There were several bubble/low-rated shows this season that ended up getting renewed when typically we would expect the networks to have just cancelled them. Here are my thoughts on why they survived and you can also see my thoughts on this season’s cancelled shows at this link.
Fringe (FOX) – Why wasn’t Fringe cancelled? Especially considering its atrociously low ratings this past season (there were times when repeats of Kitchen Nightmares outperformed it) and the fact that it already had enough episodes to make a nice syndication package? Well . . . maybe because the network executives, especially Kevin Reilly, really feel strongly about the series and wanted to keep it running? Wait, this it television we are talking about, specifically FOX! That can’t be the reason. Maybe . . . the studio that produces the show (20th Century FOX), which basically gave it to the network for free for its fourth and fifth seasons, cared enough about the fans to ensure the series delivered a satisfying resolution for all its storylines? But at a cost to them of millions of dollars that they won’t recoup for years? No, that can’t be it. Okay . . . I got nothing. Let’s just bask in the moment when for once a sci fi series beat all the odds and is actually given the chance to survive through five seasons and wrap up on its own terms despite years of pitiful ratings. We likely won’t see this again for a while, so let’s not ask too many questions.
Prospects for Sixth Season: None. FOX is letting this come back for thirteen episodes to wrap up its story and then they’re almost certainly going to go back to low-cost reality shows to fill up the schedule for Friday nights from there on out.
Touch (FOX) – Can’t give you a whole lot of wisdom on why this one is coming back either. Maybe its the star power of Keifer Sutherland keeping this show afloat. Maybe they think this series has some potential and just needs a few tweaks. It start out quite strong in the ratings, but it fell pretty far pretty fast as genre fans quickly became frustrated with the show that played out like Touch by and Angel with numbers. The network may believe that a slight course change can bring back the audience that first tuned in for it, so they decided to go ahead and keep it around for one more year.
Prospects for Third Season: Not good. Even if some tweaking does help improve the quality of the series, the show’s move to Friday nights is less than promising. FOX has been trying to prop up a Friday block of genre shows for a while with the likes of Dollhouse, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and then Fringe the last two seasons, but with little success. Now they are pairing Touch with Fringe, but the latter series already has one foot out of the door as it prepares to end its run. In all likelihood, Touch will exit with that one as well.
Nikita (CW) – This was The CW’s lowest rated series this past season, but that doesn’t mean too much for a network when pretty much all of your shows are living in the gutter (there highest rated series, Vampire Diaries, only averaged a 1.3 rating in the 18-49 demographic for the season based on sameday viewing). Nikita, though, had one edge that most of the other CW shows did not: a sizable international audience. Now usually, that doesn’t mean much for shows airing on the U.S. broadcast networks. It couldn’t save Terra Nova this past season nor Heroes a few years ago, and both of those played very well internationally. But then both of those shows were a whole lot more expensive than Nikita. So despite the fact that the series only averaged a 0.5 rating (based on sameday viewing), its foreign fans apparently helped keep it alive.
Prospects for Fourth Season: Excellent. The guys over at TV by the Numbers believe that most studios won’t renew a series for a third season unless they are pretty much certain they plan on giving it a fourth as well. That brings it to 88 episodes and the current magic number for syndication. So it looks like, despite its poor ratings domestically, Nikita will be around for at least a couple more years.
Grimm (NBC) – This was never really a bubble series, but it was also never really a strong performer during its first season. It did start out quite well, pulling a 2.1 rating in its debut in the Friday 9 PM EST timeslot. But then it settled into numbers between 1.3 and 1.5, which the fourth place network apparently considered acceptable for that low-rated night. And they had enough other holes in their schedule to deal with that I guess they decided Grimm plugged up one leak well enough for the time being.
Prospects for Third Season: A toss up. If NBC continues to struggle and Grimm doesn’t drop off too much, then they will probably keep the show alive. But then the ratings for most shows decline in their second season, and Grimm doesn’t have a lot of breathing room, especially considering the slippage it saw in its numbers toward season end. Still, I would give it a better chance of surviving than FOX’s Touch.