The show 2 Broke Girls was a unique sitcom, and its unexpected 2017 cancellation shattered the hearts of fans everywhere.
Starring Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs as the titular cash-strapped young women, 2 Broke Girls premiered in September 2011 on CBS, following a network bidding war for the multi-camera sitcom. The brainchild of standup comedian Whitney Cummings and former Sex and the City showrunner Michael Patrick King, 2 Broke Girls immediately connected with viewers while receiving both positive and negative reviews from critics. When the sitcom was canceled in 2017 after a respectable six-season run (which included plenty of controversy along the way), fans shared shock and outrage on social media, with many feeling as if the show had been taken from them far too soon.
The untold truth of 2 Broke Girls is that fans weren’t the only ones surprised by the cancellation; the same held true for the show’s cast and crew, who never imagined the sixth season finale would be the last episode ever produced. However, there had long been hidden forces at play behind the scenes which ultimately combined to bring about the show’s demise. Read on to learn the real reason why 2 Broke Girls was canceled.
2 Broke Girls was hated by many TV critics
When 2 Broke Girls premiered on the 2011 CBS fall lineup, reviews for the sitcom were decidedly mixed. The Hollywood Reporter declared the show to be "the most disappointing new sitcom of the fall," admitting 2 Broke Girls "actually had potential, but has squandered it away every week on cheap, predictable and unfunny jokes." Meanwhile, Vulture criticized the show for more than just bad jokes, asking, "Does it have to be so mean?" Slate‘s review took a more positive view of the show, although the highest praise mustered was that the show was "regularly palatable [and] good for a cheap chuckle."
Later that season, a January 2012 press tour session for 2 Broke Girls at the Television Critics Association turned contentious (via Uproxx), as journalists hammered the series’ stars and producers about the show’s "one-note" supporting characters, outdated racial stereotypes, and the dependence on sexual innuendos.
Future seasons saw reviews become more pointed. In 2015, Pop Matters accused the show of having "lost momentum" and being "on its way to comedy bankruptcy." The following year, the Boston Globe even asked, "Is 2 Broke Girls the worst sitcom on TV?"
2 Broke Girls was accused of perpetuating racist stereotypes
2 Broke Girls had plenty of characters who some viewers felt were problematic, most of whom were featured in the diner’s supporting cast — which was described by the New Yorker as having been "conceived in terms so racist it is less offensive than baffling."
A review in The Guardian went even further, singling out the diner’s owner, Han Lee — played by actor Matthew Moy. "Short, asexual and work-obsessed, Lee is ridiculed for his broken English and failing to ‘get’ U.S. culture," stated the review. Speaking with the Los Angeles Times, Moy defended his characterization, explaining, "I know that a lot of people had concerns about Han and the accent, but the comedy on 2 Broke Girls always comes from a place of love — it’s never mean." He continued, saying, "We’re a comedy, and we often go right to the edge. It doesn’t bother me." Added Moy, "I’ve encountered this all my life. I’ve been made fun of all my life."
Behrs also stood up to the criticism, telling Entertainment Weekly, "People are always going to have a problem with something."
2 Broke Girls was criticized for its filthiness
2 Broke Girls’ seemingly racist stereotypes and flat jokes led to some highly controversial TV moments — but those weren’t the only issues. The show’s unabashedly raunchy humor was also a problem for some critics, as crude jokes simply felt out of place on the primetime series. In other words — 2 Broke Girls wasn’t exactly a family show.
A 2017 piece in The Washington Post called 2 Broke Girls "the filthiest show on network television," offering numerous examples of sexual innuendos to back up its claim. However, 2 Broke Girls also made headlines for riling up angry viewers, prompting dozens to issue formal complaints to the Federal Communications Commission.
As AdWeek reported in 2014, the FCC logged 91 complaints about the show. Onne complaint accused the entire show of being "profane" and full of "sexual emphasis and explicit language." Yet another complainant asked the FCC, "Do the writers want to break down barriers to good taste and spew coarse language during family hour? This is your job to try to keep television from becoming a cesspool and allow everyone to enjoy profane-free shows."
2 Broke Girls wasn’t the "anchor show" CBS hoped it would be
Unfortunately, 2 Broke Girls simply didn’t live up to the expectations CBS had for the show.
For the 2013-2014 season, CBS expanded its successful Monday night two-hour sitcom block to Thursdays, adding new comedies to both its Monday and Thursday lineups. According to Variety, CBS had expected that 2 Broke Girls would serve as its "anchor show" on Mondays, as the more-established Two and a Half Men had moved from Monday to Thursday in an effort to build a two-hour Thursday comedy block. It seemed the network hoped the rookie sitcom We Are Men – which had been sandwiched between How I Met Your Mother and 2 Broke Girls on Mondays — would build an audience by being the lead-in for the latter show. When that didn’t happen, however, We Are Men was yanked from the schedule (via Deadline).
As a result, 2 Broke Girls was shifted a half-hour earlier, with Melissa McCarthy‘s Mike & Molly returning earlier than scheduled as the network’s new 9 p.m. anchor. As Variety noted, 2 Broke Girls "simply wasn’t strong enough to hold up its end of the bargain."
2 Broke Girls’ ratings were dropping
When 2 Broke Girls wrapped it sixth season, there was no indication that the show wasn’t going to be renewed for a seventh. After all, ratings had remained relatively solid. According to TV by the Numbers, Season 6 averaged a 1.3 same-day rating in the all-important 18-49 demographic, with total viewership of 5.62 million viewers per episode — which was in line with other comedies CBS chose to renew, such as Man with a Plan and Life in Pieces.
However, a closer look indicated that, despite those seemingly solid numbers, viewership was steadily declining – according to ratings posted on TV Series Finale. When the sixth season of 2 Broke Girls premiered in October 2016, the episode earned a 1.7 rating in the 18-49 demo, with more than 6.3 million total viewers. However, the season finale in April 2017 garnered a 1.04 share among viewers aged 18-49, and total overall viewership had dropped to just over 4.5 million.
While ratings weren’t the only reason behind the cancellation of 2 Broke Girls, shedding nearly 2 million viewers in the course of a season is never good news for a TV series — no matter the network.
A racially tinged joke on 2 Broke Girls angered Australia’s former prime minister
The show 2 Broke Girls was often accused of racism throughout its six seasons on the air, but one joke from a 2015 episode caused an uproar in a surprising part of the world.
According to BBC News, Australians were quite unhappy with a joke made by Matthew Moy’s Han about the country’s Aborigines. "I’m in a casual flirtation with a woman in Australia," Han said in the offending episode. He continued, saying, "She’s part Aboriginal but has a great personality."
As noted by BBC News, several people expressed their disgust with the joke, writing comments on the show’s now-defunct Facebook page. One blasted the show for having the nerve to "denigrate the First Nations People of Australia," while another commented on the "disgustingly racist comment about Aboriginal women" which was "not at all effin’ funny." The joke even caught the attention of Kevin Rudd, who served as Australia’s prime minister from 2007-2010, and again in 2013. "Pathetic attempt at racist humor by American ‘comedy’ 2 Broke Girls," Rudd posted to Twitter. He continued, writing, "How low can you go for canned laughter? [2 Broke Girls] should apologize."
"Intense negotiations" over 2 Broke Girls led to its cancellation
Fans if 2 Broke Girls were unaware of a behind-the-scenes tug of war between CBS, the network that aired the show, and Warner Bros. Television — the studio that produced it. But, according to an April 2017 report from Deadline, "intense negotiations" had been taking place between the network and the studio.
The sitcom had certainly been profitable for Warner Bros, with Broadcasting+Cable reporting in 2012 that 2 Broke Girls had negotiated a deal for syndicated reruns to air on TBS at a record-setting $1.7 million per episode. While that was great news for the studio, CBS had no ownership stake, and therefore received none of those profits. Considering CBS canceled 2 Broke Girls shortly after this syndication deal, it seems clear the network was influenced in some way by the million-dollar agreement between Warner Bros. Television and TBS.
Still, 2 Broke Girls showrunner Michelle Nader was thrown for a loop when the cancellation news broke and vowed to somehow keep the show going. "This is not the end for these girls," she told TVLine. Nader continued, saying, "We’re not finished and we don’t want to be finished and I don’t think the audience is finished."
The ownership of 2 Broke Girls sealed its fate
The show 2 Broke Girls had a major ownership issue that ultimately led to its eventual downfall.
Produced by Warner Bros. Television, 2 Broke Girls was then licensed to CBS — which brought in revenue by selling advertising during the primetime sitcom’s broadcast. Yet, when 2 Broke Girls became successful enough to warrant a $1.7 million per episode sale for off-network syndication, Warner Bros. received all those backend profits. Unfortunately for CBS, the network got nothing.
As The Hollywood Reporter noted, the decision made by CBS to pull the plug on 2 Broke Girls certainly indicated that the show’s ownership played a major role in its cancellation. In fact, cancelling the show reflected a broader trend by broadcast television networks to produce and maintain ownership of their own shows, thus preventing another studio from capitalizing on a series’ subsequent success brought about by the network. According to THR, nine of the 16 new pilots that CBS had picked up for the 2017-2018 TV season were either partially or entirely owned by the network. Had 2 Broke Girls been produced by a CBS-affiliated studio, there’s no denying its fate would likely have been different.
CBS offered a "creative" explanation when asked why 2 Broke Girls was canceled
Sure, 2 Broke Girls had its fair share of criticism and ownership issues – but was there another reason behind the decision to axe the CBS sitcom?
Well, it certainly seems that way. CBS scheduling chief Kelly Kahl (who would later be promoted to network president) offered his explanation in a 2017 interview with Deadline – saying that, from a creative standpoint, 2 Broke Girls had simply run its course. And, according to Kahl, there were better shows waiting in the wings. "Our comedy development this year was very good, and whenever your comedy development is really good, it puts a lot of pressure on some of your older shows," said Kahl. He continued, telling Deadline, "We felt creatively it was time, and we had to create some space on the schedule to get some new product on."
Asked about reports surrounding the show’s ownership issues, Kahl insisted that CBS not owning the show wasn’t a factor in its cancellation. "I think it was a creative decision more than anything else," he said, insisting the cancellation was a "business decision."
2 Broke Girls star Kat Dennings wanted to give fans a better conclusion
The cancellation of 2 Broke Girls surprised its cast as much as it surprised the fans who had devoted six years to its main characters, Caroline, played by Beth Behrs, and Max, played by Kat Dennings (who Hollywood seemingly won’t cast anymore). And because Season 6 ended with the expectation that the show would return, what ended up being the series finale failed to tie up 2 Broke Girls‘ loose ends.
Speaking with Yahoo! TV following the shocking cancellation, Dennings lamented that fans never got to see her character’s wedding — noting that series co-creator Michael Patrick King "actually talked as if there was going to be another season."
Dennings told Yahoo! TV, "Maybe one day we’ll wrap it all up with a two-hour special where we see all of these things happen." The actress continued, revealing, "I would love that. I think the people that watched the show for so many years deserve some closure, and I would love to give that to them." While the cast of 2 Broke Girls might look a little different now, there’s no question that fans would love to see them reunite.