Yesterday delivered this week’s second bit of surprising sci fi / fantasy television news. The first surprise was Lifetime’s cancellation of Witches of East End, a show I thought was on track for a third season renewal (more on that at this link). The second was ABC’s announcement that low-rated series Forever was picked up for a full season. I had that show pegged as sure to be cancelled (so did TV by the Numbers and several other sites) and figured it would air out its initial thirteen episode order then disappear into the cancelled television wasteland. But the alphabet network proved us all wrong by picking up the “Back 9” episodes to give the show a full season for its first year.
So how did that happen? How were we so wrong with our predictions?
Well, first of all it’s always hard to figure out what is going through the minds of network executives. But at least the Nielsen overnights have provided a measure that has fairly accurately predicted their cancel / renewal decisions. Up to this point at least, and maybe some of those changes we have been looking for are starting to show up. The networks have claimed that they planned on looking closer at the DVR viewing stats for Live + 3 (three days after broadcast) and Live + 7 (you do the math), and the fact is that Forever has looked better based on those numbers. In fact, the most recent set of results (which were for the week ending October 19th) showed Forever having an 82% gain in its rating in the 18-49 demographic based on those Live + 7 results (it went from a 1.1 score to a 2.0). Those are still not great final numbers, but maybe ABC sees them as good enough. In past seasons, a show pulling numbers like this would not live past its initial episode order and would possibly even get bumped to a Friday or Saturday burn-off run (as examples I present Once Upon A Time in Wonderland, Last Resort, Zero Hour, The River, all ABC shows). To give the show an additional set of episodes means that they see some hope in it. And the fact is that it has been well received by both critics and fans.
We should definitely look on this as a good thing and a sign of one of the networks not jumping to a quick cancellation decision because of low ratings (which is what we have seen for the past fifty plus years). At the same time, I don’t want to read too much into it either just yet. It’s also possible that this is just the pet show for one or more of the network executives (the only way I can explain Beauty and the Beast‘s renewal by The CW last year). It may be that Forever is a relatively inexpensive show to produce and ABC considers it cheaper to keep it on the air for the rest of the season rather than trying to shove something else into the 10 PM EST Tuesday timeslot that they have struggled with for years. And the fact is that a full season pickup brings with it no guarantee that the show will get a second season. But at least they are giving it a chance to find an audience which is more than we have typically seen in the past. For now, I am dropping Forever to a Moderate Cancellation Alert status and I will probably leave it there until ABC makes its final schedule announcements in the Spring. And I should note that Agents of SHIELD has done well with DVR viewing as well, with that same report mentioned above showing it improving its audience in the 18-49 demo by 76% and going from a 1.7 score to a 3.0. So perhaps that show is in better shape than I have been estimating as well. At this point it is just wait and see, but I call this a good sign that things really are changing with the networks.
As for Syfy’s Haven, that is another show that has been struggling in the ratings and I have considered its prospects somewhat grim, especially after its network shuffled it to the 7 PM EST Friday hour which is outside of the normal Prime Time hours. That show had received a fifth season renewal after pulling rather tepid numbers last season, but it was given a twenty six episode commitment that was scheduled to be broken into two thirteen episode blocks. With its further ratings slide this season, I consider the second half of its fifth season in jeopardy, but a recent tweet from Syfy executive Ted A’Zary suggests different. In a Q&A he had on Twitter yesterday (he does that fairly regularly on Fridays for those interested in asking him questions), he was asked about when the second half of the show’s fifth season would air to which he replied: “It isn’t scheduled yet, but I assume #Haven5B will air some time in 2015”. Now that’s no firm commitment, but at least he didn’t try to dodge the question (which I have seen before), and his answer suggests it is still in the works. My guess would be that the show will wrap up with those thirteen episodes, but at least it will get that instead of getting cut short. All of this is speculation, though, but the important thing to get from this is that it looks like the second half of Haven‘s fifth season will happen.