3 ... 2 ... 1 ... POP!
OK, that's perhaps a little too "Grey's Anatomy" overdramatic, but for some people this can be a tense time. Some people, for example, like fans of "Cold Case," "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles," "The Game" or "Gary Unmarried," series that networks have yet to either renew or cancel. Such series are often charmingly referred to as being "on the bubble."
I hear what you're saying: "But those shows don't HAVE any fans." Fair enough. You'll hear no weeping in the streets if, say, "Surviving Suburbia" bites it. Nor will there be a sharp uptick in calls to the suicide hotline if "Eleventh Hour" gets axed. (I'm not even sure what "Eleventh Hour" is. A sitcom about wacky clockmakers, maybe?) Most of these shows are the bottom-of-the-barrel dreck that never should have been on the air in the first place.
But some of the bubble shows (you can see the complete list of renewed/cancelled/on the bubble shows at EntertainmentWeekly.com) don't deserve to be caught in such ignoble limbo — and by that I mean I like a few of them, and want them to stick around.
Shows like ABC's "Better Off Ted," which is no "30 Rock," but it sure ain't "Samantha Who?" (another bubble show, by the way) either. After a slow start, the world of this sitcom — a Halliburton-like mega-corporation that specializes in inventing pep pills, rocket packs and eight-legged chickens — has gotten dense and rewarding, as the characters have grown more and more likable and sympathetic. How can you not feel for Linda, the head of product testing, who feels so trapped in the soul-deadening office environment, where profit is always valued over the individual, that she sits on a stool in front of the motion-sensing towel dispenser in the ladies room, lithely waving her hand as yards and yards of paper snake out onto the floor? Or poor research scientist Lem, who can't sit in a room by himself for too long because the company also made the lights motion-sensing to cut costs — but the lights don't notice black people.
The cast is strong across the board (including "Arrested Development's" Portia de Rossi as the stern, power-hungry boss) and the writing seems to get stronger every week. ABC teamed "Better Off Ted" with the similarly silly workplace comedy "Scrubs," and the two make a perfect pair. But with the fate of "Scrubs" also up in the air (star Zach Braff says he won't be back for another year, and creator Bill Lawrence has been dancing around any firm commitment, but ABC is interested in a ninth season) the future of this really-quite-good sitcom is looking less "Ted" and more dead.
Then there's "Dollhouse," which truthfully I only want to like more than I actually like. After all, it's Joss Whedon, and when a dude creates three of your favorite shows ever, you tend to give him benefit of the doubt. But so far the sci-fi fantasy show — about a secret organization that can wipe your memory and upload new ones, making you into a soldier, a hooker, a rodeo clown, whatever — has been enjoyable only in fits and starts, and has yet to make me care about any of the characters. How can you care about a lead character, after all (in this case Eliza Dushku's Echo), who changes personalities every week? If you can't pin down who she is, you can't get invested. But several of the now 10 or so episodes have been gripping, inventive affairs, showing plenty of that Whedon charm. Next week's episode is the season finale, and most likely the series. Can't say I'll miss it if and when it's cancelled, but it would be nice to have a little more time with it, discovering its secrets (and seeing Dushku in more dominatrix outfits ... reeowr.)
Any shows on the Entertainment Weekly bubble list you'd like to save? Let's hear it.
— Adam Reinhard, firstname.lastname@example.org