There’s another casualty on network TV. CBS’ military drama, The Unit, has been cancelled after four seasons on the air.
The Unit revolves around an elite military unit and their civilian loved ones. The series features the talents of Dennis Haysbert, Regina Taylor, Audrey Marie Anderson, Robert Patrick, Max Martini, Abby Brammell, Michael Irby, Scott Foley, Demore Barnes, Alyssa Shafer, Danielle Hanratty, Kavita Patil, and Rebecca Pidgeon.
Created by acclaimed director and writer David Mamet, the series debuted in mid-season 2006. An average audience of 15.5 million viewers ensured a second season for the drama but year two didn’t go as well, attracting 11.1 million viewers. The show has continued to decline in the ensuing years and season four has averaged an audience of 9.67 million. Though the overall viewership isn’t too low, the series does skew older. The average age of The Unit’s viewership is about 55.
The series has been “on the bubble” for awhile and many took it as a bad sign when showrunner Shawn Ryan signed on to helm FOX’s Lie to Me. Ryan however maintained that he would continue on both shows if The Unit was renewed. He’d previously performed double duty while working concurrently on The Unit and The Shield.
Like most of the networks’ actions these days, the decision to renew or cancel came down to finances. CBS had asked for all of its shows to reduce their budgets. The Unit is actually already cheaper to produce than it looks. Shot primarily in Southern California, it costs less than $3 million per episode to produce. That’s about half as expensive as other primetime dramas.
A couple weeks ago, Haysbert told the LA Times that he was unsure if he wanted the show to come back if it meant making too many creative and salary concessions. He said, “There are a number of factors that go into whether I want it back or not. It’s been a great ride and, if I don’t work with these people again, I’ll certainly play golf with them.”
In an age when the networks and studios have to watch every dollar, they’ve all been favoring renewing shows that are created by sister or in-house production companies. Since 20th Century Fox TV produces the show, the network wouldn’t benefit if the show went into syndication.
Prior to the cancellation news, Gary Newman, chairman of The Unit’s studio, said, “For the CBS viewer, this show is unique. The audience may not be huge, but there’s going to be enormous disappointment if it goes off and it’s replaced with one more procedural or forensics show.”
Image courtesy CBS.