It’s that time of year: The networks are looking ahead to January and their midseason schedules, but some fall shows will have to be canceled to make room for the new stuff. Here’s our list of 13 at-risk shows, many of which have posted significant ratings declines. Others are expensive to produce, a little long in the tooth, or just aren’t performing as well as their timeslot competition — or even other shows on their own networks. Read about the issues each faces and then weigh in on which deserve to stay — or go.
#1 – Brothers (Fridays at 8/7c, Fox)
Issues: This family sitcom hasn’t connected with an audience, nor has its timeslot-mate, ‘Til Death.
#2 – Cold Case (Sundays at 10/9c, CBS)
Issues: Show sources say that this is the final season of Cold Case. It’s losing to Brothers & Sisters regularly.
#3 – Dollhouse (Fridays at 9/8c, Fox)
Issues: Fox yanked the show from its November lineup. Executive producer Joss Whedon has hinted that the party’s over after Fox burns off the rest of the show’s 13-episode run in December.
#4 – Eastwick (Wednesdays at 10/9c, ABC)
Issues: Is nobody watching TV at 10 p.m. anymore? Not only are Leno’s ratings tanking, so are those of his competition.
#5 – The Forgotten (Tuesdays at 10/9c, ABC)
Issues: Its title may have become its destiny. Even star Christian Slater couldn’t bring eyeballs to the Jerry Bruckheimer drama.
#6 – Fringe (Thursdays at 9/8c, Fox)
Issues: It’s been consistently fourth in its extremely competitively timeslot (opposite Grey’s Anatomy, The Office and 30 Rock, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Supernatural), despite actually posting gains for Fox on Thursday nights over last season. But the relatively healthy Tuesday audience it used to have is shrinking.
#7 – Gary Unmarried (Wednesdays at 8:30/7:30c, CBS)
Issues: Its ratings are decent, but nowhere near those of CBS’ top sitcoms.
(Editor’s note: Since publication, we’ve received word that Gossip Girl is safe.)
#8 – Hank (Wednesdays at 8/7c, ABC)
Issues: ABC has announced pickups for Modern Family, The Middle and Cougar Town (the rest of its Wednesday-night comedy block), and Hank’s absence from that list speaks volumes.
#9 – Law & Order (Fridays at 8, NBC)
Issues: It’s losing to Ghost Whisperer, and it’s been on the air for 20 years, which is about 140 in TV years. If it completes this season, it will tie Gunsmoke as the longest-running drama in history. NBC wouldn’t pull the plug before that achievement, would it?
#10 – Melrose Place (Tuesdays at 9/8c, CW)
Issues: Yes, the CW has ordered 18 episodes for this season. Two cast members have been fired, and producers say they plan to change direction from the new Melrose Place’s dark murder mystery. Will it be enough?
#11 – New Adventures of Old Christine (Wednesdays at 8/7c, CBS)
Issues: See above for Gary Unmarried.
#12 – Three Rivers (Sundays at 9, CBS)
Issues: Critics hated it, despite their ongoing love affair with star Alex O’Loughlin (Moonlight). And it’s getting clobbered by Desperate Housewives.
#13 – ‘Til Death (Fridays at 8:30, Fox)
Issues: It’s never been a ratings barn-burner, and its pairing with Brothers hasn’t helped.
CANCELED/NOT RETURNING (most recent first)
Trauma (Oct. 28, 2009, after its 13-episode run)
Southland (Oct. 8, 2009)
The Beautiful Life: TBL (Sept. 25, 2009)
PICKED UP FOR FULL SEASON
Community (Oct. 23, 2009)
Mercy (Oct. 23, 2009)
Parks and Recreation (Oct. 23, 2009)
Melrose Place (Oct. 21, 2009, 18 episodes)
The Vampire Diaries (Oct. 21, 2009)
Castle (Oct. 20, 2009)
FlashForward (Oct. 12, 2009)
Cougar Town (Oct. 8, 2009)
The Middle (Oct. 8, 2009)
Modern Family (Oct. 8, 2009)
The Good Wife (Oct. 7, 2009)
NCIS: Los Angeles (Oct. 7, 2009)
One Tree Hill (Sept. 23, 2009)
Glee (Sept. 21, 2009)