It’s not easy to avoid the chopping block when it comes to primetime television. Whether it’s a returning series or a new show, livelihood is purely a numbers game, and when the numbers go south, cancellation is not far behind.
TV by the Numbers runs a series of articles outlining which shows from the major networks are trending downwards using what it calls the “Renew/Cancel Index” — a ratio that takes into account a show’s 18-49 age group ratings relative to the performance of other shows. Per the site, the specifics behind the numbers are as follows:
“The Renew/Cancel Index is the ratio of a scripted show’s new episode adults 18-49 ratings relative to the new episode ratings of the other scripted shows on its own network. It’s calculated by dividing a show’s new episode Live+Same Day adults 18-49 average rating by the Live+Same Day new episode average of all the new scripted show episodes on the show’s own network. The network’s average ratings in the calculation are not time weighted (ex. hour long shows are not weighted twice what 30 minute shows are).”
In general, a score less than 1 puts a show at considerable risk of cancellation, while a score greater than 1 puts a show in safe territory. Shows approaching 2 on the scale are more or less untouchable — pretty much assured for an early renewal — while shows trending around 0.5 are generally in big, big trouble as networks decide what to cancel. Using TV by the Numbers’ Renew/Cancel Index, here are the shows from each of the five major broadcast networks — ABC, Fox, CBS, NBC, and The CW — that seem destined for the chopping block.
1. Betrayal, ABC — Status: Canceled
Of all the major networks, ABC’s lineup is looking likely to take the award for most cancellations this season. And following ABC’s three shows that have already been cancelled — Lucky 7, Killer Women, The Assets — no other show on the network came in as low on the Renew/Cancel Index as Betrayal, which finished the season at 0.48.
A new drama that began airing September 29, Betrayal tells the story of photographer Sara Hanley. She begins an affair with Jack McAllister, a lawyer from a powerful family, and the series follows the complications that arise when a court case pits the two against one another. The viewership numbers didn’t trend aggressively downwards, instead holding firm around 3 million, but the viewership for its finale — 3.31 million — didn’t lead to much hope for a second season. The show was canceled shortly thereafter.
2. Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, ABC — Status: Canceled
Next on the chopping block at ABC was Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, which sat at 0.55 on TV by the Numbers’ index, nearly unchanged from its already precarious spot earlier in the fall, before it was axed (off with its head?). A spinoff of ABC’s popular Once Upon a Time, this series takes place in present-day Wonderland and is part of the same universe as the original show, though we’ll never know how this one ends. Unfortunately, the eight-episode season did not draw viewers in nearly as much as Once Upon a Time, showing a consistent decline through the first season.
3. The Neighbors, ABC — Status: Uncertain
The Neighbors scores a 0.59 on the index — slightly higher than where it was in the fall — and it appears increasingly unlikely that the comedy will be renewed for a third season. Now in its second season, The Neighbors is a sci-fi sitcom about a family that relocates to a gated community in New Jersey only to find that it is populated entirely by aliens awaiting instruction to return home. Viewer numbers have shown a distinct drop throughout the second season, with the most recent episode (on March 7) earning the lowest ratings of the entire series at 3.6 million.
4. Trophy Wife, ABC — Status: Uncertain
Despite positive reviews from critics, Trophy Wife doesn’t appear likely to see a second season the way the numbers are shaping up. With a Renew/Cancel Index of 0.59 — the same as fellow chopping-block nominee The Neighbors — Trophy Wife, which tells the story of a young party girl who marries an older man, has seen its numbers gradually dip from the 6.69 million viewers who tuned in for the premiere to the most recent episode’s 2.99 million viewers. With three more episodes to go, it’ll have to show some momentum for ABC to consider a second season.
5. Enlisted, Fox — Status: Canceled
Now that Fox has cancelled Raising Hope, it looked like new comedy Enlisted would be the next to go, with a Renew/Cancel Index of 0.49 — second only to Raising Hope’s 0.44. Premiering January 10, Enlisted told the story of three brothers in the U.S. Army who found themselves brought together at a fictional Army base in Florida. After debuting to 2.41 million viewers and attracting as many as 3.23 million during its third episode, the show fell off in later weeks, bringing in less than 2 million viewers in later episodes. While the show earned strong marks from critics and critical reception can sometimes take away the pressure to perform (see The Mindy Project), this show was one the critics couldn’t save from being a one-and-done.
6. Rake, Fox — Status: Canceled
Despite having a slightly higher Renew/Cancel Index than recently renewed shows The Mindy Project and Glee at 0.75, Fox’s comedy-drama Rake wasn’t as likely to get a pass, both because it was new and because critical reception had been mixed. Rake told the story of a criminal defense attorney whose self-destructive behavior pits nearly everyone he comes in contact with against him; it’s based on the Australian TV series of the same name. Premiering January 23 to 6.95 million viewers, the series saw its viewership decline in later episodes. Given that other series are de facto cancelled with higher index ratings, it make some sense that Rake faced no more lenient sentence.
7. Dads,Fox — Status: Canceled
New sitcom Dads came in with an index score of 0.83, but the news around the industry was that the series is a one-and-done, although Fox held off on making any official statement on the show’s status. Starring Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi, Dads revolved around two game developers whose lives are turned upside down when their fathers come to live with them. Other than the premiere episode, which saw 5.76 million viewers tune in, the series has consistently drawn viewership in the low- to mid-3 millions while earning fairly scathing remarks from critics. And with the season finale bringing in only 2.49 million viewers — the lowest of the entire season — the show didn’t close on a strong note.
8. Almost Human, Fox — Status: Canceled
One of the most high-profile new TV shows of the season given the involvement of J.J. Abrams, Almost Human nonetheless lost its fight for survival after starting out strong. With a Renew/Cancel Index of 1.16, the series premiered on November 17 to 9.18 million viewers but saw its viewership plummet to the mid-5 millions in its final weeks. Given its costs of production and low viewership, a second season was unlikely, and the show was predictably canceled.
9. Hostages, CBS — Status: Uncertain
Hostages was supposed to be CBS’s answer to cable and premium-channel dramas, but it instead looks poised to be the most prominent cancellation of the season, coming in with an index score of 0.46. A high-concept drama-thriller, Hostages revolves around a doctor scheduled to perform surgery on the president. She is subsequently forced to assassinate the president by a rogue FBI agent threatening her family. After premiering with 7.41 million viewers in September, the show has more recently seen its viewership decline to the high 4 millions and low 5 millions.
While those numbers are much better than some of the shows we’ve discussed, the problem is that Hostages’ high-concept premise means the show costs a lot more than your average sitcom. In order to survive, Hostages needs to attract numbers like NBC’s Blacklist — a show that never dipped below 10 million viewers and has already been renewed for a second season. And with the climatic season finale only bringing in 4.69 million viewers, which ranks among the lowest in the entire season, Hostages isn’t likely to live long enough to see another day.
10. Intelligence, CBS — Status: Uncertain
Like Hostages, CBS’s Intelligence is another high-concept TV series that simply isn’t panning out the way the network had hoped, with a Renew/Cancel Index of 0.60. Premiering January 7, Intelligence is a spy-thriller that revolves around a high-tech operative with a supercomputer microchip in his brain that allows him to connect to a globalized information grid in order to protect the United States. If that sounds like a mouthful, maybe that’s the reason the viewer numbers have dropped off. After starting strong, with 16.49 million viewers for its premiere, the most recent episode brought in 6.62 million viewers, with previous weeks dropping into the mid-5 millions. While those are relatively strong numbers, it doesn’t look as though it will be good enough for its time slot and production cost.
11. The Mentalist, CBS — Status: Uncertain
Aside from Hostages and We Are Men, the latter of which was cancelled after only two episodes, the next most likely candidate for cancellation at CBS is The Mentalist,with an index score of 0.72. Now in its sixth season, The Mentalist is a police procedural, comedy-drama hybrid that follows a former psychic who uses his observational skills to aid the California Bureau of Investigation. While the show has averaged upwards of 9 million viewers per episode in the sixth season, those numbers are a far cry from the first three seasons, which averaged around 15 million viewers. Since 2011, the series has seen a notable year-over-year decline, and CBS might decide it’s simply time to move on. However, there is hope for a seventh season, as the most recent episodes have approached the 10 million viewers mark. It will likely hinge on how the final episodes and finale pan out in the ratings.
12. Dracula, NBC — Status: Uncertain
Over at NBC, there have already been four major cancellations: Welcome the the Family, The Michael J. Fox Show, Ironside, and Sean Saves the World. The only show left on bubble is Dracula, a re-imagining of Bram Stoker’s novel of the same name.
According to TV by the Numbers, it seems most likely that Dracula will receive a cancellation rather than a renewal. After receiving a straight-to-series commitment from NBC, Dracula has failed to catch on with viewers, earning a 0.66 index score in its Friday time slot. Although the Friday slot makes the 0.66 index score a little more palatable for executives, the series’ production cost, which includes location shoots in Hungary, means the show really needed to show potential in its first season. But with the season finale bringing in a modest 3.04 million viewers, it’s going to be tough to accept the enormous costs of production when the ceiling appears low.
13. The Carrie Diaries, The CW — Status: Canceled
The Carrie Diaries, a prequel to HBO’s wildly popular Sex and the City, floundered in its Friday time slot, receiving an index score of 0.50 and averaging viewers around 700,000 per episode in its second season. Considering that it was a surprise to most onlookers that the series received a second season in the first place — after the first season’s finale received a paltry 1 million viewers — The Carrie Diaries was just about the surest cancellation of the season for The CW after bringing in 0.86 million viewers for its second-season finale.
14. Beauty and the Beast, The CW — Status: Renewed
Beauty and the Beast, a police procedural hybrid loosely based off the 1987 TV series of the same name, also seemed as good as finished, according to TV by the Numbers. Managing to receive an index score of only 0.48 in a non-Friday time slot, Beauty and the Beast saw low viewer ratings for the second season in the late weeks of April and early ones of March. However, despite the odds against it, the show managed to get renewed
BONUS: Mind Games, ABC — Status: Canceled
One of the most recent ABC series to premiere, Mind Games looked like a tough sell for a second season early on, with a Renew/Cancel Index of 0.52. Premiering February 25, Mind Games tells the story of two brothers who run a firm using psychological manipulation as a means to problem solving. The series premiered to 3.58 million viewers, but its mid-season episodes pulled in only 2.68 million viewers. The show will not be coming back.
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