Fence Sitters

With less than a month to go before ABC, CBS, Fox and The CW unveil their fall 2008 lineups (NBC has already announced its plans), I thought it was the appropriate time to focus on the current crop of “on-the-fence” series. To renew or not to renew, that is the question.

We already know, of course, that NBC is bringing back applauded drama Friday Night Lights in a partnership with DirecTV in midseason. Bravo, NBC! And we are aware that ER is happily heading into its final season and returning Law & Order is inching closer to Gunsmoke’s record of longevity. The ax has finally swung on overrated comedy Scrubs, but rumors of ABC picking it up for an eighth season are truly mind-boggling because no one seems to be watching this show anymore. Are you? True, Scrubs is a Touchstone (ABC sibling) production. But ABC needs to ignite its comedy buzz and aging Scrubs is not the show to do it.

I have also heard that ABC is actually in talks for another season of According to Jim, despite its abysmal showing this season. Yet, it has mishandled quirky drama Men in Trees so badly that even die-hard fans have no idea where to find it. If I were a programmer at Lifetime (or the female-driven Oxygen or WE, for that matter), I would find the dollars to keep the show in production. I can’t begin to tell you how many women have e-mailed me, wondering what happened to Men in Trees.

Those three cable networks should also keep an eye on CBS’ The New Adventures of Old Christine, which found its niche creatively this season by using Wanda Sykes more and could fit seamlessly on any outlet targeting female viewers. CBS, in fact, may want to consider pairing the yet-to-be-renewed How I Met Your Mother with Old Christine and position the two on another evening. While it has never been easy for CBS to expand its comedy slate outside of Monday, the absence of anything worth noting on the network’s Wednesday 8 p.m. anchor spot could present an opportunity.

CBS should forget about Rules of Engagement, meanwhile, because it’s not worthy of the plum Monday spot out of Two and a Half Men and into CSI: Miami. This is not the type of show to be able to stand on its own. Remember how NBC wasted the prime Thursday 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. real estate with nonsense like