the tv bubble

It won’t be until May that we start getting a look at next year’s TV schedules.

But this is the time when network executives start getting ideas in their heads about what shows they’re keeping and what shows they’re getting rid of. The CW made some early pick-ups yesterday to make sure fans knew shows like Vampire Diaries, 90210 and others were coming back next year.

No one will be making any more announcements about show fate until after the Olympics, and possibly not even until April to give bubble shows a chance to get back on their feet after being gone for a couple weeks. But here is the case for five shows currently sitting on the bubble:

congratulations, olivia. you've been upgraded to "somewhat tolerable." who woulda thunk it?

congratulations, olivia. you've been upgraded to "somewhat tolerable." who woulda thunk it?

Fringe: It surprised me to see this show on the list of endangered species — probably because I’ve enjoyed it so much this year. After a year-and-a-half of people anointing it the next X-Files, it finally has become its true successor, a mix of scary circumstances, excellent writing and much-improved acting. I haven’t screamed “GO TO HELL, PACEY!” once this year. Not once! Normally I’m involved in the serialization of a show much more than the weekly procedural stuff, but I’d be perfectly fine if they never mentioned William Bell again or never put Olivia and Peter in compromising situations again and just focused on the wacky adventures of the Fringe Division. But why would Fox have a problem with this show? It’s apparently improved the Thursday ratings from the last couple years and it makes a pretty good companion piece to Bones. Sure, it gets trounced by Grey’s Anatomy and CSI every week, but what did Fox expect? It didn’t exactly pull in bang-bang ratings on Tuesdays last season, so why would it get them on TV’s most brutal night? The fact that it beats The Office/30 Rock should be enough for Fox. Keep it and move it if you want, but there’s no reason to cancel a show that has done everything it conceivably could, both critically and commercially. SHOULD IT COME BACK? Yes

24: Another surprising find on the list, even though the writing is on the wall. 24 should be like Joe Paterno — he gets to go when he wants to go. I’m not suggesting Jack wears out his welcome and sticks around for 50 years to the point where the terrorist will be 45-year-old Dev Patel, but it’s got to end at some point. And the sooner, the better, because 24 has lost its urgency. We no longer worry about Jack being tortured, we know he’s going to find his way out of it, no matter how complex the situation is. And that’s the problem — we don’t fear Jack’s death. Even when Audrey stabbed him a couple weeks ago, we might as well have been quoting Holy Grail: “‘Tis but a scratch.” Plot out some strategy, let everyone know this will be the end, and just end it gracefully — if that’s even possible anymore. People will tune in to see if Jack lives or dies, just like they tuned in to the Sopranos to see if Tony lived or died. 24 requires such an attention span and commitment that unless it’s the best show around, people aren’t going to be watching. That day is coming awfully soon. SHOULD IT COME BACK? Yes, for one more highly publicized year.

Community: In a decade marred with decisions that rank right up there with the XFL, give credit to NBC for one thing — it’s been very good on sticking with the Thursday comedy lineup because of its quality and hasn’t just blown everything up because it comes in fourth in the ratings every week. The network could do that in a heartbeat and no one would blame them. That dedication has given us one of the critical success stories of the year in Community, which is truly starting to give somewhat bland seasons of The Office and 30 Rock — the secret return of Dennis last week notwithstanding on 30 Rock — a run for their money. At least in quality. when NBC dumped My Name is Earl last year, the only way to accept it was wait until the fall to see if what was replacing it was better. Well, Community is better than the last two years of Earl. If NBC does decide to give up on Community — and again, we can’t blame it if it does — it better make sure there is something coming in the pipeline just as funny. Otherwise, it’s a disservice to us all. NBC has an extra five hours a week to program now, so unless a show is completely tanking, it will probably be back on the schedule next year. SHOULD IT COME BACK? Yes because there is no way NBC would come up with something funnier unless Modern Family all of a sudden wants to jump networks.

V: How can we know if V is headed in the right direction or not? It’s only been on for four episodes! Granted, those four episodes haven’t exactly been Mad-Men-esque, but for a high-concept, character-driven action piece that hasn’t even really made its big reveal yet when the aliens declare war on the puny earthlings, it hasn’t been bad. Not everything can be 24, where if you weren’t sucked in by the first four episodes of season 1, your family may have called the doctor to make sure you were really conscious. ABC’s decision to delay the return from February sweeps to March 30 is about as smart as Lloyd Christmas since people already were complaining about the two-month layoff in the first place. Now four months? That’s a month for every episode they’ve shown already! Weird. It’s like it’s being set up to fail. I’m OK with waiting, but it just seems like it’s going to get gobbled up by everything else coming back around then. SHOULD IT COME BACK? Not sure yet. Ask again in mid-April.

hey? where did my show go?

hey? where did my show go?

FlashForward: As a viewer, forget about what you feel about the show for a second, whether you like it or not. Think about it from the perspective of the people making it for a second, specifically former showrunner David Goyer, the man who co-created it. He’s also the co-writer of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight and whether he was locked-in contractually to write Batman 3 when he signed on for FF is immaterial. But when he approached ABC about FF, the question must have come up — what about your commitment to Batman? He obviously gave them a satisfactory answer. “I’ll be writing it, but I’m going to make time for the show” or something along those lines. He even let someone else be showrunner, probably at the prodding of ABC, just in case he got the Nolan invite away to write Batman 3. Then the first showrunner quit and left Goyer in charge of THE SHOW HE CREATED. Please keep that in mind. It was his show, the show he conceivablyspent months/years conceptualizing, writing, directing, pitching, casting and bringing to TV. It was his baby. Before ABC let him take over, they must have asked him again: What’s the deal with Batman 3? He again must have said, “I can do it on the show’s break.” No way ABC lets him take over its most prominent freshman show without some kind of assurance in that spirit. So what happens? About three months into his new job of leading the show he dreamed up, he decided to dump it off on someone else and move on to Batman 3, giving the show three bosses before the 11th episode has aired. Taking all of that into account — is this the kind of show you want to invest your time in on one of the most crowded time slots on TV? A show whose creator wants nothing to do with it? If this show comes back for a second season — and right now, that’s a huge if — it won’t look anything like this season. That, actually, good be a good thing. SHOULD IT COME BACK? No. It’s become a mess of plotholes, miscast actors and misguided plot twists that don’t matter to the essential point of the show, and it doesn’t seem like that will be changing.

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