What was the motive behind cancelling ‘Motive’ after fourth season?


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We know the identity of the victim: "Motive," which returns Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on CTV.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/03/2016 (2453 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

We know the identity of the victim: “Motive,” which returns Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on CTV.

We know who pulled the trigger: CTV. The network has announced that this will be the fourth and final 13-episode season for the Vancouver-based police drama.

What we don’t have is the motive for killing “Motive.” Here are the usual suspects:

Actors in the CTV television program "Motive" Louis Ferreira, Kristin Lehman and Brendan Penny (left to right) are shown in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - CTV

— Poor ratings

It’s what kills most shows. “Motive,” however, has a strong and loyal audience. Season 3, according to the network, was watched by an average of 1.2 million viewers a week, a 15 per cent increase over season 1. It was among the top four most-watched Canadian dramas last season.

Cancelling a series before a season airs is unusual — the audience could come back stronger than ever.

So what was the motive?

— After four seasons, the cast hates each other

There was no evidence of that during a fun and breezy Vancouver set visit last December.

“We love working together so much,” says Kristin Lehman (Det. Angie Flynn), “and we’re so proud of the show.”

— Rejected by America

This kills most shows that start out as Canadian-American co-productions. Even “Flashpoint” took a hit once CBS walked after four seasons. When ABC dropped “Motive” after its second summer run, the clock was ticking on finding a new broadcast partner.

Executive producer Dennis Heaton (“Call Me Fitz”) said he always understood he was producing the show for CTV and NBC Universal. “I know they are looking for a new home for it,” he said.

“Motive” did land on the USA Network on cable — but USA is not broadcaster ABC, and further international sales may have taken a hit.

— Creative differences

Unique to “Motive” is the dynamic between the two leads: Det. Flynn (Lehman) and Det. Oscar Vega (Louis Ferreira). There was less of the usual romantic tension, just friendship.

“We worked hard at that,” says Lehman, who decided with Ferreira to turn the usual male-female cop show archetype on its ear. “Let’s be two people who have tremendous intimacy but aren’t romantically involved,” she said.

The actors also flipped expectations, with Angie the aggressive do-er and Vega the quiet thinker. “We didn’t want to be caught up on gender stereotypes,” she says.

Cop shows, however, thrive on conflict and networks encourage it. Ferreira gets the Vega-Flynn relationship “may not be as dynamic as some other shows,” but he’s still damn proud of it.

— The series ran out of stories to tell

Lehman, happy to represent the series at the recent Canadian Screen Awards where it had several nominations, doubts that that’s the case.

“I really feel that we had for sure at least another strong season, another mature, vibrant season in us.”

Heaton felt the same way, revamping season 4 with several major changes, including: Vega, recovering from surgery, is now Flynn’s boss as desk sergeant. He gets involved with frisky medical examiner Dr. Betty Rogers (Lauren Holly). Flynn, paired in the field with Brendan Penny as Det. Brian Lucas, finds herself in new romantic entanglements. Jon Heder (“Napoleon Dynamite”) and Will Sasso are among the season 4 guest stars.

— The dreaded haircut

Years before she was on “The Americans,” Keri Russell cut her hair between seasons of “Felicity.” The series never recovered.

Two summers ago, Lehman decided to chop her golden locks and adopted a shorter, swooped ‘do. The producers made her wear a wig in season 3, but she’s letting her real hair down in season 4.

“It really cut down on my morning time,” says Lehman.

Did it also cut down the run of the series?

— It’s too Canadian

How Canadian is “Motive”? As Ferreira says, “We barely draw our own guns.”

“Motive” hid some of its Vancouver-ness from viewers, “fictionalizing” the police world a little, admits Heaton. That seemed to change the last two seasons.

“There’s a very Vancouver sensibility to it,” he says, telling his writing staff at one point, “Enough developers! Enough with the construction guys!”

As much as Canadian viewers like the flag-waving, the generic “Anywhere, USA” approach was seen in the past as a way to grow a show internationally.

— The format was too limited

“Motive” was a howdunit, instead of the more traditional whodunit. Viewers know the identity of the killer before the cops do. The quest therefore is to find the reason, or motive, behind the crime.

Heaton says back in season 1 he went online looking for, as he puts it, “the dummies guide to homicide.” What he found, astonishingly, was the actual FBI text used at Quantico to train recruits.

“I flipped to page one in the textbook, which says: ‘Often, we never find out what the motive is.'”

The same might be said for the motive behind cancelling “Motive.”


Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.

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