. This show has pulled in great ratings for them over the years. Yes, the demos are lower than they once were, but they have pulled in viewership in the 9-12 million range since it began. Not to mention being one of their most critically acclaimed shows. They’re treating one of the most intelligent, relevant, well-done shows like trash. It can’t be just because it’s owned by Warner Bros., can it? I can’t help but think that this great show would have been better off with a home like Netflix since the beginning. – Leah

Matt Roush: If CBS really hated the show (which it doesn’t), there wouldn’t be even this fifth season to anticipate, though I do agree that the twice-a-week scheduling through May into June gives the impression of burning it off as quickly as possible. The way I see it is that Person of Interest is the latest victim of CBS’s overall success. If Limitless had flopped, which it didn’t, CBS might have brought POI back on the schedule sooner. But there weren’t many holes on CBS’s schedule this year, and as noted above, this was always a bit of an odd fit, and once it fell off the fall schedule (and months dragged on with no word of its fate), its future was pretty much sealed. Would CBS treat one of its own productions this shabbily? Probably not. So fans have a right to be annoyed, though conditionally, because we still have 13 episodes to look forward to.

Source: TVInsider