Tuesday night's disappointing ratings for the US premiere of Love Island got us thinking: What if CBS's huge bet on the British import is a total fail? Is it conceivable that the network might cut short its five-week, five-nights-a-week commitment to the series?
If the past is any guide, the short answer is yes. In fact, there are several examples of high-profile reality projects that were cancelled long before they could crown an ultimate victor. Here are five we can remember:
Promoted as a year-long "social experiment," this twice-weekly 2014 Fox reality series placed 25 people in isolation, videotaping them 24/7 as they attempted to create their own civilization. Originally slated to air more than 100 episodes over the course of a year, the series was cancelled due to low ratings after airing only twelve episodes.
This 2008 tournament-style reality series saw stars performing "secret talents" (such as Clint Black doing a stand-up comedy set, or George Tekai singing a song) in a competition to see who could win the most votes from home viewers. Picked up to run seven weeks, CBS cancelled the show after just one low-rated airing.
This 2013 Mark Burnett-produced reality series featured contestants competing in various challenges to win "a dream job at their dream company." The series failed to connect with viewers and CBS gave it the heave-ho after just two airings.
Similar in concept to Fox's Utopia, this 2016 reality series saw 23 strangers charged with building a society of their own in an isolated area of Scotland for the UK's Channel 4. Although the series was cancelled after only four episodes, remarkably the contestants were not told of the cancellation and filming continued for a year, with a "second" five-episode season (dubbed Eden: Paradise Lost) cobbled together from the resulting footage airing a year later.
Judge Jeanine Pirro hosted this live 2017 primetime court show, in which high-profile court cases were re-enacted by a rotating group of high-profile attorneys. At the end of each episode, the studio audience and home viewers would vote for whether they'd rule in favor of the prosecution or the defense. Viewers voted with their feet, and Fox yanked the show after two episodes.
None of this is to say Love Island will suffer the same fate of these other shows. We now live in an age of delayed (and online) viewing, CBS has made the premiere available for free on YouTube, and we can be assured that future episodes will be structured in a way so that latecomers can easily jump in.
It's also worth mentioning that while the UK version of the series is now a ratings leader, it too suffered a slow start, failing to become the phenomenon it is today until its third season.
Time will tell whether the US variant of Love Island can catch on, or whether it will suffer the same fate of its ejected singles. As they say on TV, stayed tuned!
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