No less than 45 scripted shows await word on renewal as the networks prepare to reveal their plans for the 2009-10 season. Many of those shows are safe — would NBC really pull Law & Order? — but others may be endangered by low ratings, high production costs, or just being on the Peacock network, where Jay Leno takes over five hours of prime time in the fall.
The senior editors of TVGuide.com hope the following shows will live. We chose them because we consider them the best of the shows that are in the worst danger. Follow TV Guide on Twitter for updates on saved shows.
What the Numbers Say: After drawing 7 million viewers to its first season finale, Chuck wrapped up its sophomore run with barely 6 mil. Not a huge drop, but at a time when NBC real estate is at a premium, each and every show is facing greater scrutiny by the network.
Why It Should Be Saved: The show's game-changing season finale revealed that Chuck (Zachary Levi) is no longer a hapless wannabe. He chose to upload a new Intersect, which transformed him into an abilities-absorbing contender. Only with a Season 3 renewal will we learn what he's capable of doing now.
What the Numbers Say: Fittingly, some would say, Dollhouse has been putting up numbers — in the 3 million range — akin to those of Joss Whedon's previous Fox series, Firefly. And boy, that one got cancelled in a jiffy. That said, the percentage increase in audience that Dollhouse (like Terminator) enjoys via DVR playback should not be overlooked.
Why It Should Be Saved: Because the premise, though ethically problematic, is hella compelling. Because we want to see what happens with Dolls-in-love Sierra and Victor. Because Eliza Dushku is fun to look at. And because Joss is, well, Joss. You know he has a plan to take this show to wild places.
What the Numbers Say: This show has already risen from the dead once, when it was granted a second-season pick-up following very wobbly first-season ratings. Its second coming left it in fourth place in its Wednesdays-at-9 slot, where it averaged just 4.5 million viewers. How many lives does Life have left?
Why It Should Be Saved: Damian Lewis' quiet performance as wronged, Zen-devoted cop Charlie Crews deviates from familiar cop territory with quirky details and his brainy-hot, oil-and-water chemistry with partner Dani Reese (Sarah Shahi).
What the Numbers Say: Despite critical raves and the occasional Monday après-Gossip Girl showcase, this charming dramedy never made much of a dent beyond the 2-million viewer mark. However, it performed well in the CW's 18-34 "sweet spot," and enjoyed significant online streaming.
Why It Should Be Saved: Since Gilmore Girls signed off, TV rarely serves up dialogue as crisp and quippy as that which series creator Rina Mimoun puts in JoAnna Garcia's mouth. And frankly, we were just starting to warm up to snarky Sage. Mimoun has a grand plan for Season 2, and we're itching to see it.
What the Numbers Say: NBC's freshman cop drama performed well against CBS' Harper Island in its first two weeks, but dipped in its third week against the return of Private Practice. And NBC has scant room for adult dramas this fall.
Why It Should Be Saved: The writing and acting are top-notch, and the show's focus on beat cops working the grubbiest streets of Los Angeles is a welcome change from the flashy murders of standard police procedurals. The show has scored very respectable ratings for a new show, and perfectly fills a realistic, intelligent niche left open by ER's passing.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Fox
What the Numbers Say: When the Connors battled the bots on Mondays, they drew a good 5.3 million viewers. But with the midseason move to Fridays, the sophomore drama shed a full third of its audience. Who knew that a Ghost Whisperer and Howie Mandel could put up such a fight?
Why It Should Be Saved: The show has made entertaining contributions to the Terminator canon, including the introduction of a corporate Terminator (the coolly devastating Shirley Manson) and Derek Reese — the brother of John's father. We have a feeling our Terminator Jones will be stronger than ever after the release of Terminator: Salvation, and hope the show won't say "Hasta la vista" before then.
The Unusuals, ABC
What the Numbers Say: Since debuting to 6.84 million viewers, the show has slipped to ratings no better than those of the cancelled Life on Mars, the previous occupant of ABC's post-Lost time slot.
Why It Should Be Saved: We can't give up this early on a cast that includes Adam Goldberg, Harold Perrineau, and Amber Tamblyn. The goofy-serious tone of the series harkens back to the funky cop dramas of the 1970s, and the quirky plotlines deserve time to play out.
Without a Trace, CBS
What the Numbers Say: How can a show that scores an easy 13 million viewers and wins its time slot each week possibly face the hook? Its network, CBS, is said to be desperate to trim overhead — and perhaps at the cost of one procedural.
Why It Should Be Saved: There are plenty of TV procedurals, but this one is more hopeful than the rest: The victims are still alive. The focus on the personal lives of the characters is another plus, as is the fact that Without a Trace has the potential to help actual victims: It lists missing people at the end of each episode.
Get the latest on the fall TV season:
Fall TV Scorecard: Which Shows Are Returning? Which Aren't?
See how spring shows are faring:
Spring TV Progress Report: The Pros and Cons of 10 New Shows
Crave scoop on your favorite TV shows? E-mail senior editors Matt, Mickey and Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org.