What Are the Odds That 26 As-Yet-Unrenewed ‘Bubble’ TV Shows Will Come Back?

When the ending credits of the final episode of Chuck aired last month, folks all over Hollywood reported hearing a small explosion: the sound of TV’s ultimate bubble show finally bursting. For years, Chuck stood as the perfect example of a TV show stuck in purgatory, its renewal always up in the air because it had ratings too small to make it a slam-dunk but just enough of a fan base to warrant continued consideration. But while Chuck is no more, plenty of other shows remain stuck in varying degrees of limbo. And as we did last year, Vulture has processed reams of ratings data, queried industry insiders, and scoured scheduling grids in order to come up with our best guess as to the future of more than two dozen as-yet-unrenewed series on the Big Four broadcast networks. We then ran everything through our patented, award-winning Bubble Meter to arrive at a final score quantifying each show’s odds of survival, from the horribly made-up Work It dudes at 1 (representing certain cancellation) to the salty-tongued vixens of 2 Broke Girls at 10 (definite renewal).

Some housekeeping notes: As always, we don’t include shows already renewed or canceled and veteran hits whose renewals are formalities (Glee). We also skip Fox’s animated shows (their long production lead times mean episodes can air long after their official cancellations); reality shows (which, as Fear Factor proved this year, never really die); and shows on the CW (where ratings for even hit shows are tiny, and complex financial formulas often override Nielsen logic). This year, we’re also not including freshman shows whose ratings are so stellar, there’s no question about their fates (even if the nets this year are being stingy with early renewals). Falling into this category: Revenge, Suburgatory, Once Upon a Time, Last Man Standing, 2 Broke Girls, Person of Interest, and New Girl.

Follow Josef Adalian on Twitter: @tvmojoe.

Not much longer! Horrible reviews and lackluster ratings make it hard for us to see this show surviving into a second season. Photo: Jordin Althaus/? NBCUniversal, Inc.
Even though it hasn’t done all that much better than Cougar Town did when it was behind Modern Family, buzz on the show is great and ABC suits love it. After just barely getting renewed last spring, Happy will easily get the go-ahead for season three. And yes, that makes us happy. Photo: Mitch Haddad/? 2012 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
Since we laid out our case for hope a while back, there’s been one positive development that could boost the show’s odds of survival: 30 Rock is faring as poorly at 8 p.m. as the Greendale gang had, and some nights even a tad worse. This should show NBC execs that Community isn’t the underachiever it’s been tagged as (at least relative to NBC’s other comedies). Or it could underline their desire to get bigger with broader concepts: There’s a reason the Peacock has more than a dozen sitcoms in development. Photo: Justin Lubin/? NBCUniversal, Inc.
The Ted Danson–infused series has been pulling solid numbers in its new Wednesday time slot, even coming close to the audience it pulled last season when it was still on Thursday. Assuming it doesn’t collapse this spring post–Marg Helgenberger, it’s a safe bet to return. Photo: SONJA FLEMMING/©2011 CBS BROADCASTING INC. All Rights Reserved.
Eye execs have made no secret of the fact that it may be time to let one of the CSI series fade to black, and David Caruso’s seems most vulnerable, if only because it hasn’t brought any spark to the CBS Sunday lineup since shifting there from Mondays a couple years back. That said, CBS likes stability, and this show pulls in lots of syndication and international coin. If NY22 flops when it replaces Miami later this season, then Caruso may get another season of eyebrow-raising antics. Photo: SONJA FLEMMING
It does decent business on Fridays, but it’s also seen as expendable. A lot depends on how much CBS execs fall in love with their new drama development. All in all, chances are it’ll be back. Photo: Cliff Lipson/????2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
This Dana Delaney procedural showed some sparks of life when it premiered last year, but this season, it’s been as lifeless as one of the dead bodies the show loves so much. That, plus ABC’s success with Revenge, makes it a long shot to return. Photo: Bob D’Amico/? 2011 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
Yes, the show failed to take advantage of ABC’s massive summer marketing campaign on its behalf, and yes, there was some creative turbulence early in the show’s run. But here’s the argument in favor of renewal: Even after ABC stopped promoting it, and just started throwing on random original episodes, Pan Am still managed to eke out the same 1.3 to 1.5 demo rating each Sunday. That’s a low number, but it remained consistent (unlike, say, Prime Suspect, which dropped below a 1 rating after it became clear NBC was giving up on the show). If ABC’s new drama development disappoints, and The River sinks further after its slow debut, it wouldn’t shock us if the Alphabet decided to give Pan Am one more shot to take off. Photo: Eric Liebowitz/? 2011 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
“This is the ultimate bubble show,” one industry wag tells us, and it’s true: Just when we’re ready to write it off, the Eye finds an excuse to bring it back. Whether it cheats death again depends on how well Rob does for the rest of its winter run, and whether the Eye thinks it needs Rules as part of a plan to expand its Thursday comedy block to two hours. Photo: RON P. JAFFE/?2011 CBS BROADCASTING INC. All Rights Reserved.
After a strong debut, the Monday sci-fi drama has taken a bit of a ratings hit. But it’s holding on to virtually all of its House lead-in and seems to be finding a solid core audience. If it can hold up against NBC’s The Voice in coming weeks, it’ll be a slam dunk for a second season.
This Bones spinoff hasn’t captured the original’s audience as easily as Fox might have hoped (perhaps because producers opted against cloning David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel: Those kids are so cute together!). But it’s also done respectably and shows every sign of being a nice utility player that Fox could slot anywhere on its schedule. That, plus the network’s love for creator Hart Hansen, could tip the scales in favor of a renewal.
Here’s the thing: This show literally loses money for Fox. J.J. Abrams don’t work cheap, and with the tiny ratings Fringe draws on Fridays, Fox can’t charge that much for ads. The result is lots of red ink. The network has tolerated this because it loves Abrams and loves the show’s very loyal and devoted fan base. But industry insiders think Fringe producer Warner Bros. TV will have to dramatically cut the fee it charges Fox for the show in order to secure a renewal. The studio has an incentive to do this, of course, since Fringe is achingly close to having enough episodes for syndication. We think a deal will be worked out, but for now: totally bubble-icious.
CBS wants to make this Poppy Montgomery procedural work, and this week’s intro of Jane Curtin to the cast gave its numbers a pop. Still, it’s not been able to fully take advantage of its NCIS: LA lead-in, particularly with younger viewers (and yes, CBS wants young viewers!). Its fate might rest on whether CBS opts to kill off a CSI and how the net’s new drama development turns out. Photo: Heather Wines/?2011 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Like Chelsea, it’s also underachieved (on both Thursdays and Wednesdays). Critics have been vicious, too. But NBC execs really seem to believe in Whitney Cummings and might decide to bring her back as part of a female-driven comedy block (they’ve got shows in the works from Roseanne and Sarah Silverman). Photo: Jordin Althaus/? NBCUniversal, Inc.
This delightfully underappreciated half-hour showed immediate signs of life when it debuted on Wednesdays, and it should’ve replaced Whitney on Thursdays as early as last November. Instead, NBC let Whitney suck the life out of the 9:30 p.m. Thursday time slot, while The Office continued its slow loss of viewers post–Steve Carell. By the time NBC finally got around to moving Up where it always belonged, the network also had decided to devote virtually all of its promo resources to Smash and The Voice. No surprise, then, that Up isn’t doing much better on Thursdays. Still, with its great cast and a very powerful exec producer (Lorne Michaels), this should be the NBC freshman comedy with the best odds of survival. Photo: Trae Patton/? NBCUniversal, Inc.
Alec Baldwin has agreed to return, but in recent weeks, we’ve been starting to wonder whether another season of 30 Rock is the slam dunk most industry types have assumed. Since shifting to 8 p.m., the show has started generating tune-in on a par with Community, and thus below even 30 Rock’s already modest previous audience levels. Given how much more expensive 30 Rock is than Community, you’d think NBC brass might mull keeping the younger show and letting Tina Fey go be a full-time movie star. And yet, this leaves out four key words: Executive producer Lorne Michaels. It’s hard to see him letting 30 Rock simply fade away. Our bet: NBC renews the show, but announces a final, thirteen-episode season. Photo: Art Streiber/? NBC Universal, Inc.
This show has always generated big overall tune-in but horrible (read: old) demographics. If Smash and Awake do well enough to merit second seasons, NBC might be ready to move on without Harry. If they flop, however, the network may want to keep this show as a security blanket. Photo: Trae Patton/? NBCUniversal, Inc.
The producers had asked Fox to give them a decision on a second season by December in order to allow plenty of time to produce episodes. The network pushed a verdict until January, and then February. According to insiders, the news that House is going away in May might mean it’s more likely the show gets a second season of thirteen episodes. Our question: If a network has to think so long about a renewal, does it really want or need the show?
Fox hated this show so much it barely aired it last fall. It’s coming back for a few weeks as part of a revamped Tuesday comedy block, but unless it does shockingly well, it’s toast.
Ratings on Sunday aren’t great, but they’re not awful. CBS loves this show’s upscale demographics and critical adoration. It’s coming back.
Critics loathe it (well, most do), and the show has zero buzz. And after starting relatively strongly, it’s starting to lose a big chunk of its Big Bang Theory lead-in. And yet, it’s holding on to just enough of said lead-in to be considered a contender for renewal, particularly if CBS decides to expand to four comedies on Thursday and needs backup programming. Most likely, it’ll come down to Rob vs. Rules of Engagement. Oh, the humanity! Photo: CLIFF LIPSON/CBS/?2011 CBS BROADCASTING INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
No other NBC drama has shown more signs of life than this fairy tale procedural (though Smash is off to a good start), but NBC has been slow to embrace it. Yes, it got a trial run on Thursdays at 10, but this isn’t a 10 p.m. show. Given NBC’s sad state overall, we think the network will realize this series could find a bigger audience with an 8 or 9 p.m. time slot earlier in the week. But based on how crappily the network has treated it (possibly because, like us, they realize it’s a really lame show), we wouldn’t be shocked to see it meet a grim fate. Photo: Scott Green/? NBCUniversal, Inc.
The show has fans at some of the highest levels of CBS, but viewers have reacted with a yawn. It’s the most vulnerable drama on the Eye’s schedule. Photo: Heather Wines/????2011 CBS BROADCASTING INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Any prediction about the fate of this Vulture fave is preliminary until we see how the show performs following Last Man Standing in its crappy new 8:30 p.m. Tuesday time slot. But even though CT has little in common with its new Tim Allen lead-in, we’re hopeful it will bring its loyal followers with it to its new night, and that ABC will ultimately want to find a way to get this show (which it owns) into syndication by bringing it back next fall. The fact that Glee will be off the air for many weeks can’t hurt, either. Photo: Bob D’Amico/? 2011 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
This is NBC’s version of The Good Wife: a critical fave that inexplicably fails to draw a bigger audience. But its audience is just big enough, and the warm critical glow around it bright enough, that NBC should find a way to order at least one more season. Photo: Harper Smith/? NBCUniversal, Inc.
Case closed. Photo: Frank Ockenfels 3/? NBCUniversal, Inc.
What Are the Odds That 26 As-Yet-Unrenewed ‘Bubble’ TV Shows Will Come Back?