'V,' 'Heroes' among bubble shows

ABC's "V," left, NBC's "Heroes," Fox's "Human Target," CBS' "Cold Case" and CW's "Life Unexpected"

Status of several series still uncertain as upfronts creep closer

With the May upfronts creeping closer, networks have pared the number of remaining shows considered on the bubble for renewal.

Fox's "Fringe," the CW's "Smallville" and NBC's "Community" were rescued by their networks. Fox's "24" and ABC's "Ugly Betty" were not as lucky. Meanwhile, broadcasters have received added clarity about the strength of their remaining uncertain contenders for next season.

On ABC, "FlashForward" and "V" had nearly even odds for a pickup during their four-month hiatus. Now that they've returned, "FlashForward" is considered highly unlikely to get a second season, as its ratings having dropped below the 2.0 threshold in the key 18-49 adult demographic on Thursday nights.

After its midseason premiere last week, "V" remains uncertain, but if the sci-fi drama can maintain its current ratings level, the show's evil reptiles will most likely invade ABC next season.

On NBC, "Heroes" is the network's biggest question mark, with the Peacock strongly considering a final-season order. Like every bubble show, the quality of the network's pilots will play a key role in deciding how many shows return. "Chuck" is less of a mystery -- the network is more optimistic this year than last. If freshman drama "Parenthood" can remain stable in the coming weeks, NBC likely will give the series another shot in the fall. "Law & Order" is pricey and modestly rated -- the two most lethal causes of death for older shows -- but NBC will find it tough to resist the lure of making "L&O" the longest-running drama series in history.

NBC's medical dramas are another story. "Trauma" has no chance for a pickup, and "Mercy" is on life support. NBC keeps pulling for "Mercy" to succeed and feels the show has creatively improved, but its numbers are below the line and this week it was beaten by a repeat of the game show "Minute to Win It" NBC put in its Wednesday slot.

NBC's other game show, "The Marriage Ref," is considered a lock for a pickup. Although its ratings have slipped a fair amount, "Ref" has performed solidly for an unscripted program in a tough time period.

Fox only has a couple of bubble shows left: "Human Target" and the new comedy "Sons of Tucson." "Target" has managed to win a humble Wednesday time period with an equally humble number. But the network likes the show, and its ratings have appeared to stabilize at a level Fox finds acceptable for its slot.

Like most live-action comedies put into Fox's Sunday animated lineup, "Tucson" has struggled to gain traction and is considered a long shot for a comeback.

For a network with few slots to fill, CBS has plenty of bubble shows: "Cold Case," "Numbers," "Ghost Whisperer," "Medium," "Accidentally on Purpose," "Gary Unmarried" and "The New Adventures of Old Christine."

This group is tougher to prognosticate as all the shows are fairly stable in the ratings and CBS pilots will play a heavy deciding role. "Numbers" and "Cold Case" are considered the least likely to return among the dramas, with "Old Christine" the most likely renewal on the comedy side.

On the CW, veteran "One Tree Hill" and freshman "Life Unexpected" continue to duke it out for a presumed single slot on next season's schedule, with the former tending to pull stronger ratings but the latter a less expensive show.