TV Article

Bubble Trouble

Watch these TV shows before they're axed. Bruce Fretts names the six network series on the cancellation bubble that deserve to be saved

Ed, Tom Cavanagh | BOWLED OVER ''Ed'' is too good a show to strike out with viewers
Image credit: Ed: Chris Haston
BOWLED OVER ''Ed'' is too good a show to strike out with viewers

Watch these TV shows before they're axed

Hope springs eternal during pilot season -- the annual rite of prime-time when networks order prototypes for new series to replace the crappy ones they greenlit last year. Just think: Twelve months ago, ''Push, Nevada,'' ''Bram and Alice,'' and ''Birds of Prey'' seemed like good ideas (to some pinheaded TV execs, that is). But for people who are currently working on marginally-rated shows stuck on the bubble between renewal and cancellation, this is a time of fear and schadenfreude. Surely, some underperformers are worthy candidates for euthanasia (will NBC please put ''Just Shoot Me'' out of my misery?). But here are six shows that deserve a stay of execution.

ED (NBC) Bowling-alley lawyer Ed Stevens (Tom Cavanagh) and the good folks of Stuckeyville have been getting their ratings clocks cleaned on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. by the likes of Fox's ''That ‘70s Show'' and even ABC's ''My Wife and Kids,'' so the Peacock is shifting the small-town dramedy to Fridays at 9 p.m. on Mar. 21 for its last three episodes of the season. Should these prove to be the show's final hours, it'd be an injustice. ''Ed'' has grown only more lovable with the additions of Daryl Mitchell (as paraplegic Stuckey Bowl employee Eli Goggins) and Sabrina Lloyd (as Ed's law partner/love interest, Frankie Hector) and the reduction of Michael Genadry (who underwent gastric-bypass surgery along with his character, high-schooler Mark Vanacore). Any of these characters could've come off as condescendingly sappy, but with ''Letterman'' vets Rob Burnett and Jon Beckerman running the show, ''Ed'' never crosses that fine line between clever and cloying.

DRAGNET (ABC) David E. Kelly can whine all he wants about how ''The Practice'' was mistreated when the Alphabet net moved it to Mondays to make room for Dick Wolf's cop-classic remake. But I'll take Ed O'Neill's righteous Det. Joe Friday over Dylan McDermott's Bobby Donnell and his firm of tiresomely guilt-ridden lawyers any day of the week. ''Dragnet'' hasn't snared huge numbers of viewers yet, but ABC would be wise to show a little patience. After all, Wolf's ''Law & Order'' didn't exactly bolt out of the starting gate, either.

ANDY RICHTER CONTROLS THE UNIVERSE and CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER PRESENTS (FOX) Okay, so their titles are too long and self-indulgent. But at least these series aren't shrill family farces like almost every other comedy on Rupert Murdoch's airwaves. Both allow former sidekicks to step out on their own and show surprising versatility, as Richter (''Late Night with Conan O'Brien'') explores the surreal world, and Cedric (''The Steve Harvey Show'') presides over an anything-goes variety half-hour. With any luck, these guys won't join ''The Ben Stiller Show,'' ''Bakersfield, P.D.,'' and ''Undeclared'' amid the heap of promising comedies Fox has prematurely scrapped.

BOOMTOWN and KINGPIN (NBC) TV's two most exciting dramas have shared a Sunday slot this season -- and no, I'm not talking about HBO's ''The Sopranos'' and ''Six Feet Under.'' Neither of these NBC crime sagas has made much of an impact in the Nielsens, perhaps because the network temporarily pulled ''Boomtown'' from its 10 p.m. home to make room for ''Kingpin'' (which also confusingly aired new episodes on Tuesdays). But each has brought a thrillingly cinematic storytelling and visual style to the square screen -- no small feat.

What endangered series would you like to see renewed?

Originally posted Mar 19, 2003