Why Starz Cancelled Boss (And Why It’s A Tragedy)

Starz’s Boss was officially cancelled on the 20th of November, but for anyone familiar with how the television system works in…

John Markham


Starz’s Boss was officially cancelled on the 20th of November, but for anyone familiar with how the television system works in the US, the writing had been on the wall for quite some time. Why was it cancelled you might ask? Was it that bad? Was Kelsey Grammer just playing Frasier Crane again?

The long and short of it is that viewership figures in the States are what shows live and die by and Boss was no exception. It wasn’t all that bad either; in fact it was rather good, with Grammer giving a career best performance. But that means nothing when people aren’t watching. Grammer won the 2012 Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama Series over such fan favourites as Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) and Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire) whose shows garner the viewership numbers to match the critical acclaim. Not even this win could convince people to tune in and the consistently low numbers led to the inevitable cancellation.

While rumours of a two-hour long TV-film circulate to wrap up the series (which was left unresolved), the likelihood of that ever happening are slim. The same idea was floated around for Deadwood (again another example of how critical adoration means very little) at the time, when it cancelled just as the main character arcs were starting to come full circle, but nothing ever came of it. As infuriating as it is, it is understandable for Starz to cancel the show if it is not making them a profit or getting the channel the exposure it so ravenously desires. The channel wants to be up there with the HBO’s, the AMC’s and the Showtime’s of this world, but in reality cancelling a show like Boss will do little to close the gap. Maybe their other original programming like Magic City or upcoming shows like Frank Darabont’s Noir might step up and give the network some success as so far, the only true success the network has had is with the Spartacus franchise which has done decently critically and viewer-wise. Starz over-confidence with the show particularly didn’t help, with the show being renewed for a second season before the first had even aired. The ratings failure made people look silly.

Of course, there are other factors at play with the shows failure to attract an audience. Could the mere presence of Kelsey Grammer have people off from watching? It is possible given his long career focused primarily in comedy expecting something lighter than his scenery-chewing Tom Kane. Surely seeing Frasier Crane as a devious, vulgar-mouthed politician turned some people off which is a shame given how revelatory Grammer’s performance is and the rest of the talented case (Martin Donovan in particular is great).

But what is certain is that outside the show’s small and dedicated fan base, no one else really cared to invest in the Starz channel. Instead of Grammer’s Golden Globe win intriguing people to get the Starz channel, it turned them off even more. Which is a damn shame as Grammer delivers here big time. Grammer at his best along with the skilled writing and intriguing central storyline of greed, lust, power and pretty much every other cliché that is rampant in film/television is explored uniquely here, even Connie Nielsen’s Meredith, a potential dud character of a loyal wife could have been a bore, instead she is even more dangerous than Kane. Sadly, we’ll never know how that relationship would finish or any concrete resolution to the many loose ends Boss left open for its third season.

Starz got so much right with Boss, but expecting it to compete with the HBO’s and AMC’s of the world was always going to be difficult, especially for a political drama up against Boardwalk Empire’s gangster underworld, The Walking Dead’s blood-splattered adventure and even Showtime’s terrorist drama Homeland, which was the breakout star of last season’s premieres. We can cross our fingers and hope that a TV film will wrap out the twisted saga of Mayor Tom Kane and company, but given how Starz have dumped the show it remains very unlikely that one of television’s most criminally unseen shows will remain without a conclusion.


What do you think of the decision to dump Boss? Share your thoughts below.