Ross Martin said network politics canceled The Wild, Wild West

CBS cut the show while it was still bringing in viewers.

Today, when a show gets canceled, it's usually due to ballooning production costs. Studios used to be able to sell the rights to their shows and have the price of distribution cover what it cost to make episodes. However, in the modern era of streaming, the studio and the distributor are often the same company. So, there's not much hope of recouping a budget if the figure is too high. There aren't re-run packages to be sold into syndication anymore, either. A show will just exist on a platform. It may attract viewers, or it may not. If the show is too expensive to recommission for further seasons, it'll get the axe. 

However, back when the major networks had more control over what was watched, there were a ton of reasons a show might get canceled. Ratings wars meant a nightly contest with winners and losers. Lose too many times, and your show was liable to end. Scandal had the power to end a show as well. More than any other powers that be, the show hung in the balance of a network's whims. They didn't even need to provide a reason to cancel a show. It could just disappear overnight.

From 1965 through 1969, The Wild, Wild West was one of the most exciting shows on television. The series masterfully blended classic Western tropes with spy-caper storytelling, leading to a whole new genre of high-stakes entertainment. The show was praised for its creativity, and droves of fans tuned in to the "James Bond on horseback" adventures each week. 

When the show ended in '69, many fans assumed they were alone in caring what had happened. However, according to one of the stars of the series, Ross Martin, the show's ratings were too consistent to lead to its eventual cancelation. To Martin, there was another clear culprit, and it had nothing to do with the number of viewers at home.

In a 1972 interview with the Abilene Reporter-News, Martin spoke with reporter Dick Kleiner about his then-imminent return to TV following the end of The Wild, Wild West. Martin pulled no punches in pointing out what he felt led to the show's demise.

He believed the show would've still been on by then were it not for network politics. Martin said the series was dropped while it was still a ratings hit. It turns out an anti-violence campaign had scared CBS into reconsidering the show's value. While it was ultimately canceled, Ross said that CBS would've kept The Wild, Wild West on the air if they could've found a later time slot for it. 

"I love my craft of acting," said Martin. "But as much as I love my craft, that's how much I hate this business. It's a crap shoot, that's all it is."

Watch The Wild Wild West on MeTV!

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12 Comments

Lefty_R_1929 2 days ago
This show will go on forever!!!!

I loved this show, but after binge watching it on Pluto and ME TV getting me back into it

I only remember the cartoon beginning, there is not one episode that I even slightly remember

Ross Martin was terrific and Robert Conrad was the best

Lastly, Conrad loved having his shirt ripped off during fights, even if it wasn't even warranted, it just had to come off lol
Sooner 1 month ago
It was the same with my favorite show as a kid, Combat! It had a great following, but activists ruined another great show. TV eventually evolved into unwatchable pap.
BrittReid 1 month ago
Never missed an episode. Great series.
cperrynaples 1 month ago
ALL TRUE! And would you believe WWW reruns were a summer replacement for Carol Burnett? At that time Carol ran at 10 PM!
justjeff 2 months ago
"There aren't re-run packages to be sold into syndication anymore..." If this is true, then how does Weigel
gwt tgur programming? That comment by the MeTV writers just doesn't make sense, especially as the
bulk of Weigel's broadcast programming is filled with syndication packages on all of their channels...
Moody justjeff 2 months ago
I think they are referring to the modern programming on streaming channels today. I thought they made that distinction. And what the heck is "gwt tgur programming"?
justjeff Moody 1 month ago
Wow, thanks for catching that! While I was typing, my eyes were burning from being overtired and that should have been "get their"... No excuses, just a bit of embarassment... I'm supposed to be the "proofreader"...😧
cperrynaples justjeff 1 month ago
Yes, only sitcoms are seen on local stations, and even then it's recent shows like Young Sheldon and Big Bang Theory! Older shows and dramas have 3 options: cable. diginets and streaming!
justjeff cperrynaples 1 month ago
Not totally so. Big Bang Theory was run on one of our local stations sub-carriers, unless you consider that a diginet...
cperrynaples justjeff 1 month ago
I said BBT was syndicated, but many locals opt for news, game shows, or talk shows!
LoveMETV22 cperrynaples 1 month ago
" I said BBT was syndicated, but many locals opt for news, game shows, or talk shows!
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Not really concerned with what you did or did not say! that's your opinion to which you have a right. On the broad scope of things the broadcast groups, (Hearst, Scripps, Sinclair, Independents, Etc....) have the right to broadcast what they wish. Weigel in the meanwhile does not have a strong enough presence in the marketplace to dictate what affiliates choose to broadcast ( plain and simple).
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