All across Hollywood these days, producers, writers and actors on more than 20 network shows are sweating bullets as executives decide whether to bring their series back next season. These shows are considered to be on the bubble—might be back, might not.
All ABC comedies
Vital signs: ABC has failed miserably in recent years to develop commercially successful fresh comedies, and it looks as if all the sitcoms currently on the schedule easily could get the boot. According to Jim wore out its welcome a long time ago, and George Lopez has lost what traction it had with viewers. Even Knights of Prosperity—arguably the best comedy the network had this year—might not get a second shot because of low ratings.
Prognosis: It appears the two veteran series—Jim and George—really will be canceled this year. Knights—which hasn’t been on in weeks—has a chance of coming back next season, but it’s a very slim one.
What About Brian
Vital signs: Why ABC brought the soapy Brian back after mediocre ratings its first season was last year’s little TV mystery. In its second year, the series didn’t improve either creatively or in overall viewership.
Prognosis: The chances of Brian returning rest solely on the fact that it fits into ABC’s strategy of programming shows that appeal to young women. If the new shows the network has in production don’t cut it, Brian could return yet again.
Monday night comedies
Vital signs: Two And A Half Men, the top-rated comedy on TV, and the new Rules of Engagement are set. After that, it’s a free-for-all with three shows in play: The Class, an OK half-hour that never reached its potential; and two very solid traditional sitcoms, How I Met Your Mother and The New Adventures of Old Christine.
Prognosis: Class is probably out. Even with substantial support from critics, Mother and Christine have drawn only modest audiences, and insiders say at least one of them is almost certain to get the ax.
Vital signs: Not great. The post-nuclear holocaust drama had some momentum in the fall but lost it after going on hiatus for most of the spring.
Prognosis: CBS has some high-profile new dramas waiting in the wings with very few open slots on its schedule. On another network, Jericho would stand a better chance of coming back; CBS is likely to scrap it for a newcomer.
Close to Home
Vital signs: Airing on Fridays between Ghost Whisperer and Numbers, Home always has drawn a decent-sized audience. But artistically, it may be the weakest drama on the CBS lineup, and the ratings weren’t that good.
Prognosis: Code blue! CBS needs the hour for the fresh stuff it has in the pipeline.
(Note: Rumors persist that CBS’s cuts may go deeper than widely believed and some series that now seem almost certain to return—The Unit keeps coming up—could be casualties when the network announces its fall lineup in mid-May.)
Vital signs: Creatively, this series is a long way from the days when it was one of the top dramas on television. Still, the CW is dying to bring it back because it remains one of the network’s most-watched shows.
Prognosis: It all comes down to whether stars Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel decide to sign up for an eighth season. Word is that Bledel is disinclined to return and Graham wouldn’t mind coming back but won’t do another year without Bledel. Stay tuned, because it could go right down to the wire, as these negotiations often do.
Vital signs: This very good drama dodged the bullet two years running and had hoped to pump up its slight audience the third time around. Didn’t happen.
Prognosis: Send flowers and say a fond farewell.
The War at Home, `Til Death
Vital signs: War is a dreadful sitcom that never should have made it onto the schedule to begin with. Now, after two years and with ratings in the toilet, Fox finally appears ready to flush it down. Death was the network’s big hope for a comedy breakout—which didn’t happen for most of the season.
Prognosis: The War is over. But Death may have gotten a jolt of life when it racked up Top 10 viewership numbers behind American Idol in the spring. A blank screen could attract decent numbers behind Idol, but those for Death were good enough that it may be around come the fall.
Friday Night Lights
Vital signs: Some nights, this fine drama has finished behind the CW’s America’s Next Top Model and whatever is on Univision, the Spanish-language network. That normally would earn it a ticket to the TV graveyard. But Lights has strong supporters within the NBC hierarchy, stands to win a fistful of post-season awards and has a very devoted core audience.
Prognosis: Better than it was a few weeks ago. The network has ordered six new scripts—the first few episodes of a second season—which is a hopeful sign, if not the final word.
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
Vital signs: With Aaron Sorkin doing the writing and a high-powered ensemble cast, Studio 60 looked like it could be TV’s Next Big Thing. Viewers tuned in—but most immediately dropped out.
Prognosis: Consider it gone.
Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent
Vital signs: Hard to believe, but it looks like the L&O franchise that once dominated the NBC schedule may be falling apart. Only Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is assured of a spot come the fall, and executives are looking hard at both the mother ship and Intent.
Prognosis: Aging and drawing just half the audience it had five years ago, the original Law & Order may be on its last legs after 16 years. The future of Intent depends on how much the NBC suits like their new dramas—and they seem to like some of them quite a bit, notably a remake of The Bionic Woman and Winters, a cop drama from the folks behind House.
Vital signs: The feeling in TV world was that NBC would renew either Scrubs or the new 30 Rock but not both. 30 Rock recently was picked up for a second season, a sign that the long and winding road of Scrubs finally may have come to an end.
Prognosis: At NBC, this sitcom appears to be on its death bed. But it is produced by Touchstone, the sister studio of ABC, and may end up on that network for one last season.
Crossing Jordan, Medium
Vital signs: Although they’ve been steady performers in the past, neither series exactly lit up the Nielsen ratings after being brought in off the bench at midseason. Crossing simply may have run its course; Medium suffered from being in a brutal time slot opposite Lost and CSI: N.Y.
Prognosis: The betting around NBC is that Crossing won’t be back but that Medium has earned another season by at least holding its own against such tough competition.