10 Bubble Shows — Which Will Survive?
Joel Mchale, Dana Delany and Kathy Bates
We're mere weeks into the new TV season, and already the freshman class has provided some bona fide hits (hello, girls both New and 2 Broke!) But while some shows started strong, several others faltered out of the gate (RIP, The Playboy Club, Free Agents, How to Be a Gentleman and Charlie's Angels!) Which shows will be next? These 10 are in the most danger, due to low ratings, poor performances among younger viewers and other typical bad signs. Is your favorite show on the list?
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1. Body of Proof (ABC)
Tuesdays at 10/9c
The Good News: Dana Delany is just lovely. We'd watch her read the phone book.
The Bad News: It often falls behind both Unforgettable and Parenthood in the demo, and the only show pulling lower ratings for ABC was the now-canceled Charlie's Angels. The show's average audience last season was around 11 million viewers; it's about 9.7 million viewers so far this season.
2. Community (NBC)
Thursdays at 8/7c
The Good News: The critical darling has earned enough respect to lure some heavyweight guest stars, including John Goodman and The Wire's Michael Kenneth Williams. Plus: The show's most recent episode, "Remedial Chaos Theory" is easily one of the show's greatest creative achievements to date.
The Bad News: No one is watching. The show is averaging an anemic 3.7 million viewers per episode, an abysmal number that can't be ignored, even by NBC.
3. CSI: NY (CBS)
Fridays at 9/8c
The Good News: Despite being on this list back in May, the show earned a cautious renewal when the network ordered up 18 episodes. It's winning its (admittedly not-so-competitive) timeslot. Still, the show's audience is loyal: CSI: NY regularly builds on its lead-in, A Gifted Man, a qualified feat (see below).
The Bad News: The show's averaging 10 million viewers, down slightly from a year ago, which doesn't make a strong case for earning any additional episodes. It's one of CBS' lowest-performing shows.
4. Fringe (Fox)
Fridays at 9/8c
The Good News: Well...on Fridays, the bar is still very low! In its most recent outing, Fringe delivered a 1.2 rating/4 share in the demo, which isn't that far from Friday-night leader CSI: NY (1.7/5). And Fox President of Entertainment Kevin Reilly is a fan. "It was one of the great victories for us last season," Reilly said in August. "We were cheering the Friday night victory for Fringe... I don't expect explosive growth [this fall]..."
The Bad News: Hmm, what's the opposite of explosive growth? Because that's what seems instead to have happened to Fringe. Viewership has dropped significantly between the Season 3 finale (5.83 million) — which ended on a mind-boggling, Peter-"killing" cliffhanger! -- and the most recent Season 4 numbers (3.16 million). Was the latest twist too much for even Fringe's most die-hard fans?
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5. A Gifted Man (CBS)
Fridays at 8/7c
The Good News: There's lots of talent involved, both in front of the camera (stars Patrick Wilson and recent Emmy winner Margo Martindale) and behind (showrunner Neal Baer is a veteran of ER and Law & Order: SVU; Oscar winner Jonathan Demme directed the pilot).
The Bad News: The show is averaging only 8.2 million viewers an episode, and it often loses its timeslot in the demo. Although CBS used to be the network that let shows grow on Friday nights, it's also the network that is the most ruthless about cutting underperforming shows. (See the equally soft-starting Three Rivers a couple seasons back).
6. Harry's Law (NBC)
Wednesdays at 9/8c
The Good News: The David E. Kelley-created legal drama, starring Kathy Bates as a lawyer who sets up shop in a rundown shoe store, has lived a buzz-free existence since its January debut — but it's the highest-rated scripted show on NBC's schedule, last week delivering 7.84 total million viewers. The network also just ordered six additional scripts, which means it could be planning for contingencies that might arise when it cancels other shows.
The Bad News: Last week, it posted a 1.2 rating/3 share in the demo, which falls below what NBC's now-canceled rookies The Playboy Club and Free Agents averaged in their short lives. Yikes.
(Editor's note: Since publication, we've received word that Hawaii Five-0 is safe.)
7. Nikita (CW)
Fridays at 8/7c
The Good News: The show is on the CW, which can probably live with the show's second season average of 1.7 million viewers an episode far longer than any other network.
The Bad News: That 1.7 million viewers used to be 2.4 million viewers a year ago. And once Chuck gets into the mix on Fridays, this spy series might pull an even smaller piece of the pie.
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8. Pan Am (ABC)
Sundays at 10/9c
The Good News: The Jet Age soap had a smooth take-off — actually improving on the final season premiere of Desperate Housewives that preceded it. Critics also appeared willing to give the show, a period drama about the adventures of a Pan Am crew in the 1960s, a chance to develop its characters and arcs, particularly one involving a flight attendant-turned-government spy.
The Bad News: The show has since begun a slow-and-steady nosedive, this week hitting a new low (1.9 rating in the demo and 5.9 million viewers — a big loss from lead-in Desperate Housewives' 2.7 rating and 8.24 million).
9. Prime Suspect (NBC)
Thursday at 10/9c
The Good News: NBC has good reason to be patient with the well-cast, solidly reviewed cop drama, a stateside adaptation of the esteemed British original, starring Maria Bello as a tough-as-nails detective in a male-dominated profession: The network is still trying to rebuild its 10 o'clock hour, which it nearly killed in 2009 after the network leased the entire weekday strip to the short-lived The Jay Leno Show. And since it already axed The Playboy Club...
The Bad News: Even against tough competition (Private Practice on ABC and The Mentalist on CBS), and even with the low expectations set by NBC with Whitney as its lead-in, a 1.3 adults 18-49 rating isn't going to cut it on any night, let alone advertiser-prized Thursdays.
[UPDATED: Good news! CBS has picked up Unforgettable for a full season.]
10. Unforgettable (CBS)
Tuesdays at 10/9c
The Good News: CBS viewers love Poppy Montgomery from her days on Without a Trace, and the show's procedural elements are tailor-made for the network's brand. The show regularly sweeps its timeslot, both in terms of audience (on average 11 million viewers) and demo rating (roughly 2.5).
The Bad News: The show earned CBS' best-possible lead-in, the unstoppable one-two punch of NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles, but it regularly sheds about 4 million viewers. And while there was also a noticeable drop off with The Good Wife a year ago, it was more in the ballpark of only 2 million viewers.
What do you think of our list? Which of the shows can you not live without and which are ready for the scrap heap?