After we analyzed which new fall shows were in ratings jeopardy, readers keep asking: What about the returning shows? Fringe? Community? House? Gossip Girl? Your wish for additional stress, granted: Here are some veteran series that returned weak in the ratings this fall and could be in danger when networks make their renewal decisions next year:
— Gossip Girl: The former crown jewel of The CW is barely outperforming Nikita — which airs on Fridays. Viewers can tweet about GG all they like, they need to watch it too. Given The CW’s lowering ratings limbo stick and importance of this show to its brand, we suspect it will squeak out a final season (especially if modestly performing newcomer Hart of Dixie is not renewed and the network has to add another show).
— Fringe: Fox brass says all the right things about Fringe: The well-written fan-favorite has improved its Friday time period, it’s the most DVR’d show on the schedule, they love the series creatively. But it’s tough for broadcast’s top-rated network to look at its lowest-rated weekday series (currently at a 1.6 adult demo rating including the first few weeks of DVR) and not at least think about making a change. You’re never 100 percent secure on a network’s bottom rung.
— The Sing Off: Once, this modest show shocked us by how well it performed during its short-run stints. But the singing competition really crapped the bed when promoted to a two-hour block on Monday nights this fall, typically ranking as the night’s lowest-rated major broadcast network show. We suspect NBC will find a use for it elsewhere in the future, but probably won’t make the mistake of relying on it so heavily during a ultra-competitive part of the year again.
— The Biggest Loser: Even just a year ago, NBC’s weight-loss competition looked unsinkable. And still is, given NBC’s overall performance. But Biggest Loooooser went from pulling mid-3s a couple seasons ago to dipping below a 2.0 in recent overnight ratings, and its name seems all-too appropriate.
— CSI: NY / Miami: More than ever among the broadcasters, ratings are relative. These two might not be in danger on some networks, but given their age and expense, they earn a spot on this list. Of the two, NY seems likely to go before Miami — it’s the lowest rated veteran series on CBS, averaging a 2.1 with DVR.
— Harry’s Law / Community: NBC is starting to break off from the other Big 4 networks and form its own ratings eco-system where underperformers continue to survive. Harry’s Law has nearly 10 million viewers, but sadly it’s those 18-49 ratings (1.5) that matter most. Yes, we love Community too, but it’s popular the same way a cable series is popular (1.9 in the demo) and one wonders how long a company that needs to boost its primetime numbers like NBC will keep around a comedy just because it’s, well, great. Also, a reader below made a good point: Though Parks & Recreation has a higher rating (2.1) and improves upon its lead in, Community has to launch Thursday night plus has the massive Big Bang Theory as its competition. If Parks aired at 8 p.m. instead, would it do worse than Community? Hmm…
— House: Unlike the others here, the Fox veteran hit is still quite strong in the Nielsens (3.7). But after eight increasingly expensive seasons, this could be it — for real this time. Hugh Laurie’s contract is up and the man himself hinted in May, “The end of [the eighth] season, right now, looks like the end of the show. That is as far as they have got me for.” Sounds like Fox will have to decide how much they’re willing to pay to continue having the good doctor on call.
— America’s Funniest Home Videos: This isn’t a prediction, more like a prayer: Can YouTube finally eliminate this show? Between 1995 and 2005, Funniest Home Videos had a decade of watching the Internet explode in popularity while producing a hit series about funny user-generated home videos and didn’t figure out that launching a Web version would be a smart idea. Then YouTube came along and rightly kicked its butt. The Sunday series is below the waterline in the ratings, pulling a 1.5 in the demo. That said, there’s no talk of it going anyway anytime soon. (If canceled, it wouldn’t be for the first time either — it was briefly off the air as a regular series in 1999).
— Nikita: Oh, almost forgot to include this one because it seemed so … apparent.