Fox pulls 'Past Life'

Series is 10th to get ax in relatively bloodless season

Reincarnation crime drama "Past Life" has moved on to the TV afterlife.

Fox canceled the struggling and widely panned show after only three episodes, making "Past Life" the 10th series to get the ax in what's been a relatively bloodless season for broadcasters.

It's been six months since the networks launched their fall lineups, and the five broadcasters have each dumped only about two shows on average.

Fox and ABC have jettisoned the most with three titles each. In addition to "Past Life" -- which was rejected after Thursday night's last-place performance and will be replaced by original episodes of "Kitchen Nightmares" -- Fox canceled comedy "Brothers" and Joss Whedon drama "Dollhouse." ABC shed freshman comedy "Hank," magical drama "Eastwick" and veteran "Ugly Betty."

CBS only lost one show, "Three Rivers," while NBC has canceled only "The Jay Leno Show" and John Wells' "Southland," whose planned second season never made it to air (though it was picked up by TNT). The CW has canceled "The Beautiful Life."

There are still several series on the bubble that will fall off the grid between now and the end of the season, plus a handful of midseason shows left to debut. Still, by comparison, last season was running a much higher body count by this point and eventually claimed a whopping 40 shows.

The apparent stability is due to several factors.

One is that NBC had "Leno" as its only 10 p.m. weeknight program. So in a way, canceling "Leno" was actually like taking out five shows.

Another reason is that broadcasters are increasingly inclined to give struggling shows extra time to prove themselves.

ABC was patient with "Castle," and the investigative drama has grown into a strong performer in a tough time period against CBS' "CSI: Miami." NBC is showing similar patience with sophomore "Parks & Recreation" and freshman "Community." Both Thursday comedies have mildly improved since their debuts.

The most optimistic explanation for the lack of carnage is that a notable number of shows launched this season actually worked. Typically, networks strive to launch at least one new hit each fall. This time, there are nearly as many new shows that are already renewed, or strongly performing, as there have been cancellations.