It's almost time for the broadcast networks' top executives to emerge from their swimming pools full of cash and make some tough decisions that will have no effect on their jobs. Yep, with the May Upfronts looming, it's cullin' time for network TV schedules, and your favorite shows' lives may depend on it! There's no science to predicting the future of a bubble show—a series that's neither definitely renewed nor definitely canceled—no matter how how hard we try. Sure, we can look at ratings, DVR numbers, awards, buzz, and star power. But after years and years of trying to understand how network suits make their decisions, I'm beginning to think they just flip a coin on most of them. Ladies and gentlemen, here are your 12 biggest bubble shows of 2014—will they live? Will they die? Only a handful of rich folks with finicky taste in television know for sure!
Almost Human (Fox)
THE SITUATION: One of my most anticipated series of the fall season ended up being one of my biggest disappointments. Fox tinkered with the series' episode order to make early installments feel more procedural when it should've been telling the interesting stories about a man and his robobuddy and exploring the philosophical implications of artificial intelligence. As expected, Almost Human's ratings dropped steeply after the show's debut, but ultimately steadied to a respectable-enough level to put the show in contention for a second season. It kicks butt in DVR viewing, but DVR viewing isn't paying the bills yet—and until it does, it should only be a minor factor in the fate of a series that's struggling to survive. However, in this instance, Almost Human is perfectly on the edge, and its DVR numbers are probably enough to save it.
OUR GUESS: Fox is so in love with shorter seasons right now that I think it'll bring back Almost Human for a baker's dozen episodes on the strength of J.J. Abrams' all-powerful and godlike presence. What else is the network gonna do, order more Rake?
UPDATE (4/29): Fox has canceled Almost Human
THE SITUATION: Given its ratings history, I have no idea how Community is still on the air, but Sony TV has pulled enough strings to keep the show around for five seasons, and now it's airing nightly in syndication. I'm guessing Season 5 was designed to be Community's last until so many of NBC's 2013-2014 comedies stunk up the joint, meaning the great "six seasons and a movie" prophecy that once seemed like the ravings of a crazytownbananapants madman may actually come true. Personally, I don't know if I can handle another season of Community without Troy, but the show is still my favorite network sitcom by a long shot, so I'd much rather see a sixth season of Community than a second of Growing Up Fisher. Every year, I prepare myself for Community's cancellation and then it somehow survives, so I'm done betting against it even though it's recently sunk to series lows in the ratings (the G.I. Joe episode recorded a dismal 0.9 among 18-49-year olds). Oddly enough, Community's biggest rival for a spot on NBC's schedule could be About a Boy; the network will almost certainly renew one of the two shows, but it will only possibly renew both of them. If About a Boy becomes the reason for Community's cancellation, I'm tracking down that boy and throwing him in a dumpster.
OUR GUESS: Community lives to see Season 6 because Sony TV will push for it and because NBC doesn't have much else. The network has shown an affinity for plugging scheduling holes with 13-episode comedy seasons, and that's what Community will likely get. Now let's get working on that movie, people.
UPDATE (5/9): NBC has canceled Community
THE SITUATION: Remember when Revolution was NBC's big new hit? Well, that was because it used to air after The Voice. In Season 2, Charlie and the gang moved to Wednesday nights at 8pm, where they've struggled in the ratings (read: a 1.2 among 18- to 49-year-olds in late March) as Revolution repeatedly tells confusing and boring stories about captures and family dysfunction instead of focusing on an alien firefly god. The show is all but dead on a pop-culture level, which shouldn't have happened given how strong the show was creatively at the start of Season 2. If NBC has any sense left, it's currently telling Revolution's producers to wrap things up and turn the lights off for good.
OUR GUESS: I said this show was dead back in January, and nothing has changed. However, because of its heavy mythology, there's a chance it'll get a send-off in some form. Maybe a 13-episode final season? A four-hour, two-night limited event? A web series? A comic book? A personal phone call to every Revolution fan from Zak Orth? I dunno. Regardless, we should focus on the most important matter at hand and start campaigning to get Tracy Spiradakos on Hollywood Game Night!
UPDATE (5/9): NBC has canceled Revolution
THE SITUATION: Hannibal is great, we all know that. But it's a ratings sinkhole, threatning to drop below the 2 million viewers threshold and posting sub-1.0s in the important 18- to 49- demographic. Its DVR push is nice—one of the few perks of its Friday-at-10pm time slot—but an hour earlier, the ever-plucky Grimm is posting much better numbers. Hannibal's best defense is that it's a prestige show for NBC, as it's adored by critics and run by one of the most fascinating showrunners in the business (Bryan Fuller), but at what point does the network completely bail on prestige and start worrying about keeping the lights on? Sadly, I wouldn't be surprised to see Hannibal get cut in favor of a singing-home-makeover-weight-loss competition program or New Dracula: Let's Try This Vampire Thing Again.
OUR GUESS: Hannibal doesn't return to NBC, but it doesn't die. Someone else picks it up (Netflix? Amazon? DirecTV?) and we finally get to add some cursing and nudity to all that beautiful gore. Now that would be delicious!
UPDATE (5/9): NBC has renewed Hannibal for Season 3
THE SITUATION: The biggest show in the history of anything has performed... just okay. S.H.I.E.L.D. isn't the mammoth hit ABC hoped it would be, but in its defense, it's been battling forces much more formidable than HYDRA: NCIS and The Voice, two rivals that knocked Coulson and his team down a few notches after a dazzling debut. S.H.I.E.L.D.'s premiere episode drew 12.12 million viewers and a 4.7 rating in the 18- to 49-year-old demographic. The April 8 episode drew 5.37 million viewers and a 1.9 rating in the 18- to 49-year-old demographic. In recent weeks, the series has shown signs of turning itself around creatively, and our own Kaitlin Thomas thinks it's in a good position to become something great. But the biggest reason that S.H.I.E.L.D. will likely return comes down to hubris. Would ABC really cancel the series and admit the failure of a project that's supposed to be a model for future synergy between Disney, ABC, and Marvel? (Or, say, Disney, ABC, and Star Wars?) Hell no.
OUR GUESS: S.H.I.E.L.D. gets a regular-sized second season, and ABC continues trying to work out the show's kinks. Maybe Disney should add a S.H.I.E.L.D. film to its assembly line of Marvel movies, too.
UPDATE (5/8): ABC has renewed Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for Season 2
THE SITUATION: One of the biggest successes of the midseason, Resurrection is currently performing admirably in its Sunday-night slot against weak ratings competition (Fox's Cosmos, NBC's Believe, CBS's The Good Wife). The numbers are there; Resurrection's ratings among 18- to 49-year-olds have yet to drop below a 2.0, which is pretty great in these sad days of network television. Like that dead youngster in the pilot, this show should be back.
OUR GUESS: Resurrection returns next midseason, and if ABC is smart, it'll keep the show to a 13-episode season.
UPDATE (5/8): ABC has renewed Resurrection for Season 2
Trophy Wife (ABC)
THE SITUATION: First of all, we shouldn't even be having this discussion. Trophy Wife was one of the best new comedies of the fall in a field of disappointments, and it seemed tailor-made to be a mainstream hit. But the show hasn't caught on with audiences, and it's not just on the bubble, it's barely hanging on. We can blame ABC's scheduling for days on end—and we should, because Trophy Wife would pair perfectly with Modern Family—but that excuse only goes so far. Good comedies should attract viewers no matter when they air. A lot of press speculation says Trophy Wife is a goner, but dammit, I have a hunch that ABC will keep it around thanks to all the pissed-off critics who've vocally expressed favor for the show, and because who has the heart to tell Albert Tsai (who plays Bert) that he no longer has a job?
OUR GUESS: This is more of a hope than a guess, but I'm gonna say that ABC performs a miracle, renews Trophy Wife for Season 2, and moves the show to Wednesdays, behind Modern Family. But if I'm being honest? It's probably dead, thanks in part to its pricey cast.
UPDATE (5/8): ABC has canceled Trophy Wife
THE SITUATION: After landing a spot on ABC's 2012-2013 schedule with a cacophony of buzz, Nashville has settled into "easy listening" background noise in Season 2. But it's remained remarkably steady in the ratings for a show that's seen a marked decline in quality since Season 1, dependably delivering an audience between 5 and 6 million viewers. Nashville's first season stood out thanks to its chart-ready country hits and its terrific intimate on-screen performances (remember this?), but Season 2 has proved that bigger isn't better, and big-stage renditions of songs not written by T-Bone Burnett (the music supervisor who left after Season 1 for better things) have eclipsed the small-town charm of the past (didn't the writers learn anything from Juliette Barnes?). Those arena songs won't sell records to bring in sideways revenue. And on a personal note, I'm a handful of episodes behind and haven't felt the urge to go back and watch 'em. I can't be the only one.
OUR GUESS: Nashville has a 50/50 shot at returning, but with ABC bosses reportedly liking it and its reliable (albeit unimpressive) ratings, I'll push the odds to 51/49 in favor of a Season 3 renewak. But the show is running out of character pairings who can swap guitar licks and lip locks.
UPDATE (5/9): ABC has renewed Nashville for Season 3
The Mentalist (CBS)
THE SITUATION: I still don't know what a Mentalist is, exactly. I think it means that Patrick Jane can bend spoons with his mind or something. But one thing's for certain: Now that the show has wrapped up its Red John mystery—the core plot of the show's first five-and-a-half seasons—The Mentalist basically just about a guy who mentalizes and not much else. Add in the fact that showrunner Bruno Heller is working on Fox's already picked-up Batman-without-Batman drama Gotham, and you have yourself a situation where it makes sense to let this show go. Especially because, from a ratings perspective, The Mentalist seems to have lost its edge since moving to Sunday nights last season. Some Season 1 episodes topped 19 million viewers (!!!), but now? The show is hovering around 9 million viewers per episode. And I like to think that CBS is ready to move on from the "dude with a sorta-special ability solves crimes" formula, anyway.
OUR GUESS: CBS has already renewed a huge chunk of its portfolio, and The Mentalist was not included. *Puts fingers up to temples* My mental powers are telling me it's done.
UPDATE (5/10): CBS has renewed The Mentalist for Season 7
The Crazy Ones (CBS)
THE SITUATION: When CBS renewed a bajillion shows last month, The Crazy Ones was left outside in the cold, its face pressed against the glass as it watched its fellow new comedies The Millers and Mom clink glasses with NCIS and The Big Bang Theory. That doesn't mean it's out of the running entirely, however, and it's possible that CBS wanted to see what its midseason entries Friends With Better Lives and the upcoming Bad Teacher could do before making a decision. Well, FWBL is performing terribly, and I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that Bad Teacher will be pretty horrible. That leaves CBS with the decision to extend Robin Williams' TV comeback and give single-camera comedies another shot, or start from scratch. With Williams, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and David E. Kelley attached to The Crazy Ones, there's a good chance we'll be seeing more of it.
OUR GUESS: It'll probably be back, though whether or not it deserves as much is a topic for another article.
UPDATE (5/10): CBS has canceled The Crazy Ones
THE SITUATION: Midseasons entries are burdened with disadvantages and blessed with advantages at the same time. Since they're still fresh in the mind of execs when they make their decisions and the shows that they're replacing have already eroded into oblivion, it's a plus. But without the marketing push of the fall season, they sometimes have trouble getting the attention they need. Luckily for The 100, early buzz and a plush spot behind Arrow got it out of the gates fast, and when compared to the show it's likely competing against for survival, The Tomorrow People, The 100 looks like the winner. After moving to Mondays to make room for The 100, The Tomorrow People has flirted with falling below the 1 million-viewer mark (and plummeted to 780,000 for one episode), whereas The 100 is still clearing 1.5 million (but sinking fast). It's deceptive because the small sample size makes The 100 look better than it is, but we all know The CW is really obsessed with looks anyway.
OUR GUESS: The 100 returns and The Tomorrow People gets no tomorrow.
Which of these shows will you miss the most if they all get the axe?