As Networks Tighten Belts, Four Shows on the Bubble

It’s normally not until May when network executives get their knives out to slash the hopes and dreams of many a showrunner, but this year it looks like things are starting a little early. Late Monday night, ABC predictably canceled the lowly rated Life on Mars, though the series will be allowed to finish its storyline so that fans, like us, can have some closure. (Hooray!) Meanwhile, reports are circulating that CBS is planning on keeping The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men around for multiple seasons, which probably qualifies as fantastic news for some and as a sign of the coming apocalypse for others. Between now and the end of May, many other shows will have their fates decided—if you’re a fan of Knight Rider, don’t get your hopes up. Here’s a check on four that are still twisting in the wind.

Fringe (Tuesdays at 9 on Fox): One of the most hyped entries from last fall, Fringe has actually acquitted itself fairly well on Tuesday nights. Creatively, J.J. Abrams’ take on The X-Files has found a solid footing, though truth be told, we still get the feeling that Fringe should be a little bit better—why isn’t Joshua Jackson allowed to actually do anything on this show? Minor quibbles aside, however, all signs appear pointed towards another season; last month Fox announced the crew of Fringe would relocate their filming for year two from New York to the less expensive Vancouver. While not an official pickup, that seems to bode well. Being cost conscious is so hot right now. Pick-Up Probability: 98%

Ugly Betty (Thursdays at 8 on ABC): Frankly the idea that Ugly Betty might not be around for another season seems almost unbelievable. It was just three years ago that the show burst onto the scene, winning over fans and critics in the process. Now ABC is pulling it off the schedule in the middle of the season so that it can run episodes of Samantha Who? (a show which has moved around more than the Island on Lost during the past couple of years) and new series In the Motherhood. Despite that bizarre decision, one that usually portends cancellation, ABC executives assure everyone that Ugly Betty will be just fine. We tend to believe them, just because they don’t really have a lot of other options. Then again, these are the same people who told us that the final episodes of Dirty Sexy Money would actually air. Pick-Up Probability: 86%

Heroes (Mondays at 9 on NBC): To borrow from Woody Allen: Television shows are like sharks; they have to keep moving forward or they die. Well, Heroes is looking more and more like a dead shark. As with Ugly Betty, it would have seemed unfathomable to picture Heroes getting canceled just a couple of years ago, but how quickly things change. The ratings stink, critics are out for blood and even the fans don’t seem to care anymore. It also doesn’t help that co-star Greg Grunberg used his Twitter page to say farewell to the cast and crew earlier this week. He has since backtracked, but it all seems a tad fishy. Pick-Up Probability: 52%

Chuck (Mondays at 8 on NBC): This one hurts. Simply, we love Chuck. It’s easily one of the most charming and enjoyable television shows we’ve seen in a long time, and, to NBC’s credit, they’ve stuck with it, leaving Chuck in the same time slot and promoting it heavily. They want the show to work! It’s just too bad it isn’t, really. The ratings are poor, and it seems doubtful that Chuck will all of a sudden gain an additional five million viewers overnight. Last weekend at WonderCon, creator Josh Schwartz said that even if NBC doesn’t pick up Chuck for a third year, the season finale would be satisfying enough to serve as a series ender. We sure hope so. Pick-Up Probability: 37% As Networks Tighten Belts, Four Shows on the Bubble