3:00pm PT by Michael O'Connell, Lesley Goldberg
13 Broadcast Series Still on the Bubble — And What Might Nudge Them Off
Spring isn't a time of new beginnings and unfettered optimism for all. For producers and stars of middle-of-the-road TV shows, the season brings a lot of phone-watching while the broadcast networks clean house, sticking the proverbial fork in dozens of series deemed too low-rated or too expensive to continue on.
North of 50 broadcast shows are already locked to return, with many more just waiting on the t's and i's to get their respective crosses and dots and others long-resigned to inevitable cancellation. But for the comedies and dramas stuck in the purgatory of bubble status, both options remain on the table as the deadline for decisions looms in early May.
More than a few new and veteran shows fall into the category this year, so The Hollywood Reporter is taking a look at 13 of them that still could go either way — and the cases likely being made in favor of each option.
The Mindy Project (Fox)
The Mindy Kaling and Chris Messina comedy may be a critical darling, but the series, which concluded its third season in March, hails from an outside studio (Universal Television) and was part of former network president Kevin Reilly's niche comedy brand. While new Fox bosses Dana Walden and Gary Newman have taken a broader approach to its comedy pilot offerings (see family comedies Perfect Stanleys, 48 Hours 'Til Monday), Mindy's 1.7 rating among adults 18-49 and 3.2 million total viewers may only be welcomed back if broad comes in bad. At the same time, Kaling left the door open for a fourth season with a "risky" cliffhanger, indicating the series could be shopped elsewhere. Kevin Reilly and TBS to the rescue?
Rounding out its 10th season on Fox, Bones may be hitting ratings lows (an average 2.2 rating in the key demo and 8.4 million viewers every week) — but its consistency makes it of particular value to fourth-place Fox. It also doesn't hurt that the procedural has carried its audience over a half-dozen scheduling moves and remains a favorite of Walden and Newman, who've been with it from the start at 20th Century TV and now decide its fate as heads of the broadcast net. So what's the hold-up? Stars David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel are again renegotiating their contracts, and the price tag on a veteran drama lead can be problematically high.
ABC's country music drama earned an eleventh-hour renewal for last season after prolonged negotiations with co-producers Lionsgate Television. The Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere starrer has been a solid performer on Wednesdays at 10 p.m., pulling a respectable 2.3 in the demo and 7.8 million total viewers — plus bringing in ancillary revenue from original music downloads and multiple concert tours. More importantly, ABC topper Paul Lee considers the series perfectly on brand for the female-driven network, which could opt for a compromise and order a truncated 13-episode season of the soap.
State of Affairs (NBC)
NBC's big drama swing for the fall wrapped its short order with an average 1.9 rating with adults 18-49 and 8 million viewers. That's not so hot, especially considering Katherine Heigl's buzzy comeback vehicle had the post-Voice time slot that previously worked so well for The Blacklist, but it certainly beats the network's middling midseason newcomers (The Slap, Allegiance, American Odyssey). Should it come back for round two, it would almost definitely replicate the first season's 13-episode model.
Revenge (ABC) (Update: ABC stuck Revenge with the proverbial fork on April 29.)
The only net to stay mum on renewals and cancellations until the bitter end of the season, ABC did drop one eyebrow-raising hint that the end may be near for the low-rated Revenge. Recent promos tout "the final four episodes," with the all-important "of the season" nowhere to be found. Network reps say there's nothing to be read into the spots — but they follows weeks of the series pulling as low as a 0.8 rating with adults 18-49 in same-day showings. And in the event that the Emily VanCamp-fronted drama does indeed live to seek another season of vengeance, it would almost surely be a short run to wrap up any lingering loose threads.
CSI and CSI: Cyber (CBS)
Could CBS really have a season without a CSI? It's certainly not outside the realm of possibility. The procedural granddaddy saw its episode order shaved to just 15 this season, where it languished at series-low ratings on Sunday nights. Further complicating matters is the fact that star Ted Danson is off contract — and already working on the second season of FX's Fargo. A more probable, though certainly not guaranteed, renewal would be for recent offspring CSI: Cyber. Its average 2.5 rating with adults 18-49 and 12.5 million viewers is nothing to shrug off in a time when franchise spinoffs have proven increasingly hit-or-miss, and the cachet of star and Oscar winner Patricia Arquette is something any network would envy.
Agent Carter (ABC)
The Captain America spinoff starring Hayley Atwell represented Marvel's first female-driven entry and served as a bridge series while Agents of SHIELD was on its holiday hiatus. The period drama collected 7.6 million total viewers and a 2.4 rating in the demo — down a smidge from ABC's flagship series — but enough to keep the lights on during the low-rated months. A renewal for the critical and fan favorite series would keep the network in business with showrunners Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters — who have expressed interest in a second run — after sophomore drama Resurrection failed to live up to its name. Of course, ABC could look to another Marvel property to fill its SHIELD gap.
Hart of Dixie (The CW)
Sure, it seems almost unfathomable for a show that's been publicly eulogized by its cast and creator to possibly come back after a closure-filled finale, but The CW has yet to officially close the curtain on medical dramedy Hart of Dixie. But the modest performer, which wrapped its season with a mere 0.7 rating among adults 18-49, was never exactly a hit for the network. Another shorter-order season is not yet out of the question.
Produced in-house by ABC Studios, the procedural has been a sturdy performer for the network on Mondays at 10 p.m. and still pulls 12.7 million viewers on a weekly basis. Much like Bones, the delay has a lot to do with leads. Stars Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic have yet to sign new deals for season eight, with the former rumored to be ready to move on. One solution: You guessed it, a 13-episode abbreviated season to wrap up the fan favorite.
The Mysteries of Laura (NBC)
Fall's critical punching bag that just didn't care, The Mysteries of Laura ended up being a stable (albeit older-skewing) procedural that paired nicely with Law & Order: SVU. Its average viewership of 9.4 million bested any other new entry on the network this season. And even though it hails from Warner Bros. TV, not Universal Television, star Debra Messing (Will & Grace, Smash) is a NBC standby and a favorite of entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt.
Secrets & Lies (ABC)
It didn't wow critics the same way that fellow midseason entry American Crime did, but it certainly one-upped its ratings. The Ryan Phillippe mystery has given ABC a stable Sunday companion to Once Upon a Time, pulling an average 2.3 rating in the key demo and actually growing its live-plus-3 scores in the weeks subsequent to the premiere. And with How to Get Away With Murder the only freshman that's locked for a sophomore return, its fate may be decided by how drama pilots shape up.
The Following (Fox)
On the eve of its third-season finale, it can't be said that The Following's diminished, ahem, following demands another pickup — but don't underestimate the influence of star power from both Kevin Bacon and creator Kevin Williamson. Also in its corner is a continually robust time-shifting. It nearly doubles its episodic ratings after a week, even as same-day stats sink to series lows. The Following's prospects would be much brighter if it were homegrown at 20th TV and not an import from Warner Bros.
The Middle (ABC)
The veteran series has turned into the network's secret weapon on Wednesdays, setting the stage for ABC's two-hour family comedy block, which after multiple attempts, has locked in a winning lineup with The Goldbergs, Modern Family and rookie Black-ish. Working against a renewal for the series — which will see star Charlie McDermott focus on CBS' Super Clyde if that gets the pickup — is ABC's comedy pilot crop, which is filled with diverse family fare including semi-autobiographical half-hours from Ken Jeong, Fortune Feimster, Dan Savage, Johnny Knoxville and Jermaine Fowler, as well as its buzzy Uncle Buck remake, which could prove to be an ideal companion for Black-ish.
*All ratings data, unless otherwise noted, are latest live-plus-7 averages from Nielsen Media.