With primetime still not quite back to normal after the Hollywood strikes, the 2024 TV premiere schedule is at least looking more stocked than the back half of 2023. That said, audiences will be saying farewell to a surprising number of popular series in the coming months, such as The Good Doctor, which ABC canceled less than two months ahead of the Season 7 premiere. While cancellations certainly aren’t a rarity, news about the medical drama’s fate still came as a surprise both to fans and industry insiders, given its relatively steady success.
While the cast reactions to the cancellation haven’t been as steeped in shock as others responses, it’s possible more candid opinions will surface down the line. So why is it so surprising to hear about The Good Doctor ending after seven seasons? It’s not just one blanketed reason, so let’s break things down a bit.
The Good Doctor Is Still A Ratings Winner For ABC
The Freddie Highmore drama reportedly capped off its sixth season as the #1 entertainment show airing during the third primetime hour of 10:00 p.m. ET. And while The Good Doctor has certainly been a victim of the same overall drops in ratings and viewership as the bulk of all broadcast fare in recent years, it’s still doing comparatively well to other shows both on ABC and on other networks.
What’s more, The Good Doctor even managed to pull off a minor boost in total viewers from Season 5 to Season 6, most notably through delayed DVR viewing. So it isn’t entirely a numbers thing.
Freddie Highmore Was Reportedly Interested In Continuing
As it often goes with broadcast series contracts, Freddie Highmore’s deal was reportedly set to expire following the seventh season, and negotiations would have been necessary to continue forward. But according to Deadline, no producers or network execs ever set up any meetings with the actor for those details to be discussed.
Which is perhaps surprising, since the outlet also alleges that Highmore was interested in potentially continuing as Dr. Shaun Murphy into Season 8 and possibly beyond. Had he been skittish about the future, or if he had any specific changes to request, it might have explained why no higher-ups were on board, but no such strife has been publicized. So it seemingly isn’t a cast negotiation problem.
The Good Doctor's Budget Was Under Control
One of the biggest issues facing long-running shows is rising costs, including filming specifics and pay raises for the cast and crew. But even that doesn’t seem to have been a major problem for The Good Doctor, which films in the finance-friendly Vancouver, and didn’t seem to be in need of changing locations.
As well, Freddie Highmore and Richard Schiff are the only remaining series regulars who were on board the medical drama when it began in 2017, so those negotiations likely wouldn’t have been nearly as expensive as it would have been if The Good Doctor’s entire Season 1 cast was still in the mix. Such is one of the financial quagmires that played into Blue Bloods ending, as its renewal for a final season meant longtime cast members had to take a pay cut.
Additionally, Sony TV was reportedly ready to work out any deals necessary to figure out money problems if more cost-cutting would have been required to make Season 8 happen. Everyone but ABC appears willing to at least have discussed things, so it seemingly isn’t a money issue, either.
In the same way that Station 19’s cancellation has left audiences gobsmacked, The Good Doctor’s swan song remains a bit of a frustrating mystery, where the decision appears to be based on a variety of smaller details, as opposed to a handful of obvious catalysts. Which just means it’ll be that much harder to be confident about any shows’ futures going forward, regardless of how successful they are. Sigh.
Check out the trailer for Freddie Highmore's final episodes as Shaun Murphy below!
The Good Doctor’s final season will premiere on ABC on Tuesday, February 20, at 10:00 p.m. ET, and episodes will be available to stream the next day with a Hulu subscription.