FX drama The Bastard Executioner debuted to mediocre reviews. Even worse than that, it debuted to low viewership numbers that trended downward a little more with every episode. FX has made unusual renewals before, but The Bastard Executioner, which filmed in Wales, didn't have the ratings, acclaim, or low budget that might have made a surprise renewal possible. Thus, the writing was on the wall.
That's why the show's creator, Kurt Sutter, the bellicose man who'd previously created and steered Sons of Anarchy to a highly rated seven-year run, decided to announce the show's cancellation via an ad, which he debuted in the Hollywood Reporter. You can see the ad below:
At first blush, it might seem like Sutter is merely saying that he believes the show is done. Theoretically, if he felt that way, FX could still continue producing The Bastard Executioner with another showrunner. But in the interview Sutter gave to Lacey Rose at THR, he quickly explains that the cancellation was inevitable, and that he simply asked FX Networks president John Landgraf to make up his mind earlier than Landgraf might have otherwise.
Says Sutter in the interview:
I love this show, I love the mythology, but, you know, it almost f—ing killed me. I don't write in a vacuum. I'm not the guy sitting in my ivory tower spitting shit out not caring if anyone is watching. I like an audience. I don't want to write something that nobody's f—ing watching. And yes, some of that is ego. But some of it is just, [if no one's watching] then I'm not necessarily doing my job. John and I have been in touch the whole time, and it's not like it had a chance and I said, "Let's not take it." But yes, it was a mutual decision in terms of the timing of it. First, I'm so OCD, it's hard for me to begin something new if something else is still dangling. It's almost like, I had to clean up, put it away and say, "Thank you very much, this was fun." But, also, I didn't want to string the cast along. I just think it's unfair when that happens, when people don't find out for another three months whether they have a job in May. To me, the way we are handling it — in terms of, is it going to happen? Is it going to work? Let's figure it out, give me a yes or no — is the way it should be done.
Asking a network for an early renewal or cancellation decision can occasionally work out in showrunners' favor, but it's led to heartbreak as often as not. For example, a request for an early renewal decision reportedly shuttered the Joss Whedon series Angel.
Still, there's something admirable about this all the same. Sutter tends to do just about everything right out in the open. Why shouldn't he struggle with his show's cancellation in the spotlight as well? It's not as if he won't sell new work; in the THR interview, he lists three separate projects he's working on.
At the very least, we should all be able to agree on the worst aspect of this whole debacle:
KURT SUTTER'S AD IS IN PAPYRUS???? This is appalling.— Margaret Lyons (@margeincharge) November 18, 2015