Hey TV networks! Here's what to do with your "bubble" shows (and how fans can save their faves)
And right about now, legions of fans are waiting for word on their fave "bubble" shows -- series with just enough ratings muscle that they haven't been tossed overboard, but not enough that their continued existence is for certain. The verdicts will come between now and mid-May, when the broadcast networks announce their new fall seasons (sometimes, as with Fox's Sons of Tucson, the star makes it easy and snags a role in a new show before the network even officially cancels the old one)
First, a few words on what you, presumably a fan, can do. Not much, unless you have one of those nifty boxes from The Nielsen Company which converts your channels surfing into actual TV ratings.
Smarter minds than mine have suggested, if you really love a show and want to help it survive, watch it online at a network-sponsored site such as Hulu or TV.com, buy episodes on iTunes or pick up the DVDs of past seasons.
This is the only way to immediately register fan support for a show in ways a network suit is going to care about -- making money (long, overly detailed letters to the network about what you'll do if the show gets canceled will just land you on a special list that makes air travel and access to Universal Studios a challenge)
Not that anybody in Holllywood is poring over blog scribblings from St. Petersburg for advice, but if they were, here's what I'd tell them about how to handle the decisions coming up:
NBC - Biggest question: will venerated but low-rated crime drama Law & Order get the boot from a network still struggling to wipe Jay Leno-flavored egg off its face? I suggest euthanasia for the legendary show, already losing one of its coolest characters, S. Epatha Merkerson's Lt. Van Buren. Likewise with Heroes, the comic book series that never really found a compelling storyline, and the two noisy-yet-dunderheaded freshman medical shows, Mercy and Trauma. Instead, the Parenthood remake is compelling enough for a second season and nerd-centered spy dramedy Chuck has just enough of a pointy-headed cult following to make its return appealing.
FOX - American Idol, Glee and House set a high bar that even middling series have trouble cresting (sorry Sons of Tucson and Dollhouse!). And I'm biased because St. Petersburg native Monica Raymund (left) co-stars in one of Fox's bubble shows, Lie to Me. Still, I say Fox should renew Lie and Human Target, beefing up Target's storylines to match the charm of its stars, Mark Valley and Chi McBride. And if they need room, I wouldn't shed a tear if American Dad and The Cleveland Show flatlined on Sundays (creator Seth MacFarlane is another guy who deserves a new-show ban).
ABC - With Lost inching toward its series finale, the network has one spot for a geeky, complex serialized drama and two limping candidates: Flash Forward and its V remake. V is a little cooler and has higher ratings, so I'd throw them the lifesaver — though it would be great if Forward's John Cho (Agent Noh) and Christine Woods (Agent Hawk) could come aboard for season two. Perhaps a few of the scribes who made Lost such a mind-blower could help mend V's meandering storylines and thrill-less action. Feels like there's an amazing sci-fi series stuck in a too-slow plot and star Elizabeth Mitchell's attempts to play a cool soccer mom/FBI agent.
CBS - Still the gold standard for network TV success, these guys have up to seven bubble shows in the hopper. Much as I dig the setting, Miami Medical is a bad Chicago Hope ripoff with a suntan; Jenna Elfman's Accidentally on Purpose is Cougar Town without the funny. End both of those, but save Medium, a supernatural series grounded by the most realistic marriage on television. Cold Case is a candidate for redemption, only if CBS doesn't have any new cop shows that are better. And if there aren't new shows any better than Ghost Whisperer, Gary Unmarried or New Adventures of Old Christine, they should get another shot, too.
The CW - Given that I haven't watched an episode of One Tree Hill since its debut in 2003, I'm hoping the network dumps it and the ill-fated Melrose Place reboot for something hipper — I hear Matthew Fox is available for a Party of Five reunion!