Last Resort creator Shawn Ryan explains why his show got nuked

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Jan 14, 2013, 1:38 PM EST

One of the best new shows of the season, ABC's Last Resort, was an intriguing "what-if" about a U.S. nuclear sub crew going rogue amid a global political conspiracy. Sadly, the network decided to pull the plug last week—and show creator Shawn Ryan is here to explain why.

The series was a hit with critics and easily had one of the coolest premises of the year. The only problem? The competition proved to be a little too stiff. Last Resort airs on the most competitive night on network television, and Ryan says the creative gamble didn't attract quite enough people to keep sailing.

He told Kevin Pollak's Chat Show:

"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. 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.

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. 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 explained that the idea behind the scheduling was to try and lure curious viewers in with the "bold" premise despite the competition, almost by counter-programming a dense drama against comedies and reality TV:
"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 withFlashForward. 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.

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."

The only bright side? Last Resort will get to finish out its 13-episode order, and Ryan took to Twitter just after the cancellation, promising fans a "no-holds barred kick-ass ending." So at least there's that.

Ryan made a name for himself on cable with his hit FX cop drama The Shield, though his last few projects haven't had quite the same longevity. He was behind the criminally underwatched FX private-investigators series Terriers, as well as Fox's short-lived cop series The Chicago Code. Here's hoping his Beverly Hills Cop reboot in the works over at CBS has better luck.

Did you check out Last Resort? What'd you think?

(Via The Hollywood Reporter)