By the beginning of February last year, the broadcast networks had renewed nine scripted series: ABC’s Modern Family, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Castle, The Middle and Cougar Town, CBS’ The Big Bang Theory (three-year pickup) and NCIS and Fox’s Raising Hope. A month later, the number climbed to 10 with a two-year deal for CBS’ How I Met Your Mother. We’re at the end of February now, and the networks are yet to pick up a single existing scripted series for next season. That is a very unusual pattern as the broadcast networks normally like to reward their top performers with early renewals.
There is no doubt that shows like ABC’s Modern Family and Once Upon A Time, CBS’ 2 Broke Girls and NCIS or Fox’s New Girl will be back next season. And yet, two-and-a-half months before the upfronts, there is not a single scripted series except for those under multi-year deals (Big Bang, How I Met Your Mother, The Simpsons) to have their places on the schedule for next season already secured. The dry spell may finally be broken soon as Fox is nearing a decision on freshman Terra Nova, whose chances for renewal have increased over the past few weeks. As for the biggies, some of the pickups are clouded by uncertainty surrounding the cast, including Grey’s Anatomy (leads Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey), Two And A Half Men (Ashton Kutcher), and NBC’s The Office (Ed Helms, John Krasinksi). Still, it feels like the networks are just taking their sweet old time making renewals this year. They don’t have to pick up any shows until May, and it’s always easier making decisions after they have seen their pilots. The early orders were done mostly to please studios and showrunners, but they also created problems as the auspices of solid shows that didn’t get the early vote of confidence felt left out. So it’s “no early renewals, no problems” this year.