For those network series “on the bubble,” April can be the cruelest month.
The webs have already renewed most of their strongest series — obvious entries like ABC’s “The Practice” and NBC’s “Will & Grace” — for next season.
On the flip side, this season’s DOA offerings (“Mike O’Malley,” “Wasteland”) have been buried six feet under — with others, like underperformer “Falcone,” about to push the daisies as well.
That leaves a whole class of series that are neither hits nor misses. In industryspeak, they reside “on the bubble” — that is, nobody (not even the decisionmakers at the networks) knows whether those shows will return.
The networks will make those final judgments by mid-May, when they announce their fall schedules at the upfront presentations in New York.
In the coming weeks, studio chiefs and series producers will bombard the network entertainment prexies in last-ditch efforts to squeeze another year out of their series.
Depending on the show, a full-fledged campaign might be waged if its return looks promising. Those full-blown presentations usually include a compilation tape of a show’s best scenes, eight to 10 potential storylines for next season and a recommendation for new staffing.
Producers may encourage viewers to get into the act as well. The WB, for example, has received hundreds of bottles of Tabasco sauce sent by fans in support of “Roswell” after a Web site suggested the gesture.
“We try to be as proactive as we can,” Warner Bros. TV president Peter Roth said. “Our goal is to try to make our series so attractive that the networks can’t help but pick the series up for another year.”
At ABC, the jury’s still out on “Sports Night,” “Norm,” “Making the Band,” “Then Came You” and “The Hughleys” (possibly homeless with the demise of TGIF).
CBS has a large roster of series still waiting by the phone: “Chicago Hope,” “City of Angels,” “Diagnosis Murder,” “Early Edition,” “Family Law,” “Kids Say the Darndest Things,” “Ladies Man,” “Martial Law” and “Now and Again.”
At Fox, “Family Guy,” “Get Real,” “Time of Your Life” and reality players “Greed,” “World’s Funniest” and “World’s Wildest Police Chases” could still go either way.
The list’s also long at NBC, where “Jesse,” “Stark Raving Mad” and the network’s entire Saturday night Thrillogy lineup are among shows on the fence.
At the weblets, “The Beat,” “Grown Ups” and “Malcolm & Eddie” are iffy at UPN, while “For Your Love” and “Zoe” are additional question marks at the WB, where the word is good that “Jamie Foxx” may return.