It’s May, which means we’re very close to the network upfronts. Choices about which series live and which series die are probably being made right now by all the major networks. This of course means it’s time for fans and critics to start stumping for their favorite series stuck on the bubble between cancellation and renewal. This year though, this are a bit different. So many of the series that would have received heaps of praise and #SaveX hashtags were renewed extremely early. Thus, we don’t have to worry about Community, Parks and Recreation or Fringe. All three of them are coming back next season for full seasons, which is just shocking and amazing.
Meanwhile, the slate of programming left on the proverbial bubble is a bit thin this spring. When I realized I wanted to do this feature, I was surprised to find that there were only a few series I thought were worth saving. I tried to find one for each network, but I think you’ll see that a few of them aren’t necessarily super-bubble series in the traditional sense (we’ll talk more about this when I get to those posts). And even one of the go-to barometers for “saving” criteria doesn’t quite apply this season either. So many of this season’s new broadcast programming was terrible and is thus obviously not coming back, and there is thus very little reason to try to discuss how they could theoretically improve in a possible second season.
Nevertheless, there are five series that have yet to be renewed (maybe they’re officially on the bubble, maybe not) that should be. There’s one series for each of the five broadcast networks. Over the next few days, I’ll be discussing why I think each series should come back for the network’s benefit, not just for the fans. Hopefully there are good reasons why ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and the CW should keep these series around. Some of them have stronger cases than others, but this is always a fun exercise to partake in.
As you might be able to tell by the header photo for this post, my first pitch will be to ABC about its still-new comedy series, Happy Endings. ABC, here are a few reasons why you should probably give the series another go come next fall/season.
1.) It’s actually growing(ish)
The ratings for Happy Endings haven’t been overwhelmingly positive. Obviously, that’s why it is in this position to begin with. But after the sharp drop-off between initial episodes that aired on April 13 and those that aired on April 20, the series experienced a fairly substantial up-tick in the ratings last week. The first two episodes averaged a 2.5 in the 18-49 and around 6 million viewers when Endings aired directly after a new episode of Modern Family. The following week’s double shot (which started at 10 p.m. after a new Cougar Town instead of 9:30 p.m.) dipped to an average of 1.7 in the 18-49 demo and just barely 4 million viewers. 10 p.m. comedy is tough and Cougar Town isn’t the best lead-in, but that seemed to suggest the series was DOA. But in the third week (last week) with no new Modern Family but a new Cougar Town preceding it, Happy Endings‘ ratings jumped a nice 17 percent to a 2.1 in the 18-49 and more than 5 million viewers. That’s a really solid bump, especially in a terrible timeslot in the spring when all the ratings are sinking.
Clearly, viewers are at least interested in Happy Endings. Comedy hits are hard to come by these days and it is especially difficult to be a hit right of the gate. Modern Family is an exception, not the rule. But some growth between weeks two and three towards a number that is pretty close to the premiere ratings in a cushier timeslot, is very, very promising. A 2.1 is actually really good for a new comedy. Community would kill for a 2.1 and last week, Cougar Town got the exact same 2.1 rating. ABC, you’ve recognized that this means something by deciding to air the full season of episodes by doubling up on Happy Endings in the 10 p.m. hour for the next few weeks. Tonight will tell you something for sure, but people seem intrigued. Don’t let them down.
2.) It will help your scheduling
ABC, like NBC you really want to expand to two comedy nights a week. A three-hour block of comedy doesn’t really work, despite Happy Endings‘ decent ratings over the past few weeks. You’ve struggled mightily to develop any new drama series, with Body of Proof being the only real “hit,” and that’s mostly because of its post-Dancing With the Stars timeslot you probably have to give to something else next season. You have a lot of comedies in development right now, with recent reports suggesting that at least three are tracking well. And that doesn’t even include the Tim Allen comedy you’re absolutely going to pick up.
Better With You has performed well enough that it’s probably worth renewing and let’s just assume for a second that you still want to be the Matthew Perry business and thus decide to bring back Mr. Sunshine as well. You’re also more likely to keep it around since you want to go to two nights. That gives you six comedies to bring back to add with the Tim Allen series and probably two of the three that are tracking well. That friendly analysis gives you nine comedies for next year. There’s definitely a debate about the value of flow and thematic connections between series on the schedule, but based on what you have now and what’s in development, you have two distinctive kinds of comedy series: the more traditional family sitcoms and the more sarcastic, sardonic comedies. If you do pull the trigger on the two different nights, that’s how you split it:
NIGHT ONE: 8: The Middle, 8:30: Better With You, 9: Modern Family, 9:30: Suburgatory/Smothered (new)
NIGHT TWO: 8: Tim Allen, 8:30: Don’t Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23 (new), 9: Cougar Town, 9:30: Happy Endings
Most of your comedies are family-centric, so you build an entire night of them and then use your big star Tim Allen to anchor a second night with the edgier comedies. Mr. Sunshine could replace any of the final three on the second night when they go on hiatus. It’s really risky to start a new block of comedy, but you want to do it ABC. Happy Endings helps you get there.
3.) It is pretty good and critics are warming to it
There were a number of critics and reviewers who liked the series from the very beginning, including friend of the blog Louis Peitzman. I wasn’t completely hot on the first few episodes, but saw the potential and kept watching. After last week’s episode, I was totally sold on the characters and the series’ frantic, but kind of wonderful humor. And I wasn’t the only one. I recall seeing a number of tweets from critics and journos who were discussing the series’ improvements in even such a short period of time. People are starting to warm to Endings it seems (and the up-tick in the ratings again backs that up). No one is going to put in the upper echelon on current television comedy, but that’s a hard group to get into. There’s nothing wrong with being a really solid second tier comedy and Happy Endings is starting to convince people who it can be just that.
All comedy criticism is subjective and there are surely people out there who still hate the series after last week’s NERF-heavy episode. But sort of like Community, Happy Endings hits my humor sweet spot really well. Some of the stories are stereotypically clichéd and hackneyed, but the cast’s chemistry makes it work. There have been so many of these “six friends in different relationships” Friends rip-offs this season and many of them have some big strengths to go along with glaring weaknesses. Perfect Couples had the most laugh-out-loud moments, Traffic Light understood the history of its characters and Mad Love has the best performers. Although Happy Endings hasn’t reached the levels of those series in each category, it’s been the most consistent in the first five episodes. I would rank it second in all three of those above categories to the listed “winners,” and that’s impressive enough after only a handful of efforts. As I’ve talked about relentlessly this season, comedies take a long time to develop the chemistry between actors, figure out the characters, etc. It’s a marathon, not a race. And Happy Endings deserves to continue running that marathon.
Come on, ABC. Do the right thing.