TV Questions: What is ‘hiatus’? What is ‘cancellation’?

Many fans of a TV show become panic stricken when they hear that the network has put a show on “hiatus“. Many equate “hiatus” with “cancellation“. In fact, though, they are not the same thing: one can be temporary, the other is almost certainly permanent.

When a TV show is put on “hiatus”, it is removed from the schedule for *later use*. It does not necessarily mean that a particular TV show will never return to the network’s schedule. Often, when a TV show is put on “hiatus”, it will be “retooled” or “reworked” by the network. In this case, a TV show will almost always return to the network’s schedule at a later date, in an altered format.

In any case, “hiatus” is by no means an automatic death sentence for a show, as many shows have returned from hiatus and thrived (e.g. “Wings” and “Seinfeld”). Still, not all shows that are put on “hiatus” do return; most do move from “hiatus” to official “cancellation”.

“Cancellation” for a TV show is almost always fatal in the near term, and it is always fatal in the long term (of course!). When a show is “cancelled” it is officially pulled from the network’s schedule and will not return. Few shows have come back from cancellation. Some have been “uncancelled” and returned to a network’s schedule for a season or so (e.g. “Cagney & Lacey”, “Quantum Leap”). Others have jumped to another network after the original network has canceled them (e.g. “Jeff Foxworthy”, from ABC to NBC; “JAG” from NBC to CBS; “Sister, Sister” from ABC to UPN). But when a show is canceled, 99 times out of 100, it isn’t coming back as a first-run show.

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