Television shows are canceled all the time — but their creators usually aren't the ones who bring down the ax. Kurt Sutter, whose biker drama Sons of Anarchy remains the most-watched series in the history of the FX channel, has taken it upon himself to kill The Bastard Executioner, the follow-up show that he created for the network. Aware of its dwindling ratings, Sutter decided to pre-empt a formal cancellation announcement and take out a large ad in the Hollywood trade magazines announcing the show's demise. After thanking his cast, crew, and collaborators, Sutter concludes his brief message by writing: "The audience has spoken and unfortunately the word is 'meh.' So with due respect, we bring our mythology to an epic and fiery close."
Set in 14th Century Wales, the violent period drama premiered to average numbers on September 15th, and lost more than half of its audience by the November 17th finale of its first and only season. A dark and intimidatingly complex story about a betrayed knight whose attempt at new life is ruined by the man who left him for dead on the battlefield, The Bastard Executioner may never have stood much of a chance. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Sutter candidly revealed his thoughts: "I think the mythology was a little too dense for some people. There's a glut of period pieces on right now, and I'm sure timing has something to do with it."
Elsewhere in the interview, Sutter noted that he emailed his cast and crew before taking out the full-page ad. "I'm really proud of the work we did and I wish it could continue," he said, "But I think this is the most graceful way to bow out. There's no animosity. I don't feel like the network didn't give us a chance or blah blah." He also makes clear that the move wasn't an act of rebellion, and that it was only possible because John Landgraf, the President and General Manager of FX, gave him the chance to let his show die with dignity. For Sutter, who revealed that he's already writing a new project, the decision to pull the plug on The Bastard Executioner was ultimately the result of not finding an audience: "I don't want to write something that nobody is fucking watching."