Fox Opts to Renew Sleepy Hollow Despite Low Ratings

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By the grace of god—or a deal with the devil—supernatural drama Sleepy Hollow has been given the gift of a fourth season.

Fox announced the renewal news earlier today, after the series had been hanging in cancellation limbo for months following its move from the network’s Thursday night line-up (which pitted it against ABC’s Shondaland) to Fridays. While the show’s live and same-day ratings weren’t seemingly enough to keep a costly genre drama like Sleepy on the air, its seven-day DVR viewership gave it a marginal bump, enabling it to earn a 1.4 average in the 18-49 demo. Fox has killed series for less—especially its big-budget sci-fi programming—which is why the renewal news is so eyebrow raising.

Back when Sleepy Hollow’s third season premiered, it was clear that the show was facing an uphill battle. Several serious creative missteps saw a handful of actors leave the show and a new showrunner crowned. But fans largely gave it the benefit of the doubt, eager to see their favorite time-defying duo of Abbie Mills and Ichabod Crane return to fighting demons, saving the world and, of cours,e professing their “witness-y” love to one another.

Things seemed to be, at least on the surface, somewhat different than the trainwreck of season two, but as the weeks went by, critics and fans started to, once again, come down hard on the show’s new direction. Essentially, in its effort to save itself, Sleepy Hollow had seemingly forgotten what—and who—made it famous.

After a rollercoaster of a year, in April, Sleepy’s not-so-stellar third season saw the show take its biggest creative blow yet. Lead and fan-favorite Nicole Beharie, the actress behind its groundbreaking and beloved character Abbie Mills, left. The reasoning? The actress wanted out of her contract. Discussion about her departure among the actress, network executives and Sleepy Hollow’s production team had been on-going since before season three began. Though the original plan was to release Beharie from her contract mid-season, the network reneged on that decision, opting to instead finish out the rest of the season with the talent.

After the finale aired and fans learned Abbie’s fate, rumors flew about the reasons behind Beharie’s depature. But with two seasons of some rather loud protesting over a perceived sidelining of Mills in favor of her white, male co-lead, many assumed it was her character’s poor treatment by the production team that finally got under the actress’s skin.

While it’s unclear where the series will go from here, the show’s season three finale insinuated that Ichabod would begin a search for the witness that would replace Mills only in body, but “not in spirit.” We’re not sure fans will see it that way, which is why it’s hard to root for a show that’s essentially now only half a body—and, for some, devoid of the only reason they bothered to stick around.

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