×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Freshmen Fall Victim to TV’s May Massacre

As the broadcast networks debate their final decisions on what new shows will premiere next season, things look grim for last year’s freshman class.

Of the 25 broadcast series from the 2016-17 canceled so far, 16 were one-season shows. That puts this season on par with last, when 66% of canceled shows were one-and-done.  But with more cancellations expected this weekend, the broadcast-rookie body count will likely continue to climb. The final number will say nothing good about the quality of last year’s development crop or the prospects for next year’s.

NBC has canceled only three current series from the season set to end May 24 — “Emerald City,” “Powerless” and “Blacklist: Redemption” — all of them new. (“Timeless” was canceled Friday, then uncanceled Saturday in a bizarre reversal.) Two more freshmen, comedy “Trial & Error” and drama “Chicago Justice,” still await word on their fates. Two of CBS’ three canceled shows were newbies, dramas “Doubt” and “Pure Genius.” Comedy “The Great Indoors” has yet to have its future decided.

The CW canceled two shows, freshman hours “Frequency” and “No Tomorrow.”

ABC has canceled the most shows at 10, with sophomore “Quantico” still awaiting word. Four of those canceled were freshmen — dramas “Time After Time,” “Conviction,” and “Notorious” and comedy “Imaginary Mary.” At Fox, first-season comedies “Son of Zorn” and “Making History” and dramas “APB” and “Pitch” were axed, along with veterans “Rosewood” and “Sleepy Hollow.”

The high number of canceled freshmen is an indicator of the increasing difficulty that broadcast networks face in developing scripted programming that is able to break out in a crowded marketplace. That point is underscored by the fact that only one show from last year’s development crop, NBC’s “This Is Us,” managed to become a bona fide hit. The 20th-produced drama is poised to finish as the season’s second highest rated scripted series behind “Empire” with a 2.7 rating in the 18-49 demo. The next highest-rated new series is CBS comedy “Kevin Can Wait” with a 1.6.

Unable to gain traction for many new scripted offerings, broadcasters are increasingly turning toward unscripted fare. The Big Four have ordered 10 new unscripted series this year. Witness ABC’s sudden and surprising deal for a 16th season of “American Idol.” The network has committed to airing 40 hours of the talent competition next spring, taking up multiple spots that would have otherwise been filled by new or returning scripted shows.

With dramas and comedies more expensive than ever to produce and yielding diminishing returns, the new batch of scripted series about to be unveiled at upfronts face an uphill climb indeed.

More TV

  • Super Bowl LII - Tom Brady,

    Verizon Plans Multiple Ad Plays Leading to Super Bowl Commercial

    If Verizon gets its way, its Super Bowl advertising plans will include a 60-second commercial during the game – and a half-hour documentary that gives viewers even more of what will be discussed in the ad. The telecommunications giant is often scrutinized for the communications resources it provides its customers, but its Super Bowl campaign [...]

  • Mj Rodriguez, Nico Santos to Announce

    Mj Rodriguez, Nico Santos to Announce GLAAD Media Award Nominations

    Mj Rodriguez and Nico Santos are set to announce the nominees for the 30th annual GLAAD Media Awards. The “Pose” star and “Crazy Rich Asians” funny man will make the announcement during a live-stream from the AT&T Hello Lounge at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday, Jan. 25. “The images and stories recognized by the [...]

  • Naomi Watts

    Naomi Watts to Star in Jason Blum-Produced Quibi Series 'Wolves and Villagers' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Naomi Watts has been cast in the lead role in the upcoming Quibi series “Wolves and Villagers,” Variety has learned exclusively. The exact plot of the short-form series is being kept under wraps, but Quibi co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg has previously described the show as “Fatal Attraction 2.0.” Jason Blum is executive producing the series, with [...]

  • HBO's 'Breslin And Hamill' Documentary Drops

    HBO's 'Breslin And Hamill' Documentary Drops Trailer

    “Revolutionary,” “superstars,” “the voice of true New Yorkers” — that’s how Spike Lee and other influential figures describe journalists Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill in the trailer released for HBO’s “Breslin and Hamill: Deadline Artists” documentary. The film, which premieres Jan. 28 at 8 p.m. ET/PT, follows the two newspaper columnists whose dedication and wit [...]

  • Riverdale Chapter Twenty-Six

    TV News Roundup: 'Riverdale' Sets 'Heathers' Musical Episode

    In Thursday’s roundup, “Riverdale” is set to tackle “Heathers: The Musical,” and Freeform has announced its second annual summit. DATES  The musical episode of the CW’s “Riverdale,” featuring nine songs, will air Wednesday, March 20 at 8 p.m. ET/PT. On the show, Riverdale High School takes on “Heathers: The Musical,” with queen bees Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch), [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content