Bubble Watch: Too Soon to Downgrade 'Hannibal?'; ABC Needs Procedural Schedule Spackle Like 'Body of Proof'?

Categories: Bubble Watch

Written By

April 28th, 2013

body of proof april 22

When it comes to bubble status, like the Renew/Cancel Index we're focusing on the likelihood that a show will be renewed **for next season** (2013-14).  Certain shows are toss-ups where based on the ratings, the renewal decisions could go either way and not be surprising.

Here, “canceled” is used interchangeably with “won’t be renewed for next season” and is not meant to imply a show will be yanked off the schedule in the current season though obviously the two outcomes are not mutually exclusive. The semantics police and lawyers should feel free to break out the handcuffs and plead their cases in the comments. 

This Isn't The Renew/Cancel Index

Though the basic methodology is the same (intra-network relative ranking of shows by adults 18-49 ),unlike the Renew/Cancel Index which predicts what would happen if the season ended now, Bubble Watch prognosticates about what will happen by May. The two are still usually closely aligned, and almost certainly very closely aligned towards the end of the season.

Lots of drama renewals from NBC and a couple from CW on Friday.  A few quick items and then a piece on the merits of schedule spackle from long-time reader and smart guy Tom Shaw who might be taking over Bubble Watch next season.

Beauty and the Beast renewed!

Though I put Beauty and the Beast back on the bubble last week, and might have upgraded it again this week had it not already been renewed, I did have it as a likely cancellation for a month. For the week or two of that period where The Carrie Diaries hadn’t been moved to predicted cancellation I’m fine with that choice. The other few weeks though, the many of you who were in the “they’ll cancel one of those shows, but not both!” camp had it right!


What's ailing Hannibal goes beyond the NFL Draft.  I was going to wait until next Sunday, May 5 which will be the last Bubble Watch of the season (because before Sunday, May 12 rolls around we should know all the renewals and cancellations) to downgrade Hannibal, but why wait? If it jumps 30% to a 1.3 next week, I'll move it back to the bubble.


Some are making something out of CW announcing the renewals of Beauty and the Beast and Hart of Dixie but not Nikita. At least for now, I’m making nothing of it. Abysmal ratings are nothing new for Nikita, and if the CW has ridden out its lousy ratings this long to drag it along to the necessary episodes for stripped syndication I'll be very surprised if it's not given at least a partial order.  A Nikita cancellation after three seasons would definitely be the biggest surprise of the season for me.

The Neighbors & How To Live with Your Parents

I’ve put How to Live with Your Parents back on the bubble and still like The Neighbors chances better. If I’m wrong about that, I’ll be surprised, but still not nearly as surprised as if the CW doesn’t renew Nikita!

The text below comes from long-time reader Tom Shaw who has thought a lot about renewals, cancellations and scheduling needs. Tom was the person who coined the phrase "schedule spackle" in the comments way back when, so it's appropriate to introduce Tom with a piece on schedule spackle.  Tom thinks about things much more from a scheduling perspective than I do. I haven't spent any time thinking about what Fox will stick on Fridays next season. Tom has!

Spackle Detail: The Silver Lining for Body of Proof?

By Tom Shaw

As we head into the renewal announcements, the one category the internet as a whole tends to whiff on are the "spackle" candidates. A quick refresher:

Every Fall, networks try new shows. Some of those new shows will fail so badly they need to be yanked off the air.

Something needs to air in their place. Networks have learned the hard way that trying to promote and launch a new show over one to two weeks in that same slot rarely works.
The best option networks have is to fill in those holes with "spackle" - pre-existing shows with established audiences (even if those audiences are smaller than average) that networks can drop into those slots with little promotion. Procedurals and broader comedies work best.

Over the last few years, most networks have learned to have their cake and eat it too by scheduling their spackle options on Friday. Those premieres are usually delayed 2-4 weeks to give the networks time to evaluate the new shows. This allows the networks to have a replacement show ready if a new show fails, while also avoiding eating $20+ Million on a spackle order that sits on the shelf until Summer if the new shows succeed.

So what sort of spackle options does each network have?


Drama: Only Castle and... Body of Proof really fit the mold. While Castle has sunk this year, there's been no indication ABC will pull it off the Fall schedule, leaving Body Of Proof as ABC's only option. I now expect a renewal for Body Of Proof.

Comedy: Suburgatory, The Neighbors, and How to Live... could all be fighting for spackle spots on Friday. Unless ABC hates their comedy pilots and expands to two hours on Friday, I think Malibu Country is dead and Last Man Standing depends on pilots.

CBS: Renewals all but finished.

Drama: The Mentalist and probably The Good Wife are Friday bound, as already syndicated shows nearing the end of their runs. The Mentalist in particular is prime procedural spackle, and I am waiting to see Friday numbers before declaring next season its last.

Comedy: CBS has quite a few comedy pilots with prestige names to fill only one slot. A sign of CBS expanding comedy to two hours on Thursday, or will CBS hold Mike & Molly (hitting 88 episodes this year, owned by WB) for spackle in case new shows tank (or both)?

CW: Renewals are all but finished.

Drama: CW has now picked up their spackle options in Heart Of Dixie & Beauty And The Beast. I expect one to be initially scheduled on Friday in Spring.

FOX: Renewals are finished.

Comedy: I expect Raising Hope and probably Mindy Project to start the season out on Fridays @ 8, to cover any failed comedies on Tuesday.

Drama: Unless Fox somehow can move Glee or Bones to Friday -- itself all but requiring Fox to stick with the semi-disastrous Four Comedy Tuesdays)-- the only real options they have are to a) Schedule a new show for Friday and hope it both succeeds there and transfers, and/or b) Move the likely Friday comedy spackle block to cover a failed drama. Neither sounds wise in the short run, so I expect Fox to sit on any failed drama (a la Mob Doctor this season) until The Following and whichever drama gets the Super Bowl premiere can start.


Drama: Unless Law & Order: SVU starts on Friday (itself unlikely because of comedy spackle), the only spackle option is Grimm, which NBC has only used in emergencies. That said, I expect The Voice's halo to prop up any struggling new dramas until NBC can launch replacements after the Olympics.

Comedy: The biggest mystery left this Spring. NBC has one comedy with ratings arguably worthy of continuing (Parks & Rec) and too much time to fill. I expect NBC to go with two hours on Thursday and one hour of Friday comedy spackle - and NBC gives Go On, New Normal, Whitney, and Community spackle orders with so many unproven Thursday shows.

Tom Shaw is a computer programmer from Milwaukee, WI. Bereft of Lost theories to argue about, he's spent too much time attempting to figure out the TV industry.

Note: only scripted shows that have aired at least one episode this season are in the table below.

Show Network Status
666 Park Avenue ABC Canceled
Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 ABC Canceled
Last Resort ABC Canceled
Private Practice ABC Final Season Finished
Zero Hour ABC Canceled
Made in Jersey CBS Canceled
Partners CBS Canceled
90210 CW Canceled/Final Season
Cult CW Canceled
Emily Owens, M.D. CW Canceled
Gossip Girl CW Final Season Finished
Ben and Kate Fox Canceled
Fringe Fox Final Season Finished
The Mob Doctor Fox Canceled
30 Rock NBC Final Season Finished
Animal Practice NBC Canceled
Do No Harm NBC Canceled
Office, The NBC Final Season
Smash NBC Canceled
Red Widow ABC Cancellation Predicted
Happy Endings ABC Cancellation Predicted
CSI: NY CBS Cancellation Predicted
Golden Boy CBS Cancellation Predicted
Vegas CBS Cancellation Predicted
Carrie Diaries, The CW Cancellation Predicted
Cleveland Show, The Fox Cancellation Predicted
Touch Fox Cancellation Predicted
1600 Penn NBC Cancellation Predicted
Deception NBC Cancellation Predicted
Guys with Kids NBC Cancellation Predicted
Hannibal NBC Cancellation Predicted
Up All Night NBC Cancellation Predicted
The New Normal NBC Cancellation Predicted
Body of Proof ABC On The Bubble
How to Live with Your Parents... ABC On The Bubble
Malibu Country ABC On The Bubble
Rules of Engagement CBS On The Bubble
Community NBC On The Bubble
Go On NBC On The Bubble
Whitney NBC On The Bubble
Castle ABC Renewal Predicted
Revenge ABC Renewal Predicted
Suburgatory ABC Renewal Predicted
Grey's Anatomy ABC Renewal Predicted
Last Man Standing ABC Renewal Predicted
Middle, The ABC Renewal Predicted
Modern Family ABC Renewal Predicted
Nashville ABC Renewal Predicted
Neighbors, The ABC Renewal Predicted
Once Upon a Time ABC Renewal Predicted
Scandal ABC Renewal Predicted
Criminal Minds CBS Renewal Predicted
Nikita CW Renewal Predicted
Parks & Recreation NBC Renewal Predicted
2 Broke Girls CBS Renewed
Big Bang Theory, The CBS Renewed
Blue Bloods CBS Renewed
CSI CBS Renewed
Elementary CBS Renewed
Good Wife, The CBS Renewed
Hawaii Five-0 CBS Renewed
How I Met Your Mother CBS Renewed
Mentalist, The CBS Renewed
Mike & Molly CBS Renewed
NCIS CBS Renewed
NCIS: Los Angeles CBS Renewed
Person of Interest CBS Renewed
Two and a Half Men CBS Renewed
Arrow CW Renewed
Beauty and the Beast CW Renewed
Hart of Dixie CW Renewed
Supernatural CW Renewed
Vampire Diaries, The CW Renewed
American Dad Fox Renewed
Bob's Burgers Fox Renewed
Bones Fox Renewed
Family Guy Fox Renewed
Following, The Fox Renewed
Glee Fox Renewed
Mindy Project, The Fox Renewed
New Girl Fox Renewed
Raising Hope Fox Renewed
The Simpsons Fox Renewed
Chicago Fire NBC Renewed
Grimm NBC Renewed
Law & Order: SVU NBC Renewed
Parenthood NBC Renewed
Revolution NBC Renewed


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  • Matt Thompson

    Malibu Country is not dead. I believe it will be back for a second season.Reba is not saying anything and neither is ABC. I believe there is a lot of talking going on how to increase the ratings and the writer that had the last three shows of the season was getting there. Now, she is gone because ABC didn’t want the changes she suggested. Does this make sense? More action,more promos and more support from the viewing audience(Nielson raters) would give this show the kick it needs to be a top watched show.

  • robrab14

    will we find out schedules as well as renewals at the upfronts?

  • Jonay

    If President Barock Obama were to call up a network such as ABC and asked them to renew Body Of Proof would ABC have to renew it?

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    @robrab: yes, fall broadcast networks schedules are announced during upfront week (we’ll see them 5/12-5/16). The renewals and cancellations of existing shows will probably all be known by 5/10.

  • Tom

    @ Robert

    I agree that the CW will likely dump Beauty and the Beast in the Friday “death spot”. It’s becoming clearer over time that the CBS/WB joint venture has largely become a special purpose entity for feeding product to its Netflix/Hulu deals and generating cash through syndication, foreign licensing and other forms of online sales. With the exception of Arrow, the joint venture’s new productions were hammered in the ratings this season. Beauty and the Beast’s ratings imploded last week and the program has no perceptible growth potential. That would cause most networks to cancel it. However it was renewed because (1) the joint venture couldn’t or wouldn’t spend money to replace it; and (2) because it the joint venture needs product to put in its Netflix, Hulu and other outside deals. Evidently, Beauty and the Beast met the cost/benefit analysis requirements for keeping it going whereas the slightly higher rated Secret Circle was cancelled last season because it was too pricey. So, since the joint venture’s business model seems to favor cash flow over ratings, Beauty and the Beast will be back because it was literally the only option the joint venture had considering that most of its other new shows never even got off the ground.

  • Funeral Dinner

    Are ABC always last to announce early renewals or they just haven’t bothered this season?

  • Chainsaw Mayhem

    The drop off of ‘Hannibal’ does go beyond the NFL Draft, because ‘Parks & Rec’ is the wrong lead-in. It should be paired with ‘Law & Order: SVU’.

  • Simon

    How many shows have been cancelled after 3 seasons?
    The only one i could think of was Veronica Mars with 64 episodes.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    Simon: I’m sure there used to be more when the opportunity cost of keeping low-rated shows around was greater (or at least perceived to be) than the syndication opportunity. so far as I know no scripted series with ~66 episodes has been canceled since we launched this site in fall 2007 (Veronica Mars was canceled the previous spring).

  • TSC’s Revenge

    Not sure if this meets your criteria; however, Heroes cancelled @ 77 eps.

  • SJ

    @TSC’s Revenge

    It still got syndicated.

  • Anthony Parello (AP076)

    You certainly were right to downgrade Hannibal. Its rating trajectory is worse than Awake last year.

    Awake episode 3=1.6 Hannibal episode 3=1.4
    Awake episode 4= 1.2 Hannibal episode 4=1.0

    Though Hannibal will have the advantage of not going as low as Awake did when the renew/cancellation decision will probably be made.

  • TSC’s Revenge

    LOL! Yeah I guess; however, I would have to wonder if the relative pennies they got from G4 really counts as syndication. Just sayin’…

  • v

    The term Utility Show has been thrown around a bit.
    FOX has done this with Hell’s Kitchen, ABC Splash show, CBS BBT/NCIS repeats.

  • JJF

    It’s kind of a laugh to see Castle, one of the network’s overall STRONGEST shows be used as an example of even possible spackle. lol One of ABC’s strongest dramas should not even be looked at as an option for spackle.

    But I agree, Body of Proof would make good spackle. It gets pretty decent numbers and it’s a procedural so it would work. With Nashville weak and new dramas iffy at best, I’d be surprised if ABC doesn’t give it another go. Although it’ll probably be midseason, not Friday. Maybe they’ll plan to timeshare it again.

  • Marc

    @Tom Shaw “ABC: I admit that shows like Malibu Country have a track record on Fridays vs. a current Wednesday show. But if ABC runs a single new comedy on Wednesdays, they have to cancel or move two shows. (Even if they somehow don’t, they still have to move or cancel one show.) If ABC only has one hour of comedy “overflow” on Friday, they are more likely to keep shows they know they can air on Wednesday (i.e. this year’s Wednesday shows).”

    It clearly makes more sense to have mid-season shows you can plug in rather than take shows off of Friday. Your plan would be to set up for failure. (Not to say it hasn’t been done before out of a need-basis, for example the disaster that is NBC, but I don’t think it was their original intent). But here is why it’s bad to plan to take from Fridays:

    1) If the new Wednesday comedies fail, you are now shifting one or two Friday shows back into Wednesday. Which means you still have to shift something into Friday, anyway. So, where do you pull these shows from? It would simply make more sense to pull Neighbors and Suburgatory from mid-season rather than disrupt two nights playing musical chairs. You are also hurting the Fri-to-Wednesday transfers because they have already aired some episodes and likely lost a lot of viewers from the move. When they move back to Wednesday, some people might have stopped watching knowing they missed many episodes already and are less invested in it (if they were this season anyway).

    2) If the Wednesday comedies fail, you are putting single-cam shows on Friday that will probably not do well. You say that’s fine because you don’t care about Friday ratings, but I guarantee it every network cares about Friday ratings. Look at the huge fall-off when LMS/MC left the air at the 8PM hour. In 6(?) airings, Happy Endings has hit a .9 or less in most of them and went as low as a .5 last night. That’s more than a 50% drop from what HE was doing before moving to Friday and 1/3 what LMS/MC was doing and worse yet than LMS/MC repeats. Single Cams make horrible Friday shows because they tend to have smaller audiences to begin with and less room for error in attracting the target demo. Friday shows that do “well enough for Friday” tend to have very large audiences overall with a smaller-than-average demo number.

    Your scenario essentially means ABC gives up on Fridays, using shows that won’t do well there and then shuffling half the schedule if needed (while still pulling shows from somewhere that aren’t on the schedule). And if shuffling to Wednesday isn’t needed (because it seems all Wednesday shows plugged in at 8:30 and 9:30 do about the same regardless), what do you do when TN and SUB get the normal 35-50% drop by moving to Friday? Now you have two “spackle shows” on Friday that are scoring a 1.0 and 3 Million viewers when a year ago you were getting a 1.5 and 7 million viewers. Now do you dump those and spackle in something new?

    Smart execs will plan a Sunday-Friday lineup they want to be successful across the board and pull from non-airing shows to plug when needed. Plugging from other nights is more a move of desperation… so I might expect to see more of that on NBC.

    You can still renew Neighbors, Suburgatory, and Parents and try 1-2 new comedies. They ordered all of those as well as Family Tools this year, supposedly for a utility role. You start with 9 or 13-episode orders for all of them, air some initially in the season, save some for midseason, and the shows that do extremely well in the Fall you order additional episodes of. Say you were saving Neighbors and Parents for Midseason, but wind up with 4 solid shows and you wind up with hits across the board and give 23-episode orders, you now have some programming to air as filler when needed or to fill gaps. Or you have some summer programming.

    But let’s be honest, if ABC thought SUB/TN/Parents would survive on their own they would plug them in on Tuesdays but nobody I’ve heard thinks they will do well there. In that sense, they are already a bit of a failure…

  • David

    ABC should just cancel The Neighbors, since its only going downwards. Unless it got renewed and shipped to Friday with Suburgatory, but then you would have to move Shark Tank and it would all become a big mess. So just cancel it. Then on to Suburgatory. It should be moved to Tuesday at 8 and even if it only gets 1.7-1.9 that’s still decent and let it ride out for 2 more seasons. It can’t stay on Wednesday if ABC plans on renewing How To Live. Now to How To Live. The show, if renewed, MUST and I mean MUST stay on Wednesday! Keep it at 9:30 after Modern Family and let it build an audience. Then have a new show premiere at 8:30, this time a strong testing pilot that they know will be successful. Not some stupid alien comedy that received terrible reviews. ABC’s only real success stories since launching the block back in 2009 have been The Middle and Modern Family, both shows without a load of crap thrown in to confuse the story. Other shows like Happy Endings, Cougar Town and Suburgatory to use examples, haven’t been completely mad (a la Mr Sunshine and The Neighbors) but haven’t really been relatable family comedies, which isn’t helped by the fact ABC moves them after 2 seasons (or will do – Suburgatory).

  • Serial Rocker

    It was all going so well this year, with all of the shows I love (and even the ones I just enjoy) getting renewed. Okay, Nikita is still not definite but I’m very optimistic.

    Then Hannibal, quite possibly 2013’s best new show so far, starts to decline massively in the ratings, despite the fact the show just gets better every week. Never thought a tv show could do justice to some of my favourite books of all time but Hannibal (the show and also the character) surpassed my expectations.

    Why wasn’t it taken to a more appropriate channel? HBO, Showtime or ant number of cable channels would have been a better fit for the content. Instead it ended upon NBC. Really? Such a waste of an amazing concept.

  • Serial Rocker

    *’any’ number of cable channels…

  • David


    Please tell me in what instance would the President of the United States ask ABC to renew Body of Proof?

    @Tom Shaw

    Do you think CBS is likely to go ahead with a 2hr Thursday comedy block? It’s definitely a possibility considering all their pilots and the fact they’re running low on established comedies (2 Broke Girls, The Big Bang Theory, Mike & Molly) likely to last longer than 2 more seasons (How I Met Your Mother ending, Two and a Half Men naturally ending soon). Person of Interest would probably perform decently in the 10pm Thursday slot but it would be going up against ratings powerhouse Scandal though the 2 audiences are probably different (I watch both :D ). Also, do you think CBS will move CSI to Friday? The shows seems to be getting closer to the end and both of the spinoff are dead. CBS’ hit franchise is NCIS now and I think it’s time for CSI to hand over its crown. One final question, where do you think is the most likely place for Elementary to go? Monday 10pm, Sunday nights?

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