'Last Resort' Co-Creator Shawn Ryan on Cancellation: 'It Wasn't a Huge Shock'
"I would compare it to if you have a relative who becomes terminally ill," the executive producer said during a lengthy interview on "Kevin Pollak's Chat Show." "You know it's coming, and yet you still are shocked when it happens."
Two days after ABC opted not to move forward with a full-season order of ambitious drama Last Resort, co-creator Shawn Ryan appeared on an Internet chat show to talk about the demise of his latest network series.
"Our ratings had been on the cusp, or really below the cusp, for a few weeks now. It didn't come as a huge shock," Ryan said Sunday afternoon on Kevin Pollak's Chat Show. "We were all hoping for a bounce. The only thing is, there's so much data now on viewership that you can always find some thing that looks good for your show. For us, it was we're doing better than that time slot's done in the last couple of years even though we're not doing well overall."
Last Resort, which centered on a renegade submarine crew finding refuge on an island, debuted to a respectable 9.1 million viewers and a 2.2 rating in the advertiser-coveted adults 18-49 demo before plummeting to 5.7 million viewers and a series low 1.2 for its most recent episode. Even so, there was a chance DVRs could be its saving grace, Ryan said, as the series saw "a huge bump, percentage-wise, from DVR use."
"It's a brutal time slot. We're up against Big Bang Theory, which is the No. 1 comedy on TV; we're up against The X Factor; we're up against NFL games on the NFL Network that draw a lot of men -- and men were liking our show," said Ryan, who has gone up against Big Bang three times (Lie to Me, The Chicago Code, Resort), of his show's competitive 8 p.m. Thursday home. "It wasn't a huge shock, and yet still it's a disappointment. I would compare it to if you have a relative who becomes terminally ill. You know it's coming, and yet you still are shocked when it happens."
Ryan -- who has several projects in the works, including a Beverly Hills Cop update at CBS -- expressed disappointment for the crew and the harsh reality that he and the writers will have to abandon ship in a few weeks.
"It's really disappointing for the people who work on the show, the crew who work on a weekly paycheck," he said. "The fact is, I'll still be able to feed my family, and I'm disappointed that creatively we won't be able to continue the story. I'm very clear that there are people who are now going to be out of a job in a few weeks with this decision -- and these are people who were working 14-, 16-hour days on behalf of the show, and I feel very bad for them."
The military premise likely didn't help Last Resort cater to ABC's female-skewing programming, especially with a soapy drama, Grey's Anatomy, as a lead-out. But Ryan maintained that there was confidence they could draw in men and women: "There was a military aspect to the show that research showed kept some women at a distance, even though the women who did come tended to like it and we thought there was growth potential for women."
Ryan also shared insight into why ABC slotted Last Resort -- an effort for the network to lure male viewers -- in the time period it did.
"The first point was, 'We gotta put something there; we don't go dark at 8 p.m. on Thursdays,' " Ryan explained. "They had had some initial success three years ago with FlashForward. That premiered big and eventually cratered, but at least they got an audience at the beginning -- an audience that was a little more male. They thought [Last Resort] was a big, bold concept that would attract people. They were worried about putting something that was a little more normal, that it would get swamped and disappear."
He added: "This was a show that they felt they could lure studios to put movie advertisements on." While that rationale made sense on paper, the addition of weekly NFL games on Thursdays may not have been fully accounted for by ABC. "Other shows before got to have eight, nine weeks of not going against football games drawing 8 to 9 million people."
Other quotes from the nearly two-hour chat:
On The Shield: "I was far more concerned with how the show would be perceived five years and 10 years down the line than what people would think that night of that episode. I wanted the show to exist in that way."
On "branding" FX: "It was clear FX was banking a whole new strategy of what they wanted to be on the success or lack of success of The Shield. … That's the way it turned out (branding the network). I did not know it then, and I was very aware of my own limitations. [Time] was built in to allow me and my staff to learn what our mistakes would be and to correct them. I know so much more now, and I can avoid the pitfalls."
On his nondistinctive writing style: "I always prided myself on being someone where I wanted the writing to be invisible and I wanted the whole to exist. I wanted to be able to move between different genres, between different things, and in a way I thought I'd have more ability to do that if I didn't have a signature thing."
On The Newsroom: "I watched every episode of The Newsroom, and I had certain story and structure issues at times with it -- and yet I just let it wash over me."
Watch the full interview below:
The remaining episodes of Last Resort will air on ABC.