Movie Reviews

Why Criminal Minds Ended After Season 15 (Was It Canceled?)


  • Criminal Minds
    capitalized on the popularity of procedurals with its unique premise and creative storytelling, leading to its success.
  • The show’s decline in viewership towards its last seasons may have been influenced by changes in time slot and cast departures.
  • Despite its cancellation after 15 years, the revival of
    Criminal Minds
    Criminal Minds: Evolution
    on Paramount+ has been mostly well-received by fans.

Criminal Minds ended after 15 years on the air but the real reason for its cancelation is still a mystery. Debuting in 2005, Criminal Minds was CBS’ attempt to further capitalize on the growing popularity of procedurals which was inspired by the success of NBC’s Law & Order franchise and its own show, NCIS. Focusing on a group of FBI agents known as the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), they use profiling to nab down Unsubs across the country. With a mix of interesting characters and a unique premise, it was only a matter of time before Criminal Minds became a hit.

Procedurals on network TV tend to run much longer, partly due to their episodic nature. While Criminal Minds did have serialized storytelling, tackling narratives that spanned several episodes, it mostly did weekly cases. This allowed the show to always offer something fresh to its viewers, with the series coming up with some of the most creative and dreadful serial criminals on TV. The ensemble of BAU agents was also great, each one bringing something special to the table. Aside from their separate storylines, the chemistry among the group was arguably its best asset. Despite running for 15 years, it was still surprising when Criminal Minds was canceled.


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Ahead of Criminal Minds: Evolution season 2, there are several intriguing theories floating around, including some about Spencer Reid’s return.

Why CBS Canceled Criminal Minds After Season 15

The Viewership Dwindled During The Final Seasons

The final team in the elevator together in the Criminal Minds series finale

Coming into Criminal Minds season 14, however, the show saw a sharp decrease in ratings. It ranked 20 in season 12, followed by a significant drop to the 29th spot the following year. Initially, it was uncertain if the shortened Criminal Minds season 14 was going to be its last, but as the creatives behind the series decided on how to wrap up the year, long-time showrunner Erica Messer appealed for a 10-episode season 15 that would allow them to properly end one of the most successful procedurals on TV. Luckily, all the involved parties agreed to greenlight one final season of the show.

It’s unclear what caused Criminal Minds to lose viewership towards the end of its run. However, there are several possible reasons for this. Firstly, the change of slot from Wednesdays 9 pm to a much later time to 10 pm may have contributed to its decline. Secondly, Aaron Hotchner’s abrupt departure from Criminal Minds may have also played a part in this. It’s worth noting that when Thomas Gibson was fired, it hadn’t been long since the show also lost another original cast member, Shemar Moore. Couple that with the increasingly infrequent appearances from Matthew Gray Gubler’s Spencer Reid, then it isn’t difficult to imagine viewers losing interest.


All 15 Seasons Of Criminal Minds, Ranked Worst To Best

Criminal Minds follows the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit as they hunt murderers across the country, but not every season is at the same standard.

Criminal Minds Got A Reboot Just 2 Years After Its Ending

Fan Demand Brought Criminal Minds Back On Paramount+

The BAU talking together as a group in their office in Criminal Minds: Evolution

Just two years after Criminal Minds ended its run on CBS, however, Paramount+ revived the show, but on the streaming platform. There was some initial confusion about whether the project would come to fruition, but in November 2022, the 10-episode first season of Criminal Minds: Evolution premiered. The new show features the majority of the old cast back, making it essentially a continuation of its network predecessor.

Criminal Minds: Evolution is currently on its second season. While it was initially delayed due to the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and SAG-AFTRA strikes in 2023, the release date for Criminal Minds: Evolution season 2 was confirmed for June 6, 2024, when it arrived on Paramount+.


Criminal Minds: Every Episode Matthew Gray Gubler Directed, Ranked

Matthew Gray Gubler hasn’t returned for the Criminal Minds reboot. However, fans can still appreciate the several episodes he directed.

How The New Criminal Minds Compares To The Original

Criminal Minds: Evolution Has Received A Mixed (But Mostly Positive) Response

For many fans of Criminal Minds, the sequel series Criminal Minds: Evolution was a welcome continuation of everything that made the original show so great. It was also successful enough to carry on into a second season, which is a testament to it living up to the first 15 seasons. However, there have been a few changes that means it hasn’t quite hit the mark for some (though not all) viewers.

There are a few things
Criminal Minds: Evolution
does better than the original
Criminal Minds.

The most obvious of these is, of course, the absence of Mathew Gray Gubler as Spencer Reid. Reid was a fan-favorite character throughout Criminal Minds, and his absence has been both especially noteworthy and a point of chagrin for many fans. There’s no hint that Reid will return in Criminal Minds: Evolution, though there’s always the opportunity for him to do so if it continues on to season 3, as Reid hasn’t been killed off.

There have also been some fans who see Criminal Minds: Evolution being slightly melodramatic compared to Criminal Minds. There are reasons for this — Evolution is only 10 episodes-per-season and made for a streaming audience, so it has to lean more into ongoing drama than the traditional Unsub-of-the-week procedural format. While this isn’t a huge issue, it does speak for the fact that the tones of the two shows are slightly different. What’s more, in Evolution it’s rare that the entire BAU will be working on a case, with the team often splitting up into pairs, something some fans also haven’t taken to.

That being said, there are a few things Criminal Minds: Evolution does better than the original Criminal Minds. The sequel show explores the lives of the characters outside the BAU much more thoroughly, especially when it comes to areas like JJ’s family. Plus, Evolution factors the importance of technology into its cases, making it feel much more modern than many previous seasons of Criminal Minds.

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