by Julian Spivey
It’s bubble season for network television series that haven’t yet been picked up for another season or have yet to be cancelled by their respective networks. Within the next couple of weeks, we should know completely which shows are sticking around or getting the ax, but for now about 20 shows remain in limbo across the four big networks (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC). Of these shows I’ve caught 14 of them and will rank those 14 shows from the ones I’d most like to see renewed to those I’d least like to see hang around. Sorry for fans of shows like “CSI: Cyber,” “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders,” “Supergirl,” etc. that I never either got around to or never had interest in from the start.
1. “Life in Pieces” (CBS)
“Life in Pieces,” the freshman hit for CBS that’s seen high numbers following “The Big Bang Theory” (TV’s most watched sitcom), has to be considered the most surprising show that hasn’t already been renewed this season. But, CBS seems to be waiting to the very last minute on all of its freshman shows, as none of them have been renewed yet. “Life in Pieces” is a unique concept for a sitcom as it features a “Modern Family” like family, but tells three-to-four complete short stories from start-to-finish over the span of a half hour. It’s not only been one of my two favorite new comedies of the year, but should be considered a lock for a second season.
2. “The Carmichael Show” (NBC)
“The Carmichael Show” is one that is on this list because it hasn’t been renewed yet for a third season (it’s first two seasons have both aired within the last calendar year as it debuted last summer), but really probably shouldn’t be considered a “bubble show.” It’s incredibly beloved by critics (with good reason) as it’s both a throwback to single-camera sitcoms filmed in front of live studio audiences and also fresh in that each episode tackles an important issue, from gun control to depression to gentrification. It also does good business for NBC on an odd night, Sunday, when networks (other than Fox) just don’t even try sitcoms and also gives the network, one that seems very white, a splash of diversity.
3. “Limitless” (CBS)
“Limitless” may not have been the best new drama of the 2015-16 network season, that would probably be NBC’s breakout hit “Blindspot,” but it could certainly make the case as the newest show that’s the most fun. “Limitless” brings something unique and creative to the crime procedural, especially for CBS, in that it doesn’t take itself too seriously and allows for stuff like a “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” inspired episode. It started strong on Tuesday nights following two ‘NCIS’ series, but faded in the ratings as its inaugural season wore off. This is likely due to the fact that it’s too irreverent for the average CBS crowd, which the network can’t really care about, but maybe it should. “Limitless” is essentially a toss-up for whether or not it’ll see a second season, but I certainly hope it does.
4. “Last Man Standing” (ABC)
“Last Man Standing” is comfort food for me. It’s never been a critical darling and I can see why. It’s your typical family oriented sitcom, except a little unique in that it’s patriarch (played by the always funny Tim Allen) is unapologetically conservative. The show has aired for five seasons and more than 100 episodes and is already in syndication. There’s not really much reason for ABC to continue to hang on to it, other than the fact that it does solid business on Friday night (when most people have better things to do than watch television). But, “Last Man Standing” has hooked me over the years, mostly due to the fact that I love Allen’s comedic timing and delivery. It’s a show that won’t ever rank in my top 25 favorite comedies of all-time, but I also don’t necessarily ever need to see it end.
5. “The Muppets” (ABC)
“The Muppets” was a show that I should’ve known would be a long-shot from the beginning. Much of its humor is too smart for children and it’s too puppet-y for most adults to give it a shot. It also plays on nostalgia and we’ve seen throughout recent years with failed sitcoms starring Robin Williams and Michael J. Fox that nostalgia just doesn’t work with TV viewers anymore. The pro for the show is it’s cheap to produce, but the network had huge hopes for it and it underachieved in the ratings so much it might be a longshot for a second season. I greatly enjoyed the first season, but many critics felt it was disjointed and unworthy of these classic characters.
6. “Nashville” (ABC)
“Nashville” is the soapiest show I watch and at times these soapy aspects drive me up the wall, but I’ve been so invested in these characters for four seasons that I don’t really want to give up on them yet. Also, let’s face it, sometimes mindless soapy-ness can be fun. “Nashville” isn’t going to bring anything new to the table if picked up for a fifth season, which is probably 50/50 for the second straight year, but its small fan-base is loyal and networks sometimes reward that loyalty.
7. “American Crime” (ABC)
“American Crime” has been one of the best dramas on network television over the last two years and I’d love to see it continue. However, because the show is a completely new story every season there’s really no loss emotionally for me if it fails to see a third season. I’ll merely just have enjoyed the stellar two seasons of the show I was privileged to see. Variety has speculated that ABC has given show-runner John Ridley the option of a third season for “American Crime” or a series pickup for his new show “Presence” and that Ridley would like to see what he can accomplish with “Presence,” rather than the critically loved, but ratings challenged crime anthology.
8. “Grandfathered” (Fox)
“Grandfathered” is one of two freshman sitcoms, along with “The Grinder,” that have completely failed to gain audiences on Tuesday nights for Fox this season. Some entertainment outlets seem to be mixed over which, if either, of these two shows gets a renewal. TVbythenumbers.com favors “Grandfathered,” which is the most watched of the two, but Variety favors “The Grinder,” which is more critically favored and is completely owned by Fox, whereas “Grandfathered” is co-owned by ABC Studios. Despite the critical love for “The Grinder,” I have found “Grandfathered” to both be the funnier and more likable of the two shows. It’s nothing special, truly, but worthy of a second chance.
9. “Galavant” (ABC)
Don’t let this ranking fool you. I’m very high on “Galavant.” However, there is almost zero chance of this show returning for a third season. That being said, it seemed last year the show had an almost zero percent chance at a second season and shocked the world with a renewal. The real reason why I don’t care if the show comes back or not though is I feel the finale of season two worked amazingly well as a series finale, especially with King Richard (the Emmy-worthy Timothy Omundson) and his line “I have a dragon!” Coming back for a third season would be nice, but it also might ruin the fantastic storybook ending the show gave us.
10. “The Catch” (ABC)
Snore. I’m three episodes into “The Catch” (I know it’s aired six episodes I’ve just been so bored with it that I’ve only caught the first three) and if the show didn’t star the supremely talented Peter Krause I already would’ve given up. There has just been very little worth enticing an audience through the first few episodes and I don’t see anything really changing about the show. Unlike most Shondaland (shows under the Shonda Rhimes production company) shows it just hasn’t caught on with audiences. Maybe if the show is cancelled Peter Krause can find something worth his talents?
11. “Sleepy Hollow” (Fox)
I was a huge fan of Fox’s “Sleepy Hollow” in its first season, and so was much of America with the show becoming a fast breakout hit. Then for some reason in its second season, which I still enjoyed, the fan-base bolted almost all at once. The show was somewhat surprisingly given a third season and that’s when it went downhill for me. Almost nothing about the third season storyline involving Pandora’s box interested me and when it all culminated in one of the show’s two major characters dying in the season finale I found myself not really caring. I probably would follow along at least for the start of a fourth season, if one were to happen, just to see where things go, but I don’t need this show any longer.
12. “Castle” (ABC)
“Castle” may be named after Nathan Fillion’s title character author/private eye Richard Castle, but “Castle” and Castle just wouldn’t be “Castle” or Castle without Stana Katic’s Kate Beckett, who has already been announced would not return if the show does for a ninth season. “Castle” has been very solid, entertaining television for the most part of eight seasons and I’m fine with it riding off in the sunset the way it should be with Castle and Beckett side by side. Unfortunately, even if the show does end this season we likely won’t get the finale we deserve, because it would already be wrapped before the decision is made.
13. “The Grinder” (Fox)
The majority of critics have been a fan of Fox’s “The Grinder,” which has struggled mightily in the ratings, for much of the show’s freshman season. I tired of the series’ one-note joke/premise very early on. The show features Rob Lowe as a retired actor who starred as a fictional lawyer on television and believes he can bring that experience to the real-world law firm run by his brother (Fred Savage). It’s satire, I get it, but every episode relying on the same old joke/premise just doesn’t work for me. I’m fine if this one leaves television and it’s likely a toss-up.
14. “Dr. Ken” (ABC)
I gave up on ABC’s Friday night sitcom “Dr. Ken,” starring Ken Jeong, very early. There’s really no reason to have stuck with it. It doesn’t feel modern, Jeong’s title character can be annoying at times, the supporting cast is annoying at all times and there wasn’t anything particularly funny about it. Airing on Friday night alone, where shows aren’t expected to draw big ratings, might keep the show alive for a second season.