32 Bubble Shows — Which Will Survive?
Courteney Cox, Joel McHale, Joshua Jackson
Will Community graduate to a Season 4? Can Fringe find a renewal in this universe? Have we seen the last of Cougar Town's cul-de-sac gang? The networks are about to decide which shows to cut and keep for this fall. Are your favorites in jeopardy, or can you relax? We offer an analysis of what's to come, so you can prepare for the worst — fans of Breaking In, just be glad for the time you had — if things are looking iffy.
Fall TV Scorecard: Which shows are returning? Which aren't?
30 Rock (NBC)
Thursdays at 8:30/7:30c
The Good News: NBC loves this show. Critics love this show. Tina Fey is a beloved person.
The Bad News: Even if it is renewed, don't be surprised if NBC announces that next season will be its last. If it wasn't for Up All Night (see below), 30 Rock would be NBC's lowest-rated Thursday-night comedy.
Wrapped March 26; aired Mondays at 9/8c
The Good News: Fox has kept Fringe alive this long — maybe executives will be generous to another J.J. Abrams drama with a small-but-passionate fan base? And they already canceled Terra Nova, which theoretically helps.
The Bad News: The Voice kind of clobbered it, and worse, viewers flat-out rejected this island mystery. Less than half the audience who watched the premiere tuned in for the finale to learn the secret of those disappearing, reappearing prisoners.
Are You There, Chelsea? (NBC)
Wrapped March 28; aired Wednesdays at 8:30/7:30c
The Good News: At least Chelsea Handler still has Chelsea Lately!
The Bad News: Whereas critics and fans have really rallied around other NBC comedies like Community and Parks and Recreation, Chelsea never built a following. And the only sitcom critics reviled more on NBC — that would be Whitney — is outperforming it.
Thursdays at 10/9c
The Good News: Series creator Kyle Killen, he of the well-liked-but-short-lived Lone Star, is a guy with ideas! A guy creative people flock to! So what if he makes shows for broadcast that would be better off on cable and not enough folks come to watch?
The Bad News: To be fair, airing it at the end of NBC's low-rated Thursday-night comedy block — and immediately after the night's biggest loser, Up All Night — hasn't been a great fit for the somber drama about a man dealing with tremendous loss. Ratings are abysmal.
Wrapped April 4; aired Wednesdays at 9/8c
The Good News: The midseason romantic comedy charmed the pants off critics after the network sent out the entire six-episode season in advance. Note to Amanda Peet and David Walton: You can live off this goodwill for a good long while. This is your Terriers!
The Bad News: NBC executives weren't exactly in love. They burnt off back-to-back episodes in just three weeks and then — as if to make sure it would really be DOA — put it up against ratings king American Idol, comedy champ Modern Family and buzzy-and-burgeoning Happy Endings, stomping all over its rom-com heart.
Breaking In (Fox)
Tuesdays at 9:30/8:30c
The Good News: Let's just be grateful for the time we shared...
The Bad News: The Christian Slater comedy was given a rare second life after having the plug pulled last year. The thing is: When you're given the cushy timeslot after New Girl, and you bring in Megan Mullally to shake things up, you really need to bring in more viewers the second time around -- or at least hold on to a lot more than half of the New Girl crowd.
Body of Proof (ABC)
Tuesdays at 10/9c
The Good News: Thanks to the return of Dancing with the Stars as its lead-in, ratings surged in recent weeks. The April 5 episode drew its biggest audience in nearly a year. Bow down to the Mirrorball gods!
The Bad News: When Dana Delany's medical drama went up against Poppy Montgomery's crime drama (CBS' Unforgettable) this season, Delany went down. And during the many weeks Dancing wasn't there to help, the show's regular audience dwindled to new demo lows.
Thursdays at 8/7c
The Good News: After a more than three-month hiatus, Community returned in March to its biggest audience since October 2010. And relative to NBC's Thursday-night lineup, it's pretty coolcoolcool.
The Bad News: NBC's Thursday-night lineup is a bust, led by a flailing-in-its-eighth season The Office, so any ratings fetes enjoyed by Community are still small in the bigger picture — and it will be measured against some strong comedy pilots in contention, among them Justin Kirk-fronted Animal Kingdom and White House comedy 1600 Penn, starring (Bill Pullman) and Book of Mormon's Josh Gad.
Cougar Town (ABC)
Tuesdays at 8:30/7:30c
The Good News: Thanks to an eight-month-long benching by ABC -- during which show creator Bill Lawrence personally undertook many creative, grassroots promotional efforts, including private viewing parties and a full-scale Twitter blitz -- the buzz around show's third season was louder than ever.
The Bad News: Despite Lawrence's guerrilla efforts, the show returned to an audience of 4.8 million viewers and 1.8 demo rating — both series lows — and has continued falling since. Also: Stars Dan Byrd and Josh Hopkins have already booked new pilots for the fall.
CSI: Miami (CBS)
Wrapped April 8; aired Sundays at 10/9c
The Good News: CBS loves this franchise, and the David Caruso-led edition has been a consistent performer in various timeslots. In fact, the show averaged right around 10 million viewers all season, despite having its start time repeatedly delayed by football and other sporting events.
The Bad News: The show is on CBS, where 10 million viewers isn't as strong as it would be on any competing network.
CSI: NY (CBS)
Fridays at 9/8c
The Good News: Despite a nearly two-month midseason hiatus, the show still regularly pulls in almost 10 million viewers on Friday nights.
The Bad News: This show was in the exact same position a year ago. Can it cheat death twice?
The Finder (Fox)
Fridays at 8/7c
The Good News: This Bones spin-off has quickly found a quirky rhythm and a lighter tone than most other whodunit shows. Plus: Fox gave it a great launching pad, putting it behind American Idol.
The Bad News: The series, which averages about 6.7 million viewers an episode, routinely dropped more than half of Idol's audience and regularly placed third in the demo. Fox has since moved the drama to Friday nights, which is hardly ever a good sign.
The Firm (NBC)
Saturdays at 9/8c
The Good News: It's fair to say that prolific writer John Grisham, who wrote the source novel and executive-produced this legal drama, is probably already financially secure.
The Bad News: The heavily promoted two-hour premiere drew only 6.3 million viewers and the worst-ever demo rating for a drama premiere in NBC's history. (Take that, The Cape!). By its fifth week, the show had fallen below 3 million viewers and was banished to the TV graveyard otherwise known as Saturday nights.
Fridays at 9/8c
The Good News: Fox has always loved this show, having rescued it from the bubble twice already. Since the network has already canceled Terra Nova and House, it may want to hang on to this cult favorite for a final (probably shortened) season.
The Bad News: Fox has a couple of buzzy new drama pilots, including a serial killer story from Kevin Williamson starring Kevin Bacon, so the network may decide to clear the bench. Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly put it pretty plainly in January that the network's generous pocketbook might be closing when it comes to the costly Fringe: "We're not in the business of losing money," he said.
Sundays at 10/9c
The Good News: The Southern-fried satire has proven itself to be a better, sassier fit for the Desperate Housewives audience than Pan Am, its timeslot predecessor. With Housewives ending, ABC may want to retain some stability on the night next season.
The Bad News: The demos are still just OK for Sunday night. And with serialized shows, it's much more difficult to grow an audience over time if they don't show up initially. There's also Shonda Rhimes' Scandal, which could nudge it out if ABC's drama pilots come back strong.
A Gifted Man (CBS)
Wrapped March 2; aired Fridays at 8/7c
The Good News: As handled by ER veteran executive producer Neal Baer, the show used its supernatural element to set itself apart from other medical dramas.
The Bad News: It's CBS weakest drama, both in terms of viewers and its rating in the demo. It failed to earn a full-season pickup, airing only 16 episodes and ending its run in March.
Harry's Law (NBC)
Sundays at 8/7c
The Good News: Despite being bounced all over NBC's schedule (and thanks to the names David E. Kelly and Kathy Bates, we imagine), the show still manages to attract at least 7 million viewers a week, one of NBC's largest audiences.
The Bad News: The show performs terribly in the demo. Some perspective: Its season average rating is a 1.2, which is worse than Prime Suspect and The Playboy Club, both of which already got the ax.
I Hate My Teenage Daughter (Fox)
Pulled from schedule; last aired Tuesdays at 8:30c
The Good News: You know, sometimes there just isn't any good news.
The Bad News: This Teenager has been grounded her whole life! Fox premiered four episodes at the end of last year, where they didn't register a blip, then benched the show until March. Then the show was allowed to show its face for three more episodes before Fox sent it back in its room, locking the door and saying it could come out in June. Yeah, right.
Thursdays at 8/7c
The Good News: Hey! Ashley Judd is on TV! And she's doing her own stunts!
The Bad News: The show is averaging 8 million weekly viewers, but the series regularly places third or fourth in the (admittedly competitive) timeslot. Its average demo rating is only slightly better than previous timeslot holders Wipeout and Charlie's Angels, the latter of which ABC has already canceled.
Fridays at 8/7c
The Good News: For The CW on Fridays, the spy drama is not doing too terribly?
The Bad News: The biggest problem for Nikita -- and indeed, many of The CW's middling shows (i.e. anything without the word Vampire in its title) — is that the network has several strong, high-concept fall pilot contenders waiting in the wings. Among them are adaptations of Green Arrow and Beauty and the Beast, a prequel to Sex and the City and a Hunger Games-style post-apocalyptic drama.
Wrapped Feb. 28; aired Tuesdays at 10/9c
The Good News: This touching family drama is a critical darling with a small-but-loyal fan base, and NBC will need a couple veteran dramas to anchor its fall schedule. Parenthood is neck and neck with Law & Order: SVU to be the second-highest-rated drama at NBC behind the already-renewed Smash.
The Bad News: We're running low on Kleenex over here!
Tuesdays at 9/8c
The Good News: It's nice to see Sarah Michelle Gellar back on TV (times two!), looking good and occasionally kicking butt.
The Bad News: The former vampire slayer wasn't enough of a reason to stick around this messy, cheaply done neo-noir mystery. But the show was also doomed from the start: CBS developed the drama for its own air, and it shows. Ringer lacks hot teenagers being angsty and romantic, and that's kind of the only scripted thing that works on The CW.
The River (ABC)
Wrapped March 20; aired Tuesdays at 9/8c
The Good News: Word is that producers are trying to find a new home for the show — and it's a lot less expensive than Terra Nova, which also sought out (but failed) to score an afterlife elsewhere after Fox canceled it.
The Bad News: When it comes to dramas that work on ABC, it's all about targeting women: Grey's Anatomy, Revenge, Castle, Desperate Housewives, Private Practice, GCB. Horror? Not so much. And those viewers who did sample the show's premiere, about an expedition to find a lost explorer, quickly rejected the experimental shaky-cam found-footage mystery. Just under 4 million tuned in to the finale.
Pan Am (ABC)
Wrapped Feb. 19; aired Sundays at 10/9c
The Good News: Of the fall's two 1960s-era period dramas that were unfortunately compared to Mad Men, Pan Am at least outlasted The Playboy Club.
The Bad News: More than 11 million checked out the premiere after Desperate Housewives, but perhaps the light, soapy adventures of girdled up Pan Am stewardesses — one of them a spy! — seemed tame compared to the Wisteria Lane shenanigans. By the fourth episode, half those viewers had fled. The 12th and final episode of the season posted a 1.2 in the demo, far behind what its replacement GCB is doing.
Wrapped March 1; aired Thursdays at 8:30/7:30c
The Good News: Averaging 11 million viewers and a 3.3 in the demo, Rob Schneider's culture-clash comedy has performed better than any other show CBS has put behind ratings juggernaut The Big Bang Theory.
The Bad News: The show was pretty much critically reviled. CBS may want to try to find a better tonal match with Big Bang among its new comedy pilots.
Rules of Engagement (CBS)
Thursdays at 8:30/7:30c
The Good News: Despite CBS' erratic scheduling for the show during each of its six seasons, it brings in a consistent audience. This season, it's averaging 10.2 million viewers thanks to its Big Bang lead-in.
The Bad News: It's the network's lowest-rated comedy. After six seasons, CBS will probably be more keen to look at fresh comedy ideas.
Thursdays at 10/9c
The Good News: Shonda Rhimes' latest opened big, and then grew in its second outing. The show, about a crisis management expert toeing ethical lines to help Capitol Hill elite, fits snuggly into what ABC does best: female-led drama.
The Bad News: Competition Thursdays at 10 is soft, and its only Week 2 — anything can happen!
The Secret Circle (CW)
Thursdays at 9/8c
The Good News: Executive-produced by Vampire Diaries boss Kevin Williamson, this witchy drama, also adapted from a supernatural young adult book series, is a nice tonal fit with Diaries. Thanks to that lead-in, it's also The CW's second-highest-rated series.
The Bad News: As mentioned, CW's got some super-strong pilots vying for fall slots, and Secret Circle isn't all that buzzy among the young people the network covets. The show, like every other non-Vampire Diaries series on the network, is also averaging less than a 1.0 in the demo.
Thursdays at 9/8c
The Good News: Airing after the Idol results show has ensured that Touch has maintained a solid demo rating. But the bigger renewal clincher is that Jack Bauer Kiefer Sutherland is an international star. 20th Century TV, the studio that produces Touch and before that 24, has already invested heavily in the show, launching it in more than 30 countries.
The Bad News: Overall viewership has slid 40 percent since premiering in its regular Thursday slot.
Up All Night (NBC)
Wrapped April 12; last aired Thursdays at 9:30/8:30c
The Good News: NBC pulled out all the stops trying to make this one work. After it did so-so numbers on Wednesday, they decided to give it another push, slotting it behind The Office and hoping that viewers would take a second look at Will Arnett and Christina Applegate playing new parents, and Maya Rudolph as a crazy diva talk show host.
The Bad News: The audience actually shrunk in the move to Thursday! NBC already has a few low-rated pedigree comedies it probably wants to keep (30 Rock, Community, Parks and Recreation) and this one has the fewest viewers.
Tuesdays at 10/9c
The Good News: The procedural drama couldn't be more tailor-made for CBS. It even stars Poppy Montgomery, a veteran of CBS' long-running crime drama Without a Trace. It routinely wins its timeslot, in both viewers and the demo rating.
The Bad News: Despite following the network's Tuesday night NCIS/NCIS: Los Angeles tentpole, it's one of CBS' lowest-rated crime dramas. (The only ones lower are also on this list.) While 11 million viewers is nothing to sneeze at, CBS can (and most likely will be) ruthless.
Wednesdays at 8/7c
The Good News: Critics shmitics! Despite having been pushed out of the network's Thursday night comedy lineup, its average in the demo is tied with Parks and Recreation and higher than both Community and 30 Rock.
The Bad News: It ain't exactly a hit either, and since NBC considers itself the home of "smart" comedy, the show's future may depend on how committed NBC is to building a second comedy block.