The network upfronts arrive next month, and while there used to be a flurry of activity ahead of the announcements for the new fall shows, there’s considerably less press devoted to it these days. Part of it is because producing television shows, even on network television, has become a year-round activity, and part of it is that the networks make many of their cancelation and renewal decisions earlier in the season.
Mostly, however, it’s because broadcast network television has fallen out of favor with audiences, and it’s rare that a series on the bubble cultivates enough of a following for viewers to care one way or another if a middling performer is canceled. There are a dozen shows likely to be canceled in the next couple of weeks which even avid television viewers probably won’t miss. Shows like Doubt (starring Katherine Heigl), Pure Genius (starring Dermot Mulroney), Time After Time, Notorious, Conviction, The Catch, and Imaginary Mary are not likely to return next season, but will anyone notice. There are a few more recognizable titles like 2 Broke Girls, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Gotham on the bubble, as well, but their fates have less to do with ratings and more to do with contract negotiations (all three are likely renewals).
Meanwhile, some other recognizable series like Sleepy Hollow and Quantico are likely at the end of their run. 24: Legacy is iffy (which means that Heath could return to The Walking Dead) while New Girl, which has anchored Tuesday nights on Fox for years, may come back for a shortened final season to allow the sitcom a proper ending.
However, there really aren’t any shows this year whose cancellations would lead to riots. Will anyone care if Matthew Perry’s The Odd Couple gets canned? Did anyone realize that it was still on? (It is, and in its third season). There is no Firefly or Freaks and Geeks or even a Community this spring. There’s not even an Enlisted or a The Grinder (RIP The Grinder). But there are a few shows on the bubble that would elicit a few tersely worded tweets if they were cancelled.
Let’s look at the odds of their return:
The CBS procedural may not be hugely popular in its Sunday night time slot, where it’s seen by about 7.5 million viewers, but Hulu viewers who have come to rely on Elementary to keep them company while they are making dinner or folding laundry would be chagrined if new episodes stopped appearing on the streaming service. Viewers who gobble up reruns of Elementary on WGN would likewise be disappointed if there weren’t any new episodes to break up repeats of How I Met Your Mother and Blue Bloods. That’s exactly why Elementary is likely to be renewed. It fetches $3 million an episode in syndication, and CBS owns the series, so they’re not likely to give up that revenue.
Chances of Renewal: 90%
The Fox sports drama about the first female major league pitcher received generally positive notices from critics and a small but passionate base of fans (of which I include myself). Unfortunately, while Fox has been sending mixed signals about its renewal chances since it left the air after only ten episodes, it looks like it will not be returning for another season, as its writers are being released to pursue other shows, according to Deadline. Series star Mark Consuelos has also taken a gig on The CW’s Riverdale, which he would be required to give up if Pitch were renewed. It’s unlikely that the CW would hire Consuelos for what is a pivotal role in Riverdale if they thought they would lose him. There’s still a chance for Pitch, but it’s a very slim one. We’ve almost certainly not seen the last of Kylie Bunbury, however.
Chance of Renewal: 20 percent
I’m not sure just how beloved the NBC sitcom is, but the premise generated a fair amount of interest when it premiered. It’s a workplace comedy about a group of workers who build products to protect others from the collateral damage inflicted by superheroes. It’s cute. The cast (including Danny Pudi, Alan Tudyk and Vanessa Hudgens) is likable, and while the comedy is too broad, it’s a fun diversion with a talented writing team (Justin Halpern and Patrick Schumaker are writers and exec producers) capable of bettering the show. Unfortunately, according to one of those writers, it doesn’t appear likely that they will get the chance.
At least, Halpern and Schumaker (Surviving Jack, Cougar Town) know how to regroup after a cancellation.
Chance of Renewal: 15 percent
Update: As I was putting this piece together, this tweet came in:
Chance of Renewal: 0 percent
Speaking of Halpern and Schumaker, they have also done work on iZombie, the CW series from the other Rob Thomas, who also knows a lot about cancellation (Veronica Mars, Party Down). iZombie has only aired a handful of episodes in its third season, but it’s also one of only a few CW series that hasn’t already been picked up for next season. (Frequency and No Tomorrow are almost certainly dead.) iZombie’s return may depend on both how the rest of the season fares in the ratings and what The CW has in the pipeline for next year. It’s one of my favorite television pleasures, and I think it is well suited to a utility role for the network: They can have 13 episodes on hand to plug in any gaps next year. A fourth season would also make iZombie the longest-running series created by Rob Thomas. I am hopeful, but not confident.
Chances of Renewal: 60 percent
Last Man on Earth
The often funny, frequently bizarre, and unique Fox apocalyptic comedy from Phil Lord and Christopher Miller has never commanded much of an audience for the network. It began with a so-so 5.75 million overnight viewers, and it’s fallen in its third season to below 2 million overnight viewers. (That it seems to show up on the Fox schedule randomly in the middle of the spring probably hasn’t helped.) However, Last Man on Earth survived the bubble after its first and second seasons, and with Fox struggling in the comedy department, the network will probably have to renew a few under-performers. Last Man on Earth has a slightly larger audience than Miller and Lord’s other comedies, Making History and Son of Zorn, so it may get renewed by default. This is why Community lasted as long as it did on NBC: at the time, the network had nothing else to replace it. Fox’s miserable state right now may protect Last Man on Earth for another season.
Chances of Renewal: 65 percent.
Probably no show on the bubble is as beloved by the Internet as NBC’s Timeless. It’s goofy, entertaining, and critically well liked, and the show’s creator, Shawn Ryan (The Unit The Shield, Terriers, Chicago Code), is another guy who knows all too well the pain of losing an little-seen gem to cancellation. He’s hoping that won’t happen to his latest. The renewal prospects for the series have bounced around since it went off the air in February. It saw its ratings fall from 12 million to 6 million viewers over the course of the season, but 6 million viewers is still nothing to sneeze at during the Peak TV era. This one, however, is going to come down to what else NBC has in the pipeline. There aren’t many slots available for NBC dramas at the moment, so Timeless and Blindspot will be competing with the new pilots for a place in the competitive fall lineup.
Chances of Renewal: 50 percent