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


  • Gerry

    I still can’t believe he passed on Devious Maids. Of course, his development team should be faulted as well. He has been a disastrously ineffective programmer. I did think Betrayal was a good concept and well cast although difficult to stretch out over five seasons.

  • Lukel

    I think NBC needs a new President too…

  • Cyrax86

    Cancelling Body of Proof is his biggest crime actually.

  • were123

    Paul Lee can’t be canceled yet, he is one season away from syndication

  • Eric McInnis

    Cancelling Body of Proof is his biggest crime actually.

    Not really. In its third season it was doing around Lucky 7’s premiere numbers, and it had three seasons to gain an audience, and it never did. Why do people think ABC renewing Body of Proof would instantly make everything better? This is not rhetorical, I want a legit answer.

  • Tran

    ABC is still sinking like the Titanic. Hope this is the beginning of the end for Paul Lee.

  • anotherhour

    NBC is dying, Aside from Football, The Voice, SNL and Days Of Our Lives this network has nothing to offer, and they better be real careful with its remaining shows, cuz those four is all they got.

  • Nathan

    I just hope they can find a way to pull Jafar into regular Once Upon A Time which I suspect has always been a contingency plan. It may require a little twisting and tip toeing around plot holes since OUATIW takes place during Season 1 of OUAT. Considering the 5-year 8/7c cancellation “curse” on ABC they should put Grey’s Anatomy there, it might not have helped half of them but Grey’s would have kept its loyal fans and if it ended I wouldn’t care lol.

  • Jamey

    the blacklist is actually a huge asset to NBC….and to be on Friday Grimm is a pretty good grab too. I would probably rather be in NBC’s shoes than ABC’s…. Greys is fading, as is Once Upon A Time. Modern Family is in its 5th season, as is the Middle. They are stuck with another season of Revenge probably. Scandal is about their only long term asset I can see.

  • Deena Braun

    And if Lee doesn’t step up and hire better writers for Scandal, that too will fail. He needs writers with vision for epic story telling? Hope he doesn’t squander that opportunity.

  • Boiler

    I agree with most, he needs to go. It would take all fingers and toes to count shows he either screwed up or gave up on.

  • anotherhour

    Body Of Proof was one of my fave shows, but seasom three sucked, No Peter, No Sam, No Bud; Epic Failure

  • Kissan

    Paul Lee has done a lot of stupid stuff…like cancelling shows that actually had a chance to grow. I think these are the ABC shows that were treated unfairly: How To Live, GCB, Malibu Country and Don’t Trust The B—-. All of these shows had potential. Mailbu Country was doing great after LMS, why di he cancel it I don’t know. How To Live and Don’t Trust The B should’ve been on in the fall behind Modern Family, they both could’ve been hits. In March-May 2012, GCB was doing 1.8’s behind Desperate Housewives, if he let it stay a bit longer like he did with Scandal, it could’ve grown and become a hit. I also can’t believe he passed on Devious Maids and now guess what, it’s the highest rated show on Lifetime.

    This would’ve been a good Fall 2013 schedule:


    9:00-Devious Maids




    8:30-Don’t Trust The B—-
    10:00-Resurrection/Mind Games


    8:00-The Middle
    8:30-The Goldbergs
    9:00-Modern Family
    9:30-Trophy Wife




    8:30-Malibu Country
    9:00-How To Live/Shark Tank
    9:30-BITG/Shark Tank

  • Boiler

    Eric, so many people are upset about Body of Proof because it was one of ABC’s most watched dramas. The show was a perfect example of the demo rating not caring about older folks like me

  • Carmen

    For some time, I’ve thought that ABC’s problem is not (show) judgement. In that area they come up with more watchable . .. that’s watchable, not mega hit. ..than any of the other networks.

    No, I feel that ABC’s problem is that they don’t know how to handle the success they have. They seems to always be caught by surprise whenever one of their shows does either unexpectedly well based upon their own internal evaluations and just don’t know how to adjust. Many of their comedies in the past several years fall into this category. (Cougar Town, Suburgatory, Happy Endings, Malibu Country, etc)

    Its like they have a plan (for failure) and have OK’d many other “replacement” shows – Too many replacement shows – and are going to force these mid season shows onto their schedule regardless of how another new show is being received or how that show may strongly develop. .. if left alone.

    Also improved scheduling would help. The way ABC slots their shows on the weekly schedule sometimes make me wonder if they even are aware of what their competition is showing. OUATIW is a very good example of that.

    No really, does ABC they even look at the upcoming schedules and shows on the other networks.

  • Jeff

    CBS won’t cancel The Good Wife. It’s doing well in the most competitive time slot all week. It’s also having the beat season critically.

  • Tom Shaw

    @Jonay: The “likely” is next to the midseason shows, not Wonderland. (Wonderland is dooooone – I’m not even sure the remaining episodes air during the season.)

    My dim prospects for the midseason shows is a combination of iffy concepts, low star power, and terrible scheduling (every show is being dropped into a timeslot a Fall show did poorly in).

    @Lukel: I’m not fond of Greenblatt’s reign either, but he just signed a contract extension two months ago. Greenblatt getting the axe in the summer would therefore be unlikely, though not unheard of (NBC gave Kevin Reilly an extension just months before bringing Ben Silverman in).

    And to re-emphasize, Lee’s first Fall success was spectacular, by modern standards. Other than wisely giving Scandal a chance to grow, though, his track record from Jan ’12 on has been a mess. While I am not guaranteeing his firing this summer, he is the only head in real danger this year.

  • Ultima

    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.

    Nice fan excuse bingo. Nothing like a bitter fan that just can’t accept that their show was canceled because of its ratings, it just has to be something else! :roll:

    GCB – 2.2, 2.3, 2.0, 2.1, 1.9, 1.7, 1.9, 1.5, 1.8, 1.8

    Scandal – 2.0, 2.0, 2.0, 2.0, 1.9, 1.9, 2.3

    It was probably and either/or situation and ABC clearly made the correct choice given Scandal’s ratings the past 11 months.


    jeff it is cbs second lowest drama after hostages bye bye

  • Aron

    You guys should do one of these for each of the other 3 network heads

© 2015 Tribune Digital Ventures