May’s the time for TV goodbyes, and not just because the broadcast networks are airing all their finales. It’s also when they cancel their low-rated shows to make way for new ones announced this week at the annual New York advertiser upfronts — and there was no shortage of dry timber ready to get the ax this spring. In a single week, 23 shows were yanked to make room for series such as Gotham at Fox, Constantine at NBC, Marvel’s Agent Carter at ABC, and CSI and NCIS spin-offs (natch) at CBS this fall. Some cancellations were blissfully welcome (Fox’s Dads; NBC’s Dracula; ABC’s Mixology; CBS’ Friends With Better Lives and Bad Teacher; The CW’s Star-Crossed), but a few brought real regret, like NBC’s fatal blow to Community after five critically beloved seasons.
Even Surviving Jack (which was averaging 4.9 million viewers) with the terrific Christopher Meloni deserved a chance to survive — but then Fox needed a stronger crop of knee-slappers to relaunch its Sunday comedy block, which will now contain two live-action sitcoms. So much for Animation Domination: Stewie Griffin will have the colorful Andy Samberg (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) and comedian John Mulaney (Mulaney) flanking his series Family Guy, an attempt by Fox to revisit its roots, when real people like Peg and Al Bundy, not cartoon characters, entertained the kids at home. Moving Brooklyn Nine-Nine — and chopping the cute but forgettable Enlisted — also frees up Fox’s Tuesdays so it can debut the reality show Utopia, on which contestants try to build the perfect society.
The move echoes one made by NBC for the fall, when it will pretty much cede comedies to CBS on Thursdays: The Peacock’s two new half hours for the night — Bad Judge, starring Private Practice’s Kate Walsh, and A to Z, a romantic comedy that stars Mad Men’s Ben Feldman and How I Met Your Mother’s Cristin Milioti — will be sandwiched between The Biggest Loser and the final season of Parenthood. (The Blacklist, meanwhile, will take over the comedies’ Thursday slot starting in February.) The only night left for sitcoms on NBC is Tuesdays, where the network will take a similar approach by bookending the new sitcom Marry Me and the returning About a Boy between The Voice and Chicago Fire. NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke insists that “comedy is very important to the network.” Just ask Leslie Knope: She’ll be back for Parks and Recreation’s seventh and final season — but not until 2015.