CBS is mum so far on the fate of the ratings-poor paranormal series A Gifted Man, but the ratings punditry site TV By the Numbers has declared the show "certain to be canceled" by the end of the 2011-2012 season.
There's Ratings, and Then There's Ratings
The odd thing is that, on the surface, A Gifted Man has not been an unmitigated catastrophe in the ratings: in overall audience it's been consistently getting at least a 5.0 to 5.5 rating and a 9 to 10 share, not stellar by any yardstick but enough to regularly win its time slot (in weeks not containing a World Series) and to help CBS reliably win the night along with the shows that follow it, CSI: NY and Blue Bloods.
You'd think a show that wins its slot and sets up a winning night would have at least a couple of gold stars on its balance sheet -- right? But that's overall viewership, and overall viewership doesn't really matter. In the all-important prime consumer demographic (adults 18-49), A Gifted Man has been coming in a distant third in its Friday 8 p.m. time period.
CBS's Worst Performer in "The Demo"
TV By the Numbers calculates a Renew/Cancel Index -- a ratio that compares a show's adults 18-49 ratings for new episodes to the network's overall ratings for new episodes. And by that measure A Gifted Man is getting by far the worst marks at CBS -- 37% of the network's average 18-49 viewership. (On the other end of the scale are Two and a Half Men at 196%, and the already-renewed Big Bang Theory at 146%.)
In fact, with other shows like Unforgettable, Person of Interest, 2 Broke Girls, and How to Be a Gentleman already either confirmed for a full season or (in the latter case) killed off, the question may be why CBS -- lately considered "the network that is the most ruthless about cutting underperforming shows" -- hasn't acted against A Gifted Man already.
Is 'Torchwood' Alive? Its Star and Creator Shrug
Meanwhile the star of Torchwood, John Barrowman, is saying that the future of the show is once again in limbo.
Asked if the show will return again for a fifth season, Barrowman told RTE Ten, "If there's a pause button, we've pushed the pause button now because we don't know what's happening", he says. "I would love to do a new series and I will play Captain Jack as long as they want me to play Captain Jack, but it's in limbo at the moment and beyond my control."
These comments parallel remarks made last month by the show's creator, Russell T. Davies ("Will we ever come back again? I don't know."), and Executive Producer Julie Gardner. "I don't know if there will be more," Gardner told Digital Spy. "The things about there being more or not -- you look at 'Torchwood' and it's always had such a labyrinthine history."
A Peculiar Path
Gardner pointed out that it's not such a big deal for Torchwood to be a routinely annual series. "For this new season, Torchwood has been off the air for two years in the U.K.," she said. "The weird thing is there are some series where that would really matter. It would be a real problem. I think Torchwood is so elastic in some ways and has had such a strange peculiar life."
Torchwood has been in limbo before, most notably after its third season, when the BBC had arranged a new partnership with Fox that then suddenly fell through. It was several months before Starz came forward as the BBC's new partner, but now Starz is silent on whether it wants to proceed with a fifth season.
Ratings for Torchwood were similar to Camelot, which Starz resolutely canceled for reasons, however, that had to do with production expense and complexity more than ratings. As a premium cable network, Starz is in a position to take into account broader factors like a show's established fan-base -- if it's not to expensive too produce.
'Sanctuary' for None?
Another series that's always been in a gray area of the ratings landscape is Sanctuary, the reduced-sets greenscreen series starring Amanda Tapping that's now in its fourth year on Syfy. With Eureka having been canceled simply because it had been on long enough for its largish cast to become too pricey, you have to know that Syfy is looking at the long-range bottom line for the perennially low-profile, "oh yeah, and there's also Sanctuary" series.
Syfy sometimes seems to forget about Sanctuary. In a recent press release it thanked its "quartet of popular scripted series -- Warehouse 13, Alphas, Eureka and Haven" having helped boost the network's third quarter, and plugged its winter series, Being Human and Lost Girl, but made no mention of the currently running Sanctuary. The phrasing, along with its more low-key publicity for Sanctuary, gives you the lingering suspicion that Syfy doesn't always think of Tapping's show in the same sentence as "popular scripted series."
The show has been holding steady this season with the kind of ratings it always gets -- a solid audience base but not a stellar performer, just enough to have been renewed for a fourth season in January. A source at Syfy told Patrick Munn at Suite 101 that the network was thinking of Sanctuary in terms of its being the lowest rated scripted series on the network and while not the most expensive show to produce, neither is it the cheapest.
Most ominously, however, the Syfy source pointed out that the season 4 finale is called "Sanctuary for None" -- a direct mirror to the title of the pilot, "Sanctuary for All." At the very least this suggests that the show's decision-makers -- creator Damian Kindler, star/producer Tapping, and producer Martin Wood -- are setting up a contingency to wrap up the series after having seen too many sour faces at their meetings with Syfy honchos.