the industry

Which 2014 Network and Cable Shows Still Face Cancellation?

Photo: FX, FOX, TBS and NBC

Earlier this year, Vulture offered up its annual scorecard of how nearly three dozen new and returning fall TV shows were performing this season, assessing them all via our patented Bubble Meter. But since then, both broadcast and cable networks have welcomed back a handful of familiar faves (e.g., Community, Suburgatory) and introduced us to some new programs (Sirens, Crisis, etc.) whose fates still hang in the balance. While there hasn’t been quite enough fresh meat to warrant putting another Bubble Meter on the barbie, it seems only fair that these 2014 debuts and returns have their own fortunes divined, just as we did with their fall peers. So divine we shall.

A few ground rules first. We didn’t bother with reality shows, because there are simply too many of them (but if you care, yes, Wahlburgers will be back). CW shows get a pass, too, because it renews things for a host of reasons that have nothing to do with ratings. (That said, newbie The 100 has impressed in its first two airings.) We also skipped any shows that didn’t air (or haven’t been on) for at least three weeks — ergo, nothing on ABC’s The Assets (although it is absolutely dead in the water) or Fox’s Surviving Jack (which is just a week old). And for those shows that might seem like bubble candidates, but that have, in fact, already been renewed, you won’t find them here, either (we’re looking at you, Looking).

About a Boy and Growing Up Fisher (NBC)
We’re lumping these Tuesday night shows together not just because they air next to each other in the hour following The Voice, but because it seems likely their fates are intertwined: If one gets renewed, the other likely will as well. In terms of raw numbers, both shows rank as NBC’s top-rated comedies this season among viewers under 50 — but that’s almost entirely thanks to their Voice adjacency (see also the CBS “hit” comedy The Millers, which is blessed to be following The Big Bang Theory). In terms of viewer passion, there’s little evidence to suggest much of it: Unlike The Blacklist, for example, the comedies don’t add that many viewers via DVR time-shifting. But advertisers prefer viewers who watch the same day a show airs anyway, and the Boy/Fisher combo is doing a tiny bit better than last year’s Go On/The New Normal. NBC would be completely justified moving on from both shows, but if it likes them — and the network seems to — there’s a logic to renewing them and keeping them behind The Voice for another season. The odds slightly favor this scenario.

The Americans (FX)
The sophomore drama has become something of a poster child for the power of time-shifting. While its same-day ratings have been sluggish in season two, once DVR replays get tallied, the show has been adding viewers week-to-week. The delayed viewing surge has been phenomenal, with a recent episode jumping more than 140 percent once seven days’ worth of DVR data was counted. After this season’s premiere, FX put out a press release saying it anticipated the show running for years to come. Nothing’s happened since to suggest that is not still the case. Expect the network to say “da” to season three soon.

Bates Motel (A&E)
Ratings have been down a bit for the show’s second season, in part because of A&E’s decision to (temporarily) shift it to 9 p.m. But numbers have been trending back upward since the show returned to 10 p.m., critics remain impressed and buzz is still strong. Vera Farmiga, et al., can go ahead and reserve a room in season three.

Believe (NBC)
NBC heavily pushed this J.J. Abrams drama during the Olympics, then gave it a debut behind The Voice. Lots of people sampled it … and then quickly abandoned the serialized drama, with viewership declining each week it has aired. Some viewers are catching up via DVR, perhaps indicating that the glut of established Sunday hits elsewhere has made Believe a “watch it later” option for audiences. And the ratings have yet to flatline, like some ABC dramas this season. But unless NBC really hates its new drama development, it has had enough success elsewhere this season — The Blacklist, Chicago P.D.— to move on to new options next season. There’s little reason to believe Believe will be back.

Community (NBC)
The Mother of All Bubble Shows — which we included in our earlier Bubble Watch installment shortly after its fifth-season debut but requires inclusion here owing to fresh data collected — is agonizingly close to reaching half of its wholly arbitrary, fan-generated goal of #SixSeasonsAndAMovie; NBC just has to give the word. Creator Dan Harmon sounded uncharacteristically upbeat about the prospects at a Paley Center for Media event a few weeks ago, saying it would almost seem more shocking for the show not to go the distance now, after so many last-minute reprieves. And yet, when the Peacock announced a small slew of early pickups last month — including Parks and Rec — the Human Beings of GCC were once again absent (even though Parks and Community draw roughly the same, small audience of around 4 million viewers). Insiders insist that NBC remains open to bringing Community back, despite its weak ratings. But the Peacock is having its best season in several years, with signs of momentum on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, and is not nearly as desperate as it was even a few years ago. This means the bar for renewal could be a bit higher for Community this time around, particularly since Harmon’s return to the show didn’t goose ratings. Our gut says everything will work out and NBC will give Community a victory lap. Our head insists a much darker timeline can’t be ruled out.

Cougar Town (TBS)
After being dumped by ABC a few years ago, TBS saved the cul-de-sac crew and was rewarded with solid ratings last spring. The show’s second season on the cable network has been a bit bumpier: While still TBS’s most-watched original comedy so far this year, viewership has fallen substantially from 2013. People close to the show believe renewal odds are a bit better than 50/50. We’re thinking that, at the very least, TBS will find a way to produce one final batch of episodes.

Crisis (NBC)
NBC’s hostage thriller (or is that Hostages thriller?) has done about as well as its lead-in, Believe (even though it didn’t get that posh post-Voice preview). Its chances for a second season? Also about as good as Believe’s.

Enlisted (Fox)
If you debut a new show on a Friday night with virtually no lead-in support and the smallest of marketing campaigns, did that new show really debut? Technically, yes, but in truth, Fox hasn’t really given this military comedy anything close to a shot to succeed or fail on its merits. There’s no numerical case to be made for the show’s return; ratings have been tiny. But consider these facts: Leaving out the two weeks when a first-run Bones aired Fridays at 8, the show’s average lead-in has been a 0.68. Most weeks, reruns have served as its lead-in. And for three weeks, it aired opposite the Olympics (though two of those weeks, it was in reruns). With Enlisted presently on hiatus, we’re hoping Fox will find somewhere else on its schedule to test out the handful of remaining episodes. As of now, though, things don’t look good for its future.

Hannibal (NBC)
NBC has been super patient with the critically worshipped drama, giving it a second season despite microscopic season one ratings. It hasn’t worked: Audiences are still rejecting the show, with barely 4 million watching it (even including DVR data). The show doesn’t cost NBC a lot, thanks to international co-productions, but if the Peacock wants cheap Friday programming, last fall’s Dracula did better (albeit with awful reviews and no buzz). We can’t really predict what NBC will do here, though, since the decision will likely come down to how much NBC execs love the show.

Killer Women (ABC)
ABC spent a big chunk of November and all of December hyping this Sofia Vergara–produced crime drama. Viewers, however, had no interest in it (though airing behind the awesome-but-low-rated Trophy Wife certainly didn’t help). Killer Women was pulled from the air after just six weeks, and it will almost certainly not be renewed.

Mind Games (ABC)
ABC spent a big chunk of January and all of February promoting this Kyle Killen–produced  drama. Viewers, however, had no interest in it (though airing behind the awesome-but-low-rated Trophy Wife certainly didn’t help). It was pulled from the air after just five weeks, and it will almost certainly not be renewed.

Mixology (ABC)
A bigger mystery than the returnees on Resurrection: why anybody at ABC thought a subpar version of Happy Endings would do better behind Modern Family than the original, particularly after the similarly young-skewing Super Fun Night flopped in the fall. Mixology is being completely rejected by the Modern Family audience, with more than 50 percent of Modern viewership changing the channel. And here’s a fun fact: Despite having demo juggernaut Modern in front of it, a recent episode of Mixology notched a lower rating among viewers under 50 than the super-old-skewing 20/20 did on Friday, even with DVR viewership tallied. We’d say the show is sure thing for cancellation, but ABC execs love the show and seem impervious to logic when making programming decisions.

Rake (Fox)
It’s not canceled, at least not officially. But it’s been pulled from the Fox lineup after flopping on both Thursday and Fridays. It will not be renewed.

Resurrection (ABC)
After a shockingly strong start, the ratings for ABC’s life after death drama have, like the main characters, come back to earth. And yet, even at reduced levels, last Sunday’s episode outrated everything else on the network that night. Compared to everything else to launch this year, Resurrection is a breakout hit. Add in strong DVR numbers and the disastrous performance of almost all of the net’s other new dramas this season, and renewal is virtually guaranteed.

Suburgatory (ABC)
Disappointed that this show didn’t do better than it did behind Modern Family last season, ABC execs punished it by slashing its episode order and keeping it off the air for nearly nine months. The result? Its ratings are, predictably, down (at least in demos; among all viewers, numbers are steady). But Suburgatory is still holding on to more of its lead-in than last fall’s replacement series, Back in the Game. Oh, and by the way? While it lost a big chunk of the Modern Family audience when it aired at 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays last season, Super Fun Night and Mixology have performed even worse. ABC should renew Suburgatory for a full season and spend some time trying to find new viewers (marathons on ABC Family, perhaps?). But given the net’s propensity for deluding itself into thinking Something Better is just around the corner, it’s impossible to know what it will decide.

Sirens (USA)
USA Network’s first big foray into first-run comedy since acquiring reruns of Modern Family has done … okay. Airing Thursdays at 10 p.m. behind the modestly rated Suits, the show has pulled a respectable audience by cable standards: 1.5 million viewers (including DVR replays) after five weeks. In terms of demos, though, the show seems to be skewing a bit older, though it’s been adding younger viewers since its debut. Last week’s episode also ticked up from the most recent outing, a good sign for newer shows. Since USA has no recent history with comedies, it’s hard to say whether these numbers will be enough to bring a renewal. The network will likely wait to see how another new comedy, Playing House, performs when it debuts at the end of this month. Either way, this seems a good spot to suggest that we’re pretty certain USA would be doing better luring younger viewers with its comedies had it gone through with a plan to pick up Happy Endings from ABC. And yes, we’re still not over it.

Those Who Kill (A&E/Lifetime Movie Network)
Cable has long been known for its patience in launching shows, its willingness to stick by things it believes in even when ratings are low. Well, not anymore. A&E went all-out to give this Chloë Sevigny–led crime drama a chance, moving Bates Motel to 9 p.m. on Mondays to serve as its lead-in and putting a decent amount of marketing muscle behind the launch. But the show’s first episode lost more than half of that Bates lead-in, while its second lost nearly two thirds. A&E pulled Kill after just two weeks, announcing later that it would burn off the remaining hours on sister channel Lifetime Movie Network. Those Who Kill will not kill again. (Unless, of course, Netflix somehow decides to pick up a new season and pair it with The Killing. Okay, that’s not gonna happen.)

* An earlier version of this story included a mention of History’s Vikings. We said it would definitely be renewed. Turns out it already has!

Bubble Watch: Which Shows Face Cancellation?