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


  • Cyrax86

    Of course Super Fun Night will be cancelled, does anyone think ABC would renew a freshman sitcom with 17 episodes over two that got 22? Not happening, deal with it.

  • Brad

    Super Fun Night is effectively canceled by not getting a full back order. ABC has no faith in it to give it 4 and not 9 episodes. Sorry kids. The extra episodes are just a bridge for Mixology (which will also be canceled).

  • Bad Wolf


    Getting more episodes and being renewed (the opposite of cancelled, as you put it) are two very different things. To follow your logic, if ABC intends to renew Super Fun Night, or even if they’re satisfied with its ratings, why didn’t they at least give it a back nine order ?

    When Super Fun Night has aired all its episodes, I expect ABC to announce its replacement by a midseason show. And Super Fun Night won’t appear on ABC’s shows list for 2014/2015.

  • Brad

    Can someone point out the last time ABC renewed a 30 minute comedy show for a second season without a full 22 episode commitment? Better Off Ted?

  • Charmed

    Ok, maybe Super Fun Night will be cancelled by May, but it’s different from ACTUALLY CANCELLING IT! Why not just list everything in red as CANCELLED instead of CANCELLATION PREDICTED, if that’s how people seem to think around here

  • Brad


    Read the intro paragraphs.

    Remember when everyone cried when we did the same thing to Pan am? Probably not as most posters are newbies now.

  • Dan

    @CBS Viewer – Because Reign loses more of its Vampire Diaries lead in than Tomorrow People does from Arrow, plus Arrow and TTP’s series low could be attributed to the world series since every show was down in viewers.

    And I don’t think advertiser preference is the reason Back in the Game was cancelled, that’s reading too much into it. It was simply the Partners effect.

    If a show does poorly on an established might surrounded by other well rated shows than its more likely to be cancelled than if its on its own on a night where its expected to be low rated.

    So any show airing between The Middle and Modern Family is expected to do better (above the average 2.0) than if its on another night. Last year Tuesday Nights at 9 rated from a 1.0- 1.8 with Happy Endings and Apartment 23 on average, last year however Wednesdays were above 2.0. Thats expected. Just like any show airing after The Big Bang Theory is expected to do well.

  • Cyrax86

    Yeah I remember it was the same with Pan Am when ABC only ordered one more episode and many did not believe it equaled cancellation.

  • whyIcannotPost

    ABC cancelled cancelled cancelled lol
    Who is in charge of choosing the pilots?

  • Bad Wolf


    Beacause Cancelled and Cancellation Predicted are different. I suppose Tom thinks that ABC giving only 4 more episodes to Super Fun Night instead of extending it to a full season is just to fill the schedule while another show gets ready to replace it. In other words, it’s ABC’s way to say that Super Fun Night is cancelled and that it won’t go beyond these 4 episodes.
    It’s like when, in 2010, CBS announced that Medium’s 7th season would only have 13 episodes, the word ‘cancellation’ was never pronounced but for CBS, at the moment they made that decision, Medium was effectively cancelled.

    The ‘Cancellation Predicted’ shows, Tom thinks they will probably be cancelled by May but, as long as the networks let them air all of their episodes and are silent about their fate, their cancellation remain a prediction and not a fact.

    I hope I made myself clear ;-)

  • Bored Now


    Short of creating a new category called “Cancelled but the network needs a little filler for a few weeks and so giving a failing show a little breathing room seemed like the sensible thing to do, but lets be honest, the show is cancelled!” what else can Tom do?

    And a section with all those words would be REALLY difficult to make work in the table, so be fair! ;)

  • Dan

    @Brad –

    Happy Endings was renewed in 2011 for only 13 episodes until it got a full 22 episode season.

    Apartment 23 was renewed in 2012 for only 13 episodes but it wouldn’t have gotten a full season anyway (even if it did well in the ratings) because the 6 leftover episodes combined with the 13 for a fullish 19 episode season.

    Last Man Standing got a second season in 2012 also of only 13 episodes but then ABC extended it 5 more episodes to 18/ Why they didn’t just give it a full season, Who Knows?

    This year both The Neighbors and Last Man Standing have full 22 episode seasons. The Middle and Modern Family have 24 episodes, Suburgatory has 13, and Trophy Wife & The Goldbergs each have 22. Back in the Game only has 13, as does Mixology and Super Fun Night has 17.

  • Dan

    I agree Super Fun Night is not officially cancelled. Will it be, most certainly but not officially.

  • FlorianN

    It won’t. You’ll see.

  • Cyrax86

    @Dan, I believe none of them apply, as they were midseason shows and there was no room for them to be more than 13 episodes long in their initial seasons.

    Last Man Standing was renewed FOR a 13 episode second season BUT in the first season ABC committed to it for 24 episodes in fact.

    The question was, a comedy with a fall premiere having less than 22 episodes but renewed for a second season.

  • Charmed

    I get what everyone’s saying, and I know it probably will be cancelled, but until ABC officially comes out and says it’s cancelled, it’s not cancelled

  • Rick

    I would have thought after this weeks ratings MOM, The Millers and Crazy Ones would all be put On The Bubble. This week showed that both The Millers and Crazy Ones are very lead in dependent airing behind a repeat of BBT. MOM has been airing behind repeats of BBT for the last month and has pulled in better ratings. I know is a whole The Millers and Crazy Ones have done much better but thats with the huge lead in that MOM does not have. I would TAHM is more safe then any of those comedy’s, at least it can pull lows 2’s with no lead in.

  • Bad Wolf


    Officially or not, the result’s the same. It’s cancelled for ABC so, official or not for us, it doesn’t really matter.

  • James

    SFN is probably done when it won’t make it to May. SFN is different from previous ended-in-April shows like Happy Endings or Surgatory, for it being a freshman comedy. When it has to give its lead-in to Mixology it’s very unlikely to return next season. Even if Mixology does worse than SFN, ABC can always find a replacement to air after Modern Family.

    But since SFN is getting 17 episodes, probably only 7 episodes of Mixology will make it to air. Maybe ABC isn’t confident with Mixology?

  • Chris J


    NBC will likely cancel most of their new comedies this year. They don’t really have a choice when they are all currently so low rated this early on in the season.

    Community and Parks will probably get renewed for spackle, and The Michael J Fox Show’s only chance is if it is moved from Thursday 9:30pm to Tuesday 9:30pm midseason:

    08:00pm Voice
    09:00pm About A Boy
    09:30pm MICHAEL J FOX
    10:00pm Chicago Fire

    08:00pm Community
    08:30pm Parks
    09:00pm Sean Saves The World/UNDATEABLES
    10:00pm Parenthood

    I half expect NBC to do something like this. They will probably want to try to save the MJF Show, and it might be a good idea to pair it with About A Boy because the premise of Growing Up Fisher sounds terrible. GUF may as well rot on Thursday nights next Spring.

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