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Upfront Preview 2017: What's In, What's Out, What's On the Bubble

by Paige Albiniak  |  04.17.2017

It’s the time of year when everyone wonders the same thing: Will my favorite show get canceled? 

As the major broadcast and cable upfronts approach, networks are closely scrutinizing their ratings and their schedules to decide what stays and what goes to make room for new fare. 

Here’s a look at which shows are on the bubble, and which appear to be in good shape to return.

ABC

If your name is Shonda Rhimes, you are pretty secure when it comes to ABC. Otherwise, it’s a toss-up.

All three of Rhimes’ Thursday night TGIT dramas — Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder — have been renewed, along with sitcom The Middle, starring Patricia Heaton.

But even having Rhimes on your side doesn’t guarantee a show’s success: The Catch, starring Peter Krause and Mireille Enos, is definitely on the bubble, along with Dr. Ken, Quantico, Secrets and Lies and The Real O’Neals.

Very likely to be renewed are Black-ish, Modern Family, Last Man Standing, Designated Survivor, Speechless, The Goldbergs, Agents of Shield, Quantico, Once Upon a Time, Fresh Off the Boat and prestige anthology drama American Crime.

Already canceled are Notorious, Conviction and Kevin Williamson’s short-lived time travel series, Time After Time.

CBS

CBS likes to exude an air of confidence, and renewing 16 of its shows already only helps with that. Returning are The Big Bang Theory, Life in Pieces, Criminal Minds, Blue Bloods, Hawaii Five-O, MacGyver, Mom, Kevin Can Wait, Scorpion, Madam Secretary, Man With a Plan, Superior Donuts, Bull and all three NCIS franchises, including Los Angeles and New Orleans.

In addition, 2 Broke Girls and Joel McHale’s The Great Indoors are likely to come back.

Already canceled are Katherine Heigl-starrer Doubt, which only aired two episodes before CBS gave it the axe, and Pure Genius. Likely to go are Training Day, which lost its star Bill Paxton earlier this year; Code Black, The Odd Couple, Ransom and Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders. Elementary also is on the bubble, but that’s not a new place to be for the Johnny Lee Miller-Lucy Liu Sherlock Holmes-based drama. 

FOX

Fox already has secured many of its shows for next year: Empire, Star, Lucifer, The Mick, Lethal Weapon, Bob’s Burgers, The Simpsons (of course), and very likely Family Guy.

Also likely to return are Will Forte’s Last Man on Earth, Son of Zorn, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Gotham

Whether or not New Girl, which just finished its sixth season, will return for a seventh, and likely final, season is still not known, creator and show runner Liz Meriwether told The Hollywood Reporter. While the season-six finale could work as a series finale, Meriwether hopes to have one more season to wrap up all the show's storylines.

That gives Fox a lot to work with as the network plans its 2017-18 season, so further decisions are likely to depend on the strength of Fox’s development. On the bubble are female-baseball drama, Pitch, and Justin Kirk-starrer APB. Shows that seem to be leaning toward cancellation include Scream Queens, whose EP, Ryan Murphy, has many other shows on his plate; Rosewood, starring Morris Chestnut; The Exorcist; Sleepy Hollow, which lost leading lady Nicole Behairie last season; and Making History.

Departing is Fox’s longest-running drama ever, Bones, which went 12 seasons and out. 

NBC

NBC is again the top-rated broadcast network among primetime’s key demographic of adults 18-49, with such hits as rookie sensation, This Is Us, and continuing performer, The Voice. NBC also gets tons of mileage out of Sunday Night Football.

Dig a little deeper, though, and the rest of the network’s primetime schedule is fair to middlin’, with such modest performers as The Good Place, Superstore, Shades of Blue and more. 

Friday night’s Grimm is ending its run after six seasons, and Emerald City was marketed as a limited series and its overall reception doesn’t justify bringing it back (unlike other limited series that viewers fell in love with, such as HBO’s Big Little Lies). 

Very-on-the-bubble shows for the Peacock include Powerless and The Blacklist: Redemption. The first was aptly named because it was scarcely noticed and made little impact, while The Blacklist: Redemption came in too late — The Blacklist was big in its first season but has since faded. 

Everything else on NBC’s schedule is take or leave, and will probably depend on the strength of its development: Taken, Timeless and Trial & Error are probably 50-50, while even last year’s breakout hit, Blindspot, is now a potential candidate for cancellation.

Likely to be renewed come NBC’s upfront presentation on May 15 at Radio City Music Hall are almost all of the Dick Wolf shows: Law & Order: SVU for its 19th season and the newer Chicago shows: PD, Med, Justice and Fire

Jennifer Lopez’ Shades of Blue already has been renewed, and her reality-competition series World of Dance is scheduled to premiere on the network this summer; and This Is Us was given a rare two-year renewal earlier this year. Superstore, starring America Ferrera, and The Good Place, starring Kristin Bell and Ted Danson, also have already snagged renewals.

Still, broadcast networks need lots of fare year-round and there’s more competition both for viewers and for talent — both behind and in front of the camera — so NBC is likely to hang on to anything that’s showing any kind of spark.

The CW

Any series based on a DC Comic is in good shape on The CW, with Supergirl, Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow all renewed. 

Joining them are Jane the Virgin, Riverdale, The 100, and, somewhat surprisingly, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which remains low-rated but critically acclaimed. 

Both Vampire Diaries and Reign are ending after this season, which leaves questions around only four shows. Two of those — iZombie and The Originals — are good bets to return, while two — Frequency and No Tomorrow — probably face neither frequency nor tomorrow. 

READ MORE: The Wrap, TVbytheNumbers

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