FOX announced today that sophomore supernatural series Sleepy Hollow will be returning for a third season which will total eighteen episodes (the same number as its second season). The renewal was definitely not a sure thing because it has struggled in the ratings during its second year (and I’m thinking they did it just to spite me for raising the show’s Cancellation Alert in the latest set of Power Rankings . . . ). It averaged a healthy 2.6 score in the 18-49 demographic based on the overnights for its first season, but it slipped to almost half that this year with just a 1.5 average (plus a notable downward trend to end the season). But then FOX’s numbers in general have been down this year and Sleepy Hollow was not too low in relation to the other shows airing on that network. Still, just this past week there was word that the its showrunner (Mark Goffman) had stepped down which led me to wonder if we were seeing the start of the rats-leaving-a-sinking-ship trend. But FOX announced today that the show would be coming back and with a new showrunner (Clifton Campbell, creator of crime drama The Glades) who will set it on a new course. FOX had previously indicated that they were not too thrilled with the overly serialized nature the show has been following and this year they wrapped up most of its ongoing storylines as apparently the new showrunner will take it in a more episodic direction during its third season. How well that will sit with the show’s core fanbase remains to be seen.
Sleepy Hollow will find itself in an interesting position next year because it will not quite have the coveted third season show status due to the fact that it has had shortened episode counts (for a broadcast network series) each of its seasons. Typically, broadcast net shows that have received three 22 episode seasons are virtually guaranteed a fourth season because that gets them to the 88 ep threshold that the syndication market prefers to see (and that is where a show truly becomes profitable). But Sleepy Hollow only had 13 eps for its first season, 18 for its second, and 18 more have been ordered for its third year. That will get its tally up to 49 by the end of next year which puts it 39 short of the finish line. Now there have been shows of late that reached the third season mark and received a shortened fourth season to get them just above 70 total episodes (The CW’s Nikita is one example of this). Those instances suggest the threshold may have slipped to that level, but Sleepy Hollow will still be 21 episodes short, so the syndication market will likely not be as much of a draw to keep it as a strong contender for a fourth year. But that’s all future speculation and I’m sure the show’s fans are happy it will be back next season even if they may have some trepidation over its new direction.
Expect more renewal and cancellation announcements over the next two months as the networks work on hammering out their schedules for the 2015-16 season. And you can see where all the current sci fi / fantasy shows stand in the latest set of Power Rankings.