Predicting the Fates of Every Broadcast TV Show Still in Limbo

It's that time of year: a look at this season's bubble shows.
  • Seemed like a good idea at the time: NBC's Indebted is one of several shows on the chopping block. (Photo: NBC)
    Seemed like a good idea at the time: NBC's Indebted is one of several shows on the chopping block. (Photo: NBC)

    As the former editor of TV By the Numbers, Alex Welch was pretty intimate with the cancel bear. In his latest column for Primetimer, he looks at the shows most at risk of cancellation as each of the broadcast networks work to finalize their schedules for next fall.

    When COVID-19 shut down production in March, it not only cut short the current TV season for a good number of shows, it also prevented pilots from being shot for most of the shows in development for this fall.

    That puts the networks in an awkward position as they plan the 2020-2021 TV season. Without pilots for many of the shows in consideration, they're left flying blind: do they cancel existing shows for new ones they haven't seen?

    If CBS is any indication, the answer is yes, and that can't have come as good news to fans of Matt LeBlanc's Man with a Plan, Edie Falco's Tommy, Patricia Heaton's Carol's Second Act and Pauley Perrette's Broke, which were all given the axe last week, while three new series were picked up. Whether the other networks follow suit remains to be seen, but with each planning to present their 2020-21 plans to advertisers over the next three weeks, we'll soon have a better idea

    To help you be better prepared for the onslaught of renewals and cancellations on the horizon, here's a quick overview of the shows currently in limbo at each of the other networks, and how we think those shows will fare over the weeks to come.


    James Roday, Floriana Lima, and Romany Malco in A Million Little Things. (Photo: ABC)

    ABC has the most decisions to make of all the networks right now, with the fates of thirteen shows still hanging in the balance. Here's how those shows are looking at the start of this week:

    Sure Bets: The Conners, The Goldbergs, Black-ish
    Not only is The Conners still ABC’s highest-rated comedy, but the show’s principal cast all signed contracts for another season last month, which means its Season 3 renewal is something of a foregone conclusion at this point. There’s also little doubt that flagship comedies The Goldbergs and Black-ish, will be renewed, as it's unlikely either would get canceled without some kind of final season announcements being made ahead of time. Their spots on ABC’s 2020-21 schedule feel pretty secure right now.

    Probably Renewed: A Million Little Things, American Housewife, Schooled, Mixed-ish, The Rookie, Stumptown
    A Million Little Things, American Housewife, and The Rookie all averaged what should be high enough ratings in their time slots this season for ABC to bring them back in the fall. The same goes for Schooled and Mixed-ish, which share the benefit of being spinoffs from two of the network’s few remaining veteran comedies.

    The same cannot be said for Stumptown, which is tied for being ABC’s lowest-rated first-year show of the season in the linear ratings. With that being said, although its live + same day performance was lacking, the Colbie Smulders-led series consistently posted some of the biggest delayed viewing gains of any of this year’s freshman shows. Considering that ABC is no longer using L+SD ratings to measure the performances of its shows, it seems like a strong possibility that Stumptown’s big non-linear gains could secure it a season two renewal.

    Wild Cards: Bless This Mess, Single Parents, For Life
    These three shows could go either way this season. They all put up okay numbers in their respective time slots, but none performed at a level to make them strong candidates for renewals. It’s possible that the network could bring all three back next season, in order to guarantee some kind of stability in its schedule, but should ABC decide to say goodbye to a few more shows this season, their futures are up in the air.

    Probably Canceled: Emergence
    This freshman drama failed to make much of an impact when it was on the air, and didn’t match Stumptown in delayed viewing gains either. Of all of ABC’s shows still in limbo, Emergence seems the likeliest candidate for cancellation.


    Josh Dallas in Manifest. (Photo: NBC)

    There are nine NBC shows still waiting to find out about their futures, and at least one of them can be considered a wild card.

    Probably Renewed: Manifest, Good Girls, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist
    Of these three shows, Good Girls is the one we’re most confident in calling a renewal for. The series has never been much of a linear ratings performer, but has done well season-to-season on digital platforms and continues to benefit from a lucrative deal between Netflix and NBC. Odds are those two factors get it renewed yet again. Meanwhile, Manifest has performed well enough in the ratings this season that we think it’ll be renewed, although the fact that the show is not owned by NBC could lead to it getting the surprise axe this year. Only time will tell.

    Rounding this tier out is Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. The freshman musical dramedy didn’t perform particularly well in the linear ratings in its first season, but like Good Girls, it posted some big gains in both delayed viewing and on digital platforms. Not for nothing, the show has cultivated both a strong fan following and has widespread praise from critics. For those reasons, we’re saying it has a good shot at a second season.

    Wild Cards: Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for Bone Collector
    It’s hard to know for sure what will happen to Lincoln Rhyme. On one hand, the rookie drama did pretty well in its Friday night time slot, which NBC could see as reason enough to renew it. On the other hand, it's equally possible that NBC could try to fill its time slot with a different show next season — one that has the potential to do even better than Lincoln Rhyme did. Basically, it all comes down to whether or not NBC has a new show ready to take its place.

    Probably Canceled: Indebted, Perfect Harmony
    Neither show managed to catch fire in the ratings or on social media. They’re two of NBC’s lowest-rated shows of the season, and without a rabid fan base rooting for them or the same kind of behind-the-scenes creative backing that a show like Zoey’s has going for it, the chances of either getting renewed seems unlikely.


    Tom Payne in Prodigal Son. (Photo: FOX)

    Only four of FOX’s shows have yet to be renewed or canceled this season, but we think we’ve got a pretty good idea which of them will live for another year, and which is dead in the water.

    Probably Renewed: Prodigal Son, Last Man Standing, The Resident
    Prodigal Son, Last Man Standing, and The Resident all put up solid numbers this year, and are sitting high enough up on FOX’s season rankings to be considered likely renewals. All three were reliably steady performers week-to-week as well, and FOX will likely want to hold onto them for that reason as the network begins trying to fill out the rest of its lineup for next year.

    Probably Canceled: Outmatched
    This live-action comedy was met with little-to-no fanfare when it premiered on the network, and it wasn’t long before its ratings started to feel similarly anti-climactic. We don't think it'll be long before this one finds itself on the chopping block.

    The CW

    Lucy Hale in Katy Keene. (Photo: The CW)

    The CW only has one show still hanging in limbo right now and that’s the Riverdale spin-off, Katy Keene. The series has only averaged a low 0.1 live + same day rating in the coveted adults 18-49 demo this season, which on most networks would make it a sure bet to be canceled. However, Katy Keene is a CW show, and the network has already renewed other shows with even worse ratings this season (we’re looking at you, In the Dark).

    In general, the network has been paying less and less attention to linear ratings in recent years, and barring a few long-running shows coming to an end, has made a habit of renewing most (if not all) of its shows year-to-year. So, based on both the CW’s recent renewal track record and the fact that it is connected to one of the network’s most popular shows, we’re going to go ahead and say that Katy Keene will probably get renewed for a second season.

    Stay on top of all of this season's cancellations, renewals and pick-ups at Primetimer's pilots area, where we've read and reviewed the pilot scripts for the most of the shows in contention for this fall.

    Alex Welch has written about television and film for TV by the Numbers, IGN, The Berrics, Paste Magazine, Screen Rant and GeekNation. Follow him on Twitter @alexrwelch.

    TOPICS: Ratings, ABC, CBS, The CW, FOX, NBC, The Conners, Emergence, For Life, The Goldbergs, Good Girls, Katy Keene, Last Man Standing, Manifest, Prodigal Son, The Resident, Stumptown, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, In Development