CBS Renew/Cancel Watch: 'The Odd Couple' Is... An Oddity?

Welcome to the CBS Renew/Cancel Watch. All scripted, primetime shows are included in the prediction table below once they have premiered for the season. An analysis of any new prediction changes or observations follows. My current predictions are as of April 17, 2016.

The key to the right indicates which colors are associated with each prediction. The data in the table includes season lows, highs, and averages (Adults 18-49 demo), as well as the year-to-year changes for returning shows that have not already been officially renewed or canceled. These are provided for reasoning with and understanding my predictions. The shows are ordered by their season averages against only other scripted CBS shows.

Show Title
    Season Low High /Average     
 Y2Y Change
The Big Bang Theory
2.0 / 2.7 / 2.23
Life in Pieces
1.7 / 2.6 / 2.00
1.5 / 2.2 / 1.79
Criminal Minds
1.5 / 2.2 / 1.79
NCIS: New Orleans
1.5 / 2.5 / 1.75
1.3 / 3.1 / 1.67
1.5 / 1.8 / 1.67
Mike & Molly
1.6 / 1.7 / 1.62
2 Broke Girls
1.5 / 1.7 / 1.61
The Odd Couple
- / 1.5 / 1.50
Angel from Hell
1.3 / 1.6 / 1.42
Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders
1.3 / 1.6 / 1.38
1.1 / 1.9 / 1.38
1.1 / 1.6 / 1.33
Code Black
1.0 / 1.5 / 1.26
Madam Secretary
1.0 / 2.0 / 1.25
Blue Bloods
1.1 / 1.5 / 1.25
Hawaii Five-0
1.0 / 1.4 / 1.14
The Good Wife
0.9 / 1.4 / 1.05
0.8 / 1.2 / 1.01
Rush Hour
0.9 / 1.1 / 0.97
CSI: Cyber
0.7 / 1.1 / 0.91

The following analysis will be painfully long, but I promise to at least make it somewhat worth your time.

The Odd Couple is a question mark. Originally a midseason replacement in the post-TBBT slot in Spring 2015, the Matthew Perry-Thomas Lennon unlikely-buddy comedy averaged a fine 2.2 in the demo through its first season, which consisted of only 12 episodes. It was awarded a second season renewal and was, again, held for midseason this season with a Spring 2016 debut.

Its season two premiere drew an underwhelming 1.5 last week, following a season low (3.1) for The Big Bang Theory. This week, it followed a Big Bang rerun (1.6) and managed to maintain its previous 1.5 rating. It's rather respectable to go from ~49 percent retention one week to ~94 percent the next with an unchanged demo. However, the sitcom was at a season low, a rating it achieved once last season (5/7/15 - its ninth episode). Life In Pieces never hit that mark during its entire run this season. LIP's lowest point, and most timely result to compare, was its 1.7 season finale on 3/31/16. The freshman singlecam has yet to be renewed, but it's widely expected to return after averaging a 2.0 this season, making it the #1 new comedy on broadcast for 2015-16. Veteran comedies Mom and 2 Broke Girls have officially secured fifth and sixth seasons, respectively. The former is averaging 1.69, and the latter 1.61 to date. 

A fair comparison for The Odd Couple is, of course, the freshman Jane Lynch-Maggie Lawson sitcom Angel from Hell, which was abruptly pulled from the schedule after airing only five episodes earlier this year. The series premiered to a 1.6, dipped in its second episode to a 1.3, and disappeared quietly with a 1.42 average. Unlike The Odd Couple, Angel from Hell aired at 9:30 and didn't get the cushy post-TBBT slot. Like The Odd Couple, Angel from Hell is owned by CBS. This was to be its greatest advantage in a sea of outside studio productions (The Big Bang Theory, Mom, 2 Broke Girls, and Life In Pieces all hail from outside studios), yet it couldn't muster enough of a bite in the ratings to keep CBS happy. 

The Odd Couple does have the advantage of a first season under its belt already, but with that first season being only 12 episodes, is it enough? It is averaging 1.5 after two episodes, but where will it sit after the remainder of its 13-episode season two order is aired? We still have 11 episodes to go, and Spring is getting deeper and darker by the minute (in contrast to the longer and lighter days). It doesn't have much room to fall from any reasonable standpoint. Of course, The Big Bang Theory will keep it propped up in the short term, but CBS's staple sitcom only has four more originals to air before its current season has aired out its order. 

We can consider a historical perspective when it comes to CBS and how many comedies they typically renew and order to series each year. Let's look at the last couple of years for perspective.

In 2013, CBS ordered the following comedies: How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, Mom, The Millers, 2 Broke Girls, Mike & Molly, Two and a Half Men, The Crazy Ones, and We Are Men. That's five returning series and four freshman. They renewed four veterans (The Big Bang Theory, 2 Broke Girls, Mike & Molly, Two and a Half Men), renewed two freshman (Mom, The Millers), canceled two freshman (The Crazy Ones, We Are Men), and gave a publicized final season to a veteran (How I Met Your Mother). 

In 2014, CBS ordered the following comedies: The Big Bang Theory, Mom, The Millers, The McCarthys, 2 Broke Girls, Mike & Molly, Two and a Half Men, and The Odd Couple. That's six returning series and two freshman. They ultimately renewed four veterans (TBBT, Mom, 2 Broke Girls, Mike & Molly) and one freshman (The Odd Couple), canceled one not even halfway through its second season (The Millers), pulled the other freshman after 11 episodes (The McCarthys), and gave a publicized final season to a veteran (Two and a Half Men).

This season, CBS ordered the following comedies: The Big Bang Theory, Mom, 2 Broke Girls, Mike & Molly, The Odd Couple, Life In Pieces, and Angel from Hell. That's five returning series and two freshman. So far, they have renewed three veterans (TBBT, Mom, 2 Broke Girls), pulled a freshman after 5 episodes (Angel from Hell), and gave a publicized final season to a veteran (Mike & Molly).
What's slightly different about the 2015-2016 season is that comedies didn't air for more than a few weeks on Mondays at 8:00/8:30. The Big Bang Theory and Life In Pieces premiered there and promptly moved to Thursdays in typical CBS fashion by October, but a drama, Supergirl, assumed the hour for the remainder of the season and continues to air there as we speak. This forced CBS to air two comedies on Wednesdays at 8:00/8:30 for a brief period, which worked temporarily for Mike & Molly and 2 Broke Girls, until Survivor returned. Since that point, Mike & Molly has been benched and 2 Broke Girls moved into Angel from Hell's 9:30 slot on Thursdays. It's poor planning from an outsider's perspective, because the network ordered 7 comedies with only a constant 4 spots to air them in during the season. Did Angel from Hell get less rope to work with because CBS had so many waiting in the wings to replace it? Almost assuredly. However, 2 Broke Girls would most likely have been pulled and aired later in the season if Angel from Hell took off. Perhaps CBS was OK with that possibility, because they could have even ended the only moderately-rated 2 Broke Girls this season as well. History shows that CBS favors ending one veteran comedy per season, though.

In the end, CBS is a drama network. As much as they want you to believe they are the comedy powerhouse on the block (which, compared to FOX and NBC they are, but ABC is queen here with a larger number of comedies pulling their weight), they are very drama heavy and will be at a substantial loss in the comedy department once The Big Bang Theory ends in the next few seasons. They have to make a decision now about their comedy assets. Do they invest in what they have now and put off rebuilding their comedy brand until TBBT ends, or do they sacrifice the weak and make a big power move in trying to establish new staple comedies? 

Assuming Supergirl is renewed and remains on Mondays, CBS will have 4 spots again in the fall, with The Big Bang Theory obviously leading off the night and a new comedy taking shape behind it. CBS has ordered the Untitled Kevin James multicam project straight-to-series, which seems like a safe bet for earning a fall slot based on James' noteworthy experience with the network. CBS TV Studios co-produces it, along with the high profile Matt LeBlanc pilot I'm Not Your Friend, which has a heavy penalty in LeBlanc's favor should CBS decide not to order it to series. In all honesty, the marketing department would be given a golden egg if LeBlanc and Perry were starring in comedies on the same network. Imagine the promos. Just imagine them. LeBlanc's show being aptly titled I'm Not Your FRIEND is almost too much in and of itself. Other projects with CBS TV Studios involvement include the multicams The Great Indoors, My Time/Your Time, Real Good People, and Superior Donuts. CBS only ordered pilots for two singlecams - What Goes Around Comes Around (WB), and Furst Born (CBS/ABC Studios). The remaining outsider is the Tina Fey/Robert Carlock-produced The Kicker, a multicam from Universal TV. CBS will at least pick up one more new comedy besides the Kevin James project, if they're smart and if history tells us anything.

If a CBS veteran will end next season, most assume it to be 2 Broke Girls. It would basically be in a similar position to Mike & Molly in expenses and declining ratings. It's not far-fetched to assume the end of Mom and The Big Bang Theory might follow in the subsequent couple of seasons, by 2017/2018. What this says to me is that CBS really ought to open up another comedy hour again. They already have to bench one returning comedy if they want to premiere just ONE freshman in the fall in the limited 4 slots scenario. My guess is that 2 Broke Girls gets the exact Mike & Molly treatment we saw this season: renewed for a 13-episode sixth season, benched, and aired as filler until it's forced off the schedule and "final season-ed" by CBS. Nonetheless, Life In Pieces is expected to leave the wings of TBBT, which would most likely push it to 9:30 if CBS is being reasonable with itself and keeping Mom as the 9:00 staple. How low it might go there could be troublesome. It's done fine in its couple of airings without TBBT originals, but so did Mom when it started off there and now it's looking noticeably less lively with only 3 seasons under its belt. 

To tie The Odd Couple back into this: WHERE DOES IT REALLY FIT? If the show falls into lower 1s, is there any substantial value for a show that will only technically have one full season to its merit with 23 episodes? I suppose CBS could order another 13 episodes for another midseason run, but that would only bump it up to 38 episodes after 3 seasons. It's a nice thought to get an owned show to syndication again, but they would have their work cut out for them. Perry is still a marquee talent (although he's had a fine share of post-Friends flops that greatly challenge this), but it seems a better investment of CBS's resources to work on their promising comedies in development. CBS tends to be a network of consistency and commitment, though, so it's impossible to say with finality how they intend to / should approach their current assets. Ultimately, The Odd Couple sits nervously "On the Bubble" at the moment until I can see where the next couple of airings take it. 

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