The Future Of 'American Crime' Is Looking Dire

Nicole Wilder/ABC

It's almost May, which means the networks are busy deciding which shows will return for another season… and which are headed to the chopping block. The announcements will be made at next month's Upfront Presentations, so it's time to make some educated guesses. Will American Crime be renewed for Season 4? That question is more pressing than ever, given that the ABC anthology series is airing its Season 3 finale this Sunday night.

Although the Alphabet Network has already renewed a number of shows (including the entirety of Shondaland's #TGIT lineup) American Crime is not among the lucky ones whose fate has already been decided… officially. But even without official word from ABC, the writing on the wall is still fairly clear — and fans of the anthology series might want to prepare themselves to say goodbye when the finale airs this weekend.

Television ratings and prognostication website TVByTheNumbers currently has American Crime listed as "likely to be canceled." That's because, at an average audience of 1.91 million viewers and an average rating in the 18-49 demographic of 0.39 — American Crime is not only the lowest-rated drama on ABC; it's actually the single lowest-rated scripted program (drama or comedy) on any of the Big Four networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC).

Nicole Wilder/ABC

That's… not good, to put it mildly. In fact, the only reason that TVByTheNumbers doesn't have the show listed as "certain to be canceled" instead of merely "likely to be canceled" is probably because American Crime has already defied the odds twice to come back for a total of three seasons, despite consistently low ratings. Still, a 0.39 rating is a new, even lower low for the anthology: a steep decline of over 50 percent from the 0.9 average that Season 2 earned, which itself was already down slightly from Season 1's 1.16 average.

American Crime survived those two low-rated seasons by virtue of being one of the most prestigious, critically-acclaimed, and awarded shows on all of broadcast television. It was created by John Ridley, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of 12 Years A Slave, which won Best Picture three years ago. It has earned glowing reviews, averaging between 95 and 100 percent on RottenTomatoes for each of its three seasons. And the series earned 14 Emmy nominations between its first two seasons, including two consecutive wins for Regina King in the Supporting Actress in a Limited Series category. (For those keeping track at home, that's two more wins and 12 more nominations than The Wire ever received.)

Nicole Wilder/ABC

But prestige and nominations can only carry a series so far. (Even the show's status as an Emmys magnet is in question; thanks to the increasing popularity of the limited series format, American Crime will now be facing heavier competition than ever in those categories from the likes of Big Little Lies, FEUD: Bette And Joan, The Night Of, Fargo, and Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life.) Acclaim can help push a series past its natural expiration date… but only for so long. At the end of the day, it simply can't be cost effective for ABC to renew their lowest-rated program for a fourth go-round.

However, American Crime fans do have a couple things to be thankful for even if the show does get canceled. First of all, three seasons is nothing to shake a stick at; it's more than fans of shows like Firefly, Freaks And Geeks, or Pushing Daisies got. Secondly, thanks to the show's anthological nature, there's no fear of the series ending with an agonizing cliffhanger were it to be suddenly canceled. When Season 3 ends this weekend, it will have completed the story it set out to tell when it premiered eight weeks ago. Case closed.