During the 2015-16 season, we saw the ratings slip to all-time low levels, but the networks (especially the broadcast channels) decided to white-knuckle the downward spiral and say “Just Renew It, Baby!” Quite a number of struggling shows escaped cancellation because apparently the networks decided to take as many familiar faces as possible with them into the next round of the ratings-pocalypse. I don’t believe we will see that again this year, though, and I expect to see signs of the bubble shrinking if not completely bursting by the end of the current season. And here are some shows that could be leading that charge. These shows have either passed the syndication stretch or will fall short of it by season end, so they will get no boost on that front.
The 100 (CW) – This show has been perennially low-rated since its first season and it has to be one of the costlier entries for The CW. Since it has had shortened episode counts through its first three seasons, it will still be well shy of the 88-episode threshold that the syndication market prefers for an encore run. And the network currently has quite a number shows in the development pipeline which could squeeze this one out. But then The CW likes to be the “happy net”, renewing most of its shows, and The 100 has a following that is pretty vocal on the social nets. So it still has a chance even if the odds are against it.
Agents of SHIELD (ABC) – This show got the fourth season renewal just because that gets it to episode threshold that the syndication market prefers see (and that is where shows really start to turn a profit). But if its numbers remain where they were in its third year (and don’t try to throw delayed viewing in the mix because it didn’t improve much with those stats), expect a cancellation. The show is going through a bit of a reboot and is bringing in more characters from the comics (starting with Ghost Rider), so it hasn’t given up yet. But if the numbers don’t head northward, expect ABC to be looking for a different Marvel property for the Fall 2017 season.
American Horror Story (FX) – This was once one of the highest rated shows on cable (though not quite in the Walking Dead juggernaut category), but it had slipped considerably by its fifth season. After this coming year, it will have a sufficient number of episodes for an extended syndication run and it also appears be using the current season to tie together the stories from the past five years. Maybe they will use that as its swansong and call it a day. But then again, any more seasons beyond this are gravy for the syndication run, and the strong debut it just had for its sixth season bow could keep it in contention another year or so.
The Last Man on Earth (FOX) – I was surprised that this post-apocalyptic sitcom survived to a third year, but it is less expensive produce than an hour-long drama and it found itself caught up in the wave of renewal fever. Plus, I believe FOX wanted to keep high profile executive producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller happy because they are working on other projects for the network. But a fourth season does not get this one through the syndication stretch, so if its numbers stay low then it could find itself kicked to the curb by season end.
The Originals (CW) – The parent series to this spin-off, Vampire Diaries, is already coming to an end this season and this one could follow it out the door. Both sunk to all-time ratings lows last season, though that was in part due to airing on low-viewership Fridays. The Originals is in its fourth season and will hit the 88-episode threshold by season end that makes it much more attractive to the syndication market. So no need to keep it around much longer if it is not pulling in the viewers. But then this is a CBS produced show and The CW is a partnership between that network and the WB. That latter studio currently dominates The CW’s schedule with its DC tie-in shows, so CBS wants to keep some balance. A fifth season for The Originals is just gravy for the eventual syndication run and could also bring over some characters from Vampire Diaries when it exits. So I don’t count The Originals as definitely on the outs, but it could get squeezed with all the development The CW currently has in the pipeline.
Scream Queens (FOX) – FOX claimed that “stickiness” on the social networks helped to get this low-rated show a second season, but I think they plan on just tacking it on to the American Horror Story syndication package (both shows are owned by FOX and come from the same creative team). Or maybe they are taking a shot on its new season-long story arc connecting better with the viewers. But if its numbers stay low in its second year, I wouldn’t count on a third.
Sleepy Hollow (FOX) – This show does not return until mid-season, but you can be assured that it is on its last legs. It slipped to all-time ratings lows last season and was even looking iffy for a Friday show. And then one of the major characters was killed off in the season finale which enraged fans. So don’t expect to see a ratings turnaround this season and it is still well short of the 88-episode goal needed for a syndication run. I expect this one to be gone by the end of the season.
Catch up on Last Season’s Sci Fi & Fantasy Shows on Blu-ray and DVD: