As we head into the final weeks of the 2014-15 season, there are already several sci fi and fantasy shows that have had their tickets punched for another year as well as several more that look very likely to get renewed (more on those at my Cancellation Watch Page and the latest edition of the Sci Fi TV Power Rankings). But among these shows, there are quite a number that look like they could be on their last legs and the upcoming season could be their final hurrah before heading into syndication (if they have amassed four seasons or more) or getting dumped on the TV Wasteland pile (not enough seasons/episodes for a decent syndication run). There is one renewed show which is almost assured yet one more season, and that is The CW’s The Originals. That one will be headed into the coveted third season show status which means that by the end of next year it will have totaled 66 episodes and will only be one season away from the 88 that the syndication market prefers to see. Since 2007, every broadcast network show that has reached the 66 episode mark (give or take a few) by the end of its third season was renewed for a fourth. It would seem that ABC’s Agents of SHIELD would be in the same place if its likely renewal happens, but I think that network is approaching next season with a different strategy and will go into that further below. It all comes down to whether the network believes they can ultimately make money on a series by stretching out its episode count. Shows that have been around several seasons and may be less expensive to produce (i.e., The CW entries, Grimm) can compensate for lagging ratings by the potential future money they promise for padding out the syndication package. Shows that are well short of reaching an attractive syndication episode count (i.e., The Last Man on Earth, The 100) or shows that are more expense to produce (i.e., Gotham, Once Upon A Time) may not be worth keeping around. So as we look ahead to next year, here is my rundown of all the genre shows that may only have one more season left in them:
Grimm (NBC, Fourth season wrapping up and renewed for a fifth): This show is currently at all-time lows in the ratings, and moving it to the earlier 8 PM EST timeslot hasn’t helped. It still plugs in an hour on low-viewership Friday for its network, and any additional seasons just pad out its syndication package that much more. But if it sinks further when it returns next season, NBC might consider trying something else on that night. If they do that, hopefully they will give the creative team enough notice so that they can give the show a proper send-off.
Supernatural (The CW, Tenth season wrapping up and renewed for an eleventh): This show will set the record for the longest running sci fi / fantasy series in the United States when it heads into its eleventh year (eclipsing Smallville and Stargate: SG-1 which both wrapped up after their tenth seasons). But Supernatural will be stumbling into its record setting year with its numbers on the downswing and it is definitely showing signs of age (having gone well past series creator Eric Kripke’s vision of five seasons). What The CW should do is use this show’s coming season as the launching point for that long-promised spin-off series and then let the parent show finally take a rest. But it’s hard to say with that network and it wouldn’t completely surprise if this one stuck around for a twelfth year.
Vampire Diaries (The CW, Sixth season wrapping up and renewed for a seventh): Once the flagship for the fifth place network, this show is currently at all-time lows and its star Nina Dobrev has announced that she will be departing after this season ends. I’m expecting that The CW will announce in the next few weeks that this show’s seventh season will be its last and that could potentially comprise a shortened set of wrap up episodes. But again, it is the fifth place network, so carrying Vampire Diaries into an eighth season would not completely surprise me either.
Gotham (FOX, First season wrapping up and renewed for a second): This pre-Batman series was looking like a hit last Fall, but the ratings slump has hit it hard in Spring, in no small part due to extended rerun breaks (and I have also heard some grumbling about the slip in quality). If it rebounds next Fall, then it should be safe. If not, it may be looking at the same two-season-and-out fate that shows like Revolution (NBC) and Touch (FOX) suffered in recent years. It will be a waiting game for this one and its early Fall numbers will be crucial.
Sleepy Hollow (FOX, Two seasons completed and renewed for a third): With the ratings for this show dropping off in its second year (and that was before the ratings slump hit), it goes into its third season on very unsure footing. And it doesn’t get the third season show status like The Originals above because of its shortened episode runs each of its first two years (it has amassed only 31 eps so far, well short of the syndication finish line of 80+). FOX is already a mess with it ratings woes, and I’m thinking they can’t tolerate yet another lagger on their schedule. So unless Sleepy Hollow gets its numbers up next season, it will almost certainly face a foe worse than the headless horseman: the Network Executioner.
The 100 (The CW, Two seasons completed and renewed for a third): Like Sleepy Hollow, this show falls well short of the syndication milestone because its first two seasons were shorter than usual (29 episodes completed thus far). It has been a ratings lagger since its first season, though its network has stuck with it. But with all the development The CW currently has in the pipeline, I wonder if they will want to keep propping this one up. It wouldn’t surprise me if they announce next season as its last when they unveil their 2015-16 schedule in the next two weeks. And even if they don’t, I have a hard time seeing this one avoiding the Network Executioner next year.
The Last Man on Earth (FOX, First season wrapping up and renewed for a second): This post-apocalyptic sitcom started out looking like a possible sleeper hit for Spring, but then saw its numbers slide notably. That could be chalked up to the ratings slump and if it returns next season up then it should be okay since expectations for sitcoms are not as high. But if its numbers don’t improve then The Last Man on Earth may not survive into a third season.
12 Monkeys (Syfy, First season completed and renewed for a second): This show barely registered in the ratings during its first season, but Syfy has been struggling in general of late. It has received mostly good buzz so far and the network appears to be standing by it like they did with Helix after that show’s low-rated first season. But Helix is almost certainly facing cancellation after its numbers dropped further this year and I would expect the same if 12 Monkeys does not see an improvement next year.
Awaiting Renewal Announcement:
Once Upon A Time (ABC, Fourth season wrapping up and a lock for a fifth): The numbers for this show have dropped notably in Spring and that was after it attained two season highs back in Fall. However, the ratings slump can be faulted heavily for the current drop and it is still typically one of the highest rated scripted entries on the broadcast networks on Sundays. Still, this is an expensive show to produce and seems to have nearly run its course based on the regular grumblings I hear from its fans. It wouldn’t surprise me if ABC gave the show a thirteen episode fifth and final season nod, though I’m guessing they will go with an open-ended renewal in hopes of pulling out another Frozen for next year which boosted the ratings this past Fall. What they should do is come up with a storyline to better tie it with the one-season spin-off Once Upon A Time in Wonderland as a good linking of the two when they eventually land in syndication together. In any case, it wouldn’t surprise me if this one ended with its fifth season and I have a hard time seeing anything beyond a sixth.
Person of Interest (CBS, Fourth season wrapping up and likely to get renewed for a fifth): Another show experiencing all-time ratings lows, though CBS is largely to blame because of their poor scheduling. Still, the network tends to keep shows like this around to plug up the 10 PM EST timeslot across the week, though their fifth season and beyond is when they tend to become vulnerable. Add to that the fact that CBS has never been kind to sci fi shows (and this one has been amping up the genre elements of late), and Person of Interest is definitely a candidate to get axed next year. But if they give it a proper send-off, then at least it will have had a decent five year / 100+ episode run.
Agents of SHIELD (ABC, Second season wrapping up and looking promising for a third): If this show gets renewed for a third year, it would seem to be on track for a fourth because of its third season show status, but I’m thinking that may not be the case this time around. Agents of SHIELD has struggled in the ratings this year and it is an expensive show to produce, so I believe that ABC will find it tough to keep it going for two more seasons at its current levels. But here’s what I think their strategy is: if the spin-off show happens and Agent Carter gets a second season renewal (which is looking good), then ABC will target packaging all three shows together in one bundle for syndication, and by the end of next season there should be a sufficient episode count. That way if the ratings for AoS and AC don’t improve and the spin-off doesn’t do any better, they still have a large enough set of eps to recoup costs with an encore run. And with a fourth Marvel show in the works (possibly based on the Ms. Marvel character), that company can keep its presence on the network (Disney owns both) if the new series does better. It may all seem convoluted and I’m sure ABC will take Agents of SHIELD into the next season with plans to keep it around further. But if the ratings woes continue, then this gives them an ideal back-up plan for cutting ties with AoS but still making money on it in the long run. In any case, assuming it does get renewed, it won’t go into next season with a tight hold on that third season show trump card like The Originals will.