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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  • NBC

    Doesn’t the low ratings from the NBC comedies kind of disprove your theory? The fact that all the comedies NBC put this year sank to .7/.9/1.0/1.1 prove that NBC is basically to the point where they’re sinking? Didn’t January through March also prove that nobody was really watching their comedies on NBC? You can argue all you want, but it’s seeming really likely that, leaving room open for crazy left field predictions, NBC isn’t likely to find anything that will be able to top even Parks & Recreation next year?

  • Frank

    Why on earth would ABC cancel Last Man Standing and Malibu Country and replace the with single camera shows?

    Multi-cams are way cheaper to produce than single cams (as much as 40%) because you’re paying an entire crew for five days instead of two, so either the ratings or the prospect of future foreign/syndication sales of the single cams would have to be enough to make up the difference.

    And I don’t believe there is a precedent for a any nominally successful single cam on a Friday night and despite the recent success of Modern Family, multi-cams still dominate syndication revenue.

    So ABC would be making a multimillion dollar decision based on what? A gut call? Paul Lee may get to call the shots, but he still has to back up his decisions with numbers or he’s likely to get fired. Somebody at ABC has run the numbers, and The numbers don’t support single camera comedies on Friday nights, so I can’t fathom that he’d risk switching out the multi-cams for single cams. That would just be bad business.

  • huldu

    The episode 4 fiasco made a lot of people stop watching. Hopefully most drop was because of the NFL event or whatever it was. We’ll see next week tho.

  • chris23

    My Opinion for what its worth:

    ABC: Red Widow Cancel/ Happy Endings Cancel/ Body of Proof Renewed
    How to Live Cancel/ Malibu Country Renew/ All others Renewed (even though I wouldn’t be surprised if Neighbors and Nashville got the axe but the bar is so low this season so who knows)

    CBS: Vegas Cancel/ Golden Boy Cancel/ Rules Cancel/ Criminal Minds Renew
    CSI:NY Filler show for 13 episodes for final season

    NBC: 1600 Penn Cancel/ Deception Cancel/ Guys With Kids Cancel/
    Hannibal Renew/ Up all Night Cancel/ New Normal Cancel
    Go On Cancel/ Whitney Renew/ Community Renew/ Parks and Rec Renew

    CW: Nikita Full season Renewal/ Carrie Diaries Cancel

  • Miranda

    Whitney should be saved, it’s amazing

  • CBSviewer

    My guess is that NBC should renew Go On, Hannibal, Parks & Recreation and Community. The other comedies are too weak to be Renewed and Deception is a flop.

  • Chris J


    I’m not sure I understand your point.

    I was saying no matter what NBC debuts next year it’s sure not to be any lower or weaker than their current slate this year. Why do I believe that? NBC’s new pilots sound a lot stronger than the ones they launched this year. The only comedy that did relatively well this year was Go On, and that’s because it was the only funny comedy out of the bunch. The New Normal, Animal Practice, and 1600 Penn were not funny at all and the ratings showed it (and to add insult to injury Save Me looks even worse than those).

    If NBC’s new shows are stronger, why keep unfunny shows like Whitney or The New Normal around as “spackle” when their ratings are in the 0.7-1.1 range?

    I was simply arguing the entire premise of @Tom Shaw’s article about keeping around some comedies as spackle. NBC can’t afford keeping around comedies that get 0.7 as even “spackle.”

    That’s why I said renew Off Their rockers as cheap “spackle” and fill empty slots with that show. Surprisingly Off their rockers ratings (consistent 1.3-1.8) are higher than their scripted comedies, why? Because it’s actually funny!

  • Bill

    ABC should renew Malibu Country. Reba has a 5-6 million solid and loyal fan base in which to build on. The show was definitely getting better as the season progressed. A view more minor tweeks to attract more male viewers and this show could easily average 6-8 million viewers and a 1.4-1.8 rating. The risk factors for ABC are very low, considering that Reba has such a rock solid fan base. So all you Reba/Family show haters should go out and get drunk on friday’s, including you Tom Shaw.

  • RyanCanada

    im still so suprised how much OUAT and Revenge have droped since there season premiere highs….

  • Dan S

    Let me start of by saying I was a fan of CSI NY but let’s face it the show is not returning. Several posters keep saying 1 more final season but it’s already had closure 3 times. CBS is likely to move an aging show to replace it & my best guess is H50 that hit series lows this past season.
    I’ll be very surprised if NBC chooses to bring back low rated comedies Go On & Whitney. Are they that desperate to bring back shows that several times went into the low 1’s ? They have several promising comedy pilots & I’m guessing they’ll have 6 & 2 of those will be returning P&R & Community.

  • Eve

    For all that it’s worth (and that’s not a lot)
    I absolutely love Red Widow and I’m totally hooked.

    I know it’s got no chance in hell that it will get a few more episodes or even an renewal but I’m being stupid and keeping a small bit of hope left.
    Can anyone say anything positive regarding this? Or is it all doom and gloom for this show?

  • Ted Craig

    Malibu Country seems dead. That’s why the show runner left.

    Hannibal seems dead. I believe all the dramas that will be renewed, have been renewed.

    The Mindy Project will do better than spackel next season. I believe the numbers execs see in regard to household wealth mean more to that show than the ratings.

  • Brad

    Reba has a built-in audience? LMAO.

  • NBC

    @Chris J

    NBC said last season their new shows were strong. I am sure the Betty White show is funny, but that’s not really a good argument. Go On dropped pretty hard too, despite being a good show. The problem is that NBC seems to drop the ball on way too much. Their broad comedy claim backfired on them. The Office is going off the air as one of their highest shows, even after they tried to bury it back in September. Given how low everything on NBC sank this year, it’s quite likely to do it again next year. They’ll likely have shows that seem big because of The Voice and Olympics boost, but I don’t see NBC truly climbing out of the pit they’re sinking themselves into.

  • Fred

    The meaningless but fun for fodder USA TODAY SAVE OUR SHOWS results were just released.

    BODY OF PROOF and CSI NY were the highest ranked shows to be renewed.
    Kind of obvious because they have a fairly high overall audience.
    The CW Shows were at the bottom, mostly because the audience is much smaller.
    HAPPY ENDINGS had the highest support among the 20s-30’s.

  • bjssp

    I think Hannibal will be back if it stays above a 1.0. It’ll only be for 13 episodes, and from what I understand the financing on this one is a lot less risky for NBC than for other shows, given its international sales. It’s also a prestige project of sorts.

  • Hmm

    While I find some of the points in this interesting I disagree with the Castle comments. It may have done less that stellar in the winter but “sinking” is not a word that should describe it. It’s doing better than DWTS and had a better demo than OUAT last week. And it’s consistent in a hour with competition. Sinking was a poor word choice.

  • Holly

    @Tom Shaw,

    I’m not sure I’m on board with the spackle argument for BoP.

    Spackle is useful when you have too many hours to fill and don’t want to launch that many show (e.g. the CW’s renewal of BatB). ABC doesn’t actually have that many slots to fill next season. Assuming Once, Revenge, DWTS, Castle, 4 comedies, Grey’s, Scandal, Shark Tank, and 20/20 are all renewed, they only have at most 6 hours to fill. Renewing Nashville and another comedy or two leaves only 4 hours. So there doesn’t seem to be a desperate need for spackle.

    Yes, some of those will fail, but ABC tends to launch fall shows well (then they fall dramatically after a few episodes), but haven’t been in the habit of pulling them after only a few episodes.

    Spackle also works better with a show with OK ratings, not great or even good but not horrible either. I’m not sure BoP qualifies on that point. 1.4s against very weak competition hardly inspires confidence that it would do well as spackle against anything stronger.

  • Mike

    I liked the first couple of episodes of Hannibal, but now it’s just become “think up a terribly gruesome serial killing and wrap a boring story around it.” I don’t care about these people to be caught ip in their personal life, and the murder stories are poorly undeveloped.

  • rose


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