Now that we've officially started tracking what's renewed, what's canceled, and what's still dancing precariously on the line between the two with our mega-ginormous list of show statuses, it's time to take a closer look at the season's biggest bubble shows. The fates of the following 10 series are still very much up in the air, so we've gone ahead and made our guesses as to which way each one will go. Of course, networks sometimes do some crazy things (final decisions will be made by mid-May), so anything can happen!
UPDATE: Fox has canceled Alcatraz (and renewed Touch).
The Situation: Alcatraz has a big name behind it in J.J. Abrams, and his shows tend to attract a loyal fan base regardless of their quality. Peoples be loving mysteries, yo! And that was obvious in Alcatraz's impressive start: More than 10 million viewers tuned in for the two-hour series premiere! But the drop-off after that was brutal, and the season finale, which should have sucked in viewers with its promise to answer big questions, only pulled in 4.75 million viewers, a series low. If you're an executive, you look at those numbers and realize they'll never get back up to 10 million. Is that worth a renewal? Ehhh...
Alcatraz is fighting Touch and Fringe for a limited number of "weirdo drama" slots on Fox's schedule, and right now Touch has the advantage of being fresh in viewers' minds and Fringe has the advantage of critical acclaim. Fox has little to gain in renewing it. If I'm Fox, I'm passing and leaving things open for Netflix to come in and pretend to revive it. Sorry, Rebecca Madsen, looks like you're dead for reals.
Our Take: Alcatraz won't escape the jail of cancellation. The show is on death row.
The Secret Circle
The Situation: If we'd had this conversation a few months ago, I would've said The Secret Circle was a lock for renewal. But in recent weeks the teen drama has fallen like a witch who realized the broom she's flying is just a regular broom or like a really bad witch's broom metaphor. Last week's episode lost half of its The Vampire Diaries lead-in and struggled just to put up a 0.5 rating in the adult demo. What gives? I thought you kids would just watch both of them together!
Making things look even worse for The Secret Circle are the potential replacements currently in The CW's pilot pipeline. The network's Beauty and the Beast remake and Cult would both fit nicely behind The Vampire Diaries (which will definitely be renewed, duh), but the biggest threat to TSC right now is The Hunger Games-ish The Selection, which could easily take over TSC's slot. You know how The CW do, keep churning 'em out and hope one is a hit.
Our Take: The Secret Circle won't go unbroken. With plenty of potential replacement projects waiting in the wings, it's a goner.
UPDATE: NBC has renewed Parenthood for a fourth season.
The Situation: The family drama is liked by critics and is arguably NBC's best series. Parenthood was also on the bubble last season, but got renewed and actually showed little deterioration in Season 3, consistently hanging around the 5 million viewers mark. That's especially impressive considering it aired in a 10pm time slot. But most importantly, the series ticked up at the end of the season, and that goes a long way with executives. That's the good news.
The bad news? The buzz on Parenthood is but a low hum, and that's the cost of being a good show on NBC. The network is looking to change its reputation, and that starts with cultivating new hits, not keeping decently performing shows around.
Our Take: We're going to lean toward good news here and predict a renewal, though that could change if NBC likes the looks of its drama pilots.
UPDATE: ABC has passed on the show, but TBS has saved it! A fourth season should air on the cable network in early 2013.
The Situation: Cougar Town got screwed, plain and simple. It was left off the fall schedule, pushed back even in the midseason, and then returned to follow the multi-cam Tim Allen comedy Last Man Standing? Weak. It's no surprise that the ratings are scraping series lows in recent weeks even with weird guerilla marketing.
I don't really have any reason to think this, but if you ask me it sounds like ABC is just parting ways with the show. Unless it's planning on reshaping its mini Tuesday-night comedy block, where's Cougar Town going to fit? It might work in the Wednesday comedy block, but Modern Family is a lock to return, Suburgatory is almost certain to be back, and Happy Endings and Don't Trust the B---- in Apt. 23 look like decent bets, too. Plus The Middle is the perfect 8pm show, and we haven't even considered whatever comedy pilots ABC has prepped. This might be a case of odd man out.
Our Take: It's done.
UPDATE: Fox has renewed Fringe for a 13-episode fifth and final season. Woohoo!
The Situation: First, let's applaud Fox for keeping Fringe on the air for four seasons when it didn't have to. Clearly the network loves the show, how else would you explain its surviving beyond Season 2 with the pathetic ratings that it gets? So thank you, Fox. Now we beg: would one more season kill ya?
It's a bit much to ask for a full 22-episode final season of Fringe, but a 13-episode half season is a distinct possibility. It's all going to come down to how much Fox wants the show to end things on its own terms and how much the network is okay with Fringe fans storming Fox HQ armed with Twizzlers and tabs of LSD. Fox won't win any PR battles if it cancels Fringe, and in the long run, it might not even make financial sense since this is a show that I think will hold up well after it's gone and will be discovered by new audiences in years to come.
I want this show renewed just as much as the next person, but we need to prepare for the worst. Fox producers certainly have, by shooting two endings for the Season 4 finale: one that keeps things open for Season 5 and one that closes the door on the series. This all comes down to how passionate Fox is about the project and whether it's willing to save the show from death one last time.
Our Guess: This is probably the biggest question of the season, and it's going to come down to the wire. We wouldn't be surprised either way, but have our fingers crossed for a 13-episode final season. PLEASE FOX!
UPDATE: NBC has renewed Community for a shortened fourth season. Maybe the network is more streets ahead than we thought!
The Situation: Oh boy, here we go. Based on overall audience alone, Community should be expelled. But this comedy has so much cache among critics and web dwellers that it makes more sense for NBC to keep it than to dump it. If the network was able to keep the similarly adored but barely watched Friday Night Lights around as long as it did, it should find a way to keep Community on the air. Even if NBC couldn't float it, it seems like the kind of show that DirecTV or Netflix would actually save.
What's more, on its return from hiatus, Community showed great performance among the 18-34 age demographic, even beating juggernaut American Idol. Translation: Internet support plus Nielsen 18-34 ratings mean young people watch this show, which means advertisers should want to pay money to brainwash them. That's admittedly very forward-thinking data, but the world is only getting younger and digital-er and it's time networks recognize that. Unfortunately, Community's most recent episode was a low point, ratings-wise, so a lot of that momentum is deader than Chang's Dungeons and Dragons character.
Our Take: It's very dicey at this point, but we have hope that NBC will keep Community alive for a syndication jackpot. Pushed one way or another, we say it will be back, but only because of #sixseasonsandamovie #anniesboobs #streetsahead
UPDATE: The CW has renewed Nikita, along with Hart of Dixie and Gossip Girl.
The Situation: Nikita is in the same boat as The Secret Circle. It's paired with a signature CW show (Supernatural in Nikita's case) and just not showing the same numbers. However, Nikita does have a more impressive overall audience and last week even outdrew Supernatural.
Again, it all comes down to what The CW likes in its development slate, and the likely show to replace Nikita is Arrow, the new superhero drama that's considered to be a successor for Smallville. But would The CW try to launch a new series on Fridays, assuming Supernatural stays put?
Our Take: Super close call, guys. Flip a coin.
UPDATE: NBC has canceled Awake. Wahhhhh!
The Situation: We love Awake here at TV.com, and it has a mystery we're actually invested in thanks to the giant emotional anchor the show has planted in our spines. But its ratings stink (under 3 million viewers in each of the last three weeks), even for NBC (the NoBody's C-ing these shows network). It's in the tough 10pm hour on Thursdays, it doesn't really belong on network TV, and as far as we know, there's no singing in it. So this should be dead in the water, right?
Well, here's what Awake has going for it: Critics like it. Creator Kyle Killen is the type of talent who's going to develop a massive hit at some point, and forging a good relationship with him means a network will have a better chance of grabbing that hit. It's also the type of show that could show up come awards season. NBC wants Awake to work, so much so that press screeners of the next three episodes appeared in my inbox yesterday. Why would NBC send out advanced screeners of a show it didn't want to bring back? I'm guessing NBC is pushing for a late surge as the series hits its home stretch, and is hoping the media will spread the word. Or maybe I'm just looking into these things way too much.
Our Take: Awake is still a long shot for renewal, but things at least look a tad better than they did yesterday.
UPDATE: NBC has renewed The Office; will Season 9 be the show's last?
The Situation: The Office is almost certainly coming back, but I included it on this list because there's still a lot of uncertainty surrounding it. The rate at which this comedy has deteriorated from, you know, actually being funny to going through the motions has been staggering. Several principal cast members still haven't signed contracts for next season and it's super obvious that they'd rather pursue movie careers than stay aboard this sinking ship. There are also discussions of revamping the series altogether or spinning off Dwight Schrute, a clear indication that no one has any idea what another season of The Office would look like.
But NBC knows that not bringing back The Office next year would essentially turn the foundation of its once-famous Thursday night into rubble (even if it's already showing cracks). No other NBC comedy is quite ready to take on the burden of being a comedy block cornerstone, so NBC needs The Office to stick around for one last season and hope that Parks and Recreation can finally become a mainstream hit. But it'll limp out like a two-legged dog.
Our Take: I don't see a revamp or spin-off in the future of this series. But who knows, NBC doesn't always make decisions that make sense. The Office will be back, and NBC will pay its stars for one final painful season that it can market as an end of an era.
UPDATE: The CW has renewed Supernatural for an eighth season.
The Situation: Supernatural's seventh season has been up and down and down even further, hitting series lows in ratings and quality of episodes (blame Becky Larson!!!). But it's still Supernatural, it's given people a reason to watch The CW on Fridays, and it's currently being syndicated on TNT, meaning it's going to make some money on every episode it produces. Smallville stuck around for 10 seasons and said goodbye with a heavily publicized farewell season, and I see The CW doing something similar with Supernatural. Whether that'll happen next season or the one after that, we have yet to find out.
But the best sign that Supernatural will probably be back is the addition of Jeremy Carver as showrunner for a potential Season 8, to take over for Sera Gamble. An energized Carver will lay out his plans for Season 8, CW execs will be impressed, and it will be all green lights from there.
Our Take: Coming back for Season 8, but please, no more Leviathans and no more Becky Larson. Unless there's an episode where Becky gets eaten by Leviathans and gives them such foul indigestion that they explode.
Remember, with death comes new life. If your favorite show does get canceled, it could prove to be the fertilizer for a new show that you'll fall in love with. Or it could give way to a multi-camera sitcom about a husband who needs to cross-dress to get a job.
Which of these shows do you think will survive? Which ones will you miss the most if they die?
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom