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On the Bubble 2020: Which Broadcast TV Shows Will Be Canceled and Which Will Be Renewed?

Coin-flips have a much better shot at sticking around amid pandemic

Under normal circumstances, April TV ratings bring May cancellations and last-minute renewals, too. But in the “new normal” that the coronavirus pandemic has delivered us, there’s much more uncertainty about which broadcast shows will stay and which will go than in years past.

Mid-spring usually marks the time of year when at-risk series must sweat out their fates — sometimes right up until networks announce their fall schedules to advertisers at their upfront presentations in May. But those upfronts were canceled this year due to COVID-19 and we’ve yet to hear definitively if and when those “virtual” offerings that networks initially said they’d give in place of the glitzy in-person are happening.

Generally, top-performing shows from each broadcast network have already received their votes of confidence for another season, and the worst performers were snuffed out months ago. But then there are the bubble shows, programs that could really go either way in a typical TV season and are now affected by the wild card that is the pandemic.

In the case of these shows, the fact that they are existing comedies and dramas familiar to viewers — even if they aren’t highly rated or awards contenders — gives them a better chance at a slot on the fall schedule than the broadcast pilots that were shutdown due to coronavirus and have yet to be seen by networks. But even that can’t save every bubble show from being burst.

Setting aside the pandemic’s effect for a moment, these shows’ fates come down to lots of hard-to-quantify factors: momentum, reviews, how much they cost to make, how much money the people who watch them make, syndication situations, diversity and what networks have to replace them. And then there are executives’ personal tastes. It’s part science, part crapshoot.

TheWrap is here to help make sense of it all, charting below what scripted series have already been renewed on each of the English-language broadcast networks, what’s been canceled or just ended, and which way each of the many remaining decisions will likely lean.

All ratings in this story come from the advertiser-sought 18-49 demographic, and count a week’s worth of delayed viewing where available. Shows coded with an “N/A” rating below were either not part of the ongoing TV season or have yet to premiere.

Fox has already made many decisions about what’s coming back and what’s not, though there are a few programs still left in limbo — but only one of them is truly considered a “bubble show.”

Ryan Murphy’s ratings star “9-1-1” and its new spinoff “9-1-1: Lone Star” have both received pickups at the network, as have freshman animated series “Bless the Harts” and “Duncanville” and veteran adult cartoons “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons.” Meanwhile, Fox has already given the ax to two of its newbie dramas, Timothy Hutton’s “Almost Family” and Stephen Dorff’s “Deputy,” brought the long-running “Empire” to its previously announced end (even if it was a couple episodes short of its intended conclusion), and said it won’t be making any more of last summer’s “Beverly Hills, 90210” meta-revival, “BH90210.”

So that leaves “Bob’s Burgers,” “Last Man Standing,” “Prodigal Son,” “The Resident” and “Outmatched” as the only Fox series that have yet to be canceled or renewed. But in this case, “Prodigal Son’s” solid debut season will keep it safe, “Bob’s Burgers” is a shoe-in to remain part of the Sunday-night animation lineup and both Tim Allen’s “Last Man Standing” and medical drama “The Resident” are steady enough performers to land them another season apiece. So the only real coin-flip here is Jason Biggs and Maggie Lawson’s first-year sitcom “Outmatched,” which does not match the ratings of those other shows.

But with the pandemic blocking Fox’s ability to film any of its previously ordered pilots — including the Mayim Bialik comedy “Call Me Kat,” which actually has a series commitment from the network — “Outmatched” might land a slot on the 2020 fall schedule that would have otherwise gone to a new series.

Of course, Fox still has yet to premiere the Kim Cattrall drama “Filthy Rich” and John Slattery-led sci-fi series “neXt,” both of which wrapped shooting before the shutdown, and needs to find spaces for its upcoming animated shows “The Great North” and “Housebroken” (the only program the network has ordered — so far — for the 2020-2021 season). So there’s a chance “Outmatched” could lose out in that way.

In chart form:


A “Manifest” renewal is really a formality at this point — so its spot in the “Probably Returning” column should be considered nothing more than a placeholder.

Though “Good Girls” and “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” don’t perform well by traditional Nielsen metrics, they have solid digital presences — “Good Girls” does especially well on Netflix. While “Zoey’s” has more of an uphill battle, the show’s positive energy serves as a beacon of light in these dark days. Plus, everyone (especially at NBC) loves Jane Levy.

At one point, “Council of Dads” looked like a potential successor to “This Is Us,” and was even scheduled as such. Unfortunately, “Dads” is no “This Is Us,” and the way NBC has rescheduled it over and over again is demonstrative of how much they value the freshman drama. We would never declare it dead yet, however, as “Dads” has only aired one episode so far.

As for the terribly titled “Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector,” it does decent enough for a Friday series. Should it return, Season 2 would need a new baddie, and likely a new title after the colon.

As for “Bluff City Law,” the fact that NBC didn’t order anymore of the Jimmy Schmidt drama after its initial 10-episode run last fall is a clear since it’s probably not going to order a second season either.


ABC has some particularly tough calls in a totally up-in-the-air year. “American Housewife” made our cut due to its versatility. The show has worked well enough on various nights and ABC likes how it complements the full slate of comedies. Lower-rated comedy “black-ish” deserves a proper sendoff. When you consider the fact that “mixed-ish” can be cross-promoted with “black-ish,” together the companions may be worth more than the sum of their parts. The same case can be made for “Schooled,” except “The Goldbergs” is definitely going to return.

We had to cut a comedy here, so “Single Parents” was the odd show out. “Bless This Mess” could also be put out to pasture, but ABC likes having a “middle America” show on the schedule.

“Stumptown’s” delayed viewing and initial success will probably grant it a second season. “For Life” has done well enough in ratings and better with critics. It’s over for “Emergence.”

Poor Nielsen ratings for “The Baker & The Beauty” has likely doomed any second season. But here’s the long shot case: The drama grew in delayed viewing from debut to second episode, and we still don’t have enough data to declare it dead.


“Tommy’s” ratings make it very unworthy of a second season, but this is a weird year and Edie Falco is an asset. Should it get a Season 2, which still feels unlikely to us, the cop drama would have to be pretty heavily retooled. “Broke” has an outside chance, “Carol’s Second Act” and “MacGyver” are long shots at renewal.

“Magnum P.I.,” “SEAL Team” and “S.W.A.T.” will all be considered for next season. Truthfully, the whole trio may return given the need for programming and decent Nielsen numbers, but “SEAL” and “S.W.A.T.” are true coin-flips.

“All Rise” rose to “Probably Returning” based on the star CBS sees in Simone Missick. “The Unicorn” is not very dissimilar: execs like Walton Goggins and his TV kids. As for “Man With a Plan,” CBS needs sitcoms, so Matt LeBlanc could very well keep his job.

“Blue Bloods” is a Friday star, “Bob Hearts Abishola” ticks off the sitcom (and diversity) box, and the proven procedurals are the backbone of CBS primetime. As for “The Neighborhood,” reference “Abishola,” but better.


The CW
The Nielsen ratings for “Katy Keene” are bad, but it does pretty well digitally and has that whole “Riverdale” Universe thing going for it (oh, and also Lucy Hale). Plus, The CW has scripts — the network ordered 13 more ahead of the series’ premiere. Finally, considering everything going on in TV production, which is to say nothing at all, “Katy Keene” probably has a better chance of renewal than it actually deserves.

Of course, it’s not a super great sign that literally everything else but “Katy Keene” has been renewed at this point.