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For NBC, Chuck isn't the only show with an uncertain fate

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April 13th, 2009

NBC is very much in flux for next year with five hours of Jay Leno on the way and so using the normal conventions of the renew/cancel index are difficult.  Bill's on vacation and there won't be any typical Renew/Cancel index reports this week but in the spirit of seeing more data anyway, I thought I'd take a different approach to looking at the same information.

This is only for scripted shows, and not focusing on any of the reality or other unscripted content.

First here's a look at the show's from the 2008-2009 season that NBC has already announced have been canceled or renewed for the 2009 season:

Network Already Canceled Already Renewed
NBC Crusoe 30 Rock
NBC Lipstick Jungle The Office
NBC My Own Worst Enemy Law & Order: SVU
NBC ER (finished, not canceled) Heroes*
NBC Friday Night Lights

*There is some doubt about whether NBC has officially inked anything with regard to Heroes, but the network has said publicly the show is definitely coming back next year, though it has also indicated that it will be with fewer episodes and as a mid-season replacement that runs straight through a la Lost instead of having huge breaks. For now, I am taking NBC's public comments as being true.

And here's a look at the remaining shows:

Network Won't be renewed Not Sure Yet
NBC Kings Law & Order
NBC Life Chuck
NBC Knight Rider Medium
NBC My Name is Earl
NBC Kath & Kim
NBC Southland
NBC Parks & Recreation

As you can see, I have classified them into two buckets which are basically "certain to be canceled" and "I Dunno"

Normally, with at least a few of the shows in the table above I'd be ready to make renewal predictions.  And specifically in the case of Medium and Chuck under normal circumstances we'd conclude they will be renewed.  But it's not so easy this year.   So, let's take a look at the shows with uncertain fates and look at each one.

Law & Order

Currently in its 19th season, it's hard to imagine it won't get a 20th, simply due to longevity.  Its 18-49 numbers aren't great, and even for an already marginal season for NBC, they are just a tad less than average.  All other things being equal, I think it would be just barely renewed.  But I don't see Dick Wolf putting his baby to bed after 19 seasons, and I don't see NBC making him.  Whether it gets a full-season pickup on NBC, gets a partial season or is a mid-season replacement, or winds up on the NBC Universal owned USA Network, I think it likely the show will be back one way or the other next year.

Chuck

To quote REM,  "I've said too much, I haven't said enough..."

Medium

Over the 1.5 years we've been running this site, Medium has been a very solid performer for NBC.  No matter what NBC's situation.  I think Medium will come back in the same fashion it has the last two seasons, as a mid-season replacement at 10pm.  The question is, how does NBC feel about the show for 9pm?  And unfortunately the answer is, I don't know.  Update: commenter Dawn reminded me of this story where Angela Bromstad said that the show "could easily air at 9pm" .

I would be surprised if Medium doesn't appear somewhere on the 2009-2010 schedule.

Southland

One data point does not make a trend, but if it did, this show is a lock to return next year.   But since it doesn't, like NBC, we need to see how it does over the rest of its limited run.  Boding favorably is that during last Thursday's premiere viewing went up in the second half hour.

30 Minute Comedies

The fates of several of NBC's 30 minute comedies are uncertain.  Indeed, the only fates that are certain are 30 Rock and The Office, which have already been renewed.  It's pretty clear NBC will go with a two hour comedy block on Thursday's next year leading into Leno and that The Office and 30 Rock will take up one hour of the two hours on many Thursday nights.  But that leaves another hour plus more if NBC doesn't want to air too many repeats.

Both the networks and studios seem to play faster and looser with 30 minute comedies than one hour scripted dramas.

My Name is Earl

Based only on season-to-date averages included in the Renew/Cancel index, Earl would look like a lock for renewal.  Unfortunately for me, unlike the index, I actually follow the trends, and Earl's trend is waning, not waxing with 18-49 year olds.   But, Earl is nearing 100 episodes, which traditionally has been the magic number for being able to run shows 5 nights a week in syndication (which is more lucrative than when there aren't enough episodes to run five nights a week).  This might put Fox Studios (producer of My Name is Earl) in let's make a deal mode, where they offer it to NBC at a discount just to get it to 100 episodes and beyond.

I think it's likely barring further ratings deterioration that NBC will bring  Earl back.  But, if they don't, I think it likely that FOX broadcasting would help out the studio division to get it to 100 episodes.  So either way, I'll be at least a little surprised if there aren't any new episodes of Earl next year.

Kath & Kim

We have seen the numbers, and they aren't very good.  However, it's a 30 minute sitcom where the rules aren't always the same.  And the numbers aren't Knight Rider awful or anything.  In fact, as bad as the numbers look when you see them, they are only a little bit worse than Law & Order's numbers with adults 18-49 for the season.  Some of that is that there have been fewer repeats of  Kath & Kim, and some of that is because L&O's numbers aren't great.  But for NBC, if it's looking to build out its comedies and really likes this show and its potential, I could see it coming back.  While the numbers alone probably suggest whacking it, it's a bubble show given NBC's circumstances.

I'd still have to lean towards it being canceled, but given that NBC says it really likes the show and that networks do play faster and looser with 30 minute comedies, don't be shocked if it returns.   Nobody will be shocked if it doesn't.

Update: see comments for more data, but the bottom line is that this show has a classification that isn't quite the same of the other shows listed as "won't be renewed".  K&K needs its own classification that is more like "unlikely to be renewed even though its numbers aren't nearly as bad as Life, Kings and Knight Rider"

Parks and Recreation

Because networks do play faster and looser with 30 minute sitcoms, even though just like Southland there is only one data point, barring truly awful (sub 2.0 ratings with adults 18-49) I will be very surprised if this show doesn't come back next year.  Primarily because NBC really does like this show, loves Amy Poehler and really probably does want to claim one of its new comedies as a success.   Especially if Kath & Kim gets whacked, but, regardless of that decision, I'd look for Parks and Recreation to return.

What about Life, Kings and Knight Rider -- why do you think they will be canceled!?  you suck!!

While it is true NBC has made not issued official press releases the numbers are such that, especially with the Jay Leno situation there's no way these shows will be brought back.   I am a huge fan of Life, but the numbers are look-away bad.  I've been watching Kings and am still not sure how I feel about it (I don't hate it), but NBC is sure how they feel about it and moved it to Saturdays.

And here's something for everyone who says "it's the time slot" or "they didn't promote it enough" to chew on.   NBC announced the decision to move Kings to Saturday less than a week before Dateline would air on Sunday night in its place. It's not like they promoted the hell out of Dateline, and yet Dateline bested every episode of Kings ever with adults 18-49, including Kings' premiere (and NBC promoted the hell out of that) from 8pm-9pm on Sunday.

 
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