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Mr. TV: Renewable Energy

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Unlike back in the day when you had to bite your nails in anticipation waiting to see if your favorite shows were renewed, each of the five broadcast networks have generously granted several early pickups.

Eight of the 22 new shows, in fact, are already confirmed to return. Since the renewal rate of most new fall series is about 33 percent, we’re already above the usual average.

Aside from clunker Hank (a definite entry next November for the annual “TV Turkeys” column), ABC has seen some promising results for its Wednesday comedy block. The Middle, Modern Family and Cougar Town have already been renewed. But since competing American Idol arrived, Courteney Cox’s Cougar Town has sprung a leak, and ABC may want to reconsider its decision. The Forgotten on Tuesday, meanwhile, is living up to its title. Time to let it go.

Like a doctor who is often asked for medical advice, people constantly hit me up with TV questions. One of the more common ones is why ABC removed FlashForward and V from the lineup for several months. Although ABC’s reasoning for FlashForward was a change in show runners, absence doesn’t necessarily grow audience interest. The network, in particular, should remember this given how much audience bailed from Lost when it tried this play in the 2006-07 season.

FlashForward returns to the Thursday 8 p.m. hour on March 18, while V moves to Tuesday at 10 p.m. (out of compatible Lost) on March 30.  But given the lengthy absence, there is no reason to believe the same number of viewers will anxiously be awaiting their returns. My prediction is that one of the two will be returning next season, with V the likelier pick. FlashForward, unfortunately, never lived up to the must-see pilot.

CBS jumped to pick up freshman Tuesday dramas NCIS: Los Angeles and The Good Wife, while snuffing medical drama Three Rivers. The jury is still out on sitcom Accidentally on Purpose, which shifts to Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. in April. Since CBS always seems to have one critically ignored sitcom each season (remember how long Yes, Dear ran?), former time-period occupant Gary Unmarried is more worthy of renewal, simply because it has more episodes in the can.

The big new gun on CBS is midseason entry Undercover Boss, which beat ABC’s aging Desperate Housewives in their first head-to-head outing.

The only current series officially renewed on NBC for next season is struggling sophomore sitcom Parks and Recreation, which is another example of the network failing to recognize when a show is just not working. With Jay Leno clogging up so much of the prime-time real estate, the only series launched on NBC last fall was sitcom Community and medical dramas Mercy and Trauma.

Trauma, which was originally canceled, was actually brought back to life with an order for three more episodes. But since viewers were already led to believe it was gone, why would they watch now? Community and Mercy, meanwhile, have not exactly set the world on fire, and the only way NBC can jump-start Thursday is if it has stronger anchor support. Both shows should be canceled, but I think Community will return courtesy of early positive reviews.

Fox never seems to officially cancel anything, but MIA comedy Brothers is a goner. Regardless, early pickups for The Cleveland Show and Glee give Fox a freshman success rate of 67 percent. And the ongoing critical accolades should bode well for Glee at the Emmys. There is definitely something to say for trying something different.

The CW also has some bragging rights, care of The Vampire Diaries, which is confirmed to return.  But with the revival of Melrose Place on life support and drama The Beautiful Life, the first cancellation of the season, The CW needs to be aggressive if it wants to keep moving ahead.  

While more new shows than not crash and burn, there was some good news this season.
I hope that trend continues in 2010-11.
Want more of Mr. TV? Check out his daily podcast here.