TV Shows on the Bubble: What Will be Renewed and Canceled as Network Upfronts Approach

Joe Otterson
·6-min read

Upfronts season is upon us, meaning it’s the time of year when the broadcast networks make their renewal and cancellation decisions for next season. But of course, this year is anything but typical.

The pandemic has continued to wreak havoc on broadcast pilot season, meaning networks are relying on existing shows more than ever. Given that, don’t expect to see as many cancellations as you would in previous years. Still, some shows will have to go. The timing as ever is determined by the network schedule unveiling events known as upfront presentations that are set to unfold in virtual form during the week of May 17.

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After speaking with industry sources and analyzing ratings data, here’s a breakdown on the fate of scripted series at the five broadcast networks.

ABC

Already Renewed: None yet.

Dramas Looking Good: “A Million Little Things,” “Big Sky,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Rebel,” “Station 19,” “The Good Doctor,” “The Rookie”

Comedies Looking Good: “Black-ish,” “Home Economics,” “The Conners,” “The Goldbergs”

“Grey’s Anatomy” will more than likely return, with renewal talks already underway at the network. A big question in those negotiations will of course be what kind of deal series lead Ellen Pompeo gets as well as whether or not the network will make a multi-season commitment to its longest-running drama. Given that “Station 19” is connected to the “Grey’s” world, it is also likely to return. On the comedy side, “Black-ish” and “The Conners” are both seen as sure things for renewals, while “The Goldbergs” is a little more of a question mark but still a strong contender.

Toss Ups: “American Housewife,” “Mixed-Ish”

Both “American Housewife” and “Mixed-ish” seem like they could go either way. “American Housewife” leans slightly more into the renewal side of things given it has enjoyed better ratings than “Mixed-ish.”

Not Looking Good: “Call Your Mother,” “For Life”

“Call Your Mother” boasts the star power of Kyra Sedgwick, but the multi-cam comedy has drawn a minimal audience since its debut in January. “For Life” was a toss up last year and only saw its ratings sink in Season 2, meaning its fate is more than likely sealed.

CBS

Already Renewed: “Bob Hearts Abishola,” “Blue Bloods,” “Bull,” “The Equalizer,” “FBI,” “FBI: Most Wanted,” “Magnum P.I.,” “NCIS,” “NCIS: Los Angeles,” “The Neighborhood,” “Survivor,” “S.W.A.T.,” “Young Sheldon” (renewed for three seasons in March 2021)

Dramas Looking Good: “SEAL Team,” “All Rise”

Comedies Looking Good: “B Positive,” “United States of Al,” “The Unicorn”

“All Rise” lost its co-showrunner when creator Greg Spottiswood was fired from the show in March due to a misconduct probe that reportedly centered on issues of race and gender in the writers’ room. Fellow co-showrunner Dee Harris was then promoted to take over the legal procedural. The show has been a solid, though not breakout, performer for CBS, meaning it will likely earn at least one more season. On the comedy side, it should come as no surprise that both “B Positive” and “United States of Al,” both of which hail from the Chuck Lorre Productions, are seen as almost guaranteed renewals.

Toss Up: “Clarice”

“Clarice” asked whether or not fans of “Silence of the Lambs” would keep watching Clarice Starling without Hannibal Lecter around and the answer thus far has been not so much. “Clarice” is currently among the lower-rated shows on CBS’ lineup. However, the show boasts well-known IP behind it as well as a creative team that includes Alex Kurtzman, the seasoned executive producer who also oversees the “Star Trek” universe for ViacomCBS, could give it enough legs to make it to Season 2.

The CW

Already Renewed: “All American,” “Batwoman,” “Charmed,” “Legends of Tomorrow,” “Dynasty,” “The Flash,” “In the Dark,” “Killer Camp,” “Legacies,” “Nancy Drew,” “The Outpost,” “Penn & Teller: Fool Us,” “Riverdale,” “Roswell, New Mexico,” “Superman & Lois,” “Two Sentence Horror Stories,” “Walker”

Looking Good: “Kung Fu”

“Kung Fu” debuted just a few weeks ago but all signs point to a renewal. The show has enjoyed strong ratings out of the gate, averaging over a million viewers an episode thus far. That plus its performance in adults 18-49 currently put it among the highest-rated shows on the CW.

Fox

Already Renewed: “Bob’s Burgers” (renewed for two seasons in September 2020), “Duncanville” (renewed for Season 3 in April 2021 ahead of Season 2 premiere) “Family Guy” (renewed for two seasons in September 2020) “The Great North,” “The Simpsons” (renewed for two seasons in March 2021)

Dramas Looking Good: “9-1-1,” “9-1-1: Lone Star,” “The Resident”

The “9-1-1” franchise remains a major cornerstone of Fox’s scripted lineup, with the mothership show and the spinoff ranking at the top of Fox’s ratings. “The Resident,” meanwhile, remains a consistent performer for Fox to the point that it is seen as more than likely to continue.

Toss Up: “Call Me Kat”

Fox made a major commitment to “Call Me Kat,” locking up series lead and “Big Bang Theory” alum Mayim Bialik with a series commitment back in 2019. But with that big price tag comes big expectations, and thus far “Call Me Kat” has not been a major performer for the network, falling somewhere in the middle of the pack among Fox’s other scripted shows. Chances are it will come back given the network’s hefty investment, but sources say it could go either way.

Not Looking Good: “Prodigal Son”

“Prodigal Son” saw a pretty heavy ratings fall off going into Season 2. And given that many of Fox’s other shows that were doing worse than “Prodigal Son” were either acquisitions or holdovers from the past season due to the pandemic, it is currently among Fox’s lowest-rated scripted originals.

NBC

Already Renewed: “The Blacklist,” “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago Med,” “Chicago P.D.,” (all three “Chicago” shows renewed for three seasons in February 2020), “Law & Order: SVU” (renewed for three seasons in February 2020), “Mr. Mayor,” “New Amsterdam” (renewed for three seasons in January 2020), “This Is Us” (renewed for three seasons in May 2019) “Transplant”

Dramas Looking Good: “Law & Order: Organized Crime,” “Manifest”

Comedies Looking Good: “Young Rock,” “Kenan”

“Law & Order: Organized Crime” saw the return of Christopher Meloni as Elliot Stabler. The show has all but been guaranteed a renewal since it was announced, and the fact it debuted with strong ratings thanks to an “SVU” crossover only sealed the deal. Likewise, “Young Rock” has done pretty well in its freshman year, and NBC (like the rest of the world) wants to stay in business with Dwayne Johnson, meaning a Season 2 pickup for the comedy should be forthcoming.

Toss Up: “Good Girls”

“Good Girls” has fallen to the bottom of NBC’s ratings charts, but the show remains very popular on streaming platforms, which could give it a fighting chance.

Not Looking Good: “Debris,” “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist”

“Debris” was meant to be the next great puzzle series like “Manifest” or “Lost,” but the show has thus far failed to generate the same level of interest. “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,” currently in its second season, also ranks among NBC’s lowest-rated shows, meaning the musical drama could soon be done for good.

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