Findings are in; 'Lost' goes on

by Rick Kushman

McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

9 May 2007


Starting next Monday, the networks will be announcing their fall lineups, which includes saying which current shows will live or die. We could just wait till next week to talk about it, but where’s the fun in that?

So today we’ve got a special edition of “What’d They Do to My Show?,” where we look ahead and tell you what we think might happen.

But before the prognosticating starts, here are two pieces of legit information:

ABC announced on Monday that it has planned an end—in 2010—for Lost. This is a good thing, and it comes at the request of producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse.

It means the writers can plot a course to the ending, and reveal secrets and twists with some kind of plan instead of wandering aimlessly and dragging things out until we no longer care, like the late seasons of The X-Files.

It also means ABC is taking something of a high road and not milking the show for every last penny and ratings point (see: NBC and ER).

“We always envisioned Lost as a show with a beginning, middle and end,” Lindelof and Cuse said in a press statement. “By officially announcing exactly when that ending will be, the audience will now have the security of knowing that the story will play out as we’ve intended.”

That will still give Lost six seasons on the air and nearly 120 episodes, and that’s a solid length of time for a show with a mystery. The last three seasons will each have 16 episodes, instead of the usual 22, and they will run uninterrupted by repeats.

The other bit of news comes from NBC, which announced Monday that Medium will return in the fall for its fourth season. Medium had been a solid performer in its first two years, but this season, the ratings were just so-so in a tough 10 p.m. EDT Wednesday time slot that put it against Lost and, in most of the country, CSI: New York.

There was no word if Medium would move to a different day or time in the fall.

OK, now on with the guessing. Here’s a look at what might happen with some of the shows that could go either way. These are just predictions, not recommendations. On many of them, I hope I’m wrong.

Friday Night Lights (NBC): If NBC is going to pick one low-rated show to keep, this will probably be it because critics love it, it’s already won a Peabody Award, and it’s really good.

Prestige still means something in the TV industry. Not a lot, but something, and lots of NBC execs like this show.

Our guess: Renewal.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (NBC): My favorite rookie this season, but it’s probably a dead show walking. If NBC keeps Friday Night Lights, it can’t afford to place another bet on yet another low-rated drama, and Studio 60 is far less popular among some critics and execs.

All the signs are bad, too. It’s returning to the air on May 24, the day after sweeps end and 10 days after NBC announces its fall lineup. Which means, 1) the network does not expect good ratings for the return, and 2) even if it does well, it’ll be too late to matter. Plus, the show is expensive.

Our sad guess: Cancellation.

Scrubs (NBC): Another favorite here and among other critics, this bright, quirky show has never struck it big with ratings, even after six seasons. NBC already took a risk renewing the low-rated comedy 30 Rock, and rumors have been roiling lately that NBC has decided to let Scrubs go.

Other rumors, however, have Scrubs moving to ABC because it’s produced by ABC-owned Touchstone Television, and because ABC brass like the series and badly need a decent comedy.

Our guess: NBC cancels; ABC uncancels.

Law & Order and Law & Order: Criminal Intent (NBC): Law & Orders were once big money for NBC, but the mothership (Law & Order) has been on for 16 years, which means the shows are expensive—from regular salary hikes—and well-worn, and I say that as a man with an L&O addiction. Seriously. I’ll stop anytime and watch one.

L&O: Special Victims Unit is still getting big ratings, but creator Dick Wolfe has been talking with NBC about cutting costs on the other two. He’ll probably succeed in saving one, and the bet here is it’s “Law & Order 1.0.”

Jericho (CBS): It started out gangbusters, but lately has just been busters, if that actually means anything. It’s gotten bad ratings, OK? CBS may decide it doesn’t need the grief that comes with trying to manage a serial.

Our guess: Cancellation.

Close to Home (CBS): Almost every show that gets shipped to Fridays takes a ratings dive, and that’s what happened to Close to Home in its second season. CBS doesn’t need to be patient with hourlong crime shows because there are more in the pipeline, so this one is probably a goner.

Our guess: Cancellation.

The Class (CBS): It started OK, did better, then dropped some toward the end of the season. Rules of Engagement, another new comedy drawing bigger ratings, is the keeper.

CBS’ whole Monday night comedy lineup is not as strong as it once was—neither How I Met Your Mother nor The New Adventures of Old Christine are certain to return—and the network is likely to look for new comedy blood.

Our guess: Cancellation.

The Knights of Prosperity (ABC): Love this little comedy. Sadly, I’m in too small a group on this. ABC has big ratings problems with all its half-hour comedies, and it looks like it will gut most of its comedy lineup. As clever as Knights of Prosperity has been, its ratings have been pretty awful.

It’s hard to see ABC keeping this around, though an hour of Knights and Scrubs would be one fine and witty hour of television. Anyone? Anyone?

Our guess: Cancellation.

According to Jim and George Lopez (ABC): The scuttlebutt is that ABC will cancel one of these (see the previous point about big comedy problems). Please let it be According to Jim.

Our guess: George stays, Jim goes.

Veronica Mars (CW): With Gilmore Girls now headed for retirement, Veronica is in even more peril because CW had figured the shows would pair well together.

On the other hand, creator Rob Thomas has proposed leaping a couple years into Veronica’s future and resetting the series with her as a student at the FBI academy. I’m all for it. I’m all for anything that keeps star Kristen Bell on the air and working for the witty Thomas.

Here’s the huge plus side to that: CW would have a legit crime procedural, which is what CBS—the CW network’s part-owner—does so well. The downside? CW now tries to appeal to teens, younger adults and, particularly, young women. A crime procedural might not be the way to go. (Of course, if CBS were to then pick it up, we’d have winner. But now I’m just talking. It’ll never happen.)

Our guess: Total coin flip for CW.

One Tree Hill (CW): The buzz seems to be that Hill (or is it Tree?) will get another season, and maybe with the gang’s lives fast-forwarded, too, to get into a new line of stories.

Our guess: Renewal.

The Winner (Fox): This is just a gratuitous mention of the show because Rob Corddry was so adorable in it. It is, in all likelihood, history.

Our guess: Cancellation, but maybe a new show somewhere for Corddry.

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