Bubble Watch Wrap: Schedule Spackle, The CW, Retention & The Terrible Twos -- A Look Back

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May 11th, 2014

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The Bubble Watch Renewal Roundup

So now that another season’s flurry of renewals, pickups, and cancellations have gone through, what have we learned?

You can find the final list of cancelled and renewed shows here.

 Still Can’t Predict Scheduling

After NBC’s latest Thursday comedy debacle, many of us thought NBC would cut down on the number of comedy hours next year, which would likely put the final dagger in Community.

Then NBC early ordered two comedies and shot over a dozen comedy pilots, which would likely provide another spackle opportunity for Community.

Then NBC came out of this week with just 6 comedies with 10+ episodes, a likely reduction in comedy hours that left Community in the cold.

The point to the story is that it is impossible to guess what a network’s schedule will look like ahead of time, and every year a couple shows’ fates depend on just how the schedules are constructed.

Similarly, CBS went into this week with just two drama holes… so they renewed The Mentalist and picked up 6 more dramas. What the hell!

The only solution I can come up with is that CBS plans to adopt the same sort of drama timeslot sharing ABC planned this season, e.g. NCIS will take a break for a couple months in the middle of the season while, say, NCIS: New Orleans airs in the slot.

There’s a lot to recommend the idea: You aren’t throwing new show after new show into a death slot until something sticks, a la ABC (and CBS could use drama successes in bulk); your average ratings go up, due to less (or no) repeats; it gives Tassler a new initiative to hang her hat on in the first year of her promotion.

The downside, of course, is that the cost for programming that hour over the course of the season just went noticeably up, so it will be interesting to see for how many seasons the experiment runs. (To those who think CBS’ repeats are still a hidden strength, double check the numbers – even NCIS’ low 1s repeat ratings aren’t much to cheer about anymore.)

The CW Is More Complicated Than We Thought

Earlier in the year Reign’s early renewal had me wondering about the internal politicking going on between CBS and WB at The CW; this week’s renewal of Beauty & the Beast and pickup of Jane the Virgin has me nearly obsessed. (Let’s be clear here: Beauty & the Beast wasn’t merely pulled off the schedule and burned off in Summer, it stayed burned off even after Star-Crossed fizzled on Mondays.) While production credits and PR statements are unclear (possibly even contradictory), it might be clearer just to look at Distributor labels, where only Star-Crossed, Beauty & the Beast, Reign, and ANTM are CBS. Did CBS balk at 70+% of The CW schedule being WB properties? It sure looks like it. It also makes me suspect The Messengers gets the post-Vampire Diaries slot, and will make me very hesitant to predict Reign gets the axe next season.

Spackle Is Dead

Spackle – existing shows kept in reserve in case a new show needs to be canceled and pulled – has been a dying breed in recent seasons, and I’m willing to call it extinct after this season, with the demises of Community, Suburgatory, etc. As live audiences decline and margins shrink, the feasibility of spending ~$20 Million on a spackle show that may not be used until Summer goes right out the window. Unless a show is strong enough to start off the season, don’t expect it to come back anymore.

Retention Matters… Sometimes

Over at ABC, every comedy following The Middle or Modern Family was canceled; many were surprised at Growing Up Fisher’s demise after The Voice. For as much as we like to downplay the magnitude of retention, there are clearly a small number of shows for whom the networks expect their lead-outs to perform well. How much better than average they need to perform is the unknown part.

The Terrible Twos, Part Deux

A common refrain from me is that two-full-season sophomore shows are essentially deciding on a two season renewal, and thus under higher scrutiny from their networks. This year’s results are inconclusive: while Revolution, The Neighbors, and effectively-sophomore Suburgatory were all given the axe, The Mindy Project was saved by Fox collapsing around it, Beauty & the Beast was likely saved by being CBS owned, and Nashville apparently has tax credits to thank for not being ABC’s ~57-and-out for the 14/15 season. While I expect less outliers next season (though CBS saving Reign already seems likely), I wasn’t expecting Fox to fall to low-1s this season either.

Three Still Gets You Four

One thing that hasn’t changed is that three full seasons in the books virtually guarantees a fourth season for syndication, as every candidate this year (Once Upon A Time, 2 Broke Girls, Hart Of Dixie, Last Man Standing, New Girl, Revenge, Person Of Interest, Grimm) was renewed. So no matter how ugly the ratings for Nashville or The Mindy Project (or if it somehow gets 22 episodes, Beauty & the Beast) get next season, it would be surprising if they weren’t renewed.

Bubble Watch By The Numbers

ABC: 22/23 (Suburgatory: Retention/Death of Spackle)

CBS: 20/22 (The Mentalist: Schedule Structure?, Good Wife: Syndication Money/General Network Slide)

CW: 10/11 (Beauty & the Beast: Internal WB/CBS split)

Fox: 11/12 (The Mindy Project: General Network Collapse)

NBC: 17/18 (Community: Schedule Structure?/Death of Spackle)

Tom’s Soapbox

For those of you enraged I predicted cancellation for Revolution, Almost Human, or Growing Up Fisher, please vacate your seats on the Hate Train for fans of Suburgatory and (sigh) Community, who I gave false hope to and actually have an axe to grind with me.

Tom’s Soapbox, Part Two

Happy Mother’s Day! Thank the Mom, Stepmom, Foster Mom, Cool Aunt, or Big Sister in your life for not cancelling you this year!

Tom Shaw is a computer programmer from Milwaukee, WI. Bereft of Lost theories to argue about, he's spent too much time attempting to figure out the TV industry.

Save yourself from hibernating bears! Direct your criticisms to @tvtomshaw instead!

 
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