30 May 2014

The Meals of the Bear: US 2013/14 season in review and the 2014/15 orders

 Updated 31 May to fix minor typos.

The US television market has changed considerably in the last few years, as the proliferation of media outlets and the increasing use of DVR technology have reduced levels of live watching on the main English-language networks still further. Ratings that would have gotten you cancelled 10 years ago are now getting you renewed.

So, as I did last year, I will break this down by network and look at some particular shows of interest i.e. ones that I watch myself or that were particularly notable for other reason. Pretty much all of my shows got another season.

I will also look at the new shows that I've seen trailers for.


Not a great year for their new shows at all (four of them aired 15 episodes between them)... they did not issue any early renewals. Their pilot pickups include Selfie starring Karen Gillan; I will point that the US television market can be merciless and there is a chance she could just as easily be heading home next year.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Renewed in May

The ratings for this show's first half were frankly rollercoaster - it burned off over half its audience before settling and getting good. However, it never sunk to cancellation levels and was always a certainty for a second run. It will move to 9pm on Tuesday next year, a better slot against NCIS: New Orleans instead of NCIS.

If it had gone, the superhero boom on TV would likely have petered out in short order - instead we'll get a pretty big batch this year.

Castle - Renewed in May

Having escaped the Moonlighting Curse (the two main characters hooked up at the end of Season 4), the sixth season of this dramedy cop show starring Nathan Fillion and the superb Stana Katic has retained most of its quality, but not so much its audience - it clocked a series low during this run, although it is frequently reliant on a good lead-in from Dancing with the Stars. My feeling is that the series is nearing its natural end and won't last too much longer before a decision is made to wrap it.

(Then again, I thought it would end with the wedding)

Next season it's also up against NCIS: Los Angeles... but as it weathered the assault from The Blacklist last year, it probably won't face too many problems.

Lucky 7 - Cancelled after two episodes

I was right, it was a remake of the syndicate... and considering how badly it did, it probably would have been better for the network just to buy the British show. Canned in two is becoming increasingly common in the US. 

Revenge - Renewed in May

Syndication economics mean this show is being dragged out far far more than it should have been. Got a fourth season despite low ratings; I suspect that will be its last.

Selfie - ordered for Fall 2014

Karen Gillan gets her own show... but her accent leaves a lot to be desired from the trailer, which doesn't really appeal to me. This could go badly pear-shaped.


Best performer in overall viewers, it renewed most of its shows early. However, the new shows it ordered did not do at all well; five of them did not get second seasons.  They've ordered six new dramas for 2014-15, including spinoffs from both NCIS and CSI (I though the former would get an order, but the latter is a pleasant surprise).

The Big Bang Theory - Renewed in March, until 2016-17!

Never watched this myself, but a lot of 18-49s do in the US... it's basically the top in that demo in the entire of primetime and the c.18 million viewers a week doesn't hurt either.

Blue Bloods - Renewed in March

Sold by Sky Atlantic as a lot grittier than it actually is, this is the strongest performing Friday show on any network.

The Crazy Ones - Cancelled in May

A freshman dud for CBS; the trailer I saw looked a bit dodgy i.e. like a McDonalds ad. I don't know who comes out of this looking worse - Robbie Williams or Sarah Michelle Gellar, the latter of which is 0 for 2 on renewals since she came back to television. I doubt she'll get another show now.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - Renewed in March

Still going strong (it's changed out nearly all its leads now, which has helped keep it fresh) and may well be looking at Law & Order's record, but it's got five seasons to go before that. I just want Channel 5 to schedule this current run.

The Good Wife - Renewed in March

A missed call by Bubble Watch, who thought the critical darling was getting too old, this fifth season has seen a major uptick in writing quality, with the surprise death of a major character helping the ratings.

Hostages - Cancelled in May

Taking an Israeli concept good for one episode of Person of Interest into a 15-episode "limited series" is called over-stretching. Up against Castle and The Blacklist, it stood little chance even with a better plot.

Intelligence  - Cancelled in May

Trailer looked interesting, but the reviews from ComicCon were bad and nearly every Gally Base reader jumped ship quickly. Ratings were poor.

The Mentalist - Renewed in May

A significant omission from the March renewals, lowish ratings and not being owned by CBS did not help this veteran... but the foreign sales clearly did. Deadline reports the renewal is for a 13 episode final season.

NCIS - Renewed in March

The ratings have taken a noticeable dent this year possibly due to the short-notice change of female lead (for one thing, Ellie Bishop is a poor replacement for Ziva David); while still a very popular show, it is arguably past its peak... but could still go on a while.

NCIS: Los Angeles - Renewed in March

Definitely a "switch your brain off" kind of show, but the characters are engaging (my favourite is Nell) and some of the stuff is actually pretty good. Always expected to be renewed and will nowe be moved to Monday at 10pm.

NCIS: New Orleans - ordered for Fall 2014

Can't say I'm too impressed with the trailer for this (which seems to be mostly from the 'backdoor pilot' this season)... I'll probably pass on this one.

Person of Interest - Renewed in March 

It got its third, it was always going to get its fourth... this is a good show with a wonderful title sequence and a rare case of someone not using the Cold Open these days.

Scorpion - ordered for Fall 2014

I was impressed by the trailer for Intelligence, but lasted ninety seconds of this one... it's bear chow.

The CW

A network frequently beaten by repeats on other networks and Spanish-language shows, the youth-skewing channel was basically admitted to operate at a loss.

Arrow - Renewed in February

An enjoyable show in its first year, I didn't have time to watch the second. It will now get at least two more seasons.

Beauty and the Beast - Renewed in May

The biggest shock of the year; both Cancellation Bear and Bubble Watch thought this was certain for the axe... 

The Carrie Diaries - Cancelled in May

Dire ratings meant it was always like Freema Agyeman would be looking for another gig. 

Reign - Renewed in February

People on Gallifrey Base wondered if a CW show about Mary Queen of Scots could actually work. Turns out, it did, just about.

The Tomorrow People - Cancelled in May

No tomorrow for this show based on two British shows from the 1970s and 1990s, the ratings just weren't good enough. 


A pretty poor season ratings wise all round - they no wonder they brought back 24. In addition, Kevin Reilly, head of entertainment, lost his job.

Almost Human - cancelled in April after 13 episodes

Abrams learns what it is like to be taken for a ride by FOX; FOX aired episodes out of order (that may be quality issues), moved the timeslot, declined a further episode order and then ordered so many new shows, as well as renewing The Following that there just wasn't space for it.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Renewed in March

A highly enjoyable cop comedy that I was hesitant about committing to initially on the grounds that it was yet another show featuring the NYPD. Ratings were only so-so, but FOX gave it a big vote of confidence and it was one of four given an early renewal.

Enlisted - pulled from schedule in March and 'formally' cancelled in May

Guess the US isn't ready for a military sitcom after all.

Gotham - ordered to series for 2014-15

The trailer suggests grit with an extra slice of grit... combined with supers when they were children. While the DC pantheon is a rich one, this show will need to provide quality storytelling if it is to do well.

Gracepoint - 10-part "event series" for Fall 2014

David Tennant's role in Broadchurch was superb... and he now deploys a surprisingly good American accent in the US remake.

The Mindy Project - Renewed in March

A big miss for the Cancellation Bear; he predicted that the show would be cancelled up until the point FOX gave it an early renewal, based on the scheduling.

Rake - Cancelled in May

Ratings fell about two-thirds from the première. Note to US networks: please stop trying to remake English-language dramas, because you just don't do it very well.

Red Band Society - ordered for Fall 2014

This adaptation of a Spanish show set in a children's ward and starring Octavia Spencer (who won an Oscar for The Help) definitely goes on the drama side of comedy drama. In fact, the trailer was fairly impressive (after a while) and if the rest of the run is like this, it might get some awards. 

Us and Them - Hasn't even aired!

This remake of British cult hit Gavin & Stacey got its order cut from 13 episodes to merely seven... and still has not appeared on FOX. 


NBC entered the upfronts season with a good number of bubble shows. They ordered two spy shows and a thriller with espionage elements to series... that will make four with The Blacklist and I would say two of those go to 2015/16. While they did OK in the ratings front (they improved in 18-49s), they axed over half their line-up and two of their shows will air final seasons next year.

A to Z - Ordered for Fall 2014

Lasted twenty seconds of the trailer. Nope, not for me.

Bad Judge - Ordered for Fall 2014

Well, I laughed. This oddball comedy about a distinctly unusual judge could be a hit for NBC... or it could crash and burn. 

The Blacklist - Renewed in December

A big hit for NBC; it set DVR records and regularly swept the 10pm Monday timeslot by a comfortable margin. An excellent show as well - James Spader is very, very watchable and utterly chilling. 

This will be moving to Thursdays in February - NBC have also given it the coveted post-Super Bowl slot, which will set a series high for it.

Community - Cancelled in May

Instead of  "six seasons and a movie", the devoted fans got five seasons and a cancellation; the show's ratings were middling, although actually above Parks and Rec; this toss-up was miscalled by TV By The Numbers who narrowly predicted renewal. Someone may pick up this for another run. 

Ironside - Cancelled in October

Another remake that went quickly sour for the network; the trailer I saw did not appeal to me at all.

Hannibal - Renewed in May

This bubble show arguably got saved by the co-production money.

Law and Order: SVU - Renewed in May

While I suspect some people's reaction to this would be "is this still on?", for a show chucked into the Fridays nine episodes in its first season to escape that and last for fifteen seasons is a major achievement. Now it has its sixteenth; the record held jointly by the 'mothership' i.e. the original Law and Order and Gunsmoke.

The Mysteries of Laura - Ordered for Fall 2014

Does New York's finest have some kind of sponsorship deal with the US networks? I count seven shows with the NYPD in a major role for 2014-15 - and that's not counting Unforgettable. This comedic drama about a homicide detective with a crazy family life and the sort of attitude to perps shared with the lead from Happy Valley (i.e. give it your best shot, I've had a bad day) might work... or it might not.

I doubt I'll watch this.

Parks and Recreation - Renewed in April for a final season

Just watched the third season in the UK; a quirky but entertaining half hour comedy that was arguably on borrowed time. This will not launch the seventh and final season until midseason.

State of Affairs - ordered for fall 2014.

I got bored half-way into the trailer for this new espionage political thriller starring Katherine Heigl. Heigl's film career has flopped recently (she got a Razzie nomination for One for the Money) and she didn't impress me her. Won't be bothering and I doubt this gets a backorder.

"Network cable" (AMC, TNT, USA etc.)

Angie Tribeca - ordered by TBS

A satire on cop shows... and I believe the only one featuring the LAPD at all on US TV. Rashida Jones was superb in Parks and Rec. I can't think of any other US shows like this except for Police Squad! back in 1982, although this seems to have fewer sight gags.

Rizzoli & Isles - renewed by TNT for fifth season

This quirky 'girl buddy' cop show is one of my personal favourites, but the suicide of Lee Thompson Young tinged the second half of the run, which aired after a big gap, with sadness. Probably past its peak now.

Suits - renewed by USA for fifth season

This verbally sparky drama set in a New York law firm (albeit filmed in Toronto) is one of my regular watches when it airs on Dave... there are some great pop culture jokes in there. Was always likely to come back.

Those Who Kill - pulled from AMC after two episodes, sent to LMN for burnoff

Note to US networks, if you're going to remake a foreign show, don't remake one that was canned after one season in its own country!

"Premium cable" (HBO, Showtime, Starz etc.) 

Game of Thrones - renewed by HBO for fifth and sixth seasons

This epic fantasy drama sets the internet ablaze every Sunday evening when it's on and the "Purple Wedding" in particular get Twitter abuzzing. This two-season order will allow the fourth novel to be filmed.

The Newsroom - renewed by HBO for third and final season

While an enjoyable show, its rather preachy nature and definite pro-Democrat bias would have probably caused advertiser issues on any other network. 

29 May 2014

Star Citizen - Arena Commander delayed

I'd hoped that Arena Commander, the first fully playable component of Star Citizen, would be released today, but it's been delayed due to the late discovery of some game-breaking bugs that need to be fixed. We've been promised daily updates on the situation, but no further release date yet - I hope it's only a few more days.

While I'm disappointed, I accept that CGI had to do this; they cannot release a broken game on a date they said was "if all goes well" - the bad press would be huge. People can wait a few more days or even a few more weeks... although this said, their ability to keep to planned dates is not their strong suit.

This is a very ambitious project and when it finally comes out, I'm sure it will be worth it. I've spent £20 on worse.

26 May 2014

Local and European elections 2014

The strong UKIP showing in the local elections and their triumph in the EU elections should be a wake-up call to all the other parties; we need to take this party very seriously and actively work to expose their damaging world view and policies. While they are impacting the Tory vote more than the Labour one, it is still hurting us - UKIP were basically responsible for Labour only ending up with one councillor in Havering.

Labour's performance in the locals was good, but could have been better; while we're still on course for at least largest party, we need to make more effort at connecting with people. It's not going to be easy, as we're still deeply associated with the last recession and "failures" on immigration, but it needs to be done.

It's not time to panic, but we should not be complacent.

18 May 2014

From Russia With Gore (Review: 'Doctor Who: The Deviant Strain', 2005)


The short tenure, basically under three months, of the Ninth Doctor, means that there wasn't been a tremendous amount released featuring him at the time. While the revival of classic series novel publication may well mean some more, I'm only going to do one work featuring the Ninth Doctor.

So, courtesy of my local library, I am now looking at the fourth of the six Ninth Doctor tie-in novels, The Deviant Strain by Justin Richards.

Where we're at
This is from the second half of his tenure; featuring the Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack. Only the Doctor and Rose actually feature on the cover of the first edition; the later reprints don't feature Rose, possibly to due use-of-likeness issues after she left the show.

The plot
The three time travellers arrive in Russia in the early 21st century, at an abandoned Soviet naval base, where something from even before the base was built is awake and killing people. They team up with Russian special forces to find out what is going on... and stop it before it is too late.

What works
  • There's a strong atmosphere of decay and corrosion in the naval base... it's a good setting to do.
  • The regulars are realised pretty well, especially the Ninth Doctor.
  • The resolution to the threat is a good one and typically Doctor-ish.
  • This is a base-under-siege story, a well-worn Doctor Who staple and easy to do well.
What doesn't
  • The levels of gore depicted on page are arguably a bit more than what would be allowed in the show itself.
  • The Russian Spetsnaz are allowed to be a bit more gun-happy by the Doctor than one might normally expect.
  • Creatures that feed on people's life energies is so cliché. 
  • The prose is OK, but there is no real tension between the chapters; I could happily read one chapter a night and be satisfied with that

Enjoyable enough, but this is hardly a page-turner and there are frankly better novels out there for Nine. The Discontinuity Guide calls it "workmanlike" and I'm inclined to agree.

16 May 2014

Prime Minister Modi

So, India has elected the BJP in a landslide...Narendra Modi will become Prime Minister of the world's second most populous country.

He was formerly ostracised for his inaction in riots in 2002 when he was First Minister of Gujarat; over a thousand people, mostly Muslims, died.

One only hopes he governs for all Indians... of whom a seventh are Muslim.

11 May 2014

Congratulations to Manchester City!

While I suspect many people would have liked Liverpool to win the title this year, Manchester City's strong performance all year make them deserving of the Premier League trophy.

With United in seventh, you've got to laugh... I don't think they're even in the Europa League!