To renew, or not to renew, that is the burning question as the broadcast networks set up their blueprints for the new fall prime time.
Unlike recent years, there’s been an abundance of early renewals, including nine of the 22 fall starters: ABC’s Modern Family, The Middle and Cougar Town; CBS’ NCIS: Los Angeles and The Good Wife; NBC’s Community; Fox’s Glee and The Cleveland Show; and The Vampire Diaries on The CW.
Low-rated Community is coming back, no doubt, because NBC has a ton of other problems to worry about. And ABC may want to rethink keeping Cougar Town alive given its growing erosion out of Modern Family. But there are countless other decisions the nets need to make that the never shy Mr. TV would like to weigh in on.
Beginning with CBS, results for the comedies on Wednesday continue to wane, and the network needs to make a decision on three of its occupants: The New Adventures of Old Christine, Gary Unmarried and recently relocated Accidentally on Purpose. Sadly, Gary lost steam at a time when it needed to flex some muscle, and replacement Accidentally on Purpose is no improvement. CBS should keep only Old Christine. The sitcom is heading into off-net syndication next fall and could use the added promotion.
Two dramas not expected back on CBS are Cold Case and Numb3rs, but the network may also want to consider cutting its ties with either Ghost Whisperer or Medium. While the two fit like a glove anchoring Friday, ratings have fallen, and the network could use something new to rejuvenate the evening. My pick to go is Ghost Whisperer.
Corporate cousin The CW was quick to hand out renewals to Gossip Girl, 90210, America’s Next Top Model, Supernatural, Smallville and aforementioned The Vampire Diaries. We all know that the struggling revival of Melrose Place is a goner (as should be lead-in 90210). So that leaves scripted dramas One Tree Hill and Life Unexpected. The early watercooler buzz for Life Unexpected makes it the better pick. After seven modest seasons, it is time to officially bid adieu to One Tree Hill.
Over at NBC, Law & Order creator Dick Wolf has a mission, and that is to keep the show alive for a 21st season so can it can beat Gunsmoke as the longest-running scripted drama in television history. NBC, of course, wants prolific Mr. Wolf to be happy and is likely to keep Law & Order in production. But from a ratings standpoint, the show should be dead. Chuck, Heroes, Mercy and Trauma also need to call it quits. The only way for NBC to move forward is to cut its weak links.
As for the rumor of NBC keeping 24 alive now that Fox has officially canceled it: That’s as likely to happen as Keith Olbermann joining Fox News. Fox, meanwhile, needs to make a decision on campy drama Human Target, which has managed to inch past its competitors in the sluggish Wednesday 8 p.m. hour. Given the absence of American Idol in fourth quarter, there are worse ways to fill a time period.
At ABC, two sci-fi dramas fighting for a spot on the fall schedule are FlashForward and V. V has the advantage because it airs out of Lost, while FlashForward is facing extinction due to its older-skewing and dwindling audience. But benching the two shows for three months killed their momentum, and both should call it quits. Take note: mess with viewers, doom the series.
The jury at ABC is still out on upcoming sitcom Romantically Challenged, which airs out of Dancing With the Stars beginning on Monday, April 12, and drama Happy Town, which replaces V on Tuesday, April 28. While the early comparisons to Twin Peaks might sound promising for Happy Town, the David Lynch drama was too out there to connect with a wide audience—the same reason Happy Town could be a long shot.
As we inch closer to the fall schedule announcements, the best advice I can give anyone involved in an on-the-fence series is to avoid opening anything shaded pink in the mail. While that might be fine around Valentine’s Day, it means certain death this time of the year.