Bubble trouble for marginal shows

Several series anxiously waiting to hear their fate

It’s that time of year when TV creatives tend to shy away from making an offer on a house, maxing out the credit card or planning an extravagant summer vacation.

With the upfronts less than two months away, the Big Four and the CW have their eye on the bubble, or the shows that are not a slam dunk to return for the 2011-12 TV season. At this juncture of the season, a strong finish can give a bubble show a reprieve, while the writing is probably on the wall for programs that limp to the end.

Following is a network-by-network rundown of what execs will be considering during the next few weeks.


The Alphabet has a bunch of dramas on the fence, most of them leaning to the wrong side.

“No Ordinary Family,” “Off the Map,” “Detroit 1-8-7” and “V” probably have more minuses than pluses. “Family” struggled in a tough 8 p.m. Tuesday timeslot opposite “Glee” and “NCIS,” and its lead actors are fleeing: Michael Chiklis is the lead in CBS comedy pilot “Vince Uncensored,” and Julie Benz is attached to the Eye’s untitled Susannah Grant project.

“Detroit 1-8-7’s” 1.7 rating in adults 18-49 for likely won’t cut it for a renewal, nor will “Off the Map’s” 2.2 demo score despite the show’s Shonda Rhimes pedigree.

“Brothers and Sisters,” however, would seem to have some life left in it. Alphabet execs realize the femme-skewing sudser is a good counterprogramming pairing with “Desperate Housewives” on Sunday nights in the fall and winter when NBC is dominating with football.

“V” could be ABC Entertainment topper Paul Lee’s biggest question mark. While the alien drama showed early promise, the execution over the past two seasons has often fallen short. A 2.4 rating is nothing to scoff at these days, but ABC has to be asking what the upside is in going forward with season three.

On the comedy front, Matthew Perry’s “Mr. Sunshine” has averaged a nothing-special 2.9 behind “Modern Family,” but a soph season can’t be ruled out. Similarly, “Better With You” hasn’t distinguished itself but has performed OK between hits on Wednesday. It could be back, perhaps as part of a new comedy block.


Being the most consistent broadcaster means not having to make many changes and having the luxury of being selective in picking new shows.

“The Defenders” has wrapped its first season with decent averages (10.3 million viewers, 2.2 in 18-49) by the standard of its Friday 8 p.m. timeslot. The future of the Jim Belushi-Jerry O’Connell starrer will hinge on how much Nina Tassler likes the net’s drama pilots.

Midseason drama “Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior” has delivered so-so ratings despite the benefit of a strong lead-in from the mothership “Criminal Minds.” Still, it’s hard to see the net part ways after giving Forest Whitaker and Co. only half a season to find an audience.

Comedy-wise, “Bleep My Dad Says” delivers a steady 3.1 rating in 18-49, but that’s underwhelming considering it airs behind “The Big Bang Theory” on Thursday. And there’s a feeling at the network that the show has creative weaknesses.

Newcomer “Mad Love” is performing below “Bleep” and doesn’t seem to be engendering any great love — either from critics or viewers. “Rules of Engagement” has become a solid midseason utility performer for CBS and, like a good 10th man in baseball, looks to be too valuable to lose.


Network chief Kevin Reilly moved “Fringe” from Thursday to Fridays, but will it make a difference? The sci-fi skein may now be No. 1 in its new timeslot (2.2/7, 5.4 million viewers), but Fridays don’t matter as much anymore. Whatever Reilly decides, he’s sure to make enemies.

More pressing for Reilly, however, may be the fate of “The Chicago Code.” Fox gave it plenty of publicity during the Super Bowl, but it still hasn’t found much support at 9 p.m. Mondays. An argument can be made either way regarding its 2.4 rating and 8.9 million viewers, but the clout of “Code” creator Shawn Ryan may tip the scales in favor of renewal. Still up in the air are the fate of dramas “Lie to Me” and “Human Target.” Both shows earned surprise pickups last spring, but it seems doubtful that both will pull off the same trick this year.

Among all of broadcast TV’s midseason comedy entries, “Traffic Light” can boast solid writing, but it hasn’t done a whole lot behind another frosh laffer, the already-renewed “Raising Hope.” If Fox expands its comedy slate beyond Tuesday to another night, it may want to keep “Traffic” on the bench.


The end may finally be near for “Chuck.” After squeaking by the last two years, the show is sputtering in the ratings (fourth-place 2.1 on Monday). If new NBC Entertainment boss Robert Greenblatt feels he has something that can do better, he could pull the plug despite the show’s loyal cadre of vocal fans.

The performance of a batch of new episodes starting next month will probably decide the fate of “Law and Order: Los Angeles.” Midseason drama “Harry’s Law” figures to return despite nothing-special demo averages. Both of these shows may benefit from a compatible lead-in, perhaps something like the new “Prime Suspect” that the Peacock is piloting.In comedy, “Outsourced” does a good job of holding on to the “30 Rock” aud at 10:30 p.m. Thursday, but that may not be enough justification for a second season. “Perfect Couples,” which will be displaced next month by “The Paul Reiser Show,” seems to have only a slim chance of seeing another season.


With “Smallville” bowing out and “Life Unexpected” and “Shedding for the Wedding” likely also finding the door, CW probably won’t have to trim much more. The net typically adds only two or three shows each fall.

But if outgoing entertainment prexy Dawn Ostroff wants to clear shelf space for new dramas, newbies “Nikita,” “Hellcats” and even eight-season vet “One Tree Hill” could be vulnerable.

(Rick Kissell contributed to this report.)