The upfront season means it's decision time. And a perennial question broadcast networks face is what to do with a primetime series that is just not delivering—enough.
The primary deciding factor used to be Nielsen ratings, but today many other considerations come to play in determining the fate of a show, including streaming viewership, social media engagement, production costs, off-network and international deals, critical acclaim and the state of the network.
So, when ABC, for example, must decide on the future of "Once Upon a Time," a show that is rapidly declining in the Nielsen ratings but holding steady in social media, a seventh season does not seem out of the question. A potential third season renewal for ABC Friday night sitcom "Dr. Ken," however, could seem desperate given the poor quality of this half-hour.
Here are 10 shows under review for renewal and my take on whether the networks should pull the plug.
"Agents of Shield" (ABC)
Never a winner via the traditional Nielsen ratings, "Agents of Shield" does manage to still build strong buzz in social media (particularly during any Comic Con gathering). The show's social following has kept it on air for four seasons, but with the ratings rapidly slipping, it might be a good time to make a change. Rather than considering upcoming Marvel's "The Inhumans" as an addition, ABC should use it as a replacement for "Agents of Shield" (which now has enough episodes for off-network). Maybe the unprecedented debut of "The Inhumans" on Imax screens on Sept. 1 for a two-week theater run will give it a boost.
"The Amazing Race" (CBS)
With just 4.29 million viewers and a 0.9 rating in adults 18 to 49 for the season premiere last Thursday (based on the Live + Same Day data from Nielsen), CBS has to decide if 29 editions are enough for this Emmy-drenched reality competition. Now in its 16th year and pared down to one edition per season, there is no reason to expect the deteriorating ratings to reverse. But "The Amazing Race" could serve as a good temporary replacement for consistent performer "Survivor" between seasonal editions instead of a copycat like "Hunted." If anything, the critics will take positive notice.
"American Crime" (ABC)
Given the ongoing accolades for the series—including back-to-back Emmy Awards in the Supporting Actress in a Drama category for Regina King—congratulations are in order for ABC for housing this impressive drama. Unfortunately, Nielsen ratings have plunged to record lows in show's third season. Lead actress Felicity Huffman could be exiting for a potential new ABC comedy called "Libby & Malcolm" (co-starring Courtney B. Vance). And an anthology series of this nature may not be as profitable in off-network as a series with a self-contained storyline each week. While the three-season run is admirable for "American Crime," it is time to admit defeat.
Minus the lead-in support from "The Voice" on Monday in season one, "Blindspot" anchoring Wednesday on its own this season was not exactly a hit. But given the recent loss of "Grimm," NBC could utilize this scripted drama on Friday to target older viewers tuning in for those crime solvers on competing CBS. "Blindspot," additionally, could also be a more seamless fit into "Dateline."
"Elementary" has only survived this long—five seasons—because CBS miraculously closed a lucrative off-network deal for the detective drama on cable (WGN America) and subscription-video-on-demand (Hulu Plus) back in 2014, when it was only in season two. And that was after an only marginally rated first season. Now past the 100-episode mark, the network has produced enough hours of this limited performer to bid adieu to a show that probably never should have made it past season two.
Like "Agents of Shield," or any comic book-themed drama for that matter, the Nielsen numbers for "Gotham" are just not that impressive. It is the DVR usage and social media that counts, which still resonates to some degree on a network with more pressing issues elsewhere. But instead of remaining on higher HUT-level Monday, why not move "Gotham" to Friday when the stakes are lower and the target audience will watch it at a later time? If aforementioned "Grimm" on NBC can survive for six seasons on Friday, "Gotham" on Fox should also be a contender.
"New Girl" (Fox)
Yes, it is cool to dig "New Girl," which still seems to be the in thing for any millennial conversing about the small screen. But Fox is already flooded with several marginally rated series. "New Girl" delivers less than half the audience it did in its peak four years ago (based on all data measurements, including DVR). And six seasons is more than enough to satisfy the off-network requirements. With lackluster "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" and "The Last Man Standing" likely to survive because more episodes are needed for off-net, Fox would be wise to cut its losses now.
Given the early positive ratings and reviews for "Quantico," featuring kick-ass Priyanka Chopra, ABC had what could have been a long-term drama occupant. But the foolish network did exactly what it should not have done with newbie "Designated Survivor" this season. It took "Quantico" off the air for three months smack in the middle of season one, squashing any further momentum. While Kiefer Sutherland will likely be granted a second season (despite the diminished ratings), not even a move to Monday out of "Dancing with the Stars" can save this once must-see action hour. You blew it, ABC.
"2 Broke Girls" (CBS)
Unlike most series that focus on character development, "2 Broke Girls" remains nothing more than a platform for cheap sex jokes and offensive racial stereotypes in its sixth season. Since CBS probably wants to stay in business with creator Michael Patrick King, my crystal ball tells me one final season will be granted for midseason. But postponing the inevitable only gives the impression that the network does not have anything better to replace it with. Let's hope that is not true.
"Undercover Boss" (CBS)
Once a weekly staple, this seven-year old, feel-good showcase has been downgraded to benchwarmer status, filling in during midseason when CBS is in need of a temporary time period occupant. Since no primetime schedule is without its potholes, the advantage "Undercover Boss" brings is the ability to still deliver a respectable sized audience anytime, and anywhere it is needed. Why give up that luxury?