Bubble Watch: With So Many ABC Failures Will Paul Lee Be Canceled, Too?

Categories: Bubble Watch

Written By

December 1st, 2013


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.

Thanksgiving is here again, a time to realize, and be thankful for, all that we have.

While ABC President Paul Lee isn’t an American, he should be thankful he’s survived the occasionally treacherous November; his job should now be safe until after next season’s schedule is set. (Aside from weird cases like The CW’s delayed handoff to Mark Pedowitz and NBC’s sale to Comcast, network presidents almost never get replaced between December and May – presumably because it would make the awkward pilot/schedule process even more dysfunctional than it already is.)

Why am I viewing Lee’s future so dimly? Take a look at the decreasing success his development slates  have had:


4+ Seasons: Once Upon a Time, Scandal, Last Man Standing, Revenge

2-ish Seasons: Suburgatory, Apt 23

Single Season: Pan Am, GCB, Man Up!, Work It, The River, Charlie’s Angels, Missing


4+ Seasons: None

2-ish Seasons: The Neighbors, Nashville (probably)

Single Season:  666 Park Avenue, Red Widow, Family Tools, How to Live, Last Resort, Zero Hour, Malibu Country


4+ years: None

2-ish years: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (probably)

Single Season: Betrayal, The Goldbergs*, Trophy Wife, Lucky 7, Back In The Game, Super Fun Night, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, (Likely) Every Upcoming Midseason Show

Or to summarize, Lee has gone from a fantastic freshman year – getting four shows into the syndication track, and adding desperately needed new soap blood – to having just one show a year that has any chance of syndication (and even some of those first year hits have become alarmingly soft).

Speaking of those limited successes:

Nashville has gained a tenth each of the last two weeks! On the other hand, that means the show has merely crawled back to the middling rating (1.6) it hit for the majority of this season, despite weak competition (Ironside and the probably Sunday-bound CSI). Meanwhile, Revenge’s failings mean a move to Sunday @ 10 is probably off the table, and the number of songs per episode in Nashville has dropped significantly (implying that the alternate revenue stream of song downloads isn’t worth much). Even with Lee still in charge of next season’s schedule, I still don’t think the show’s chances are good.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has gained two tenths each of the last two weeks! While it is entirely possible that the gains are illusory (from The Originals’ and NCIS’ first-run audience looking for something to watch), the larger point is that the show has stopped sliding, at a level above the network average. That’s enough to get me to move it back to “Renewal Predicted”, even if I expect to hear the dreaded “Creative Reboot” phrasing to be attached to the renewal.

(*Note that the 2011/2012 summaries would suggest that one comedy will get a renewal. Given that The Goldbergs is struggling to get out of the mid 1s as is, I’m unconvinced ABC will see any point in giving it a try on Fridays).

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
How I Met Your Mother CBS Final Season
We Are Men CBS Canceled
Nikita CW Final Season
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
Super Fun Night 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
Brooklyn Nine-Nine Fox Cancellation Predicted
Dads Fox Cancellation Predicted
The Mindy Project Fox Cancellation Predicted
Raising Hope Fox Cancellation Predicted
Dracula NBC 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
The Crazy Ones CBS On The Bubble
Two and a Half Men CBS On The Bubble
Reign CW On The Bubble
The Tomorrow People CW On The Bubble
Almost Human Fox 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
Criminal Minds CBS Renewal Predicted
CSI CBS Renewal Predicted
Elementary CBS Renewal Predicted
Hawaii Five-0 CBS Renewal Predicted
Mike & Molly 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


  • robert

    Paul Lee has destroyed ABC. Only hit show under him.

  • Jonay

    Why did you put a (likely) by Once Upon A Time in Womderland?

  • Brad


    Because its ratings are incredible low and will likely be canceled. You realize it’s under a 1 now, right?

  • Brad

    But he meant (Likely) as in the Mid-Season shows. None of them look like they will make it past the First Season,

  • Matt M.

    PLEASE return ABC to its glory days of Lloyd Braun and Stephen McPherson!

    While Lee has given us many hits, such as Castle, ONCE, Scandal, Revenge, SHIELD, and LMS, the number of misses increases year-to-year. While ABC doesn’t need a complete overhaul, as it still does superb on some nights, something needs to be done.

  • David

    Scandal will probably be the only real hit Paul Lee will have in his entire run at ABC. Everything else has been mediocre, or started strong and gradually decreased (Suburgatory, Revenge and Once Upon a Time).

  • RJ

    Of the many cancelled shows, the three hits (to me) that were put into the wrong hands and treated unfairly were GCB, Don’t Trust the B–, and Happy Endings.

    Happy Endings was doing GREAT on Wednesdays, it was even the number one show during their first season like Don’t Trust The B- in Apt. 23! Then they kept moving them around all over the place and people got tired of trying to keep up with the mess. That was the networks fault, no one else. The shows were brilliant with the writing, acting, and execution.

    G.C.B. should have never been cancelled, but unfortunately those Not-Even-A-MillionMoms kept breathing down their neck and it was taken as casualty even though the ratings were great for the few episodes they aired. The show had all the feel and merit to take over the Desperate Housewives slot with ease, but unfortunately people—who more than likely do not even watch the damn network—got their word taken over actual viewers.

    ABC needs to start fresh. They need to get someone with a backbone who knows how to make wise decisions but also be brave and daring enough to take chances.

  • Toldyasooooo

    Oh what joy that will be for Mr. Lee.

    Buh-bye now.

  • Bored Now

    Kinda nice seeing all but one of my shows at the Renewal Predicted end of the chart. Now if Revolution can just manage to pull off a minor miracle and survive, that’s 100% of my shows (other than Nikita, but that’s done no matter what) back next year. Can’t complain.

  • David


    Completely agree with all the points you made. Paul Lee will leave no lasting legacy other than Scandal. Past ABC Presidents have had multiple hit shows like Desperate Housewives and Lost (Grey’s Anatomy still airs today!), but in 5 years time the likelihood we’ll see any of Paul Lee’s shows other than Scandal is small.

  • James

    Paul Lee needs to go. He picks two or three series each year to promote and everybody else is on their own. The results of his “strategy” speak for themselves.

  • Dan S

    Without trying to sound like a broken record but The Goldbergs will be renewed for a 2nd season. It’s ABC’s highest rated freshman comedy in a difficult time period on Tues for ABC with AOS as a very incompatible lead in. It has at times topped New Girl going against the juggernaut The Voice. Also Brooklyn 9-9 is growing & moving after New Girl midseason where it should do much better without Dads as its lead in. Both shows should not be on cancellation predicted list.

  • David

    Yeah FIRE that BUM!!!! He is the fool that canceled Malibu Country for The Neighbors crap on Friday nights!!!!!

  • David

    Lee is the idiot who thought The Neighbors was gonna be a ratings juggernaut in season 2. He thought TN had soooo much more potential that REBA and Malibu Country!! This guy is a young FOOL!!!!! Figures he would like such a cornball show!!

  • David

    He even looks like he would be the perfect cast member of that credulous show!!!

  • AndyB

    Still have hope for Nashville to be renewed for another season. Despite the fact that personally I love this show and think it’s great, also believe that it’s one of the few shows who is really ‘in the bubble’ and can still go either way.

  • David

    Sorry, that was suppose to be: RIDICULOUS SHOW!!

  • zerg

    He should be fired only for picking up Work It :V

  • Brad


    Please show me where Paul claimed The Neighbors was going to be a “ratings juggernaut”. You’re just pissed he canceled your crappy show.

  • Avery

    He needs to go. He cancelled GCB which had tonnes of potential to grow but got handled a crappy schedule.

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