Bubble Watch: 'Trophy Wife' vs. 'Back In The Game': Ratings, Ad Revenue or Syndication Prospects?

Categories: Bubble Watch

Written By

November 3rd, 2013

Back In the Game october 30

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** (2014-15).  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.

Bubble Watch: Competition Matters – And So Does Income!

This week, perennial Bubble Watch punching bag Mom fell two tenths. Do I write this to gloat? No, I write this to defend the show. It was only down compared to a last week’s rating that was inflated by airing against a Sleepy Hollow repeat, rather than the World Series. It was actually up a tenth compared to the last time it aired against all first-run competition.

The larger point is that as we get further into the season, the more likely it is shows will air opposite repeats and specials. Significant week to week fluctuations will happen, and I warn you not to jump to conclusions that a show is on an upswing simply because it aired against repeats for a few weeks in a row, or on a downswing because it aired opposite beloved holiday specials.

In other news, ABC culled their comedies:

No surprise, The Goldbergs received a full backorder, while Super Fun Night received just enough extra episodes to cover until Mixology can come in.

Big surprise, Back In The Game was effectively canceled, while Trophy Wife received a full backorder.

From a strictly ratings point of view, Trophy Wife winning that competition is a shocker. Trophy Wife has been significantly behind Back In The Game from Week Two on. I’ve seen some retentionistas argue that Trophy Wife has held up better between the two, but that simply isn’t true: while it was even this week (mostly due to Trophy Wife not airing against another female-leaning comedy in The Mindy Project), the difference between Trophy Wife and The Goldbergs has been more than the difference between The Middle and Back In The Game every other week this season.

One possible explanation? Advertiser preferences. Remember that the entire point of broadcast television is to bring in advertising revenue. Advertisers are historically adverse to spending broadcast rates to associate themselves with lower income segments of the population. In Ad Week’s annual estimate of ad rates, Back In the Game was one of the cheapest Monday – Thursday shows on the Big Four. Only rape (Law & Order: SVU) and teenage pregnancies (the already canceled Welcome to the Family) had more toxic connotations to advertisers than hardscrabble single mothers.

(I’d also point out that the poorest characters on broadcast TV, Raising Hope, are both running out the syndication clock on Friday and have yet to air this season.)

It appears Back In The Game simply didn’t rate well enough to overcome the distaste advertisers had for its setting.

Trophy Wife being an ABC Studios production while Back In The Game  was not (20th Century Fox) probably played some role as well.


This week’s notable data points:

Super Fun Night, without the Modern Family lead-in, fell to the same rating as The Goldbergs and Back In The Game. With only four additional episodes ordered, I am labeling it canceled. For internet lawyers looking to complain, come back next week.

The Tomorrow People was not adjusted up this week in the finals. It had better improve without airing against the World Series, as it is destined for Monday and an ugly death otherwise. I am moving it to On The Bubble until I see more data points.

The Millers, airing against much higher rated than normal programming Halloween specials and without the usual The Big Bang Theory lead-in, fell over half a point this week. I’m not adjusting my prediction yet, but I’m certainly looking at the next few weeks carefully.

The Crazy Ones shared in the misery, dropping four tenths, despite airing against less-than-normal competition (Glee was a repeat). CBS had better hope this was simply Halloween-related.

Dracula dropped 28% from its premiere. For a Friday show on NBC, it is still in survival range… for now.

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


Show Network Status
Back In The Game ABC Canceled
Lucky 7 ABC Canceled
Super Fun Night ABC Canceled
How I Met Your Mother CBS Final Season
We Are Men CBS Canceled
American Dad Fox Moving to TBS
Ironside NBC Canceled
Welcome To The Family NBC Canceled
Betrayal ABC Cancellation Predicted
The Goldbergs ABC Cancellation Predicted
Nashville ABC Cancellation Predicted
The Neighbors ABC Cancellation Predicted
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland ABC Cancellation Predicted
Trophy Wife ABC Cancellation Predicted
The Good Wife CBS Cancellation Predicted
Hostages CBS Cancellation Predicted
The Mentalist CBS Cancellation Predicted
Mom CBS Cancellation Predicted
Beauty & The Beast CW Cancellation Predicted
The Carrie Diaries CW Cancellation Predicted
Reign CW Cancellation Predicted
Brooklyn Nine-Nine Fox Cancellation Predicted
Dads Fox Cancellation Predicted
The Mindy Project Fox Cancellation Predicted
The Michael J. Fox Show NBC Cancellation Predicted
Parenthood NBC Cancellation Predicted
Revolution NBC Cancellation Predicted
Sean Saves The World NBC Cancellation Predicted
Two and a Half Men CBS On The Bubble
The Tomorrow People CW On The Bubble
Dracula NBC On The Bubble
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ABC Renewal Predicted
Castle ABC Renewal Predicted
Grey's Anatomy ABC Renewal Predicted
Last Man Standing ABC Renewal Predicted
The Middle ABC Renewal Predicted
Modern Family ABC Renewal Predicted
Once Upon a Time ABC Renewal Predicted
Revenge ABC Renewal Predicted
Scandal ABC Renewal Predicted
The Big Bang Theory CBS Renewal Predicted
Blue Bloods CBS Renewal Predicted
The Crazy Ones CBS Renewal Predicted
Criminal Minds CBS Renewal Predicted
CSI CBS Renewal Predicted
Elementary CBS Renewal Predicted
Hawaii Five-0 CBS Renewal Predicted
The Millers CBS Renewal Predicted
NCIS CBS Renewal Predicted
NCIS: LA CBS Renewal Predicted
Person of Interest CBS Renewal Predicted
2 Broke Girls CBS Renewal Predicted
Arrow CW Renewal Predicted
Hart of Dixie CW Renewal Predicted
The Originals CW Renewal Predicted
Supernatural CW Renewal Predicted
The Vampire Diaries CW Renewal Predicted
Bones Fox Renewal Predicted
Family Guy Fox Renewal Predicted
The New Girl Fox Renewal Predicted
The Blacklist NBC Renewal Predicted
Chicago Fire NBC Renewal Predicted
Grimm NBC Renewal Predicted
Law & Order: SVU NBC Renewal Predicted
Parks & Recreation NBC Renewal Predicted
Bob's Burgers Fox Renewed
Glee Fox Renewed
The Simpsons Fox Renewed
Sleepy Hollow Fox Renewed


  • Timmy G

    First! Maybe…and yeah, no dramatic disagreements here. I would say Reign is probably on par with TTP though since they both scored .6 last week. People keep talking about Reign’s budget since it’s from overseas but TTP also has the really nice special effects. So, I wonder which show actually does have a higher budget…

  • Bram

    Yeah, I have a major issue with you labelling Super Fun Night cancelled. You said it yourself, they need to premiere Mixology. Just look at last year how they ended Suburgatory in April, to bring in HTLWYPFTROYL. The 9:30 shows have to end early now, even if its a hit.

  • CBSviewer

    Why is Reign cancelation predicted while The Tomorrow People is on the Bubble ? Both Shows had the same ratings this week (0.6).

  • Hubert R

    MOM is so getting renewed! It ships off to Thursday in winter or for its second season. It’s the only comedy on CBS that hasn’t had any big lead-in yet.

  • Rebooted

    Arrow and Tomorrow People aired against the final game of the world series though.

  • RC

    You seem to want to have as few ‘Bubble Shows’ as possible, but some of the ones you labeled ‘Cancellation predicted’ or ‘Renewal predicted’ just seem to be bubble shows imho: The Mentalist, Nashville, Parenthood, Reign, The Crazy Ones… They could all go either way right now.

    Why do you single out so few shows ‘on the bubble’?

  • Charmed

    Oh hell! Super fun Night IS NOT CANCELLED

  • Jamey

    I cant wait until Super Fun Night is renewed for next season and this website can EAT IT! The arrogance is off the charts. I love it when Nellie makes fun of you people lmao

  • Charmed

    This is beyond ridiculous! You can’t say a show is cancelled when it’s quite the opposite! It got MORE episodes ordered!

  • FlorianN

    “Super fun Night” is not and will not be canceled.

  • Chris J

    As the season progresses on these predictions are looking pretty accurate.

    As far as NBC I think you’re spot on now. Parks will get a spackle renewal, and Blacklist, Chicago Fire, L&O:SVU, and Grimm are definite sure renewals.

    NBC better hope some of their mid-season shows become hits because they’ve got a lot less shows to renew this year so far.

    I’m personally looking forward to About A Boy, Crossbones, Nightshift, and Chicago PD. I hope they all don’t bomb!

  • Charmed

    BREAKING NEWS: Scandal cancelled by ABC

    Oh wait it’s not, but I’ll just say it is anyway ;)

  • Holly


    You do realize that these are predictions for what will happen by May, right?

  • Charmed

    @Holly yes, but that’s not a prediction, he’s trying to pass it off as fact that Super Fun Night is cancelled, which isn’t true

  • Timmy G

    @Rebooted, I tend to agree with that, but what worries me is that Reign didn’t drop at all and it aired on Halloween. I’m definitely rooting for TTP but I think Reign is ready to put up a serious fight.

  • FlorianN


    The “Cancellation Predicted”, “On The Bubble” and “Renewal Predicted” things are predictions. “Canceled” and “Renewed” are NOT, sorry. When a show is in one of these sections, it means it has been canceled. “Super Fun Night” has not been canceled just quite yet (and I don’t personally think it will).

  • FlorianN

    (or renewed, obviously)

  • Charmed

    How can anyone take these predictions seriously when he’s saying a show is cancelled when it had an order for extra episodes? That destroyed any credibility the bubble watch had.

  • Adam3648

    I don’t see nbc cancelling the majority of its Thursday night line-up. Yes, the whole night is LOW, but not all of the shows listed as predicted cancelled will go.

    I agree with Bram, it is unfair to label Super Fun Night as cancelled, especially if Mixology doesn’t do any better. Comedies have a higher potential to draw in an audience after it’s been on air for a while as compared to dramas. I think Super Fun Night has potential.

  • Dan

    I love how one of the three bubble shows on the list last week was the next show cancelled.

    Trophy Wife Vs. Back in the Game was a no brainer

    Trophy Wife is owned by ABC, Back in the Game is owned by Fox, Point for Trophy Wife

    ABC brass likes Trophy Wife and its direction, Back in the Game never got the same critical praise. Not that t matters ratings wise but it helps.

    Back in the Game suffered from the “Partners effect” see ratings from November 12, 2012 for a perfect example. That night HIMYM got a 3.0 at 8, Partners got a 1.8 at 8:30, 2 Broke Girls got a 3.2 at 9 and Mike & Molly got a 3.0 at 9:30. Clearly Partners was the weak link.

    Similarly The Middle on average gets a 2.2, while Back in the Game drops to a 1.8 and Modern Family bounces to a 4.0. Sharing the hour Back in the Game should at least get a 2.0 otherwise its clear that no one is watching. Suburgatory built on The Middle it’s first season in 2011 and The Neighbors never dipped below 2.0 until November.

    Plus Back in the Game doesn’t seem like a long term series, and it won’t be too long before the premise wears thin.

    Trophy Wife’s full season was a no brainer, its just in a bad timeslot. Hopefully it will be moved behind Modern Family and do better.

    The Goldbergs getting a 1.7 and Trophy Wife getting a 1.4 without established lead ins and doing better than last years Happy Endings and Apartment 23 shows that maybe on another night these shows can do better.

    Its not always abut which shows have the better numbers when lead ins are factors.

© 2015 Tribune Digital Ventures