It is very difficult for showrunners to wrap production on a season without knowing if their series would get another season. Unfortunately, that is the nature of the network business, and about two dozen shows go though that every year. Here is a look at each network’s comedy and drama series in peril and their odds for survival.
With all the drama carnage at ABC this season (Lucky 7, Betrayal, Killer Women, Mind Games, The Assets), the network is pretty lean on the hourlong side, and all shows currently on the air have a good shot at coming back. That includes two freshman series, fall drama Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., despite slipping in the ratings, and midseason entry Resurrection. Of returning dramas, there is no doubt about renewals for Shonda Rhimes’ Grey’s Anatomy, especially with stars Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey signed on, and Scandal, as well as Castle and Once Upon A Time. While it was heavily on the bubble last season, country music drama Nashville appears in a stronger position this spring and looks likely to continue. And, despite its ratings erosion, Revenge remains a signature, upscale drama for ABC that the network also owns. Because of its heavy mythology with a revenge storyline that has been central to the show since the pilot, it is unlikely that ABC would abruptly end the series without giving it a final chapter to wrap things up.
Things are far murkier on the comedy side where there are three shoe-ins, anchors Modern Family and The Middle and freshman The Goldbergs. None of these hail from ABC’s sister studio, and building a steady comedy pipeline at ABC Studios has been important for the overall health of the company. There are three ABC Studios-produced comedy series on ABC at the moment, all on the bubble: freshmen Trophy Wife and Mixology and sophomore The Neighbors. The network will likely renew at least one comedy from its own studio. (Last year, it picked The Neighbors vs. 20th TV’s How To Live With Your Parents.) Of the three, Trophy Wife seems to have the biggest support and is the most promotable, with a star cast led by Malin Akerman and Bradley Whitford. But the name cast also makes Trophy Wife the most expensive, and its ratings are pretty soft. The Neighbors, which comes from prominent Disney writer Dan Fogelman, costs way less, and, while only doing so-so on Fridays, it could deliver something ABC Studios has not seen in a while: a third-year comedy. (Fogelman also has comedy pilot Galavant in the running at ABC.) Then there is Mixology, which has not done well behind Modern Family. It stands out with its unusual structure — set in a bar over the course of one night — it has quickly built a core fan base and has supporters at ABC. But relaunching a heavily serialized comedy in the fall four months after a brief midseason run would be a challenge and growing ratings for such a show with a continues storyline would be very difficult. ABC has a recent history of sticking with narrow, quirky relationship comedies like Happy Endings and Don’t Trust the B—- but all were eventually cancelled. 20th TV’s Last Man Standing starring Tim Allen is quietly wrapping its third season. It has done a decent job as a Friday 8 PM anchor and is ABC’s only multi-camera series. With several high-proile multi-camera pilots, the network could use Last Man Standing as a building block. (How about Allen paired with another comedy vet, Henry Winkler of The Winklers?).
Warner Bros TV’s Suburgatory and Super Fun Night are heavily on the bubble. Super Fun Night has a star as the lead, Rebel Wilson, who is expected to pitch changes or even a reboot, for Season 2, though, after a substantial launch marketing campaign and a post-Modern Family slot, it is unclear what more ABC could do to get the show embraced by more people. Same goes for Suburgatory, which went through a reboot this season but hasn’t been able to recapture the spark of its freshman season. Both are considered long shots.
NBC has picked up four dramas — freshmen The Blacklist and Chicago PD as well as Chicago Fire and Grimm — and only one comedy in veteran Parks And Recreation. That leaves a lot of series in play. Last year, Chicago Fire and Grimm too received early renewals alongside Revolution, Parenthood and Law & Order: SVU. A year later, Revolution and Parenthood have found themselves deeply in bubble territory. While never a broad show, Parenthood has received a warm reception for five seasons and is shepherded by Jason Katims, who is well respected by NBC executives. Like 30 Rock was sent off with a 13-episode final season, Parenthood would likely get one final hurrah, possibly with a partial order. Revolution is long ways from where it was last season when it riding high with a lot of buzz and solid ratings behind The Voice on Mondays. It has now been a ho-hum performer in the low-trafficked Wednesday 8 PM slot but it has been stable, keeping the lights on in the hour. Keeping the show is important to studio Warner Bros TV, while NBC seems open to letting go. A lot will depend on how strong NBC’s drama pilots are, but with JJ Abrams’ other NBC series — midseason addition Believe — certain to be cancelled, Revolution could clinch a short, 13-episode order. (Also almost certainly headed to oblivion, Believe‘s companion Crisis. Note to network executives: no hostage shows next year). With NBC’s cooperation, WBTV is taking Revolution to WonderCon later this month in an effort to drum up fan support. Meanwhile, SVU‘s renewal is held up by financial issues associated with such an expensive, long-running series. As for NBC’s two bubble genre dramas, Hannibal and Dracula, both are straight-to-series projects done under a different model at a lower license fee that makes them low-risk options for the network. NBC is committed to a genre block built around Grimm, but will first examine its new prospects, like comic book adaptation Constantine, with Hannibal and Dracula as backup options if needed.
On the comedy side, new midseason comedy About A Boy looks very good to return, with its companion Growing Up Fisher also having a shot, while The Michael J. Fox Show is done. It won’t be a bubble show wrap-up without fixture NBC’s Community. It shouldn’t have been the case — the producers of the cult show, led by reinstated firebrand creator Dan Harmon, headed into the current fifth season with the understanding that it would be its last, and the finale was originally envisioned as a series finale. But, as NBC’s new fall comedies failed to take flight and Community was brought in as a reinforcement, the plan changed, and now the door has been left slightly open for another pickup that could be the final one… or not.
At CBS, if you were on the air when the network made its early renewals last month and you didn’t get on the list, you’re in trouble. The network already has picked up 20 programs for next season — 9 dramas, 6 comedies, 3 reality shows and 2 news magazines — so space is tight. There is a good chance that none of the network’s freshman dramas, Hostages and Intelligence, will make it to a second season despite a decent DVR bump for Intelligence. The biggest question mark on the hourlong side is veteran The Mentalist, which, midway though its current sixth season rebooted itself creatively by wrapping the five-and-a-half-season-long Red John storyline and moving the setting to a new city with a partially revamped cast. CBS seems ready to let go of the procedural, which airs in the Sunday 10 PM slot that often bleeds into late night because of sports overruns. However, with a $2 million-plus per-episode off-network deal and healthy international sales, producer Warner Bros TV is not ready to call it quits and is expected to fight hard for a seventh-season renewal. Ratings-wise, the show has done slightly better than its lead-in, recently renewed The Good Wife, though Good Wife is a prestige drama for CBS and makes money for the network as it is owned and has lucrative syndication/streaming pacts. The Mentalist creator/showrunner Bruno Heller is expected to segue to his Batman prequel series Gotham, but there is a transition plan in place for next season, with one of his lieutenants positioned to take over if there is a pickup.
On the comedy side, CBS will be choosing from three comedies: fall entry The Crazy Ones and midseason series Friends With Better Lives, which was previewed after the How I Met Your Mother finale, and Bad Teacher, which will replace Crazy Ones. I hear CBS is open to bringing back at least one of the three. The decision will likely come down to the wire because of the very late launch for Friends With Better Lives and Bad Teacher, both with a chance to come back if they do reasonable well. The Crazy Ones is facing an uphill battle, but is not dead. Ratings are not on its side as, after a big launch, it has been the weakest link of CBS’ Thursday lineup, falling even further when moved to 9:30 PM. But the network brass are not going to cut short Robin Williams’ return to TV without at least examining the possibilities. The studio, 20th Century Fox TV, and creator David E. Kelley are drawing plans for a potential second season. They include a new showrunner who would replace Tracy Poust and Jon Kinally.
Like CBS, Fox too gave most of its series early renewals and Glee has one last season on its pickup. With Raising Hope ending its four-season run and Rake gone, only midseason drama Almost Human and comedies Dads, Enlisted and Surviving Jack remain in limbo. After a sluggish start, Almost Human held enough ground, often finishing on par with its Monday companion (the already renewed drama The Following), to be considered a solid contender for a pickup, possibly for one of Fox’s shorter 13-episode orders. Of the three comedies, the last to premiere, Surviving Jack, seems to have the most buzz, coming off solid reviews as a showcase for star Chris Meloni. Its ratings have not been stellar but hey, Fox just gave early renewals to underperforming Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Mindy Project based on critical praise and recognizable stars as leads. Brooklyn, Mindy and Surviving Jack all hail from outside studios, Universal TV and Warner Bros TV. Fox’s sibling 20th TV is behind renewed New Girl as well as Dads and Enlisted. Fox brass don’t seem to have a lot of faith in either of the two bubble shows, though golden boy Seth MacFarlane’s involvement in Dads is giving it some pulse.
The CW has renewed its strongest series, leaving on the fence Hart Of Dixie, The Carrie Diaries, Beauty & The Beast and freshmen The Tomorrow People, Star-Crossed and The 100. If last fall, when the CW launched three new series, is any indication, the network will not need to return more than 2-3 of the five bubble shows. Newbie The 100 and veteran Hart Of Dixie appear to have the best odds of continuing, possibly with shorter orders, followed by Beauty & The Beast and Star-Crossed. Tomorrow People is in the rear with very little chance, and Carrie Diaries is as good as gone. There is often politics involved in renewals. The 100 and Hart Of Dixie come from CW co-owner Warner Bros, while Beauty & The Beast and Star-Crossed are produced by WB partner CBS. Additionally, Beauty & The Beast is a solid international seller for its studio with 44 episodes already in the bank, helping its cause for renewal. If The 100 comes back, it will be run by executive producer Jason Rothenberg, who developed the show. Co-showrunners Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain, who only signed on for the first 13 episodes to help Rothenberg find his bearings, are leaving.