It’s that time of year again folks!
The end of the ratings year with a million-and-one, or perhaps it just feels like that, shows throwing up their season finales for our viewing pleasure like there is no tomorrow.
Sadly for many shows that’s exactly what it will be like.
While some shows have performed so poorly in the dog-eat-dog world of ratings, they have kissed their tomorrows goodbye already and been cancelled – vale 666 Park Avenue, Ben & Kate, and Enlightened – or are getting ready to pucker away for a farewell peck, effectively dead shows walking – think Smash and Southland – others however hover nervously in a weird limbo known as “the Bubble”.
The only really good thing that can be said about this televisual purgatory is that at least it means you have a chance of living on beyond May and returning to screens in September when ratings re-commence.
Unfortunately it also means you may join all the tomorrow-less shows in the hell that is cancellation, and with little to no notice.
And so it is that fans of the shows in this could-go-either-way group, which this year includes Community, 1600 Penn, Bunheads, Go On, Army Wives, Happy Endings and Nashville among others, sit by their computer screens, or mobile devices, their fingers bloodied stumps of nervous chomping, willing the network that holds the fate of their favourite show or shows, in the palm of their coldly corporate hands to be kind, understanding and give their show just one more season.
Yes they sound like junkies begging for “one more hit, man” but it makes sense – these shows matter to them far beyond the accounting sheets and demographic spreads that usually decide which shows live or die.
I am among that group, fearing for the fate of five shows I have grown to love and cherish, hoping that the network goods will be kind and spare them all, or at least enough of them for me to feel like I have something to celebrate.
Beloved by critics and an ardent coterie of fans besotted with its engaging characters, witty dialogue, and absurdist situations, Community has always struggled in the ratings, kept alive either by the benign neglect or desperation of NBC, its home network.
But it was allowed to stay on air by an ailing network desperate for shows achieving a modicum of success, and by the fact that its creator, and showrunner for three seasons Dan Harmon, was willing to push the envelope creatively, giving it an avant garde cachet that it could wear in lieu of the shiny aura of high ratings.
Alas Harmon is gone, the new showrunners, though giving it their best shot, have turned Community into an entirely different beast altogether – closer in many ways to standard sitcoms than the wildly inventive creature it once was – and it is not quite the quirky sitcom it once was.
Much as it pains me, it looks like the oft-repeated mantra of #sixseasonsandamovie may simply remain a hope-filled hashtag with Community showing only on that great big TV screen in the sky after its finale on 9 May.
UPDATE 13 May: Well, glory be, NBC has renewed the show! Can I get a “Pop! Pop!” for that?! If that wasn’t enough good news, it comes with the tantalising, albeit remote and rumoured only, possibility that Dan Harmon, creator and former showrunner of the show might return to the Greendale fold. Of course, this being NBC nothing is ever straight forward and Community has been delayed till sometime later in the season to make way for a slate of new comedies including The Michael J. Fox Show.
PARKS AND RECREATION
It is scarcely believable that one of the cleverest shows on television in any genre is even remotely close to facing the involuntary end of its run.
Hot off sending politically-ambitious but idealistically-strong Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) down the aisle with the man of her dreams, Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott), you would think the show would be damn near untouchable.
Alas, creatively rich though it is, with one of the smartest casts around, it unfortunately doesn’t rate its small town-knitted socks off, with less than stellar ratings.
It may not be a ratings darling but it is NBC’s longest-running sitcom and all over social media which is where the network’s favourite demographic likes to hang out. Odds are good it will slide off the bubble and run for one final season, giving us time to say goodbye to Leslie and the good folks of Pawnee properly.
UPDATE 10 MAY: Happy Days. It’s been renewed. Unleash the gifs of joy!
This ensemble sitcom is the epitome of a slow starter show.
You know the one. Not that spectacularly good to begin with – think also Revolution and Fringe – but which show enough promise that you bear with it until it flowers into the top shelf series you always knew it was destined to be.
Happy Endings has developed from a patchy start to be one of the most comically-incisive, well-acted shows on TV, channelling both laughs, humanity and beautifully crafted into twenty minutes of sitcom delight a week.
Alas it has been moved around the schedule like a pinata blowing in the wind and viewers have found it more than a little challenging to keep track of its current timeslot.
Still, it is funny, the key 18-49 demographic love it, and that’s important even in today’s fractured viewing market.
Reasonably good actually. Even if ABC decides they have had enough of the show, the USA network has expressed interest in taking on Happy Endings, much like Cougar Town found a new home on TBS after ABC cancelled it.
Update May 11: Alas ABC decided to pull the plug. But there may still be a happy ending for Happy Endings with the USA network still rumoured to be keen on acquiring the show. Sony isn;t counting its televisual chickens just yet though and is shopping the show to several possible new channels.
But … but it’s only just begun!
They can’t kill it yet can they, not with its ratings holding above the 2 million viewer mark, which for a show on a cable network like syfy is very good indeed.
The odds of the citizens of Defiance, which is set in a post-apocalyptic Earth still ravaged by a war with an invading alien collective called the Votan, having to give up their hard won day-by-day existence any time soon is fairly remote given it is both rating well and tied to a multi-player online game that debuted at the same time as the TV show.
Hard to see Nolan, Datak, Irissa and the rest leaving the delightfully weird surroundings of what used to be St. Louis, Missouri just yet. It started strongly as syfy’s biggest space-based debut since 2009, and is still powering on.
UPDATE 12 May: As expected, syfy has renewed the show for a second season.
WAREHO– USE 13
Now in the middle of its fourth season – it returned from a mid-season hiatus on 29 April this year – and fresh from saving the world yet again from another bout of artefact-induced peril – Warehouse 13 rates well, ticks all the right demographic boxes, remains a narratively strong show made up of equal parts drama and humour, and looks likely to remain on syfy’s schedule for at least another season.
Whether it remains beyond that is another matter entirely since syfy does have a habit of cancelling shows at the end of their fifth season, Eureka being a case in point just before they get more expensive to produce.
But it should be safe for the moment, meaning Pete and Myka (Eddie McClintock and Joanne Kelly respectively) and Artie (Saul Rubinek), Claudia (Allison Scagliotti) and Mrs. Frederic (CCH Pounder) will keep racing around the world, snatching dangerous artefacts out of the hands of unwitting humans, while we sit snug and safe in our lounge room chairs.
I don’t think we need to reach for a mind-influencing artefact for the moment with Warehouse 13 one of syfy’s stronger shows with its place in the schedule as secure as any show can be.
* which shows are you worried about? Do you think they will survive or slide into the cancellation abyss?