We hate to say any show is doomed. We know people’s jobs are at stake. But we have to be painfully honest.
This has been a great season for comedies, but a tough one for dramas. And so we’re preparing our goodbyes for seven shows whose ratings just don’t give us much confidence in their futures. (We don’t add shows to this list lightly; the last time we made one, we went six-for-six in our predictions.)
Also read: No, Pan Am Is Not Canceled
Here are the shows we think are doomed. May all of them prove us wrong.
The Finder (Fox)
It might seem incredibly presumptuous to predict the loss of “The Finder” (left) after two episodes. We don’t think so. The “Bones” spinoff premiered Jan. 12 to a very soft 1.7 rating in the crucial 18-49 demographic and 5.5 million viewers. It improved to a 2.2 rating and 6.7 million total viewers in its second week.
But that second week improvement came after a lead-in from “American Idol,” the biggest show on television, which on the same night had a 5.7 rating and 14 million viewers. It’s not promising that a show connected to the very reliable “Bones” and following the mighty “Idol” is off to such a slow start.
The Firm (NBC)
We expect “The Firm” to finish out its season. And that will be an accomplishment, given ratings even worse than those of “The Playboy Club,” which NBC canceled after just three episodes.
Why do we expect the John Grisham adaptation to soldier on? Because it’s cheap for NBC to air. The show’s production partners, Sony and Entertainment One, sold “The Firm” to international networks to cover almost the entire cost of production before they sold it to NBC. That means NBC pays a much lower licensing fee for the series than it normally would.
It’s an intriguing model that could make sense for future shows. But it’s hard to imagine even the fourth-place network signing up for another season of “The Firm,” given that it’s averaging a mere 1.3 rating.
A Gifted Man (CBS)
CBS has low tolerance for low ratings. And while the Fridays-at-8 time slot for “A Gifted Man” has been anything but a gift, the show’s 1.3 average rating is still dismal. Its 8.2 million total viewers are impressive considering how poorly it does in the 18-49 demo, but we’re confident that CBS is confident that it can do better with something else next season, if not sooner.
We’d say it’s time for CBS to finally schedule the midseason cop drama “NYC 22,” from Richard Price (“Clockers,” “The Wire”). But we don’t want to wish a Friday time slot on any show, especially one that looks so promising.
Pan Am (ABC)
We know you may be thinking this was already canceled. Not quite.
We enjoy “Pan Am.” We like the unapologetic nostalgia, the easy breeziness of it all, the sense that the attractive, pleasant-enough characters are never in any real danger. It’s truly diverting.
But the lack of drama — and our lack of fear for the characters — also makes “Pan Am” feel very much like a one-season show. There’s nothing grabbing viewers and demanding we watch. The show’s 2.5 average rating feels just right – not at all embarrassing, but not compelling enough to keep the show going, either.
“Pan Am” looked doomed a month ago, when one of its stars, Karine Vanasse, tweeted about receiving “THE call” and said “Pan Am” would only air one more episode in 2012. ABC quickly clarified that the show only wanted “Pan Am” to shoot one of five new scripts it had ordered, but that the show wasn’t canceled and remained in contention for a second season pickup.
It won’t happen unless ABC’s midseason shows bomb. We don’t think they will. One of them, “GCB,” takes over the Sundays-at-10 “Pan Am” timeslot beginning March 4.
Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly said at the Television Critics winter press tour this month that Fox was losing money on “Fringe,” though he stressed that it has not been canceled. “Please don’t start the letter-writing campaign right now,” he joked. “I can’t handle it.”
We don’t think a letter writing campaign would help.
Networks know Fridays are ratings hell, so they stock them with shows whose fans will follow them to hell. “Fringe” and its loyal viewers have nobly struggled there throughout the season, earning an average 1.4 rating for this perennial bubble show. We strongly expect that struggle to end with this season.
“Fringe” was one of many shows that have tried to recapture the mystery of J.J. Abrams’ “Lost.” But Fox has a new “Lost” successor in “Alcatraz,” which has the same intelligent, mysterious qualities as Abrams’ “Fringe” while earning much better ratings, at least so far. (“Alcatraz” is also performing well in a tough time slot, 9 on Mondays, against CBS hits “Two and a Half Men” and “Mike & Molly.)
Body of Proof (ABC)
The Dana Delany medical examiner drama was a midseason hit last year, but this year has averaged only a 2.1 rating. We’re including it on this list with one caveat: We expect “The River,” which will lead into “Body of Proof” on Tuesday nights, to succeed. It fills a drama-horror niche that “Walking Dead” and few other shows do.
If it thrives, it may be able to lift “Proof” as well, though the two shows are probably too different for it to make any difference.
We’ll find out soon. “The River” premieres Feb. 7 with a two-hour episode, then settles into its Tuesdays-at-9 timeslot ahead of “Body of Proof” on Feb. 14. Maybe it will be a Valentine’s Day present.