The Highest-Rated TV Shows to Get Axed in 2018

Ratings aren’t always the only factor in a show getting canceled. There are others to consider, including the show’s production costs, if the desired demographic is tuning in, whether the network owns it outright, and whether the network is choosing to move in a different direction.

Plus, even if millions of people are tuning in, those numbers might still not be enough compared to what the network is aiming for. That has been the case this year, as there have been a number of shows canceled, even though they were earning higher or equal ratings to other shows that got renewed by the same network.

We took a look at every show canceled this season so far and picked out the ones that had the highest number of average viewers, leading up to the axed show that had the most people tuning in every week. Most fans are surprised to learn No. 4 lost 2 million viewers in just one season.

15. The X-Files — 3.7 million

Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny in the "My Struggle III" season premiere episode of THE X-FILES.

The X-Files | Fox

One would imagine that a show as iconic as The X-Files returning would equal guaranteed ratings gold. But while the first season of the reboot earned an average of 9.5 million viewers per episode, the follow-up season had an astonishing drop down to 3.7 million.

That number alone isn’t so horrible that it must automatically equal cancellation, and some shows survive with ratings like that. But the drop from season to season was quite a bad sign, as was Gillian Anderson deciding to leave the series. So now, Fox says there are no plans for another season.

Next: This new ABC procedural did not last long. 

14. Deception — 3.7 million

A man and a woman looking through a metal gate.

Deception | ABC

ABC’s new procedural Deception debuted to a solid 5.9 million viewers, which made it the best scripted premiere in that slot since 2015, according to Deadline. But ratings began to drop as the weeks progressed, and the season average ended up being 3.7 million.

It did begin to pick back up near the end, and these numbers were higher than some ABC shows that did get renewed, like Agents of SHIELD. But they weren’t high enough that ABC felt confident bringing Deception back for another season.

Next: This NBC show has been on for a few years, but it won’t return for another season. 

13. The Night Shift — 3.8 million

A group of employees talking together.

The Night Shift | ABC

NBC’s The Night Shift averaged 6.6 million viewers for its first season, which aired during the summer. But that went down to 5.3 million in Season 2, 4.9 million for Season 3, and 3.8 million for Season 4.

Finally, NBC decided to cancel the show at the end of its fourth season. It really could have gone either way, but it seemed like The Night Shift‘s ratings were only continuing to decline, and it wasn’t strong enough in its time slot to justify another season.

Next: This ABC series was canceled after two seasons.

12. Designated Survivor — 3.9 million

Kiefer Sutherland stands in front of an American flag in 'Designated Survivor'.

Designated Survivor | ABC

The Kiefer Sutherland drama, Designated Survivor, had pretty solid, if not amazing, ratings during the first season, with an average of 5.8 million viewers.

But Season 2 saw a steep decline, with the sophomore outing getting an average of 3.9 million viewers. The president of ABC Entertainment says that the show did well in delayed viewing, but the live numbers had become problematic.

Next: This new show did not last into Season 2.

11. The Crossing — 4.1 million

A team of detective and police officers surrounded together looking at the ground.

The Crossing | ABC

The new ABC drama The Crossing premiered with 5.3 million viewers, and it averaged 4.1 million throughout the first season. This is, again. a lot higher than a show like Agents of SHIELD, which ABC is keeping around for another season.

But The Crossing still fell below ABC’s expectations for the Monday night slot, and it did not get a Season 2.

Next: This new comedy was poorly reviewed, but the ratings weren’t that horrible. 

10. Living Biblically — 4.2 million

A man holding up a book and pointing a finger.

Living Biblically | CBS

The new CBS sitcom Living Biblically debuted to 5.0 million viewers back in March. It declined from there but generally stayed in the 4.0 million zone, although it eventually reached a ratings low of 3.5 million viewers.

Though this would be decent viewership for some sitcoms on other networks, CBS was unhappy enough with these numbers that it ended up pulling Living Biblically and not airing the remaining episodes. The network needed something stronger to kick off Monday nights, and it ended up just replacing it with Big Bang Theory reruns.

Next: This NBC drama is not getting a third season.

9. Shades of Blue — 4.3 million

Jennifer Lopez holding a gun and badge in 'Shades of Blue'.

Shades of Blue | NBC

Shades of Blue did well enough in its debut season to earn it a Season 2; it averaged 5.7 million viewers across the season. However, the show saw a ratings decline in Season 2, dropping down to an average of 4.3 million viewers.

Ahead of the third season premiering in June, NBC announced Shades of Blue would not return for a fourth season. At the time, the executive producer said that the story had reached a natural end point.

Next: This new NBC drama won’t get a second season.

8. Rise — 4.4 million

Josh Radnor looking confused and concerned in 'Rise'.

Rise | NBC

NBC’s musical drama Rise made its debut in March with 5.5 million viewers. This was a decent, though not extraordinary, debut, but viewership declined from there. By the end of the season, the show was hovering around 4.0 million viewers.

Even though that’s better than a show like Blindspot — which had an average of 3.2 million viewers and got renewed for another season — Rise did not get a Season 2. It’s worth pointing out Blindspot was earning those ratings on a Friday, whereas Rise aired on Tuesdays, making its viewership a lot less acceptable.

Next: This NBC drama isn’t getting a second season either.

7. The Brave — 4.6 million

A man in a military suit standing next to a woman.

The Brave | NBC

NBC’s new military drama, The Brave, premiered in the fall with 5.9 million viewers. It declined from there but began to hover around 5.0 million. However, when the show returned from the hiatus in January, it was never able to score those numbers again, and the new episodes all drew around 3.7 million viewers.

The finale ended up with 3.9 million viewers, which made a renewal seem unlikely; indeed, NBC announced the show’s cancellation a few months later.

Next: This comedy had an impressive debut, but the ratings declined all season.

6. Me, Myself & I –– 4.9 million

A family sitting together on the living room couch.

Me, Myself & I | CBS

The new Bobby Moynihan sitcom, Me, Myself & I, got off to a solid start in the fall with 7.4 million viewers for the premiere. But the ratings dramatically declined from there, as the show lost 30% of its audience in the second week and declined another 16% the following week.

Eventually, My, Myself & I was sinking below 4 million viewers, and it became the lowest-rated show on CBS’ Monday block. The network ended up canceling the show after just six episodes of its 13 season- order, not even airing the rest of them.

Next: This sitcom was also axed by CBS.

5. Superior Donuts — 5.0 million

Judd Hirsch and Jermaine Fowler talk in a scene from 'Superior Donuts'.

Superior Donuts | CBS

CBS’ comedy Superior Donuts averaged 5.0 million viewers throughout its second season. That puts it way ahead of some other sitcoms that got canceled this year, including Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which averaged 1.7 million viewers.

However, it still was a significant decline from the first season’s 6.2 million viewers. And its performance in its time slot wasn’t enough to justify a third season — especially since, according to Deadline, CBS has also been looking to make some changes to its Monday night block.

Next: This CBS show has lasted for four seasons and had a lot of fans.

4. Scorpion — 5.2 million

A group of people gathered at a table.

Scorpion | CBS

During its fourth season, Scorpion averaged 5.2 million viewers. That sounds OK until you realize that this is a drop of 2 million viewers from the previous season. The most recent episode, which would turn out to be its last, also did not impress, coming in fourth among the 18-49 demographic.

This was another show to fall as part of CBS’ desire to improve its Monday night lineup; the show was airing at 10 p.m. on Mondays.

Next: This comedy earned incredibly poor reviews, but the ratings were somewhat okay.

3. 9JKL — 5.2 million

The cast if '9JKL' staring out a window.


Despite being one of the worst-reviewed shows of the season, ratings for the sitcom 9JKL weren’t horrible. It had a season average of 5.2 million. For comparison, Man with a Plan only had a slightly better season average of 5.7 million viewers.

But Man with a Plan ended its season in a stronger place than 9JKLand there were signs that the latter show would just keep slipping in the ratings. So while Man with a Plan was renewed, 9JKL was not.

9JKL also declined quite a bit when it wasn’t on after The Big Bang Theory anymore. This made clear that the show did not really have a path to success without that show as a lead-in.

Next: A lot of people were surprised to see this sitcom get canceled. 

2. Kevin Can Wait — 6.3 million

Kevin and his wife speaking in the kitchen.

Kevin Can Wait | CBS

Kevin Can Wait premiered its first episode back in 2016, and it scored a phenomenal 11 million viewers. But ratings declined significantly in Season 2 after the decision to kill off Kevin’s wife. In Season 2, the show averaged 6.3 million viewers, which is decent compared to some other shows but marked a decline of over 1.5 million viewers from Season 1.

Plus, it began to hit some rating lows towards the end of the second season, including dipping below 5.0 million viewers for the first time CBS says that it canceled the show because the ratings were in decline and the network saw no sign of them improving in Season 2.

It also needed a strong show to kick off their Wednesday lineup; it became clear that Kevin Can Wait wasn’t that show.

Next: This show was canceled for reasons other than ratings.

1. Wisdom of the Crowd — 6.9 million

Jeremy Piven in 'Wisdom of the Crowd'.

Wisdom of the Crowd | CBS

CBS drama Wisdom of the Crowd premiered in October with a strong 8.8 million viewers. While the ratings did decline as the season progressed, the season average wound up being 6.9 million — the highest for any show canceled this season. For comparison, S.W.A.T. averaged 5.8 million viewers in Season 1, and CBS renewed that.

However, this cancellation seemed to be entirely about the fact that its main star, Jeremy Piven, was accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women. Rather than trying to replace Piven in a second season, it was easier for CBS to just end the show.

Next: A few other shows that didn’t make the list, but that we’re still surprised got canceled. 

Other surprising cancellations

In terms of the raw number of viewers, these are the highest rated shows that got canceled this season. But there are also a few others that didn’t make this list but whose cancellation was still surprising.

One of those was the Fox comedy The Last Man on Earth; that show’s ratings declined slightly from a 2.1 million viewer average in Season 3 to a 1.9 million average in Season 4. But while it was definitely on the bubble, the thinking among most was that Fox would give it another season. The same went for The Mick and especially for Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

Luckily, Brooklyn Nine-Nine ended up being picked up for another season by NBC, although The Last Man on Earth and The Mick weren’t so fortunate.

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