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


  • Brad


    It was more or less a trick question. Apt 23 and Happy Ending were canned and both were mid season shows so they could not get a “full” First Season.

    Last Man had a full First Season (24 episodes actually).

    I’m struggling to think of an 30 minute comedy ABC show that premiered in the fall, didn’t get a full first season, but got a second.

  • Setheriel

    Wow, looks like reading comprehension has certainly taken a hit here. Some folks seem to be totally ignoring the word ‘predicted’ in ‘Cancellation Predicted’. It’s a guess, a conjecture based on the available data points as to what will happen by May.


    As was pointed out to you before, you really need to read those intro paragraphs ;) And maybe calm down a bit.

  • Bad Wolf


    I hope Medium’s fans didn’t hold their breath for Medium’s cancellation announcement 3 years ago. If they did, they must be dead by now. I also don’t remember ABC announcing Pan Am’s cancellation.

  • Cyrax86

    @James, Last year How to Live… aired all of its episodes at 9.30 pm, there is no reason why Mixology cannot do that, or that its episode order is being cut.

  • r0ckmypants

    @James – “When it has to give its lead-in to Mixology it’s very unlikely to return next season.”

    Who says Mixology is going to Wednesdays at 9:30? With Back in the Game vacating the 8:30 slot, it’s entirely possible that ABC tries out what every fantasy scheduler has been predicting/pushing for: The Goldbergs at 8:30 on Wednesdays and Trophy Wife at 9:30. Then Mixology could be paired with Suburgatory elsewhere.

  • Brad

    Networks don’t really announce when a show is cancelled around up fronts. It just doesn’t show up on the schedule.

  • Setheriel

    And Super Fun Night being listed as cancelled is most likely a misprint, as there is no official word. Again, calm blue oceans folks.

  • Charmed

    @Bad Wolf I was a Medium fan, and Patricia Arquette and the creator announced that it was cancelled in November or December

  • eelna

    Reign and TTP should be on the bubble. Even if TTP keeps more of the audience of the lead-in as Reign. I can say one thing:
    Arrow and TTP share mostly the same audience.
    TVD and Reign quite doesn’t have the same audience. (the genre is different)

    And both aired twice against the World Series or were on Halloween.

  • CBSviewer

    @ Dan

    Because Reign loses more of its Vampire Diaries lead in than Tomorrow People does from Arrow

    Retention is irrelevant. I think both of The Tomorrow People and Reign will be canceled considering half of CW Shows get a 1.0 or more this season.

  • Brad

    Mixology is already dead. I laugh when people post their stupid fantasy schedules for next year and include it.

  • Brad


    Read the opening paragraphs.

  • Charmed

    Calling Super Fun Night cancelled is a bit premature, you have to admit

  • skyfi

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

    Reign is much more expensive than TTP (pilot was shoot in Europe), it has big expectations, it airs after TVD and it has worse average. Not enough?

  • rob60990

    Labeling a show cancelled that hasnt been cancelled yet is absolutely ridiculous. No one is taking you seriously. Plus The Millers is not certain to be renewed. All the excuses you keep making for this show is ridiculous. Robert come back.

  • Charmed

    Either one or both of TTP and Reign will be cancelled, depending on how the Midseason shows do.

  • Noel

    Considering how carrie diaries and beauty and the beast survived, Reign and Tomorrow people could still survive. And yeah Reign most have cost a lot, but they already bought most of the stuff, if they cancel it they lose even more money because the stuff they bought becomes useless. It was a low week for CW and Reign managed not to drop so thats something. Has long as they don’t drop lower than a 0.5 they still got chance.

  • Brad


    Hi. See Pan Am. It’s cancelled.

  • taylor

    Charmed annoys me so much .. Ugh how is this girl ?

  • Mary

    Goldbergs will be the pity save this year for the comedies. hopefully ABC will move Goldbergs to Wednesday or Fridays to support ABC other comedy nights and put something more compatible with Agents of SHIELD at 9 on Wednesday…Resurrection would have worked well but I guess Mind games will get the spot instead.

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