TV Cancellation Watch: Which Shows Are on the Bubble?

  • Publish Date: February 16, 2012
  • Comments: ↓ 14 user comments

Another round of predictions from TV industry experts

FringeMaybe it has better ratings in the other universe

We're still three months away from the networks' announcements of their fall schedules (and with them, the final status of all of this season's shows), and a handful of shows from the current season have yet to debut. But that doesn't mean that industry experts aren't speculating about the renewal and cancellation prospects for dozens of shows now on the bubble.

What are the chances that each of these bubble shows will return next season? To answer that question, we have compiled the latest renew/cancel predictions from seven sources:


Pan AmNow departing

For a last-place network (at least in the key 18-49 demo), ABC has surprisingly few programs facing certain cancelation. Like many industry observers, TV by the Numbers unequivocally considers Pan Am to be canceled already, though ABC claims, perhaps disingenuously, that the show is technically still under consideration for a second season. (Either way, the season's final episode airs Sunday night.) And it looks like death is imminent for second-year medical crime drama Body of Proof, which is getting buried even by somewhat lackluster competition (Unforgettable, Parenthood) in its 10pm Tuesday timeslot.

Among the network's other hourlong dramas, only The River looks to be in major trouble, and while that show is new enough on the schedule that the jury's still out, its second episode found it sinking considerably in the ratings. The fate of that series may also hinge on the performance of three new dramas that have yet to debut.

Similarly, ABC's one real comedy question mark—the just-returned Cougar Town—will have an easier time securing a pickup if another late-season arrival, Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23, bombs with viewers. The latter comedy, however, has fairly good early buzz (despite its unwieldy and constantly changing title), while Cougar Town's season premiere earlier this week was underwhelming from a numbers standpoint. Fellow laugher Happy Endings isn't exactly setting ratings records itself, but experts consider it a sure thing to earn a renewal; as Vulture's Adalian writes, "Buzz on the show is great and ABC suits love it."

ABC ABC Primetime Programs, 2011-2012 Season
Show Expert Predictions
EW Spoiler TVbtN bw TVbtN rc TVG TVLine Vulture
Uncertain Fate to be determined:
America's Funniest Home Videos n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
The Bachelor n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a 5 n/a
Body of Proof n/a 1 1 1 2 3 2
Castle n/a 5 4 4 n/a 5 n/a
Cougar Town n/a 2 n/a n/a n/a 3 4
Dancing with the Stars n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a 5 n/a
Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 Premieres Wednesday, April 11
GCB Premieres Sunday, March 4
Grey's Anatomy n/a 5 5 5 n/a 5 n/a
Happy Endings n/a 4 4 5 5 5 5
Last Man Standing 4 4 4 4 n/a 5 n/a
The Middle n/a 4 5 5 n/a 5 n/a
Missing Premieres Thursday, March 15
Modern Family n/a 5 5 5 n/a 5 n/a
Once Upon a Time 4 5 5 5 n/a 5 n/a
Pan Am 1 1 1 1 1 2 2
Private Practice n/a 4 3 4 n/a 4 n/a
Revenge 4 5 4 4 n/a 5 n/a
The River n/a 3 n/a 3 n/a n/a n/a
Scandal Premieres Thursday, April 5
Secret Millionaire n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Shark Tank n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Suburgatory 4 4 4 5 n/a 5 n/a
Wife Swap n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Wipeout n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
You Deserve It n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Renewed Already renewed:
Canceled Canceled or ending:
Charlie's Angels CANCELED: 7 of 8 episodes aired; remaining episode unlikely to air
Desperate Housewives ENDING: Series finale will air in May
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition ENDED: All episodes have aired; show may return as occasional specials
Man Up! CANCELED: 8 of 13 episodes aired; remaining episodes available on Hulu
Work It CANCELED: Pulled from schedule after 2 episodes; will not return

Key to predictions:
5 Likely renewal   4 Possible renewal   3 Could go either way   2 Possible cancellation   1 Likely cancellation


A Gifted ManReturn the gift

The top network in terms of total viewers has only a few dead spots in its primetime schedule. Freshman drama A Gifted Man looks to be the likeliest CBS series to get the ax at the end of the season, though fellow newcomer Unforgettable is having an awfully difficult time living up to its title and could also be gone when the season ends.

This could also be the year that the CSI franchise finally loses one of its three hours. While the flagship, reinvigorated by its less demanding timeslot and the addition of Ted Danson, seems likeliest to stick around, either of the New York or the Miami spin-offs could be cut, though it would be surprising if both were canceled at the same time, and both could survive to return another year. (Perhaps the two could be consolidated into CSI: Mid-Atlantic.)

The relatively low-rated but critically acclaimed drama The Good Wife, meanwhile, is also a bit of a bubble show, though it survived similar numbers last year without a problem, and the network likely enjoys the prestige that comes with Emmy nominations. New comedy Rob will never be associated with the phrase "critically acclaimed," but it too, should stick around (it's no Big Bang Theory, but it outdraws everything in its timeslot other than Idol), unless CBS decides to cut the number of hours it devotes to comedies. In the latter scenario, Rules of Engagement would certainly be a goner, but that hard-to-kill sitcom could otherwise return for another season.

CBS CBS Primetime Programs, 2011-2012 Season
Show Expert Predictions
EW Spoiler TVbtN bw TVbtN rc TVG TVLine Vulture
Uncertain Fate to be determined:
2 Broke Girls 4 5 5 5 n/a 5 n/a
The Amazing Race n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a 5 n/a
Blue Bloods n/a 4 4 4 n/a 4 n/a
Criminal Minds n/a 5 5 5 n/a 5 n/a
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation n/a 5 4 4 n/a 4 5
CSI: Miami n/a 3 4 3 3 3 3
CSI: New York n/a 2 3 2 3 3 4
A Gifted Man 2 1 1 1 2 2 2
The Good Wife n/a 4 3 3 n/a 5 5
Hawaii Five-0 n/a 5 5 4 n/a 4 n/a
The Mentalist n/a 5 4 4 n/a 5 n/a
Mike & Molly n/a 5 5 5 n/a 5 n/a
NCIS n/a 5 5 5 n/a 5 n/a
NCIS: Los Angeles n/a 5 5 5 n/a 5 n/a
NYC 22 Premieres Sunday, April 15
Person of Interest 5 5 5 5 n/a 4 n/a
Rob 4 5 3 4 4 n/a 3
Rules of Engagement n/a 4 3 3 4 4 3
Two and a Half Men n/a 5 5 5 n/a 5 n/a
Undercover Boss n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a 4 n/a
Unforgettable 3 3 2 2 n/a 4 3
Renewed Already renewed:
The Big Bang Theory RENEWED through 2013-14 season
How I Met Your Mother RENEWED through 2012-13 season
Survivor RENEWED through 2012-13 season
Canceled Canceled or ending:
How to Be a Gentleman CANCELED: 3 of 9 episodes aired; remaining episodes unlikely to air

The CW

RingerRinger, dead?

While the CW canceled only a few series at the conclusion of last season, the network might be quicker to pull the trigger on underperforming shows this year, thanks to an atypically strong development slate that could produce plenty of replacements. Of the shows currently airing on the fifth network, only The Vampire Diaries is a lock to secure another season.

Every other show on the CW's current schedule can be considered on the bubble, with renewal chances ranging from fairly good (Supernatural, The Secret Circle) to slim (Ringer). However, given that this is the same network that is devoting an hour of its primetime schedule to a literal game of musical chairs (Oh Sit!), it's hard to predict how the CW's primetime schedule will be shuffled at the end of the season. And TV Guide's Battaglio notes that low ratings aren't necessarily a deal breaker for any of these shows, since the network can still make a profit from them through its foreign sales and licensing deals with Netflix and Hulu.

CW CW Primetime Programs, 2011-2012 Season
Show Expert Predictions
EW Spoiler TVbtN bw TVbtN rc TVG TVLine Vulture
Uncertain Fate to be determined:
90210 n/a 3 3 4 3 3 n/a
America's Next Top Model n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a 5 n/a
The Frame Premieres in the spring (date TBA)
Gossip Girl n/a 2 3 3 3 5 n/a
Hart of Dixie 3 2 2 3 n/a 4 n/a
Nikita n/a 2 3 3 3 3 n/a
Oh Sit! Premieres in the spring (date TBA)
Remodeled n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a 2 n/a
Ringer 3 2 2 3 3 3 n/a
The Secret Circle 4 3 3 4 n/a 4 n/a
Supernatural n/a 4 3 5 n/a 4 n/a
The Vampire Diaries n/a 5 5 5 n/a 5 n/a
Renewed Already renewed:
Canceled Canceled or ending:
H8R CANCELED: Pulled from schedule after 4 episodes; remaining episodes unlikely to air
One Tree Hill ENDING: Series finale to air in April


Raising HopeDon't get your hopes up

For a network that is currently in first place in the key 18-49 demographic, Fox has a lot of question marks in its ongoing primetime schedule. Among the network's scripted shows, Bones, Glee, and New Girl are certain to return, while I Hate My Teenage Daughter looks like a goner. After that, things get interesting.

Nearly every other show in the current Fox lineup is on the bubble, though perhaps the furthest out on the fringe is, indeed, Fringe, which is underperforming even by Friday night standards and is expensive to boot. Still, with the show so close to having enough episodes to secure a syndication deal, there's a chance it could return, especially if, as Adalian points out, Fox can get producer Warner Bros. TV to cut its fee, though TV by the Numbers' Gorman thinks that even if the show were free, Fox would be better off passing.

And if Fox wants to be in the J.J. Abrams business, it no longer needs Fringe; the network can keep fellow bubble show Alcatraz instead. The fate of both those shows, as well as Terra Nova (which, despite being expensive to produce and not as much of a critical or commercial hit as the network hoped, actually made some money for Fox) and Bones spinoff The Finder, could hinge in part on the success of the new Kiefer Sutherland drama Touch next month, though the departure of House also clears up an hour on the schedule. Thanks to the long production time needed for the complex special effects, a decision on Terra Nova should come soon (though experts have been saying that for the past two months).

On the comedy front, the future for the once promising Raising Hope now looks murky, though a renewal is not out of the question. The same goes for animated comedies Bob's Burgers (which has yet to return for its second season) and Napoleon Dynamite; Fox doesn't need either one in order to fill its Animation Domination lineup, but yearly rumors suggest that the network isn't all that fond of American Dad, and thus wouldn't mind having another animated show around as backup if they suddenly demonstrate potential.

Note that predictions for I Hate My Teenage Daughter are based on its performance during the fall; the show will have a chance to redeem itself—however unlikely that may be—when it returns from a lengthy hiatus on March 6.

Fox Fox Primetime Programs, 2011-2012 Season
Show Expert Predictions
EW Spoiler TVbtN bw TVbtN rc TVG TVLine Vulture
Uncertain Fate to be determined:
Alcatraz 3 4 3 3 4 n/a 4
American Idol n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a 5 n/a
Bob's Burgers Season premiere Sunday, March 11
Bones n/a 5 4 4 n/a 5 n/a
Breaking In n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
The Finder 2 4 2 2 n/a n/a 4
Fringe n/a 1 2 3 2 3 3
Glee n/a 5 5 5 n/a 5 n/a
Hotel Hell Premieres Friday, April 6
I Hate My Teenage Daughter 2 2 2 2 n/a 2 1
Mobbed n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Napoleon Dynamite 4 4 3 3 n/a n/a n/a
New Girl 4 5 5 5 n/a 5 n/a
Raising Hope n/a 2 3 3 3 5 n/a
Terra Nova n/a 4 3 3 3 3 3
Touch Premieres Monday, March 19 (sneak preview already aired)
Renewed Already renewed:
American Dad RENEWED through 2012-13 season
The Cleveland Show RENEWED through 2012-13 season
Family Guy RENEWED through 2012-13 season
Kitchen Nightmares RENEWED through 2012-13 season
The Simpsons RENEWED through 2014-15 season
The X Factor RENEWED through 2012-13 season
Canceled Canceled or ending:
Allen Gregory CANCELED: All 7 episodes have aired
House ENDING: Series finale will air on May 21


CommunityGreendale, saved?

There's good news for fans of NBC's Community: the longer it remains on hiatus, the better the show's chances of renewal. TV by the Numbers' Gorman points out that since the comedy left the schedule, NBC's already-low ratings have declined even further across the board, meaning that the numbers that Community was posting in the fall no longer make it one of the network's worst-performing shows. Of course, the folks at Greendale are scheduled to return at some point this spring, but if fans return with them, consider the show fairly safe.

Indeed, NBC's overall struggles could be good news for fans of many of the network's low-rated shows, since conventional wisdom suggests that they can't all be canceled. Of course, some will be canceled, and for that list, start with second-year drama Harry's Law, which proved not to be the David E. Kelley hit that network execs thought they had on their hands last year; viewership has dropped considerably in year two for a show that was already skewing a bit too old in its demographics.

Also looking endangered are a pair of freshman comedies that viewers seem enthusiastic about disliking: Whitney and Are You There, Chelsea? Chances are better for the slightly superior first-year sitcom Up All Night, though its return is by no means guaranteed. Much likelier to return are 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation, which have the support of critics—and the benefit of already airing multiple seasons—even if their ratings aren't what would typically be called "good." The same can be said for viewership levels for the network's other primetime shows with the exception of new hit Smash (which, even though it lost a significant number of viewers in its second week, remains NBC's only scripted program in the weekly top 25), but all look to be on track for renewal, even Grimm, which manages to outdraw Fringe on Friday nights.

NBC NBC Primetime Programs, 2011-2012 Season
Show Expert Predictions
EW Spoiler TVbtN bw TVbtN rc TVG TVLine Vulture
Uncertain Fate to be determined:
30 Rock n/a 2 4 4 n/a 4 4
The Apprentice n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a 5 n/a
Are You There, Chelsea? 2 2 2 3 3 2 1
Awake Premieres Thursday, March 1
Bent Premieres in the spring (date TBA)
Best Friends Forever Premieres in the spring (date TBA)
Betty White's Off Their Rockers n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
The Biggest Loser n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a 5 n/a
Community n/a 2 3 4 4 4 4
Fashion Star Premieres Tuesday, March 13
Grimm 3 4 5 5 n/a 4 4
Harry's Law n/a 2 1 1 n/a 3 3
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit n/a 3 5 5 n/a 4 n/a
The Office n/a 4 5 5 n/a 4 n/a
Parenthood n/a 4 5 4 n/a 4 4
Parks and Recreation n/a 4 4 5 n/a 5 n/a
Rock Center with Brian Williams 2 n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Smash n/a 5 n/a 4 n/a n/a n/a
The Sing-Off n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Up All Night 2 2 4 5 3 4 3
The Voice n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a 5 n/a
Whitney 3 2 2 3 3 2 3
Who Do You Think You Are? n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Who's Still Standing? n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Renewed Already renewed:
Canceled Canceled or ending:
Chuck ENDED: All episodes have aired
The Firm EFFECTIVELY CANCELED: NBC is burning off remaining episodes on Saturdays
Free Agents CANCELED: 4 of 8 episodes have aired; remaining episodes available on Hulu
The Playboy Club CANCELED: Pulled after 3 episodes aired; will not return
Prime Suspect CANCELED: All episodes have aired

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.

Comments (14)

  • diGriz  

    Just a couple of quick notes:
    - President Bob Greenblatt confirmed on January 8th, 2012 that Law and Order: SVU will have a 14th Season.
    - The Firm: Ironically, this is a Canadian/American series that NBC bought the broadcast rights to for US airing. So while NBC is axing The Firm from their schedule, the show's global ratings will determine whether Entertainment One cancels the series or orders a second season for the Canadian and Global markets (possibly syndication in the States if that happens).

  • Glen  

    Fringe deserves a 5th season. I am a loyal follower and have always been intrigued by the intricate plots and quirky characters. I love it's creepiness and depth of character.

  • JennetP  

    I'd be sorry to see an axe fall on either 'The Good Wife' or 'The Finder.' The first is intelligent and well-crafted--most of the time. Sure, the Alicia/Will hookup fizzled, but the show's bench is deep enough to field a half-dozen better (livelier, less predictable) couplings. Fox's admittedly less ambitious 'Finder' deserves a chance to become a quirky charmer like 'Psych' or 'Human Target.' Geoff Stults has more than enough scruffy charisma to helm such a series, and he couldn't ask for a better co-star than Michael Clarke Duncan playing against type. OTOH, a whole axe factory can fall on 'A Gifted Man,' 'Ringer,' 'Hart of Dixie,' or any of the CSI's. Also 'Gossip Girl,' 'Whitney,' 'Are You There, Chelsea?' and 'Up All Night,' none of which I've managed to watch for more than a few minutes. I do watch 'Unforgettable' and 'Harry's Law' but recognize their gimmickry (eidetic memory, storefront populism) and wonder how long they can stay fresh. Kathy Bates's acting chops could save 'Harry's Law,' but 'Unforgettable' must rely on Poppy Montgomery, who responds to nearly every acting challenge with a blinding 'eat your heart out, Meg Ryan' grin. Chop, chop, chop.

  • Smartacus  

    How can that CRAPTASTIC show New Girl possibly survive another episode much less another year. I tried to watch this train wreck and wound up just hating every character. I just don't get it.

  • Canway  

    It seems that no matter what, good shows are always going to get cancelled. It's just how things go. Raising Hope makes me laugh out loud and has a brilliant cast, while New Girl usually allows me time to surf on my laptop. I tried to watch Hawaii 5-O and after ep's 1 & 2, skipped ahead to ep 15 to see if it had developed a personality. How Mike & Molly, 2 Broke Girls & 2 & 1/2 Men maintain any viewership is beyond my grasp. My observance of online behavior leads me to believe that I'm not somehow amiss in my judgement. That anyone talks about Nielsen Ratings as though they reflect current public opinion, is typical of the old guard head-in-the-sand approach that has alienated some of the finest tv has had to offer.

  • erom43  

    I find it hard to believe that anyone would have anything bad to say about "The Good Wife" or "Blue Bloods".......which in my estimation, are the two best shows on network TV. What can be criticized however, is CBS's horrific scheduling of its two best quality shows. Friday and Saturday nights have become a graveyard for TV shows......even good ones like "Numbers". Most sinful is what CBS does on Sundays! None of their primetime Sunday lineup starts on schedule more than half the time during football season. It's almost as if they do it on purpose.....screw the viewer. I stopped watching Cold Case for exactly that reason. It's sad that the network with the best quality shows......could not do a better job scheduling them.

  • doctorwhofreak1  

    still dont know how people can find two and a half men are funny

  • Rienye  

    I'm not surprised if Fringe gets the axe. It started off so well but the last season has just been a mess. I just hope they end it with some dignity and not as stupidly as Stargate Universe did.
    As far as the other shows that were total nonstarters and need to be killed off immediately are: Harry's Law (lame law show)
    The River (terrible camera work and garbage plot)
    A Gifted Man (hopeless real-world casper the friendly ghost wannabe)
    The Finder (he finds things?! Seriously??)

    Alcatraz can be a good show but it needs to get a little more "Lost" and less "Castle".

  • conditionals  

    Way to screw over Hart of Dixie, one if this season's few great new shows.

  • JRath  

    I really hope Nikita doesnt get cancelled...probably the smartest spy show on TV right now by a long shot. If you arent watching Nikita, I suggest you start doing so now. Also great news on Community. That show is hilarious and for NBC to cancel it would only make me lose more faith in their executive decisions than I already have.

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