TV Cancellation Watch: Which Shows Are on the Bubble?

  • Publish Date: February 14, 2013
  • Comments: ↓ 8 user comments

Renewal and cancellation predictions from industry followers


It's that time of year again. Though the broadcast networks won't officially announce their fall schedules (and, with them, the fates of each currently airing show) until May, speculation has already kicked into high gear about the many struggling shows that remain in limbo between renewal and cancellation. Which of these bubble shows will go on, and which will come to unhappy endings? To answer that question, we have compiled the latest renew/cancel predictions from seven sources published within the last few weeks:

You can find these experts' predictions in the tables below, organized by network. Note that some of the experts only predicted "bubble" shows, and many did not include predictions for unscripted shows.


Happy EndingsIs this the end for Endings?

Complicating predictions for struggling ABC programs is the fact that the network has nearly a dozen additional primetime programs debuting between today and the summer—far more than any other network has remaining for the current TV season. (And, with titles like Bet on Your Baby, how could those upcoming shows not be hits?)

At the moment, however, three shows look to be in danger of cancellation. By far the best of those is the (mostly) critically praised third-year comedy Happy Endings, which most experts believe is in its final season. The show's racier content doesn't blend well with other ABC sitcoms, and the network has had a tough time scheduling the show. In fact, Happy Endings will be banished to Friday nights (at 8p and 8:30p) starting March 29th, which is not exactly a vote of confidence.

The two sitcoms currently airing in that early Friday night block, Tim Allen's Last Man Standing and poorly reviewed freshman series Malibu Country, are the other ABC shows most likely to get the ax at the end of the season. Interestingly, each of those shows draws the same or slightly better 18-49 ratings in their Friday timeslots than Happy Endings does in its current Tuesday slot. That suggests that Happy Endings would have to grow its audience (rather than merely retain current numbers) when it shifts to Fridays if it wants to earn another season, which seems unlikely.

The only other programs in any sort of danger are first-year drama Nashville and freshman comedy The Neighbors, but most experts believe both shows will be back for another year, provided that recent ratings slides aren't the start of a larger trend.

ABC ABC Primetime Programs, 2012-2013 Season
Show Expert Predictions
Spoiler TVbtN bw TVbtN rc TVG TVLine Vulture Zap
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/Bachelorette n/a n/a n/a 4 5 n/a n/a
Bet on Your Baby Premieres Saturday, April 6
Body of Proof Returns Tuesday, February 19
Castle 4 4 4 4 4 n/a n/a
Dancing with the Stars n/a n/a n/a 4 5 n/a n/a
Family Tools Premieres Wednesday, May 1
Grey's Anatomy 5 5 5 4 5 n/a n/a
Happy Endings 2 2 2 2 3 3 n/a
How to Live with Your Parents... Premieres Wednesday, April 3
Last Man Standing 4 3 3 2 3 4 n/a
Malibu Country 3 3 3 2 3 4 4
The Middle 5 5 5 4 5 n/a n/a
Mistresses Premieres this summer (tbd)
Modern Family 5 5 5 4 5 5 n/a
Motive Premieres this summer (tbd)
Nashville 4 5 4 4 3 4 3
The Neighbors 4 4 4 4 2 3 3
Once Upon a Time 5 5 5 4 5 n/a n/a
Red Widow Premieres Sunday, March 3
Revenge 5 4 4 4 5 n/a n/a
Scandal 5 5 5 4 5 n/a n/a
Shark Tank n/a n/a n/a 4 5 n/a n/a
Splash Premieres Tuesday, March 19
Suburgatory 5 4 5 4 4 n/a n/a
The Taste n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Troupe Stars Premieres Saturday, June 15
Whodunnit? Premieres this summer (tbd)
Zero Hour Premieres tonight
Renewed Already renewed:
Canceled Canceled or ending:
666 Park Avenue CANCELED: All episodes have aired.
Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 CANCELED: Pulled from schedule; 8 episodes have yet to air.
Last Resort CANCELED: All episodes have aired.
Private Practice CANCELED: All episodes have aired.

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


A Gifted ManWill CBS gamble on more Vegas?

Two shows on the current CBS schedule look like goners, especially if upcoming drama Golden Boy is even remotely successful. One is the freshman drama Vegas, the decently reviewed period crime drama starring Michael Chiklis and Dennis Quaid. That show actually pulls in an impressive number of viewers—typically 10-11 million per week—but very few of them are in the key 18-49 demographic (or even in the 18-59 demographic), and the show is expensive to produce.

The other likely cancellation is the New York edition of CSI, now in its 9th season. With last year's axing of CSI: Miami, that would leave only the Vegas-set flagship remaining in the CSI empire. (The latter, however, isn't going anywhere; its ratings are as good as they've been in the past few seasons.) However, CSI: NY could be saved if CBS chooses to nix The Good Wife and/or The Mentalist instead. Out of the three, The Good Wife actually has the lowest ratings and the poorest syndication prospects, though its frequent Emmy nominations and critical praise does inject some much-needed stature into the network's procedural-heavy lineup, and CBS could retain the series solely for that reason (as it seems to have done in the past). It is nearly certain that one or more of those three dramas will be cancelled, since the network has a strong drama development slate that could lead to several new hourlong programs (including yet another NCIS spinoff) on the fall schedule.

Rules of Engagement, of course, will never be cancelled. Yes, it's on the bubble, as it is year in and year out, but predict its demise at your own risk.

CBS CBS Primetime Programs, 2012-2013 Season
Show Expert Predictions
Spoiler TVbtN bw TVbtN rc TVG TVLine Vulture Zap
Uncertain Fate to be determined:
2 Broke Girls 5 5 5 4 5 n/a n/a
The Amazing Race n/a n/a n/a 4 5 n/a n/a
Big Brother Returns Wednesday, June 26
Blue Bloods 4 5 5 4 4 n/a n/a
Criminal Minds 5 5 5 4 5 n/a n/a
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation 5 5 5 4 5 5 n/a
CSI: New York 3 2 2 2 3 2 n/a
Elementary 5 4 5 4 5 5 5
Friend Me Premieres this spring (tbd)
Golden Boy Premieres Tuesday, February 26
The Good Wife 3 3 3 4 5 4 n/a
Hawaii Five-0 5 4 5 4 4 n/a n/a
The Job n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
The Mentalist 4 3 3 4 4 n/a n/a
Mike & Molly 5 5 5 4 5 n/a n/a
NCIS: Los Angeles 5 5 5 4 5 n/a n/a
Person of Interest 5 5 5 4 5 n/a n/a
Rules of Engagement 4 3 3 2 2 n/a n/a
Two and a Half Men 5 5 5 4 4 5 n/a
Undercover Boss n/a n/a n/a 4 3 n/a n/a
Unforgettable Returns Sunday, July 28
Vegas 3 2 2 2 3 2 4
Renewed Already renewed:
The Big Bang Theory RENEWED through 2013-14 season
How I Met Your Mother RENEWED through 2013-14 season (the show's last)
NCIS RENEWED through 2013-14 season
Survivor UNOFFICIALLY RENEWED for 2 seasons but still awaiting formal announcement
Canceled Canceled or ending:
Made in Jersey CANCELED: Pulled off the air after 2 episodes
Partners CANCELED: Pulled off the air after 6 episodes

The CW

RingerNot much of a ratings beast

While the recent announcement of renewals for Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries, and Arrow was good news for fans of those fantasy-dramas, the remainder of the CW's primetime schedule is one big bubble. Any or all of the network's remaining shows could be goners at the end of the season.

Bill Gorman at TV by the Numbers (who takes the most methodological, data-driven approach to these renewal predictions) feel that first-year drama Beauty and the Beast has the best chance at returning among The CW's bubble shows. After debuting decently, Nikita's ratings have been miniscule over the last two seasons, though that show's popularity elsewhere in the world could keep it on the air for an additional season.

And while it's still a bit too soon to decide the fate of newcomer The Carrie Diaries, TV Guide's Stephen Battaglio notes that the CW's deals for that show with Netflix and Hulu (which are more lucrative if there are more episodes) could bring that Sex and the City prequel back for another season even if ratings don't improve above their current disappointing levels. That alone could give Carrie an edge over the similarly rated Hart of Dixie. And while 90210's numbers suggest that the end is near for the fifth-season drama, network executives have suggested that the series could return in limited capacity next season to wrap up its storylines in a satisfying way if the show is cancelled this year.

CW CW Primetime Programs, 2012-2013 Season
Show Expert Predictions
Spoiler TVbtN bw TVbtN rc TVG TVLine Vulture Zap
Uncertain Fate to be determined:
90210 2 3 2 2 3 n/a n/a
Beauty and the Beast 3 3 4 4 3 n/a 3
The Carrie Diaries 3 3 3 n/a n/a n/a n/a
Cult Premieres Tuesday, February 19
Hart of Dixie 3 3 3 2 3 n/a n/a
Nikita 3 3 4 4 3 n/a n/a
Renewed Already renewed:
America's Next Top Model RENEWED through summer 2013
Arrow RENEWED through 2013-14 season
Supernatural RENEWED through 2013-14 season
The Vampire Diaries RENEWED through 2013-14 season
Canceled Canceled or ending:
Emily Owens, M.D. CANCELED: All 13 episodes have aired
Gossip Girl ENDED: Show has concluded its six-season run


Raising HopeStill a bit of a project

Despite an off year for the network as a whole (with ratings down nearly 25% on the season), Fox has already renewed nearly half of its primetime programs, and several others appear to be locks for another season, including Glee, comedies New Girl and Raising Hope, and the new Kevin Bacon drama The Following. The latter show, however, needs to avoid following the precedent set last year by Alcatraz: a strong start followed by a rapid decline and a quick hook after one season.

That leaves just a few Fox shows still on the bubble. Of those, freshman comedy The Mindy Project seems to have the best prospects, though experts are definitely divided over whether it will return. That show reportedly has numerous supporters within the network, suggesting that a second season is possible provided that ratings do not fall from current levels. Seth MacFarlane's animation empire may grow a little smaller next season with The Cleveland Show's fortunes appearing increasingly shaky. Don't worry about MacFarlane, though; he has a new live-action comedy in development for Fox's 2013-14 season.

The shakiest of all current Fox series, though, is the newly returned Kiefer Sutherland drama Touch. Despite (or because of) a major overhaul this season, the series appears to be DOA, arriving last Friday with hugely disappointing numbers after shedding viewers throughout its first season last year. Consider it a goner.

Fox Fox Primetime Programs, 2012-2013 Season
Show Expert Predictions
Spoiler TVbtN bw TVbtN rc TVG TVLine Vulture Zap
Uncertain Fate to be determined:
American Idol n/a n/a n/a 4 5 n/a n/a
The Cleveland Show 3 3 2 4 3 n/a n/a
The Following 5 4 5 4 4 4 n/a
Glee 5 5 5 4 5 n/a n/a
The Goodwin Games Premieres this summer (tbd)
Kitchen Nightmares n/a n/a n/a 4 5 n/a n/a
The Mindy Project 2 4 3 4 3 3 3
New Girl 4 5 5 4 5 n/a n/a
Raising Hope 4 5 5 4 4 4 n/a
Touch 2 3 1 n/a 2 n/a n/a
Renewed Already renewed:
American Dad RENEWED through 2013-14 season
Bob's Burgers RENEWED through 2013-14 season
Bones RENEWED through 2013-14 season
Family Guy RENEWED through 2013-14 season
Hell's Kitchen RENEWED through 2013-14 season
The Simpsons RENEWED through 2013-14 season
The X Factor RENEWED through 2013-14 season
Canceled Canceled or ending:
Ben and Kate CANCELED: Pulled from schedule
Fringe ENDED: Series has completed its five-season run
The Mob Doctor CANCELED: All episodes have aired


CommunityWill Go On do just that?

Forget the peacock; a question mark would be a more appropriate logo to represent the current state of NBC's primetime schedule. Only second-year series Grimm and newcomer Revolution are locks for renewal at this point—though critic favorites Parenthood and Parks and Recreation also appear surprisingly safe at the moment, while the profitable Law & Order: SVU seems unlikely to go away anytime soon.

The remainder of NBC's ever-shifting schedule has a much cloudier future. Some predictions are easier to make than others. For example, the flailing Deception not only is unlikely to return for a second season, it may not even survive the month. The same goes for White House sitcom 1600 Penn, which presumably remains on the air only because of a lack of alternatives. One potential replacement for the latter series would be the return of Up All Night but for one slight problem: that show is in turmoil itself, having lost its creator, its premise (again), and one of its stars (Christina Applegate) as it prepares to make a nearly unprecedented switch from single-camera to multi-camera (in front of a studio audience) formats. If a planned trial episode goes poorly, the show may never return to NBC's lineup.

As you can see below, NBC's other bubble shows (which are too numerous to mention individually) are receiving varying predictions about their futures from the experts we surveyed. Even Go On, NBC's breakout comedy hit of the fall, has been struggling in recent weeks, putting its future at risk. There's one bit of good news, however. Community, NBC's long-suffering cult comedy, returned to the schedule last week to surprisingly strong reviews (compared to previous Community airings, not to TV programs in general). Both observers at TV by the Numbers feel strongly that if its numbers can stay at the current level, Community is a lock for renewal.

NBC NBC Primetime Programs, 2012-2013 Season
Show Expert Predictions
Spoiler TVbtN bw TVbtN rc TVG TVLine Vulture Zap
Uncertain Fate to be determined:
1600 Penn 3 2 1 n/a 2 1 n/a
The Apprentice Returns Sunday, March 3
Betty White's Off Their Rockers n/a n/a n/a n/a 4 n/a n/a
The Biggest Loser n/a n/a n/a 4 5 n/a n/a
Chicago Fire 4 5 5 4 5 3 4
Community 4 3 5 n/a n/a n/a n/a
Deception 2 2 1 2 2 1 2
Fashion Star Returns Friday, March 8
Go On 3 3 3 4 5 3 4
Grimm 4 5 5 4 5 n/a n/a
Guys with Kids 2 3 2 2 2 1 2
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit 4 4 5 4 3 4 n/a
The New Normal 3 3 1 4 4 3 3
Parenthood 4 5 5 4 5 4 n/a
Parks and Recreation 4 4 5 4 4 4 n/a
Ready for Love Premieres Sunday, March 31
Revolution 5 5 5 4 5 5 4
Smash 2 2 2 n/a n/a n/a n/a
Up All Night 1 2 2 2 3 2 n/a
Whitney 2 3 2 2 3 1 n/a
Renewed Already renewed:
The Voice RENEWED through fall 2013
Canceled Canceled or ending:
30 Rock ENDED: Series has completed its seven-season run
Animal Practice CANCELED: Pulled from schedule after 8 episodes aired
Do No Harm CANCELED: Pulled from schedule after 2 episodes aired
The Office ENDING: Series will end in May

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 (8)

  • mathgirljk  

    I am hoping that Happy Endings doesn't get cancelled. It's one of the few comedies on ABC I actually care about watching.
    I choose not to watch anything on CBS simply because I get irritated that if I miss an episode, I have no way of catching up since they don't play nice with Hulu. While I try to watch my favorites live, Life Happens... and I don't like missing episodes of my favorites with few options for getting caught up.
    I'm actually enjoying Touch and hope Fox doesn't cancel.
    Community has to come back. Six seasons and a movie!
    @Nightguy... I'm not sure the networks care what those of us who are 40 think either... I completely agree with you and am still irritated by some of my favorite shows ending with cliffhangers! It's enough to make me want to wait until something is in its third season before I even consider watching it.

  • Nightguy  

    Hey, I'm in my 60s and I recognize that the TV networks haven't cared what I watch since I was 40. I've worked on news and public affairs shows that have been cancelled, and that's just the way things work. And if you're watching scripted programming in lieu of so-called "reality" tv, you're now in the minority as well. I just wish that the broadcast networks had a deal with producers in place, so that if they decide to drop a show [Alcatraz, for one example], the producers, writers, cast, et al would get paid for one final wrap-up episode or 2-hour movie to run on some cable net, [e.g. USA, SyFy, AMC] just so faithful viewers can see mysteries resolved, bad guys brought to justice, families reunited, or whatever. Letting us have a final chapter would be a win-win for those who create the show, as well as both a broadcast and a cable network.

  • iowared  

    Don't cancell Vegas and brind back Harry's Law.

  • FleshWorld  

    @riddler645 You pulled the Terriers card on me! You are 100% correct my friends and I loved that show and I was heartbroken when it wasn't renewed. But at least we got a full season out of it. It is the single best example of a basic cable channel pulling the plug too early. Would have loved to see where that pair went in season 2.

  • riddler645  

    I don't know @FleshWorld, still the most painful cancellation I lived through was the first season cancellation of Terriers by FX. Seriously? Anger Management gets a 90 episode order, but Terriers only got one season. Such a shame.

  • FleshWorld  

    Let's be straight here: If you start watching a good show on network TV, the suits are willing to pull the rug out from under you at any given time. Forget the huge ad buys before the season begins if the numbers aren't high, it's done. And you've wasted yoru time. Moral of the story? Stick with the cable series (i.e., Premium Stuff: Banshee, Californication, or basic: Suits, Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad, Walking Dead). These folks tend to be much friendlier to their creative teams, and you can trust them and trust is the key word- to deliver on their promises.

  • sprode  

    It's always the one or two shows that interest me that end up getting cancelled. TV is such a mindless bore...

  • LamontRaymond  

    If ABC cancels Happy Endings, they are complete idiots. That's the funniest show and one of the best shows on their network and it hits squarely in the demo. Maybe the suits don't get it doesn't surprise me in the least. Those players live in a bubble surrounded by yes men.

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