Tube Talk: Is your favorite show on the bubble?

By Paula Hendrickson
Contributing Writer

It’s that time of year again when hardcore fans begin strategizing and plotting campaigns to save their favorite TV series from cancellation.

Each network, broadcast and cable, only has so many hours per week to air original series, so something’s always got to give to make room for next year’s crop of shows. The annual question is: which shows will go?

With the network upfronts—when networks officially unveil their fall schedules to advertisers—just a couple months away, programming executives are already weighing their options. If there’s a show you want brought back, this is the time to speak up.

Ratings and syndication used to be the two most important considerations, but today, networks factor in time-shifted viewings via DVR or VCR, and online views streamed on sites like Hulu, on the network’s own site or downloaded at iTunes. Strong DVD sales are often part of the equation—even the ancillary value of licensed products can come into play.

Networks spend millions of dollars per episode on most shows they air, so they need to look beyond ad dollars to determine the true value of their shows. Just because your favorite shows are getting okay ratings doesn’t mean they’re safe.

Focusing on the broadcast side, here are a few shows that could be in danger of cancellation:


Brothers & Sisters—Pros: so-so ratings; ABC doesn’t have a lot of strong contenders in the pipeline as possible replacement. Cons: already hit 100 episodes; large, pricey cast.

Detroit 1-8-7—Pros: strong ensemble, decent reviews. Cons: weak lead-in from V, shrinking ratings.

No Ordinary Family—Pros: strong cast, decent reviews. Cons: impossible timeslot opposite NCIS, Glee and The Biggest Loser.

V—Pros: ever so slight uptick in the ratings in recent weeks. Cons: the show hasn’t retained or reclaimed much of the massive sci-fi fan base once held by Lost.


$#•! My Dad Says—Pros: great lead-in from The Big Bang Theory. Cons: poor reviews.

The Defenders—Pros: you tell me. Cons: shaky ratings for the No. 1 network.


Human Target—Pros: fun cast, lively action. Cons: iffy ratings.

Lie To Me—Pros: unique procedural. Cons: routinely loses large number of House viewers.

The Chicago Code—Pros: after a dip in the second episode’s ratings, the third episode saw an uptick. Cons: FOX needs room on its slate for new fall shows.

Fringe—Pros: the heavily DVR’d sci-fi drama hit a creative peek this season. Cons: difficult for any shows to get good ratings on Friday night.


Community—Pros: inventive show and critical fave. Cons: in direct competition with The Big Bang Theory and American Idol.

Outsourced—Pros: cushy timeslot. Cons: weakest link in NBC’s Thursday night line-up.

Chuck—Pros: solid series with loyal fan base that’s already saved it from the ax. Cons: big price tag for a show with so-so ratings.

Law & Order: Los Angeles—Pros: NBC retooled the show in its first season instead of axing it. Cons: low ratings—and the fact that it had to be so drastically retooled.

The CW: Smallville is in its final season, and Life Unexpected has already been canceled, making way for new shows. The remaining CW series all stand a good chance at returning.

There are five shows listed above that I’d hate to see canceled. Which ones would you like to return?

Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Send in your suggestions to

From the March 2-8, 2011, issue

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