'Chuck,' 'Heroes,' 'Parenthood': Keep 'em or kill 'em?
First came the Jay Leno prime-time experiment, which tanked. Then came the Great Late-Night Shakeout of 2010, which led to the departure of Conan O'Brien and the return of Leno to "The Tonight Show" -- which in turn led to the network hastily cobbling together a new slate of 10 o'clock shows to fill out the season.
The uncertainty hasn't settled down in the spring. We know that all four of NBC's Thursday comedies will be back, and "Law & Order: SVU" and "The Biggest Loser" are safe bets. A new (non-celebrity) version of "The Apprentice" is also on the docket for fall. As for the rest? Well, let's go to the polls, shall we?
The case for it: Few shows on television have fans as passionate -- and willing to engage with the show's sponsors if it helps -- as "Chuck" does. Its ratings are up a bit (7.4 million viewers vs. 6.5 million last season), and it would likely be a stable performer next year as well.
The case against it: Recent weeks have seen the show take a big tumble: The same-day audience for the past two episodes has been under 6 million people.
The case for it: The stability argument applies here too. The show has a core fan base that has stuck with it through thick and thin. Its adults 18-49 rating (3.0) is still decent.
The case against it: That fan base isn't very big anymore. "Heroes" shrank to 6.5 million viewers this season, and it's gone from critical favorite to whipping boy over the course of its four seasons.
"Law & Order"
The case for it: If you're an NBC executive, do you want to be the one who canceled the longest-running drama since "Gunsmoke"? Since moving off Friday nights in March, its ratings have perked up some.
The case against it: Ratings-wise, it's a shadow of its former self (7.8 million viewers and a soft 1.8 18-49 rating this season). TNT, which airs reruns of the show, hasn't ponied up for anything beyond this season, which could raise a cost issue for the network.
The case for it: Though it's been under the radar for virtually the entire season, the medical drama has found its fans -- about 7 million per week. That's been enough to keep it competitive in its Wednesday timeslot.
The case against it: Weak demographic ratings (1.8 in 18-49) in a timeslot where no show dominates doesn't exactly make for a ringing endorsement.
The case for it: Critics like the family drama, and audiences -- even if they don't watch it live -- seem to be getting around to it as well. The first two telecasts (the only ones for which DVR data are available) gained close to 2 million viewers and a full point in adults 18-49.
The case against it: Advertisers aren't totally sold on DVR viewing -- it is, after all, a way to skip commercials. Its same-day ratings have also fluctuated pretty heavily, suggesting it's not yet a must-see show for a lot of people.
The case for it: Hey, it's already been (allegedly) canceled and then un-canceled once, so who knows?
The case against it: Seriously, though, the numbers are against it: only 6.2 million viewers per episode, a 2.0 demo rating and an expensive production are not a recipe for long-term health.
If you haven't yet voted in the ABC, CBS and FOX bubble-show polls, you still can. Coming up, we wrap up the bubble polls with The CW.
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Photo credit: NBC