TV Guide's new list of "bubble shows" --programs that are likely to be canceled unless their networks find a really good reason to keep them--is only the latest media voice to aver what all suspect: that No Ordinary Family, the superhero series starring Michael Chiklis and Julie Benz, is dead in the water.
The piece is set up in a good news/bad news format for each show, and situation is so dire for Family that TVG writers Adam Bryant and Denise Martin dropped the bomb in the show's good news section: which is to say, there ain't any good news. "We're not going to lie," they admitted. "This show is a goner."
For weeks now everyone has been saying the same thing, but ABC, still configuring its fall schedule, has kept mum. "I expect it will be canceled," agreed Rob Owen of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, citing in particular ABC's sudden time-slot change to 10 p.m. Saturday nights near the end of its run--a death slot for a light, family-friendly fantasy. Not only did the time slot change signal the network's collapse in confidence in the show--after it had already shorted its initial order, the first sign of its disdain--but it guaranteed that Family's season finale wouldn't have a chance to generate an eleventh-hour viewing surge that might tip the scales toward renewal, as occasionally happens with shows with marginal ratings.
(That finale, content wise, had both pluses and minuses: on the one hand, the creation of 80 new supervillains created a particularly formidable threat for the family, and the final fight with Dr. King was well handled. On the other hand, there that cheesy last line--"Your government needs you." Cue eye roll.)
TV by the Numbers, crunching the latest ratings, likewise places No Ordinary Family and NBC's The Event in its "certain to be canceled" category. Both shows come out lower in their renew/cancel index than The Cape, which NBC all but canceled in February.
What happened with Family? Despite a strong cast, including two well-liked leads, and decent writing the show generated no buzz in the press and no traction among viewers. It's not that everyone decided the show was awful (some, like me, thought it was charming, and had great potential); it's that no one watched it in the first place, even when it was on Tuesdays--where it faced off against major hits with established audiences: Glee, NCIS, and One Tree Hill.
Also on the bubble list: NBC's Chuck, which is apparently in even more danger than ever, and ABC's V, both of which are on this year's schedule only because of a last-minute reprieve last year. V did, at least, have a strong finale, but its viewership was cataclysmically down from the series premiere in 2009, a measure network execs pay even more attention to that the actual ratings numbers themselves.
As is inevitably mentioned in the gloom and doom coverage of No Ordinary Family, both stars signed on for pilots for the fall season that were contingent on the cancellation of Family. That does mean that both Chiklis and Benz will be available should Family somehow survive--but it also means that no one, least of all its stars, expect it to.
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