Home Entertainment Were Economics the One Enemy That S.W.A.T. Couldn’t Overcome?

Were Economics the One Enemy That S.W.A.T. Couldn’t Overcome?

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S.W.A.T. could be a perfect example of how a network can mishandle a reliable performer.


Based on its ratings, S.W.A.T. should have been a sure shot for CBS to renew.


In Live + 7 results, S.W.A.T. Season 6 averaged 6.8 million viewers and a 0.7 rating in the demo.


This made the series the No.3 show in the demo on the network and No. 10 among total viewers.


Despite that, the ax fell on S.W.A.T. last May, with storylines left hanging, the worst possible fate for a veteran series.


Star Shemar Moore blasted the decision because he and the other cast members saw those rating numbers and felt confident about a renewal.


The cancellation stood for two days. Then CBS caved in the face of a deluge of outrage from the series’ fans, and S.W.A.T. was renewed for a 13-episode final, seventh season, giving it a chance for closure.


Then came the lengthy actors’ and writers’ strikes, pushing most scripted programming, including S.W.A.T., back into 2024. It finally returned on February 16.


Logically, viewers who had strayed away from the program during its six seasons might return to see how it got wrapped up, giving S.W.A.T. a ratings bump.


Through six episodes, S.W.A.T. Season 7 has averaged 4.85 million viewers in live ratings (not the same as the Live + 7 ratings above), down 3 percent from the same episodes last season. It’s down even further (3.66 percent) among the advertiser-desired 18-40 demo.


Not helping matters are networks airing reruns more frequently this season because episodes aren’t being produced at a fast enough clip due to the strikes.


So why did CBS cancel S.W.A.T in the first place, a decision that stunted the show’s momentum every bit as much as the two strikes?


In simple terms, it’s economics. The longer a series is on the air, the more expensive it is for the network to air. A big chunk of that rising cost is actors’ salaries.


In fact, Blue Bloods cast members took a 25 percent cut in salary to ensure they would get one more season to wrap up their characters’ journeys.


In this streaming age, a broadcast network is more likely to dump an established series that’s on the bubble renewal-wise (let’s say Magnum P.I.) in favor of a new program that catches viewers’ attention (let’s say Fire Country).


Look at all the other shows in their seventh and final seasons: Station 19, Young Sheldon, and The Good Doctor.


With broadcast networks imploding, cheaper is better, whether that’s a new show or imports from Canada and elsewhere. And don’t get me started on reality shows, another less-expensive alternative.


For all that S.W.A.T. brings to the table, it’s been on the bubble for much of its existence. So, it was ripe for cancellation.


Even its second chance at life came with a catch. To reduce costs, Kenneth “Kenny” Johnson (Dominique Luca) and Alex Russell (Jim Street) were demoted to recurring players for this season.


This status has been the norm for Luca, who has been missing from a handful of episodes since the program’s third season.


On his first appearance this season on SWAT Season 7 Episode 6, Luca was gunned down while attempting to stop a robbery while off-duty.


His fate hangs in the balance until the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament concludes. But as the oldest member of the 20-David Squad, he could well be headed for a training job even if he survives.


On that same episode, Deacon (Jay Harrington) contemplates leaving SWAT and working only at his security firm so that his wife Annie can pursue her legal career.


Street departed on S.W.A.T. Season 7 Episode 5, going home to Long Beach to take over that department’s SWAT team when its captain (who was also his mentor) is killed in the line of duty.


Adding Lina Esco’s departure after S.W.A.T. Season 5, that could add up to four of the original seven members of 20 Squad who have left.


S.W.A.T. has the feel of a series that’s wrapping up, not one that’s hoping to continue, tying up loose ends and everyone’s stories.


Moore said in a recent interview that he remains optimistic about a future for the series.


But maybe it’s time for his Derrick Morgan to return instead to the BAU on Criminal Minds: Evolution. At least that’s sure to have another season.


Would increased ratings for the remaining episodes leading up to the finale make a difference for its future?


With what cast? No one is looking for S.W.A.T.: The Next Generation, featuring a whole new team with Hondo taking over as commander after Hicks (Patrick St. Esprit) retires.


Still, stranger resurrections have happened on streaming services. But too many of those comebacks last just another season as the streamers discovered the series didn’t have the juice for more.


So let’s enjoy what developments remain for Hondo, Tan, Hicks, Powell, the new guy taking Street’s slot, and maybe Luca and Deacon. That’s seven episodes to complete their journeys.


Only a few TV series last decades. Most have a “watch by” date.


Be satisfied that S.W.A.T., unlike too many shows, didn’t hang around a season or two too long. Its end is on the horizon.


Do you feel that S.W.A.T.’s time has come?


With much of its cast leaving, would you want it to continue?


What did you enjoy most about S.W.A.T.?


Comment below.

Dale McGarrigle is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on X.





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