On Wednesday, February 19, long-running CBS crime procedural Criminal Minds is coming to an end after 15 seasons. But why is the show ending? There are a few reasons — primarily that the ratings are not what they once were and showrunner Erica Messer extended her deal with ABC Studios. Read on for details, including if a TV movie is in the cards.
Criminal Minds’ Ratings Have Fallen in Recent Years
When Criminal Minds premiered in 2005, it quickly made its way into the Top 30 shows on TV for ratings and seasons 2-11 were consistently in the Top 20, with many years ranking right around 10th across all of television. In those years, individual episodes were earning anywhere from 12 million to 15 million viewers.
But around season 11, ratings started to drop, which is common among long-running television shows. It is hard to maintain early numbers for any series, but it is made even more so with the advent of so many streaming services and so many more TV shows to choose from. In the last five years, viewership numbers have been declining across all broadcast networks.
By the spring of 2018, when Criminal Minds aired its 13th season, ratings had fallen to less than half of what individual episodes used to rake in and the show was on the bubble before getting a season 14 renewal from CBS. Then in early 2019, showrunner Erica Messer asked the network if she should be planning for a season finale or a series finale at the end of season 14 and they decided to extend the series in order to give it a proper send-off.
“We wanted to make sure Erica had the time and ability to write a season (14) finale that honors the characters and the fans,” said Amy Reisenbach, executive vice president of CBS’ current programs, in a statement in January 2019. “We discussed wanting to keep the show in continuous production so 10 felt like the right number for us to roll straight into and give Erica enough episodes to end the series the way she wanted to.”
So the show stayed in production after wrapping season 14 and filmed the 10 episodes that comprised the final season, which has been airing in January and February 2020. The final 10 episodes bring the total count to 325, making Criminal Minds one of the Top 20 longest-running scripted television shows in U.S. history.
Erica Messer Is Moving On… But a TV Movie is Not Out of the Question
After the fate of Criminal Minds had been decided, showrunner and executive producer Erica Messer extended her deal with ABC Studios, which is the studio that produces CM. But now, she is developing two new dramas for ABC, reported Variety back in November 2019.
The first is Best Kept Secret, which follows a mother and ex-intelligence officer who has kept her past hidden from her family, only to find herself forced to return to work when she discovers her daughter is tapped to join the same group she left years before. The second is Nightingale, which is a multi-generational family soap opera that is set at a hospital where the nurse is the hero.
But Messer told Parade in a pre-season interview that she’d be open to reviving the series in the form of a TV movie at some point.
“You don’t shut down the BAU. Can’t do that. So, yeah, absolutely [we could do a TV movie], and it was that interesting thing of having to please so many people at the end of this show, where it’s like, ‘Well, don’t end it forever and ever because what if it could have another life elsewhere?'” said Messer. “But it has to end, and it’s not just another day, because that wouldn’t be satisfying. So, it was this delicate dance of finding that balance. And ideally, we did.”
Criminal Minds’ final two episodes air back to back on Wednesday, February 19 beginning at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.