With early-season finales bearing down upon us (“This Is Us,” “The Unicorn,” “A Million Little Things”), it’s time to ask which series are the most viable for next fall.
Certain shows such as “Young Sheldon” on CBS and “Superstore” and “Law & Order: SVU” and the “Chicago” procedurals on NBC have already been renewed so they have TV immunity. With the networks still heavily invested in the syndication game — despite the antique patina that has settled on the entire “NCIS” franchise on CBS — it’s safe to say that some of these shows will be with us until the Earth falls into a black hole.
But what about middling fare such as “Bull” and “SEAL Team” and “SWAT” on CBS? Do they need to be on anymore? The ratings — roughly 6 million for “Bull,” 4.8 million for “SEAL Team” and 3.9 million for “SWAT” — don’t scream success. Pleased as punch with the success of most of its series, CBS has reportedly ordered fewer pilots for the 2020-21 season — six drama pilots and seven comedy pilots this year compared with seven drama and nine comedy pilots last year. Some, like Queen Latifah starring in a reboot of “The Equalizer,” suggest that someone over at Black Rock had a clever idea, but will we still be stuck with those other deadbeat shows because the suits can’t break out of their procedural comfort zone?
With “SVU” and the “Chicago” shows, NBC has become the Dick Wolf Network. But isn’t there anything else besides who’s gonna put out the fire, call the cops and take you to the emergency room? Recent multi-season renewals of “This Is Us” and “New Amsterdam” risk keeping these programs on well past their sell-by date. How much can “This Is Us” possibly wring out of the death by house fire of Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia)? How many blind babies can be born to sad, overweight adults without job skills? Where does one go for a tear-duct replacement?
The question of relevance applies to premium cable and streaming series as well. Just because you come on once a year with 10 or so expensively produced episodes doesn’t mean you’re on some kind of cutting edge. “Insecure,” which was sidelined for a while on HBO, returns for a fourth season on April 12. Why? Is America clamoring to see star Issa Rae on screen? Judging by the box office haul of her movie “The Photograph,” $19 million after two weeks on a budget of $16 million, maybe not.
“Ozark” is back on Netflix at the end of the month for its third season. The opener features a storyline where money launderer Wendy Byrde (Laura Linney), the ultimate white lady, takes a meeting with the fictitious head of a drug cartel. “Oh, sure,” as Joan Rivers used to say. With Netflix also streaming “Narcos: Mexico,” based on the real-life efforts of the DEA to dismantle the cartel run by Felix Gallardo (Diego Luna), the cartel storyline on “Ozark” invites howls of derision.
This should probably be the last season for “The Conners” on ABC as well. After a successful premiere two years ago following the “Roseanne” debacle, ratings have declined much in the way that “Will & Grace” opened big then hit the skids on NBC. Nostalgia is nice for an afternoon or a two-hour movie but that’s about it. Hollywood is still learning that lesson. Look at the mess that was “BH90210.” Everyone was so excited about the show until it actually premiered.
There are, thankfully, enough shows that know when to call it a day: “GLOW,” “Schitt’s Creek,” “Ballers,” “Brockmire,” “Blindspot.” Others overstay their welcome, unraveling before your very eyes — “The Affair” and “How To Get Away With Murder” — and all you can say is, “Hope everyone saved their money!”