It’s that time of year again — early spring — where we start to look ahead to next fall’s television schedule and, more importantly, which of your favorite shows will return and which will not. It’s taken a couple of years, but it looks like the after-effects of the Writers’ Strike have finally worn off, though the television landscape has certainly changed. It used to be that a network program needed a solid 10 - 12 million viewers per week to guarantee renewal. Now, it’s closer to 8 - 10 million, and in many cases, overall viewers don’t mean a whit if the demographics are right or if you’re on NBC. Just look at the critically adored NBC sitcoms “Community” and “Parks and Recreation,” which are generating about 5 million viewers a week, but they do kind of OK in the 18-49 demographic (around a 2.0 share). On NBC, that was enough to get it picked up for next year, along with “The Office” and “30 Rock,” which have also been renewed (“The Office” brings in around 4-5 million fewer viewers than its timeslot competitor over on ABC, “Grey’s Anatomy,” but it’s fairly even in the 18-49 demographic). Demographics, the network, the time slot, and simple circumstance play a large role in whether a show will return or not: “Cold Case” on CBS, for instance, pulled in nearly 10 million viewers and around a 2.0 in the demographic (double the viewers of “Community” but even in the demographic) and it’s all but certain to be canceled, which has a lot to do with CBS’s higher expectations and the fact that it has the successful reality show, “Undercover Boss” (13 million viewers, 3.7 demographic) as its back-up.
So, let’s get right to it, taking each network in turn:
NBC: Renewed: The entire Thursday night block: “30 Rock,” “The Office,” “Community,” “Parks and Recreation,” and even “The Marriage Ref” will all be back. “The Biggest Loser” is NBC’s most popular show, so its return is certain. “Friday Night Lights,” which begins its fourth season in May, was picked up for a 5th and final season last year. “Minute to Win It” and “Who Do You Think You Are,” have also been picked up for next year. “Celebrity Apprentice,” is all but certain to return, as well, despite sinking ratings. We’re talking about NBC here.
Canceled: It’s NBC. Nothing of note has officially been canceled.
On the Bubble: “Heroes” has been performing poorly all year, and in all likelihood, this will be its final season. For those who have been hanging on (inexplicably), it’s probably a relief. You can go on with your lives. Both “Mercy” and “Trauma” (these aren’t the same show?) are also in a lot of danger; they won’t be back. On the other end of the bubble spectrum, “Law & Order,” despite mediocre ratings, will almost certainly be picked up because of the lack of dramas, a need to keep that 10:00 slot filled in the wake of Jay Leno’s evacuation, and because NBC probably would like to make “L&O” the longest-running drama in television history, a feat it accomplishes with one more year. “SVU” will also be back (and a new “Law & Order” set in L.A. will debut on the sked.
The two shows that you probably care about the most (or at least I do) are “Parenthood” and “Chuck.” “Parenthood,” actually, has been gaining momentum, and in fact, won its time slot (against “The Good Wife”) in the prized demographic recently, and as long as those ratings hold up, “Parenthood” will be back next year. “Chuck” has performed only modestly, but it’s chances of renewal are higher than they were last season. The big question for “Chuck,” in my mind is, if it does get picked up again, where are they going to go with it? It seems to be running through all of the possible iterations of the Chuck and Sarah relationship, and there are fewer people now for Chuck to keep his secret from, since Captain Awesome and Morgan know it. But you can likely expect another season as NBC continues its rebuild.
ABC: Renewed: “Modern Family,” “Cougar Town,” and “The Middle” have all been renewed for a second season; “Modern Family,” is doing very well in the prized demographic, and is carrying “Cougar Town” to some extent (“Cougar” has grown on me considerably as the season has progressed). Meanwhile, “The Middle” is a good enough show, and fits the block well enough to keep. They just need to fill the other half hour of that block. “Castle,” likewise, has been picked up, and its ratings have actually grown over the course of the season; a third season for a Nathan Fillion show is completely unheard of. “Brothers and Sisters,” will also be back. Likewise, though it’s not official, “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Desperate Housewives” are all but certain to return, as well as “Private Practice,” unfortunately. Count on “The Bachelor/Bachelorette” and “Dancing with the Stars” to return as well.
Cancelled: It’s official for all of these shows: “Ugly Betty,” “Eastwick,” and “Hank.” It’s not official, but “Scrubs” and (sadly) “Better off Ted” won’t be back, either. (But do buy the “Better Off Ted” DVDs. Totally worth it.) Likewise, “The Deep End” and “The Forgotten” are all but gone. “Lost,” of course, ends its run in May.
On the Bubble: The two big questions on ABC are “Flash Forward,” and “V.” Both performed lower than expectations before their hiatus. “Flash Forward” plummeted upon its return from that four-month hiatus (a 1.5 share most recently), and is all but certain to be canceled. “V,” on the other hand, scored a 2.8 in the demographic. If it can hold that, it’ll be back, even though its viewership is half of “The Good Wife,” and below “Parenthood” in the demographic. Without “Lost,” ABC will probably want to try to keep the sci-fi geeks around, so I give it a 50/50 shot.
CBS: Renewed: “Two and a Half Men,” has been renewed, though its status is somewhat uncertain, with Charlie Sheen considering leaving the show (his contract is up). “The Big Bang Theory,” “The Good Wife,” NCIS: Los Angeles,” and “How I Met Your Mother” have all been officially renewed (“How I Met Your Mother” needs an end date, stat). “NCIS,” the three “CSIs,” “The Mentalist,” and “Rules of Engagement” are all but certain to be back. “Survivor,” “The Amazing Race,” and “Undercover Boss” will all be back, as well.
Canceled: It’s not official, but “Three Rivers” won’t be back. As stated above, “Cold Case” is unlikely to return, as well.
On the Bubble: It’s not official, but don’t expect “Numbers” to return next season. It’s too early to tell for “Miami Medical,” but it’s been beating “Ghost Whisperer” in the same time slot, so one of the two — or both — will likely be renewed. Less certain are “Medium” and “Gary Unmarried,” which are right in the middle of the bubble (I’d wager thumbs down on both). The Jenna Elfman sitcom, “Accidentally on Purpose,” and Julia Louis Dreyfus’ “New Adventures of the Old Christine” are not faring well against the ABC comedies on Wednesday, but one or both has a decent shot of returning if the comedy pilots are weak (the edge goes to “Old Christine,” and syndication rights). None of these shows will be missed, save for “Numbers” by a few of our math geeks.
Fox: Renewed: “Fringe” has held its own this season on Thursday, so it will be back. So will “Bones.” “American Idol,” obviously, returns (without Simon Cowell), and it’s not official, but “House” will almost certainly be back as well. The animated sitcoms “The Simpsons,” “American Dad,” “The Cleveland Show,” and “Family Guy” are all set to return, as well. “Glee” has been renewed for a second season. I hope they schedule it better next year to avoid four-month hiatuses.
Canceled: The cancellation pile is already high over on Fox: “Sons of Tuscon,” “Til Death,” “Dollhouse,” “Brothers,” and “Past Life,” have already been nixed. (I’d never even heard of the latter two.) “24” has also been shit-canned.
On the Bubble: The only two bubble shows on Fox are “Lie to Me,” which has been on hiatus, but will return in June, which bodes very poorly. Don’t expect it back in the fall. Meanwhile, show-killer Mark Valley has a decent shot at a second season in “Human Target.” Its demographic is slightly above the 2.0 mark, so it’ll probably depend on what Fox has on tap during pilot season. I give it a 39 percent chance of renewal.
CW: Renewed: Apparently people do watch this network. “90210,” “Gossip Girl,” “Supernatural,” “Vampire Diaries,” and “Smallville” will all return next year (really, “Smallville”? I gave up on it around season 5). “One Tree Hill” is likely.
Cancelled: “Melrose Place” and “The Beautiful Life.”
On the bubble: “Life Unexpected.” No clue what its odds are, as I’ve never heard of the show.
Cable: There are a lot of cable shows, and of the ones you all love — “Mad Men,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “Breaking Bad,” etc. — they’ll all be back for another go around (“Breaking Bad” had record-breaking ratings in its debut). The questionable cable show is “Damages,” which is ratings starved (and for good reason; it’s gotten increasingly dull). F/X is looking into a partnership with DirectTV to save it. “Psych” and “Burn Notice” have been picked up for additional seasons on the USA Network, as has “Royal Pains” (“Pains” and “Notice” begin again in June). “Leverage” and “The Closer” will return this summer, as will “Hawthorne” and “Dark Blue.” “Saving Grace,” meanwhile, ends its run in June. Meanwhile, “Justified’s” ratings so far make it a lock for renewal. “Men of a Certain Age” has been picked up for another season, as has “White Collar,” I believe. “Blue Mountain,” “Greek,” Archer,” and “Warehouse 13” will also return. “Caprica” has done so-so in the ratings, and hasn’t officially been renewed, but SyFy suggests that it will pick up the show for another season.