Freeform’s future in scripted original programming is going under the microscope.
The Disney-owned basic-cable network has canceled Cruel Summer after a two-season run and will conclude Good Trouble with the second half of its upcoming fifth season.
Good Trouble, a spinoff of The Fosters, joins Grown-ish in wrapping their runs on the younger-skewing cabler in 2024. Anthology Cruel Summer and Good Trouble were Freeform’s last remaining scripted originals following the November cancellation of animated comedy Praise Petey.
Sources say Freeform executives, led by executive vp programming and content strategy Simran Sethi, wanted to bring back both shows but the ratings for both Good Trouble and Cruel Summer didn’t justify the costs of doing so — especially as Disney looks to cut costs by another $2 billion — and as most viewers watch the network’s programming on Hulu.
The second part of Good Trouble’s fifth season and part two of Grown-ish’s sixth and final run will air in 2024 alongside three unscripted shows: Chrissy & Dave Dine Out, Royal Rules of Ohio and Sasha Reid and the Midnight Order. While production on the second half of season five was already completed, sources say Good Trouble will be given the opportunity to film additional scenes for a supersized series finale episode that will properly wrap up the series.
Freeform typically programs a range of six to eight originals (either scripted or unscripted) annually as well as monthly blocks of titles tied to Halloween, Disney and Christmas in October, November and December. The holiday programming blocks continue to perform well for the cable network.
Looking ahead, sources say Freeform has not made any definitive decisions about the future of scripted originals on the network after the conclusions of Grown-ish and Good Trouble. The network has been in a holding pattern since Sethi — who also oversees programming for ABC — returned to Freeform, where she cut her teeth under exec Karey Burke. This year also saw Freeform be dropped from Spectrum channel lineups as part of Disney’s landmark deal with Charter Communications. Freeform previously was in 74 million homes at the end of 2022, with Charter’s nearly 15 million cable TV households losing access to the cable network in September.
Good Trouble, along with its predecessor, The Fosters, has ties all the way back to Freeform in 2013. The flagship series, created by Bradley Bredeweg and Peter Paige and from showrunner Joanna Johnson, also ran for five seasons and helped to put the cable network on the map as a destination for scripted originals. Sources say Johnson, who also serves as showrunner on Good Trouble, is already in talks with Disney and is developing other projects with the company. Good Trouble has been one of many shows that have popped recently since arriving on Hulu. The series, which bid farewell to lead Maia Mitchell last year, stars Cierra Ramirez, Zuri Adele, Sherry Cola, Tommy Martinez, Emma Hunton, Josh Pence, Booboo Stewart and Bryan Craig. Both The Fosters and Good Trouble have been praised for their LGBTQ-inclusive storylines, with recognition from GLAAD, ReFrame and the Imagen Foundation.
Cruel Summer, meanwhile, broke out in its first season after episodes landed on Hulu the day after their linear premiere. The series was overhauled to be an anthology for season two, with a new cast and showrunner taking over the franchise. While season two opened strong, ratings fell off as the season went on and the buzz around the property failed to come close to its breakout rookie season.
Freeform entered the nonfiction space in 2022 under previous network topper Tara Duncan, who shifted her role and now exclusively oversees Disney’s Onyx Collective, the studio that focuses on fare for underserved audiences. Chrissy & Dave Dine Out, starring Chrissy Teigen and David Chang, premieres Jan. 24, with Royal Rules of Ohio and Sasha Reid and the Midnight Order expected to both air in the spring.
The last half of Good Trouble returns Jan. 2, with the final batch of Grown-ish episodes expected in the spring. Freeform is expected to heavily promote and eventize both final seasons.
The cancellations are the latest to come as the television industry, and media companies across the landscape tighten their belts after the Peak TV bubble burst earlier this year. TNT and TBS, for example, are both no longer in the scripted originals space and have instead focused programming on lower-cost reality shows, syndicated repeats and sports.
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