Which On-the-Bubble TV Series Will Get Renewed, and Which Will Get Axed?

Photo: FOX, ABC, CBS and NBC

The sudden yanking off the TV schedule of Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 and Ben and Kate had one tiny upside: At least now fans won’t have to suffer anymore wondering what will become of their shows. Such is not the case with a couple dozen other new and veteran series, so-called “bubble” shows whose ratings haven’t warranted cancellation but aren’t so undeniably amazing that renewal is inevitable. As has become tradition ‘round these parts, Vulture has assembled a list of the shows in various stages of limbo. After crunching the Nielsen numbers and studying the scheduling grids, we ran each of the shows though our world-famous Bubble Meter (now with retina display!) and arrived at a final score representing their odds of survival. A perfect score of ten means the show’s return is as much of a slam dunk as NBC’s breakout hit Revolution; the lowest rating of one represents a death as certain as that of the aforementioned Ben and Kate.

Before you click through the ratings, some explanatory notes: We don’t include the shows that have already been renewed or, as has been more common this season, already canceled. (Hence no Animal Practice or Mob Doctor.) Long-running series whose ratings and contractual status are such that renewal is a formality are also absent (ergo, no Modern Family, New Girl, or NCIS). Ditto first-year series whose pickups are also slam dunks, though there are just two of those this season: NBC’s Revolution* and CBS’s Elementary. We also skip the CW (it has its own unique set of ratings standards); reality shows (they’re never really dead); and Fox’s animated shows, since they’re produced far in advance and can end up on the air long after production has halted. (That said, industry insiders believe The Cleveland Show is not long for this world.) Finally, we’re not including perennial bubble show Rules of Engagement or NBC sophomore Smash because neither series has had its season premiere yet.

* This post has been corrected to note that Revolution is on NBC, not Fox.

You can’t say NBC didn’t try: 38 episodes of the show will have been produced by the end of this season. Maybe sister network E! will invest in new half-hours, but the show’s over on the Peacock. Photo: NBC/2012 NBCUniversal Media, LLC
It’s three Pampers short of being anywhere near a second-season order. Photo: NBC/2012 NBCUniversal Media, LLC
Sunday’s episode was the lowest-rated hour of the show ever (at least among adults under 50). And yet: Good Wife still pulls in around 10 million viewers each week, and even more when DVR playback is recorded. While we could see CBS cutting back the number of episodes it orders, perhaps to thirteen or fifteen, we can’t imagine the Eye letting the show go just yet. Photo: Jeffrey Neira/????2012 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
It may not seem like it, what with all the random Sunday airings and episodes airing out of order, but ABC brass claim to adore those crazy Chicago kids. Of course, they also said that about Cougar Town once upon a time. When it has been airing on Tuesdays after the completely incompatible Dancing With the Stars, ratings have been awful (though DVR viewing pushes the show’s ratings up about 40 percent). We’re going to think positively and predict this show will be back — if not on ABC, then somewhere. Photo: Carol Kaelson/?2013 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
If Mindy had aired during the 2011–12 season, when New Girl was on fire in the ratings, there’s a good chance it would have a much bigger audience than it does now. But it’s not, and what’s worse, Mindy is only holding on to between 70 and 75 percent of even the diminished New Girl audience. It’s struggling. The good news for the show is that its ratings seem to have stabilized and Fox chief Kevin Reilly seems determined to make Mindy work. For the show to snag a second season, however, it will have to show at least a little ratings momentum between now and May.
The show that at least a few of us enjoyed last season and this fall is no more, with creator Emily Spivey departing in the wake of a complete creative revamp. Perhaps the addition of more cameras and a laugh track will somehow convince viewers to check the show out again. We’re not betting on it. Photo: NBC/2012 NBCUniversal Media, LLC
It’s been doing about as well as Nashville this season and seems to be a good fit with SVU. Given NBC’s other issues, Fire is doing fine. If it holds up through the spring, another season is more likely than not. Photo: NBC/2012 NBCUniversal Media, LLC
Only two episodes have aired, but so far, death becomes Kevin Bacon. Last week’s premiere scored the best ratings of any new drama this season (among adults under 50), while Monday’s second hour actually went up a tick. (It had the advantage of airing opposite repeats on CBS.) Fox really, really wants this show to work, so unless the ratings completely collapse in the next few weeks, The Following will be back next winter.
No, we can’t believe it’s still on the air, either. But, having failed to make Work It work, ABC chief Paul Lee seems determined to prove that he’s not crazy for recycling ABC sitcom plots from the eighties (Bosom Buddies, Mork & Mindy). So despite meh ratings, it wouldn’t be surprising to see this show back, perhaps as part of the network’s retro Friday sitcom block. Photo: Michael Ansell/?2013 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
Hopefully producers are planning to wrap up all the loose ends in the season finale, because based on the quickly plummeting numbers for the show, there won’t be a second season. Photo: NBC/2012 NBCUniversal Media, LLC
Even as The Office has seen its ratings fade the past two seasons, Parks has remained stable; it also jumps up 50 percent once DVR viewing gets tallied. And with newcomers such as 1600 Penn and Animal Practice failing, Peacock executives have to realize that finding that broad comedy hit they crave won’t be easy. Also: 30 Rock and The Office are done after this year. NBC would be foolish to try to completely start from scratch next season. (Since it hasn’t yet debuted this season, we’re not ranking the chances of Community returning. But if it fails to pop-pop next month, the odds of a Parks pickup will only get better.) Photo: NBC/2012 NBCUniversal Media, LLC
Its ratings are worse than lead-in Go On, but here’s one thing it has going for it: a loyal core audience. TNN jumps by more than 40 percent when DVR replay gets figured in, a much greater bump than Go On or many other comedies see. Perhaps it moves to 9 p.m. after The Voice as NBC seeks to create a very young-skewing Tuesday next fall. Or NBC could also decide the show is never going to be a broad hit and cuts bait sooner rather than later. This one’s a tough call. Photo: NBC/2013 NBCUniversal Media, LLC
CBS executives have already publicly said they want the show back. The only reason we even put Men on this list is because there’s still no signed deal, and it’s always possible Ashton Kutcher will hold off for too much money. Nah: It’ll be back. Photo: Monty Brinton/????2013 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Terrible reviews didn’t stop folks who watch Last Man Standing from staying tuned to watch Reba collect a paycheck. What’s more, a surprisingly large number of folks actually set their DVRs to watch this show later. Very likely to be back, unless ABC really falls in love with its comedy development. Photo: Nicole Wilder/? 2012 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
One day, there won’t be a Law & Order series still in production. But no time soon: While its audience of just under 10 million viewers (including DVR replays) is much smaller than it used to be, Dick Wolf’s murder-by-numbers drama is still outperforming newer Peacock drama attempts such as Deception. It also does well in syndication and internationally, making it a profit machine for NBC. Photo: NBC/2012 NBCUniversal Media, LLC
The original recipe is still pulling in more than 13 million viewers every week. It’s not going anywhere. Photo: ROBERT VOETS/?‚?? 2012 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.???? 2012 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Ratings are decent, but the price tag is high. If CBS executives are really optimistic about their new drama development, there’s a good shot that the youngest member of the CSI family will take the hit. Photo: Cliff Lipson/?‚??2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.????2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
When it airs behind The Voice, Matthew Perry’s sitcom does quite well. When it doesn’t? Ratings this winter have fallen by more than 30 percent compared to this fall. Despite this clear sign of audience rejection, it’s easy to see NBC giving the show another shot — either keeping it behind The Voice or possibly pairing it with its new Michael J. Fox comedy. (Two generations of Must-See TV, united!) Photo: NBC/2012 NBCUniversal Media, LLC
Great cast, good buzz, and consistent (if not stellar) Nielsen numbers mean the Bluebird should be open on ABC for a second season. Photo: Jon LeMay/? 2012 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
Compared to Fox’s new comedies, Hope is doing pretty well, pulling in a 1.7 same-day rating in the network’s target demo of adults under 50. The argument in favor of a renewal is that the show has a loyal audience, and Fox has proven with Ben and Kate that it can do much, much worse (ratings-wise) in the 8 p.m. hour. Tipping the scales toward cancelation is the likelihood that creator Greg Garcia will be working on a new show next fall (he has two pilots in development) and the possibility that Fox opts to cut back to one hour of comedy on Tuesdays, leaving no room for Hope. The former scenario seems more likely, which is why we think there’s a better than 50-50 shot it’ll be back.
It regularly won its time slot among adults under 50 this fall and gets a huge 60 percent bump from DVR replay. On numbers alone, a renewal is a no-brainer. The only possible stumbling block: Parenthood’s massive cast of amazing actors doesn’t come cheap. If NBC can make the financials work, we should get another batch of episodes. Photo: NBC/2012 NBCUniversal Media, LLC
It’s been losing viewers every week since its premiere, and NBC decided to pull this week’s planned episode so as to not hurt the premiere of new drama Do No Harm. You don’t need to be Nate Silver to realize a second term is not in the works. Photo: NBC/2012 NBCUniversal Media, LLC
By most measures, the Eye’s Sin City–set drama has crapped out: It loses more than 4 million viewers from its NCIS: Los Angeles lead-in, and among adults under 50, it finished behind Parenthood for most of January. And yet, it still draws over 11 million viewers each week. It’s possible the Eye could relocate the show to Fridays and pair it with Blue Bloods. But, if CBS’s drama development season goes well, Vegas could easily end up buried in a desert graveyard. Photo: Cliff Lipson/?‚?? 2012 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
It’s more than keeping the lights on in a difficult Friday time slot for ABC. The only way it’s not back is if Tim Allen decides to ask for a giant raise. Photo: Carin Baer/? 2012 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
Which On-the-Bubble TV Series Will Get Renewed?