This year, Empire made nearly every other broadcast show look like a slacker. Fox’s hip-hop hit proved that posting huge numbers and growing an audience is perfectly possible even in today’s crowded, distracted marketplace—for the right series. Which makes you think: If a phenomenon like Empire is possible, do networks want to renew struggling shows like Nashville instead of taking a chance on creative titles that could totally explode?
Still, in many cases, caution will continue to win out—as most view Empire as some kind of freakish outlier, given broadcast’s dropping ratings across the board. “The devil you know is starting to look pretty good right now,” one network insider noted.
Below is our take on what will survive from the spring primetime lineup, shows either currently on the air or that just recently wrapped their seaons—with reporting drawn from a combination of Nielsen ratings (less important than ever) and conversations with broadcast network insiders (more important than ever). Let’s start with…
2 Broke Girls
The Amazing Race
The Big Bang Theory
The Good Wife: It’s all about the reviews …
Mike & Molly
CSI: Hard to imagine this flagship veteran series won’t at least come back for a partial final season.
CSI: Cyber: That “CSI” in the title holds some weight (even if its performance doesn’t).
Person of Interest: Soft ratings and not owned by CBS, which is a worrisome combo.
The Odd Couple: Felix and Oscar need to stop losing viewers.
Battle Creek: Breaking Bored. Does creator Vince Gilligan even watch this show?
The McCarthys: Was pulled from the schedule, but we’re hearing it’s not actually dead.
Stalker: Critics often wish broadcast TV shows were darker and took more chances. This is the wrong way of doing that.
Bones: Expected to come back, assuming all the actor deals close.
The Last Man on Earth
Sleepy Hollow: A surprise early renewal with new showrunner (who we bet will kill off Katrina Crane three more times for good measure).
The Mindy Project: Mindy eats, drinks and sleeps on the bubble. Same as always: Ratings low, but the press and advertisers like the show.
Backstrom and The Following: Odds are, at most, only one of these crime dramas will come back. And Backstrom has the slight edge given Fox’s strong relationship with producer Hart Hanson (Bones).
Red Band Society: One of those not-officially-canceled-but-canceled series.
Weird Loners: No.
The Biggest Loser
Celebrity Apprentice: Already renewed—unless Donald Trump’s White House ambitions get in the way. (So let’s all pray it returns!)
Law & Order: SVU
About a Boy and Marry Me: Neither are pulling good numbers, yet both are considered to be working creatively—”They’re not broken shows,” as one source put it.
The Mysteries of Laura: Ahem. You know what the biggest mystery is?
Undateable and One Big Happy: Still early and numbers are soft, but NBC insiders are somewhat happy with these two so far.
A to Z and Bad Judge: Never officially axed this fall, so we’re including them here. But… yes, axed.
Constantine: A rare super-powered disappointment from DC that’s not expected to return.
State of Affairs: When it comes to holding a Voice lead-in, Katherine Heigl is no James Spader.
NEXT: THE CW AND ABC