As mid-season shows debut over the next three months, it will be crunch time for a number of series that haven't been tearing up the Nielsen charts. Here's what network insiders say are the shows on the bubble as execs look to set their schedules in May.
A second-year ratings fade may mean it's time to pull a sheet over the Dana Delany-led Body of Proof. While the network ordered an extra episode of Pan Am in order to keep a hold on the cast until May, its chances of returning next fall are as likely as an airport going a full day without a flight delay. Comedy Happy Endings doesn't do a great job retaining the lead-in from the mighty Modern Family, but ABC parent Disney has an ownership stake in the show and it's a favorite within the network's entertainment division — so a pickup for another season is considered a lock. And fan fave Cougar Town will get a final shot for renewal if it performs well in its new Tuesday time period starting February 14.
It may finally be toe-tag time for CSI: Miami or CSI: NY. David Caruso's Miami is getting its first extended period on the bench starting April 15, as CBS tries out NYC 22 in the Sunday-at-10pm time slot. Both shows are given bubble status for renewal, with survival dependent on how strong the network's new drama development comes in. A Gifted Man is also on life support, with a run in a later 9pm slot likely to decide its fate. On the comedy side, Rob Schneider's new comedy, Rob, has done a credible job of retaining its Big Bang Theory lead-in. If CBS decides to expand to four comedies on Thursday, it's a shoo-in to return. An eight-comedy CBS schedule would also be good news for Rules of Engagement.
It would be tough to make a case for bringing back Gossip Girl, 90210, Nikita or Ringer based on ratings alone. But the revenue generated by deals to stream the shows over Hulu and Netflix will become a significant part of the equation in determining which shows return, along with syndication deals and foreign sales and the ownership stakes that CW partners CBS and Warner Bros. have in them. "Money is the new metric," says one insider.
NBC Universal, the studio that makes House, is still holding out hope that Fox will pick up another season of the aging series, a money machine in syndication. But word is that star Hugh Laurie is ready to move on. Terra Nova, while expensive, is profitable for Fox, but network executives were disappointed in the writing of Season 1 and have delayed giving it a green light. The strong early performance of Alcatraz and solid sampling for Touch (the Fox Monday lineup of the future?) could make the decision to move on easier. The network is in the red with Fringe on Fridays and only paying a much lower license fee to its studio, Warner Bros., can save it. There are rumblings that Fox is ready to pull the plug on the animated American Dad; Raising Hope is also not a slam dunk to return for a third season.
NBC has ordered 13 comedy pilots for next season, proof that it's clearly intent on coming up with shows that will deliver more than the niche audiences it's been drawing. The producers of ratings-challenged freshmen crop Whitney, Up All Night and Are You There, Chelsea? will have to make a case that they can grow if they get a Season 2. Community fans should relax as NBC is likely to order more episodes of the cult fave to make the comedy attractive for syndication. The international co-production deal for The Firm made it cheaper for NBC than the typical network drama. But the network just moved it to Saturdays at 9pm beginning February 11 to make way for the new drama Awake. So chances are it'll get thrown out of court.