Surprise! Maybe your favorite TV show didn’t get axed

First Published      Last Updated May 24 2017 09:43 am

Television » Networks are hanging on to more shows and throwing fewer new series at us in the fall.

As the television networks announced their fall schedules over the past few days, the biggest surprises came not in what shows were canceled, but in what shows were not.

A few of those decision were absolutely stunning. ABC is keeping "Quantico"? CBS renewed "Code Black"? NBC picked up "Taken"? Fox is bringing back "The Exorcist"? Really?!?!?

All were hanging by a thread. All got picked up for the 2017-18 season. And there are lots of other examples.

ABC renewed "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." and "Once Upon a Time." CBS kept "Amazing Race," "Elementary" and "MacGyver." Fox reordered "Gotham" and "New Girl."

NBC renewed "The Blacklist," "Great News," "Shades of Blue" and "Timeless." The CW kept "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," "iZombie," "The 100" and "The Originals."

You could make a case — for some, an extremely strong case — to cancel any of those shows. Ten years ago, many of them would've been axed.

But today, networks are less likely to drop shows because new ones are hard to launch.

"Stability is one of the cornerstones for us," said ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey — who renewed "Once Upon a Time" despite the fact most of the cast won't be back.

NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt said returning shows stand a better chance of renewal because of the potential for growth, or at least hanging on to the audience they have. "We didn't want to just throw them out the door for new shows."

At CBS — which has been the most stable and most successful network over the past 15 years — executives brag about changing their schedule as little as possible.

"In the last 20 years, CBS has had exactly two shows air regularly Tuesday at [7 p.m. MT]," said Kelly Kahl, senior vice president of CBS Primetime — "NCIS" and "JAG."

"In that same time frame, NBC has had 32 different series, Fox has had 33 series, and ABC had a whopping 50 series. So [that] gives you a little idea what we're about here. Stability means something."

It's something CBS' competitors (and sister network, The CW) have picked up on. The five networks are adding 19 new fall series (CBS six; ABC five; NBC three; Fox three; The CW two), less than half of what it was some years.

It's not that networks aren't adding new shows, it's that they're not adding so many in the fall. They're spreading them out — and holding back returning shows.

"You're going to see a lot more shows deployed in the midseason and summer, including returning shows," Greenblatt said.

Once upon a time, networks came out guns blazing in September, launching dozens of shows pretty much all at once. It was like throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what would stick.

Most shows didn't stick because it's all but impossible to get "traction" (as they say in TV) if you're one of 40 more new shows. The mortality rate was higher than 80 percent some seasons.

Now, they're apt to retain a marginal show rather than invest in a new show.

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