Renewal season is right around the corner. By the end of April through the first of May, final decisions will be made on the fate of most network televisions shows. It’s a nervous, jittery time, but it really shouldn’t be. Not anymore. For all the hand-wringing we do about cancelation fears, the reality is: Good shows that have been around for at least a season are rarely canceled anymore. Networks are no longer in the driver’s seat. New shows are increasingly difficult to launch. How many new big hits were there in the 2011-2012 season? Zero. How many moderately-sized hits were there? Four: “New Girl,” “Once Upon a Time,” “Revenge” and — so far — “Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23.” With the increased competition from cable, it’s harder and harder to land a new show, so the networks tend to stick with what they know, even if it’s low-rated. This explains five seasons of “Chuck” and four seasons of “Fringe,” and the yearly renewal of “Community” and “Parks and Rec” despite anemic ratings. You know they’re doing gangbusters on the back-end with those shows on DVD and online licensing, though. They just have to be.
Ultimately, I wouldn’t worry too much about losing a favorite show, except for one:
On ABC, the only major bummer is the likely cancelation of “Cougar Town.” In an ideal world, it could be paired with “Happy Endings” and “Apt. 23” in perhaps the best comedy block on network television. That’s still a possibility, and Tuesday nights would be ideal, though it woud leave the higher-rated “Last Man Standing” without a suitable pairing. More likely, only two of the three will be renewed, and “Apt. 23” and “Happy Endings” have the better ratings. The one leg “Cougar Town” has up on the other two is two more seasons, which makes it closer to syndication money. The strike against it, however, is that Bill Lawrence is off working on a new show for another network.
Meanwhile, it’s not official yet, but “Modern Family,” “Suburgatory,” and “The Middle” will all be renewed as well, and “The Middle” may be better paired with “Last Man Standing” next season. If anyone is interested, “The Missing” will probably be canceled, however.
Practically the entire schedule has already been renewed, save for “Rob” and “Rules of Engagement.” Though they both have decent ratings, on CBS, decent ratings aren’t good enough. I expect both will be canceled. Negotiations are still ongoing with “Two and a Half Men,” but you can expect it to return, unfortunately.
Decisions have been made on most shows, already. “Breaking In” was canceled, while “Raising Hope,” “New Girl,” and “Glee” have been renewed. “Fringe” looks “OK” for a short-season renewal, probably 10 episodes to wrap up the series, mostly as a show of good faith to the showrunners and the few but rabid fans. It also gives Fox an legitimate reason for to show up at comic and sci-fi conventions. “The Finder” will not be so blessed, as it is headed toward cancelation, along with — I would guess — “Napoleon Dynamite.” However, I’d expect “Bob’s Burgers” to return. “Touch” is on the fence; the ratings are good, but not as good as the network had hoped, and it has no traction.
There are quite a few bubble shows on NBC. Unfortunately, two of the better sitcoms of late, “Bent” and “Best Friends Forever” are both certain cancelations, thanks to NBC’s boneheaded lack of promotion. Likewise, “Awake” is certain to be canceled, owing to its terrible Thursday night lead-ins (it’s a shame, too, as I’ve really gotten into the show). “Are You There, Chelsea?” is also headed toward cancelation. “Whitney,” however, is likely to be renewed (boo!), but so is “Parenthood” (yay!). “Law and Order: SVU” will also be renewed.
The Thursday night comedies are all on the bubble to some degree, but it looks like all five — “The Office,” “30 Rock,” “Community,” “Parks and Recreation,” and probably “Up All Night” — will be renewed, owing to the fact that NBC has nothing else up its sleeve except stink and failure. Come to think of it, a new show called “Stink and Failure” would probably fare better than the Thursday night comedies, all of which were handily beaten by “Betty White’s Off the Rocker” last week. I would expect NBC to pick up all five, add a sixth from pilot season into the mix, and rotate them around next season, as they have been doing this season. NBC will continue to throw poop at the wall and pray for something to stick. However, the success of “The Voice” and “Betty White: Off the Rocker” does not bode particularly well for the future of the network. Right now, it takes chances because what’s it go to lose? But if it gets even more deep into the reality game, more expensive scripted programming could be benched in favor of “America Ninja Warrior.”