Which "bubble" shows have a chance at returning for another season?
This week, a number of experts offered their odds for the renewal of lower-rated network programs that potentially face cancellation at the end of the 2009-10 season (if not sooner). Michael Schneider of Variety, Josef Adalian of The Wrap, and James Hibberd of The Hollywood Reporter each posted fresh assessments within the past few days, while Bill Gorman of TVbytheNumbers posted his forecasts last week (and updates them periodically). Here's what they predicted about key shows:
CONSENSUS: "Ted," sadly, is dead.
We love it. The critics love it. The few of you who watched it seem to love it. The key phrase, however, was "the few of you," as ABC's second-year comedy attracted well under 3 million viewers per episode for much of its brief run. Note that the network still has two remaining episodes that haven't aired yet, so the best fans could hope for is that those turn up someday.
CONSENSUS: Should be back.
ABC's self-produced Nathan Fillion procedural has held onto a consistent audience throughout its two seasons, and TVbytheNumbers' Gorman notes that "Castle" looks even better in comparison to the network's other hourlong programs, which have been, for the most part, declining.
The Deep End 40
CONSENSUS: The end is near.
While ABC was hoping for another "Grey's Anatomy"-style hit with its new legal drama, it now looks like the network will be lucky to get even one more week out of "The Deep End," whose 18-49 ratings are low for any night, let alone Thursdays.
CONSENSUS: To be determined.
The show's future will not be decided until it returns from a three-month hiatus next month, but the fact that "FlashForward" is now on its third showrunner is certainly a warning sign -- and the fact that ratings fell consistently through its first batch of episodes is another. Even critics, who originally praised the show, found it disappointingly inconsistent as it progressed. Gorman predicts that the show faces certain cancellation unless it can post higher numbers when it returns.
CONSENSUS: Forget it (if you haven't already).
The title of this mediocre Christian Slater drama could not be more apt; viewers have been abandoning "The Forgotten" rapidly since its fall premiere. Not every Jerry Bruckheimer series can be a hit.
CONSENSUS: This time, it's really gone.
A rare case of a show being renewed by a network almost against its fans' wishes, "Scrubs" was basically an entirely different program in this, its ninth season, and its ratings have suffered considerably as a consequence. At least the series was able to go out with a great finale ... last year.
CONSENSUS: To be determined.
The fate of "V" is even harder to forecast than that of fellow sci-fi newcomer "FlashForward," since the hiatus for the former is even longer (a full four months), and only four episodes of the series have aired to date. However, during its brief fall run, "V" posted strong enough ratings to merit renewal if it can duplicate those numbers in the spring. Adalian also sees hope for the show in that ABC will be lacking "male-skewing, action-focused hours" once "Lost" concludes in May.
Although CBS has the enviable position of making decisions while sitting atop the ratings, the network's viewership (like that of everyone but Fox) is down compared to the previous season, and not every one of its shows is a strong performer. (Note that CBS and Metacritic are both owned by CBS Corporation.)
CONSENSUS: Maybe definitely a possibility of perhaps returning.
A number of CBS comedies are on the bubble, and which ones (if any) return depend in part on how many hours the network will devote to sitcoms next season. Out of all of CBS's bubble-coms, this first-year Jenna Elfman series might be the most vulnerable -- Hibberd calls it "a drag on the Eye’s powerhouse comedy lineup" -- but its ratings have shown a slight uptick in recent weeks, and the network will test the show in a new timeslot in March before deciding on its fate.
CONSENSUS: A slight chance at renewal, but it will have to heat up.
On the bubble last year, this seventh-year procedural is suffering from a marked decline in ratings this season. To make matters worse, as Adalian points out, is that "Cold Case" is also an expensive show to produce -- making cancellation a possibility even if viewership improves this spring.
CONSENSUS:Too soon to tell.
This second-year sitcom isn't exactly a ratings dynamo, but its numbers are about the same as they were last year, when the show was renewed for another season. As the pundits indicate, much hinges upon whether CBS schedules six or eight comedies next season, and how "Gary" performs relative to the other sitcoms on the bubble..
CONSENSUS: A medium-to-good chance of returning.
While it's certainly not a lock to return for a seventh season, the drama performs reasonably well for a Friday show, and the experts seem to agree with each other that CBS is unlikely to cancel more than one of its Friday night programs (with "Numb3rs" easily the leading contender to get the ax). However, Gorman notes that a strong performance by the network's upcoming "Miami Medical" could pose a slight threat.
The New Adventures of Old Christine
CONSENSUS: Too soon to tell.
This Julia Louis-Dreyfus comedy somehow survived to return for this, its fifth season, despite performing poorly during season four. The decision seems to have paid off for CBS, as "Christine's" numbers are improved this year. Still, the show comes from an outside production company, meaning that all other things being equal, CBS might opt for one of its home-grown comedies instead.
CONSENSUS: Its days are numbered.
Here's a hint: if a show's star takes a job at another program, his former show probably won't be around much longer. Since Numb3rs had its episode order cut for this season, and lead David Krumholtz has just signed up to star in a pilot for Fox, well, you do the math.
CONSENSUS: Expected to live another year.
A throwback "WB-style" family drama, "Life Unexpected" scored positive reviews and has posted decent ratings (at least, for the CW). Too few episodes have aired to guarantee its renewal, but Gorman notes that if it can maintain its current 18-49 numbers, the show will be back next season.
CONSENSUS: Try again in another 20 years.
While the CW's 90210 reboot appears a safe bet to return for a third season, its counterpart, "Melrose Place," is a lock for cancellation.
CONSENSUS: May live to see another day.
Factors other than ratings (which are decent but declining) may impact the decision to bring Jack Bauer (or a replacement?) back for a ninth day -- and we're not talking about how difficult it would be to come up with an original storyline at this point (which hasn't influenced decision-making in the past). The key factor is the show's cost, which is especially important given that, as Hibberd notes, the show has "little syndication value." Even if Fox finally pulls the plug on "24," the concept may live on as a theatrical movie.
CONSENSUS: It won't be back.
The sitcom's first season has already concluded its short run, and while Fox hasn't officially canceled the poorly-rated show, it's hard to find anyone who thinks it will return.
CONSENSUS: Should return, in at least one universe.
Fox did this sci-fi show no favors by moving it to Thursdays for its second season, but "Fringe" performed reasonably well with key demographic groups, despite slumping in the early part of the season. The show also benefits from strong buzz and positive reviews, but renewal depends on what Fox decides to do with the other bubble shows on its schedule.
Human Target 70
CONSENSUS: May be targeted for cancellation.
This graphic novel-inspired action show is still too new to foresee its future, especially since Fox has shifted it among multiple days and timeslots. "Human Target" has had mixed results since settling into its regular period and losing its "American Idol" lead-in, but Hibberd points out that this is the same network that gave the struggling "Dollhouse" a second chance, so anything is possible.
Lie to Me
CONSENSUS: We'd be lying if we said we knew.
This Tim Roth procedural earned a second season despite shedding viewers throughout its debut year, and while bringing in a new showrunner ("The Shield's" Shawn Ryan) has seemingly stabilized viewership this season, ratings aren't strong enough to guarantee renewal.
Past Life 43
CONSENSUS: It could be more like "Short Life."
Although it only debuted this week, "Past Life's" dismal ratings (it was outperformed on Thursday by ABC's "The Deep End," which itself is likely to be canceled) don't point to a long run. [UPDATE: Past Life was officially canceled on February 19th.]
While its miserable ratings performance seems to guarantee the show's death, several of the experts point out that this sitcom is unusually cheap to produce, meaning a return is not impossible. The show did, for example, finish 141st in the ratings last season, only to score a renewal.
For NBC in general, keep in mind that some shows on the cusp of cancellation might get a reprieve since the network has a lot of holes to fill, thanks to the departure of The Jay Leno Show.
CONSENSUS: No petitions needed; it'll be back.
Perennial bubble show Chuck is performing well for NBC on Monday nights, and a return is looking almost certain, unless viewers forget to tune in after its Olympic-mandated hiatus.
CONSENSUS: Get ready for sophomore year.
First-year comedy "Community" certainly isn't among television's highest-rated shows, but the network has demonstrated a willingness to be patient with its low-rated but well-regarded Thursday comedies in the past, and will probably do the same now. As Hibberd and Gorman point out, NBC has already renewed "Parks & Recreation," which has even lower ratings than "Community."
CONSENSUS: If it comes back at all, it'll be for a brief farewell.
While NBC owns "Heroes" -- which helps its renewal chances, the show is very expensive to produce. And its already low ratings are trending downward; viewership this season is less than half of what it was two seasons ago, and is declining by the week.
CONSENSUS: It will take an act of mercy to save this show.
NBC's first-year medical drama received tepid reviews and, after starting somewhat strong, has become one of Wednesday night's least-watched programs. The fact that NBC produces the show itself, and the major holes in the network's schedule, give "Mercy" a slight chance at returning, but it's a longshot. Ratings had actually been improving slightly over the past few airings, but the Olympic hiatus might kill that momentum.
CONSENSUS: A goner.
NBC's other first-year medical drama receives even lower ratings than "Mercy," and performs miserably on Monday nights. The show was semi-canceled last fall, only to get a reprieve after the Leno fiasco, when NBC was forced to order more "Trauma" episodes to help fill the five-hour void in its primetime schedule.
What do you think?
What bubble shows would you like to see return, and which deserve to be canceled? Let us know in the comments section below.