As upfront presentations approach and this year's longer-than-usual pilot cycle reaches its peak, network execs are tasked with axing — and sparing — their veteran shows as they look to enter a new television season.
But with upfronts three weeks away, little is left on the bubble. The Big Four broadcasters have all renewed a healthy helping of returning shows. Though most final decisions won't come until just before the week of May 16 when the networks present in New York City, Variety has the early buzz from industry insiders.
Dead: "Blood & Oil," "Of Kings and Prophets," "Wicked City," "Galavant"
Mostly Dead: "Agent Carter," "The Catch," "The Family," "American Crime"
Staying Alive: "Last Man Standing," "Nashville," "The Muppets"
Too Close to Call: "Dr. Ken," "The Real O'Neals"
ABC got an early start on renewals for 2016-17, picking up 15 shows in early March, including freshman breakout "Quantico" and Shonda Rhimes' "TGIT" block, marking the first major programming move for the network's new president Channing Dungey.
Despite winning a Primetime Emmy Award for supporting actress Regina King last year, John Ridley's "American Crime" is probably dead, according to insiders who tell Variety that ABC gave Ridley a choice: continue "Crime" or get a series order for pilot "Presence." He chose "Presence," which the network is high on. Marvel series "Agent Carter" is highly unlikely to return with star Hayley Atwell signed on to topline another ABC drama pilot.
Meanwhile, "The Muppets" is primed for a renewal, despite ratings that continued to sag after a midseason showrunner change. Though execs have been 50/50 on bringing back the furry friends in recent months, sources say to expect another season. Long-running drama "Castle" also has a 50/50 shot at returning after jettisoning actors Stana Katic and Tamala Jones and their accompanying salaries. ABC is in negotiations with star Nathan Fillion and will have a definite decision for the show's team May 5 or 6.
Veterans "Nashville" and comedy "Last Man Standing" are likely to come back. Freshman comedies "Dr. Ken" and "The Real O'Neals" are on the bubble, thanks to middling ratings. Dramas "The Catch" and "The Family" have underperformed and have only outside shots at returning.
Dead: "Rush Hour"
Mostly Dead: "Code Black"
Staying Alive: "Criminal Minds," "The Odd Couple," "Supergirl"
Too Close to Call: "Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders," "CSI: Cyber," "Limitless"
CBS announced during February's Super Bowl that long-running drama "The Good Wife" will end with this season. Among new series, "Rush Hour" and "Code Black" are closest to the chopping block, according to insiders. Both are long shots, but medical drama "Code Black" has a greater chance of returning than "Rush Hour," which struggled to take off with a late midseason bow that exemplified the network's lack of faith in the show.
However, two other bubble shows appear headed toward surprisingly good outcomes with "The Odd Couple" and "Life in Pieces" eyeing renewals.
Veteran "Criminal Minds" is definitely coming back, insiders assure Variety, after surprisingly being omitted from the network's slew of 11 renewals in late March. Murkier is the outlook for spinoff "Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders." Both shows are co-productions with ABC Studios, diminishing their value to the network somewhat. It's a good bet that their fates are linked.
Sources say that "CSI: Cyber" has a 50/50 shot of returning, although ratings are down 36% from last year and star Ted Danson is already set to depart for the new NBC comedy, "Good Place." A limited 13-episode order is a possibility.
There's little buzz for "Limitless," which started hot, then faded. Fellow freshman drama "Supergirl" wasn't the huge hit some hoped for, but count on it flying into another season — especially after that stellar example of corporate synergy with "The Flash" crossover, which resulted in increased viewership.
Dead: "Minority Report," "Second Chance," "Cooper Barrett's Guide to Surviving Life"
Mostly Dead: "Grandfathered"
Staying Alive: "Sleepy Hollow"
Too Close to Call: "The Grinder"
With most of its shows already renewed, Fox has little left to decide on.
Freshman flops "Minority Report" and "Second Chance" are long gone, their episodic orders trimmed and schedules shuffled way back when. As Variety recently reported, sources say that newbie comedy "Cooper Barrett's Guide to Surviving Life" is also being axed.
"Sleepy Hollow" said goodbye to star Nicole Beharie when her character was shockingly killed off in the season three finale, but insiders say the show will probably come back without her.
Double-header comedies "Grandfathered" and "The Grinder" struggled to hit on Tuesday nights. Both face long odds, but insiders stress that "Grinder" has the edge over "Grandfathered," as the former is owned outright by 20th Century Fox TV and the latter is a co-production with ABC Studios.
Dead: "Undateable," "The Player," "Truth Be Told"
Mostly Dead: "Telenovela"
Staying Alive: "Mysteries of Laura"
Too Close to Call: "Crowded"
NBC has already renewed all of its strong performers, giving early 2016-17 pickups to all of the "Chicago" shows, "SVU," "The Blacklist," Friday night staple "Grimm," Jennifer Lopez vehicle "Shades of Blue" and freshman breakout "Blindspot."
New comedy "Superstore" also scored a second season, but the same cannot be said for Eva Longoria's "Telenovela," and insiders say the Latino laffer is leaning toward cancellation with an average of fewer than 4.5 million overall viewers — unless NBC wants to stay in business with Longoria. As for other new comedies, sources say NBC execs are waiting on more episodes of "Crowded" to further examine the ratings before they make any decisions with that show.
"Undateable" is dead, despite the network's creative gamble on a fully live season for the most recent third round. Sources say the show was effectively cancelled last week with NBC giving a heads up to the cast and crew, though the official news may not come until upfronts.
"Mysteries of Laura" will likely return for a third season, sources say, as the Debra Messing-starrer is stable enough to be used as a short-order filler show. Though they haven't officially been given a death sentence, freshman comedy "Truth Be Told" and Wesley Snipes drama "The Player" both failed early on, with the network cutting down their original episode orders — in other words, they're both cancelled.