We are on the cusp of the annual flurry of broadcast renewals and cancellations. CBS just kicked off the proceedings today with the first multiple renewals so far this season — for freshman dramas SEAL Team and S.W.A.T. Here is a look at the broadcast scripted series whose fate has not been determined yet, along with assessment of their chances. The assessment is done somewhat in a vacuum as some of the renewal decisions will depend on the strength of the networks’ pilots and a number of them will come down to a network’s ability to make a deal with an outside studio.
ABC has only renewed one series so far this season, breakout new drama The Good Doctor, which joins comedies Modern Family and The Goldbergs, both in the middle of two-season renewals. There are several series that are considered shoo-ins — Shondaland dramas Grey’s Anatomy, which locked in its star Ellen Pompeo with a new deal, and How to Get Away with Murder, as well as comedies Black-ish and American Housewife. All are produced by ABC’s in-house studio, ABC Studios. Grey’s Anatomy spinoff, Station 19, just launched on Thursday, with NBC pitting its own firefighter drama Chicago Fire against the premiere in an act of scheduling gamesmanship. Station 19 was hurt but, unless it falls apart in the next few weeks, the new drama is likely to get a renewal due to its pedigree. It also is owned by ABC and, as an extension of Grey’s, it no doubt has solid international sales. The future is grimmer for the other new Shondaland addition, legal drama For the People, which got off to a rough rating start in ABC’s challenging Tuesday 10 PM slot that may be difficult to overcome. ABC’s third new drama series introduced in the past couple of weeks is Deception. The Warner Bros. TV-produced show has done just enough to put itself in renewal contention, and it could be helped by the fact that it is a procedural, a genre that ABC has little of on its schedule. Additionally, ABC’s recent dealmaking has given the network as much as half of outside series’ backends, which gives the network financial interest in keeping them on the air. Deception is believed to be part of that new business template.
Of the other ABC dramas, The Mark Gordon Company/ABC Studios’ Designated Survivor continues to be helped by strong DVR lifts and a high-profile star, Kiefer Sutherland, and looks promising to return. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is on the bubble and could go either way. But it is the only chance for a Marvel series on ABC next fall as underwhelming freshman series Inhumans is considered dead. Despite its low live ratings, S.H.I.E.L.D. is a strong DVR gainer and an even stronger international seller for ABC Studios, as well as a marketing platform for Marvel, which should help its renewal prospects. Meanwhile, despite internal support, Kevin (Probably) Saves the World (probably) won’t make it to a second season. Quantico’s third season is yet to premiere.
In comedy, the network likely will look to order more Roseanne. There are promising signs for Speechless and Fresh Off the Boat, both well received and both coming from 20th Century Fox TV, which could soon become a part of Disney. The buzz is that at least one and possibly both could be renewed. In addition to the quality of ABC’s half-hour pilots, the decision will depend on the performance of the two new ABC comedies that are yet to debut, Alex Inc. and Splitting Up Together. The third freshman ABC comedy, The Mayor, which debuted in the fall, is not expected to return.
CBS has The Big Bang Theory franchise — the long-running mothership series and hot upstart Young Sheldon — as well as freshman dramas S.W.A.T. and SEAL Team picked up for next season. With Young Sheldon, SEAL Team and S.W.A.T., the network has renewed its strongest first-year series, leaving the pickup decision on the others for May. The third Chuck Lorre CBS comedy, Mom, starring Emmy — and now Oscar — winner Allison Janney, also is considered a sure bet to return, as is the Kevin James starrer Kevin Can Wait. 20th TV-produced Life In Pieces is not a slam-dunk but is looking good, posting a rare year-to-year viewership gain. It’s still early, but new midseason comedy Living Biblically looks like it may join fall half-hour entry Me, Myself & I on the list of likely cancellations, with fellow freshman 9JKL considered a long-shot possibility. The remaining two CBS comedy series, Man with a Plan and Superior Donuts, are on the bubble. Man with a Plan has a little higher ratings, ranking as CBS’ second highest rated and most watched series behind Kevin Can Wait on Monday where the network has struggled lately, and boasts a TV comedy star, Matt LeBlanc, as its lead. Meanwhile, Superior Donuts has solid internal support at the network and is the only current CBS comedy series with a non-white lead. It probably will come down to the strength of the comedies on CBS’ pilot slate, which is one of the most diverse in the network’s history.
On the drama side, for the second year in a row, Scorpion finds itself heavily on the bubble. It has struggled on Monday, and is the least watched CBS scripted series currently on the air in Live+same day. The NCIS franchise, the mothership series and offshoots NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: New Orleans, are all safe to return, contingent on NCIS star/executive producer Mark Harmon signing a new deal with CBS TV Studios. In Season 15, NCIS continues to be CBS’ most watched drama series. Also considered safe to come back are Blue Bloods, Bull and Hawaii Five-0. Criminal Minds‘ renewal usually comes down to negotiations between CBS and ABC Studios that go down to the wire but so far have not led to an agreement. MacGyver has done respectable business on Friday and has done OK internationally for CBS based on its recognizable title and popcorn, procedural nature. But with two high-profile reboots, Magnum P.I. and Cagney and Lacey, in the hopper, CBS will likely wait to see those pilots before deciding which reboot(s) will join the S.W.A.T. (and likely Hawaii Five-0) remakes on the schedule next season. It’s too early to make a call on new drama Instinct, which got a nice ratings boost from the Stormy Daniels 60 Minutes interview on Sunday after a so-so premiere the week before. Elementary, which has been a profit generator for CBS, and Code Black are not scheduled to return until April 30-May 2, so they likely won’t be in upfront consideration. Wisdom of the Crowd is dead.
Fox has the most series already renewed for next season, freshmen 9-1-1, The Orville and The Giftedas well as animated comedies The Simpsons, Family Guy and Bob’s Burgers. Of the others, Empire is considered a no-brainer to return. The other Fox drama co-created by Lee Daniels, Star, is looking good, as are the Warner Bros. TV-produced Gotham and Lethal Weapon. The third WBTV series, Lucifer, was a sleeper hit when it launched in January 2016, and then landed an early Season 3 renewal in February 2017. This time around the comic-based drama is on the bubble, and it could go either way. Medical procedural is a genre Fox has been trying to bring back to the network that carried hit drama House. While new midseason entry The Resident has not been a breakout hit the size of ABC’s The Good Doctor, it has showed enough promise and is looking good to get a second season. Despite strong reviews, The Exorcist could not draw a crowd in two seasons and is not expected to continue.
On the comedy side, like The Resident. new midseason series LA to Vegas has not been a standout but has support within Fox and comes from sibling (for now), 20th TV. It has a star in Dylan McDermott and one of 20th TV’s top comedy showrunners, Steve Levitan, is an executive producer; its chances look good. The Mick, also from 20th TV, has been sluggish in its sophomore season after a hot start last winter. Still, the comedy starring Kaitlin Olson has fans at the network and is looking OK for the moment. The other three Fox comedies, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Ghosted and The Last Man On Earth are more heavily on the bubble, especially the last one. The Last Man On Earth is a cult favorite that was never able to grow beyond niche appeal. Ghosted has been a disappointing ratings performer but it underwent a revamp for its back six episodes with a new showrunner, so the network will likely wait to see how the yet-unscheduled Ghosted 2.0 episodes do before making a final call. Meanwhile, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, produced by Universal TV, perked up in the ratings earlier this month when it returned to Sunday, a night where it has done well in the past, replacing Ghosted.
NBC has flagship drama This Is Us and comedies Will & Grace, Superstore and The Good Place renewed for next season. While Chicago Justice was canceled last May, the remaining three Chicago series, Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D. and Chicago Med, are all solid and considered safe to come back. The previous NBC regime denied Dick Wolf the opportunity to beat Gunsmoke‘s record of 20 seasons by cancelling the mothership Law & Order series after Season 20. With Law & Order: SVU still doing well in its 19th season and Wolf’s career contributions to NBC, he is unlikely to be denied again a shot at making history. It’s early to evaluate the chances of Good Girls and Rise but NBC brass have been high on both new dramas, which were heavily promoted during the Winter Olympics. Both have been mostly well received by critics, their ratings are OK so far, and Good Girls has a lucrative deal with Netflix. The renewals for The Blacklist and Blindspot will once again be subject to negotiations with outside studios Sony TV and Warner Bros. TV, respectively. Of the two, The Blacklist is higher rated, and NBC has ownership stake in it. Its renewal looks promising at the moment but for both The Blacklist and Blindspot, which have been consistent ratings performers with established fan base — the renewals will likely come down to deal-making (aka concessions on behalf of the studios) as well as the strength of NBC’s drama pilots. After beating cancellation once, the odds for Timeless doing it again are long based on its Season 2 ratings performance after a long hiatus, but the Sony TV-produced time-travel drama has proven the fierce loyalty of its fans with the campaign that helped to uncancel it last May, so another short order may not be out of the question. But the question is whether that would work for both parties as the series is not cheap to produce. Freshman military drama The Brave, which is well liked within NBC, and sophomore Taken also do not look very good.
On the comedy side, neither new NBC midseason series, AP Bio and Champions, have impressed in the ratings. AP Bio got a major push with two special previews, including one after the closing ceremony of the PyeongChang Olympics. AP Bio,which is slightly higher rated, also got a digital push ahead of its official premiere, which reportedly netted respectable sampling. Great News got a second chance with a last-minute renewal last May after a softly rated first season. It has support within NBC and is well received by critics but despite everyone’s best efforts, including executive producer Tina Fey doing an arc to bring in eyeballs, the workplace comedy has struggled and would find it very hard to make a case for another renewal.
The CW will likely renew all returning series on its fall schedule, the four DC series, The Flash, Arrow, Supergirl and Legends Of Tomorrow,the venerable Supernatural, sophomore success Riverdale and praised comedies Jane the Virgin— for what could be the series’ final season — and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.Additionally, new midseason DC drama Black Lightning looks like a sure bet for renewal. Both new fall CW dramas, Valor and Dynasty, underperformed at similar ratings levels. The former did not get a back order and is expected to get officially canceled. The latter received a full-season order and is likely to get a Season 2 renewal. Dynasty‘s ratings continue to be soft as it was moved to the lower-trafficked Friday night. But the reboot of the classic 1980s soap has a lucrative distribution deal with Netflix for CBS TV Studios, whose parent CBS co-owns the CW. Additionally, the CW brass hope that the arrival of Nicollette Sheridan as Alexis Carrington would provide the spark that Joan Collins delivered when she joined the original series as Alexis in Season 2. Sheridan’s first episode on Friday posted a small viewership uptick.
Of the other CW midseason series, iZombie and newbie Life Sentence are on the bubble. iZombie, now in its fourth season, is in the middle of the pack ratings-wise and has established fan base. Meanwhile, on the surface, Life Sentence looks like a goner, logging the smallest Live+same day viewership among all CW scripted series this season and lowest adults 18-49 (tied with Dynasty). But the CW long time ago abandoned Live+same day linear ratings as criteria for pickup decisions. Starring Pretty Little Liars‘ Lucy Hale, Life Sentence is young-skewing and has been a solid performer in delayed and digital viewing. That helped Riverdale to snag a Season 2 renewal last year; we’ll see whether Life Sentence‘s bump will be big enough to boost its renewal chances. Renewal decisions on iZombie, Life Sentence and fellow midseason series The 100, whose new season is yet to premiere, will likely go down down to the wire in May. The CW has more real estate to play with next season as it is reclaiming Sunday night for original programming but it also ordered the most pilots ever.