2016 has been a relatively calm year for bubble shows. For the first time in a while, all five broadcast networks gave early renewals to the bulk of their lineups, leaving a handful of shows — mostly freshmen — on the fence. Leading the charge was the CW, which went for a rather unprecedented pickup of all of its shows on the air at the time of the renewal — 11 total. ABC has renewed 15 series, CBS, Fox and NBC – 11 each. Here are how things are shaking out for the shows that are still on the bubble at ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC.
The major two omissions in ABC’s renewal announcement were veteran procedural Castle and country music drama Nashville. Their future is still in limbo but the feeling is that both will be brought back for one — possibly last and possibly shorter-run seasons. I hear talks are still underway with Castle star Nathan Fillion who needs to sign a new deal but there are hopeful signs that the venerable series, now in Season 8, will get a final chapter. What’s more, Castle is a rare procedural on the current ABC schedule, a genre the network is said to be making a push in, so bringing the long-running show back would provide continuity. Still, facing uncertainty, the show has filmed two alternative endings for the Season 8 finale.
As for Nashville, now in its fourth season, ABC and leading studio Lionsgate TV have gone down to the wire on renewal a couple of times after haggling over financial terms. While not a strong ratings performer, the music drama has seen its Live+same day numbers perk up recently, and it has solid DVR bumps. Nashville also is a brand for ABC, with Nashville-themed TV music specials, soundtracks, tours etc. Additionally, Lionsgate TV recently lined up big names as showrunners for the potential fifth season, Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick.
As for the other ABC bubble dramas, John Ridley’s American Crime has been garnering critical praise and awards attention and has enjoyed strong support at the network, so a third installment is considered likely. Marvel’s Agent Carter, whose star Hayley Atwell already was recruited for an ABC pilot, Conviction, does not look good, especially with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. spinoff Marvel’s Most Wanted waiting in the wings.
Of the two recent softly rated drama additions, The Family, which has seen a small ratings uptick and an OK DVR lift, is said to have a heartbeat, while new TGIT entry The Catch appears unlikely to come back.
Also not picked up yet are ABC’s multi-camera Friday multi-camera comedies Last Man Standing and Dr. Ken, both of which have performed reasonably well on the night. Like Nashville, Last Man Standing, which comes from an outside studio, 20th TV, had been getting last-minute renewals after lengthy negotiations between the two companies over finances. Both 20th TV and Sony TV, the leading studio behind Dr. Ken, have pilots in contention at ABC this season (Sony TV has 4). Renewals of bubble shows are often delayed by the networks so they are used as leverage in multi-project negotiations when the time comes for new series pickups. The decision whether to renew one or both of the Friday comedies will probably come down to whether ABC has a strong multi-camera pilot to send there.
New ABC midseason comedy The Real O’Neals has showed some promise, it is owned by the network, so, unless it collapses in the ratings over the next few weeks, the family comedy, which is very much in the ABC wheelhouse, looks good to come back. However, fellow freshman comedy The Muppets and sophomore Galavant appear unlikely.
The highest-profile omission on the list of CBS renewals was veteran Criminal Minds, now in its 11th season. It is an expensive show, with the network covering the costs full freight, while the leading studio, ABC Studios, which co-produces with CBS TV Studios, reaping most of the benefits, including sales internationally and on-demand where Criminal Minds is strong. Still, Criminal Minds is a solid enough performer, even at this stage, and I hear CBS and ABC Studios are hammering out a new license deal for next season. It was conceivable that CBS wanted to wait to see how spinoff Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders did before making renewal decisions on either.
As recently as the beginning of this week, I had heard ramblings that CBS may only bring back the mothership series, and not the offshoot. But Beyond Borders surprised many with its sizable ratings gains this Wednesday, so it may very well be in the picture for renewal.
Speaking of ratings surprises, how about The Odd Couple‘s hold this week? The sitcom had not been on the air for almost a year, it hardly was on anyone’s radar with its April return but, after a so-so Season 2 premiere behind a new The Big Bang Theory last week, The Odd Couple held 100% of its premiere demo rating (1.5) in Week 2, even as its lead-in was cut in half when Big Bang switched to a repeat. This still is not a stellar number, and the reboot of the Neil Simon classic has been largely panned by critics, but The Odd Couple last night did as well as the two Thursday comedy series that have been renewed, Mom and 2 Broke Girls, it is owned by CBS and it stars Matthew Perry. With Matt LeBlanc’s CBS pilot looking likely for a pickup, it won’t be a bad idea from a marketing stand point to have two Friends on the air.
Fellow CBS sophomore series CSI: Cyber has not done particularly well in the ratings but it is making a lot of money for CBS TV Studios internationally being part of the CSI franchise, so I hear a limited third season is quite possible.
The biggest renewal question at CBS remains the freshman series. The network has not renewed a single one as none of them has been a standout and, besides swiftly cancelled Angel From Hell, none has been a total failure. Of the batch, comedy Life In Pieces is considered the safest bet for renewal. Of the hourlongs, Limitless is fully owned by CBS, Code Black is co-produced by CBS Studios, while Supergirl and Rush Hour come from an outside studio. While Rush Hour has been pretty underwhelming, the other three are considered to have a shot, depending on the strength of CBS’ drama pilots. (I have heard a possibility for CBS to chose between Code Black or medical pilot Bunker Hill, also a co-production with an outside studio). In unscripted remarks last month, CBS Corp. chairman Leslie Moonves indicated that the network may renew as many as five first-year series.
Fox has Sleepy Hollow, which recently ended its third season with a shocking finale that saw one of its leads die. While nowhere near the ratings highs of the first season, Sleepy Hollow has a following, logs solid DVR gains, and, because of the famous underlying property, the series makes money for Fox internationally, so getting to four seasons would be financially beneficial for the company. While Sleepy Hollow is on the bubble, there had been positive signs, and I hear the studio has been doing contingent staffing moves to be prepared in case the series is renewed.
On the comedy side, freshmen Grandfathered starring John Stamos (co-produced by 20th TV) and The Grinder starring Rob Lowe (fully owned by Fox) remain on the bubble. The dynamic between them has been changing, with the edge constantly shifting between the two. Whichever series gets renewed, it may be held as a midseason replacement. Freshmen The Minority Report, Second Chance, Cooper Barrett’s Guide to Surviving Life and Bordertown are not expected to continue.
NBC’s bubble drama The Mysteries of Laura is looking better by the day. Originally only given a partial Season 2 renewal, the series starring Debra Messing has been unspectacular but reliable ratings performer in the Wednesday 8 PM time slot, drawing a solid viewership. When Laura‘s sophomore run ended, NBC
tried new medical drama Heartbeat in the slot where it has done significantly worse and is not expected to come back. NBC also this week tried The Voice in the hour, which didn’t go very well, with the reality flagship series hitting a low. So while it is still very much on the bubble and is not owned by NBC, Laura still is considered a good utility player option for the network, whose current lineup features a large number of procedurals.
On the comedy side, The Carmichael Show is a rare prestige multi-camera comedy that is getting buzz and critical praise, so it looks good to come back for a third season. Its companion, new comedy Crowded, is on shakier ground, while fellow freshman comedy Telenovela is unlikely to continue. Undateable, which switched to a live format this season, has internal support and is a possibility but is considered a long shot.