The End Is Near!

You Were Attacked By A Bear?!

We are doomed.  That seems to be the latest source of Chuck fandom’s angst.  Our ratings are in decline and the creative force of TPTB is spent.  NBC has new owners, and surely they aren’t interested in renewing such a low rated show once again.  Our competition is the pilots now, since NBC has canceled everything else that stood between Chuck and cancellation, so the writing is on the wall, and you may as well enjoy the last 5 episodes of Chuck.

And season 3 is to blame.

Well, some yes, some no, and some maybe later.  After the jump.

Deja Vu Part Deux

Does This Seem Familiar To You?

I feel like we’ve been here before.

At the end of last season I was hearing a lot of the same buzz in the Chuck fandom.  Season 3 killed the ratings, and minus a miracle recovery we were done.  Three years on the bubble would come to an end as NBC surely would pass.  In fact we should be grateful we even got the gift of this season, because only at a network in free fall like NBC could a marginal show like Chuck be renewed.  It was just as well anyway, the lackluster season and decline in quality showed that the creative force behind Chuck was spent anyway.  It might have been better if we’d ended with season 2, but we could all hope for a good closing string of episodes and be thankful for what we got, ’cause this was the end.

But we came back.  In the end it made more sense for NBC to renew Chuck, even if you suppose they were right.  What’s changed this year?

Not much.

Bear with me for a bit of background on some of the things I’ve learned about the rating system over the last year.

Like many Chuck fans I’ve come to be an obsessive reader of TVBythenumbers, despite the fact that they just use our promiscuous following of the ratings for their gratification.  But despite their callous use of us, they do provide a service and a good first source for news and discussions about ratings.  One of those articles they linked to that was an eye-opener about The Calculus of Canceling Shows is still available.

Now if you follow TVBTN you know that they base their renew/cancel predictions on a certain old joke.  The gist of it, I don’t have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you.  That is the main thing to keep in mind.  While technically Chuck does compete against Dancing With The Stars, House, and How I Met Your Mother, since they are on opposite Chuck and all draw from the same pool of viewers, when it comes to cancellation we’re just trying to outrun enough other NBC shows, like Outlaw, Undercovers and The Event, so  that by the time he’s nipping at our heels the bear is too gorged and sluggish to care.

Last year I was pretty confident Chuck would be renewed.  At the end of the season you had three one hour scripted dramas, Heroes, Mercy, and Trauma all canceled, plus the Jay Leno hole in the schedule.  NBC had 8 one hour slots to fill, and 19 pilots to do it with.  They weren’t in any position to cancel shows that could hold an audience.  If you’ve read the link above on how highly anticipated shows can quickly cost a network money you’ll understand the following.  For each one hour slot for the season the network almost always wants nearly two one hour shows or 3-4 half hour shows in production, especially for new shows.  For established shows this is less of a concern, but it’s still there.  For each show short of that someone is likely getting a full season order.  This is why so often shows start with a 13 episode order and are given a full season order some time in October or November.  The new shows have premiered, the second half of the season shows are well into production, and the ratings and executives are having their say.   NBC picked up 13 pilots and two reality shows to fill slots for two half hour comedies and 8 one-hour slots.  That’s 11.5 hours of programming to fill 9 hours of the schedule for the season.  Clearly they were counting on a full season order for some of their returning shows.  The half hour comedies to fill two empty slots were Friends With Benefits,  Outsourced, Perfect Couples, Love Bites and The Paul Reiser Show. Of those three have never aired an episode and two, Perfect Couples and Outsourced are looking at cancellation.  The new hour-long shows were Undercovers, The Event, Chase, Law & Order: Los Angeles, Outlaw, The Cape and Harry’s Law and two new reality shows, School Pride and America’s Next Great Restaurant. Of those five are effectively canceled with Law & Order: Los Angeles undergoing a major re-tooling.

This year NBC ordered 22 pilots.  Ten are hour-long and twelve are half hour.  Of last year’s disastrous NBC pilot season, Harry’s Law and possibly Law & Order: Los Angeles will survive. (Not sure about the reality shows.)  Once again NBC has at least 5 one hour slots and 2 half-hour slots to fill, assuming they want to keep the same general balance of slots and not add additional reality programs.  With so many half-hour pilots it looks as if they may intend to convert a few one hour slots to two half hour shows.  I don’t have all the info, I’m making a reasonable guess (I hope).  In a perfect world NBC would need 10 hour scripted shows and 4 half hour scripted shows, with possibly more half hour, each 3-4 replacing one hour-long show.  But we know it doesn’t work quite that way.  Law and Order SVU is going to get a full season no matter what.  All the reality shows are likely to stay.  NBC will not have 10 shows in production to fill 5 one hour slots.  But they will have to try to have at least 7 or 8.  They have 10 to choose from, and that nearly demands they give some of them, or someone else, full season pickups.  They have the luxury of passing on 2-3 pilots among the hour-long shows, or picking up an additional 3-4 half hour pilots for each additional hour pilot they pass on.  This is all before they could cancel Chuck, opening another one hour hole for an entire season.  The kicker?  Chuck costs NBC about half as much as anything that could fill its notoriously deadly time slot.  Let’s get some more perspective. (Click to enlarge)

Yes, Chuck’s ratings have dropped.  So has NBC overall.  Above I compare Chuck to other one hour scripted shows, and you see in the first half of the season Chuck stayed relatively stable as nearly everything else dropped to, or below its ratings.  In the second half or the season Chuck has dropped, as all of NBC has dropped with it.  At this point, Chuck’s last in demo rating, 1.5, is exactly the NBC weekly average.  On the bubble?  I suppose, if you consider ratings the only factor.  The fact is the NBC bear is stuffed.  He’s sleeping off a huge meal.  He’s dined on five new hour-long shows so far, with two more half-hour deserts likely and one more show (Law & Order: Los Angeles) that had to be pulled from the schedule and re-tooled still to re-enter the race.  There is a lot of schedule to fill from those pilots before they even consider something replacing a full season of Chuck.  In short, we still don’t have to be better than everyone else to survive.  We just have to be a better bet to make not lose money than either Law & Order: Los Angeles or the two worst pilots in production, at half their cost.

Am I saying Chuck is a lock?  Certainly not.  An uptick in the ratings can’t hurt.  Both Harry’s Law and Law & Order: Los Angeles dropping below Chuck’s ratings would help too, but even as is, I’m slightly more confident than last year.  I think all things considered it makes more sense and creates fewer problems for NBC to renew Chuck than to cancel it.  I say we get another season of Chuck.

As a final note on the ratings, you may notice that there is now a ratings page, thanks once again to Faith’s tireless efforts to conquer and dominate all of Chuck fandom keep the blog fresh and informative.  The banner alone is worth a click.

Now the question of what is the next season of Chuck about and have TPTB become creatively exhausted?  That I will address in another post.  Fair warning, the phrase Hero’s Journey just may be involved.

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About Ernie Davis

I was born in 1998, the illegitimate brain child and pen name of a surly and reclusive misanthrope with a penchant for anonymity. My offline alter ego is a convicted bibliophile and causes rampant pognophobia whenever he goes out in public. He wants to be James Lileks when he grows up or Dave Barry if he doesn’t.  His hobbies are mopery, curling and watching and writing about Chuck.  Obsessively.  Really, the dude needs serious help.
This entry was posted in Analysis, Angst, Breaking News, Ratings. Bookmark the permalink.

68 Responses to The End Is Near!

  1. Mel says:

    Well done, Ernie. You’ve explained some of the non-ratings factors behind Chuck’s renewal much better than I’ve been able to so far. Kudos.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Thanks Mel. It’s been interesting to watch and learn how this all unfolds over the last few seasons. Let’s hope we’re right!

  2. Verkan_Vall says:

    Thanks, Ernie. Very interesting.

  3. joe says:

    Bravo!

    There’s yet one more factor, and it’s a BIG unknown. Comcast. Sooner or later their presence will be felt, but absolutely no one can predict how it will affect anything.

    But I’ll tell you what. If *I* was an exec. who wanted to make a mark in a big way, one that would chance the course of NBC and perhaps the future of TV, if I was the one willing to take a big gamble, I wouldn’t be looking at fiddling with 1 hr. and half-hour slots. I’d be looking with a sharp eye at Leno. I’d be looking with an even sharper eye at “reality TV”. The ax would be in my hand.

    “You want change? *I’ll* give you change!”

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Well Joe, for starters I’m trying to stick with what I assume would be conventional wisdom. I’m new to this. Surely there will be changes to the network by the new creative team, but from the looks of the pilots, they aren’t being implemented yet. As for now the reality shows seem to be the only thing NBC has that hold an audience, or at least that was the case last I checked.

      • joe says:

        Yeah, that’s the vibe I’m getting too. It’s just a faint impression, but rather than being too bold, they seem to be heading in the direction of standard corporate conservatism.

        Reality shows are indeed drawing an audience. I wonder what the sponsors think of that audience, however.

      • atcDave says:

        My guess is it depends on what they’re selling. The Chuck audience is different from a “Biggest Loser” audience. If I say more I’ll just sound like a terrible snob…

  4. Anonymous says:

    i went on the website and saw CHUCK was the only NBC show on the bubble and almost got a heart- attack. Luckily, I read the page and was releived

  5. atcDave says:

    Thanks for an excellent and informative post Ernie. Love your analogy of the satiated bear. It helps me understand why cast and crew of Chuck have sounded mostly confident recently. Obviously the recent ratings dip is cause for concern, but hopefully we’ll see a small ratings spike as we get closer the “big day.”

    As always, best wishes to Faith in her drive to conquer and dominate!

  6. thinkling says:

    Yes, Ernie, thanks for the post. As always I learned a lot. I also feel better … more hopeful. :)

  7. Jon says:

    Wow, this made me feel warm inside, and it was an amazing explanation. Thanks.

  8. Ernie Davis says:

    Oh, and don’t forget to vote early and vote often. We need to maintain a 5% cushion thanks to Sepinwall’s treachery. ;)

  9. Ernie Davis says:

    Why yes Joe, Hulu: Best in Show is the proper link where people should go to vote early and vote often.

  10. Tamara Burks says:

    I hope they also consider that the Chuck fanbase is one that will buy the sponsored products actively (well the cheaper ones anyway the cars aren’t exactly a simple purchase) and we’ll also tell others to buy as well.That’s not something you get from viewers of most shows. So keeping our show going is a good business decision even if the ratings don’t show it because of the antiquated ratings system.

    • patty says:

      Hey I bought a vibe which is a matrix with a chevy nametag!!

    • Ernie Davis says:

      I definitely don’t want to give the impression that we should take it for granted, I just wanted to lay out some other things to consider, other than a single number from the ratings. NBC will take a lot of things into consideration other than ratings, and part of that will be a dedicated, motivated and energetic fanbase who will contact sponsors and use their products. I’d also love to see how much Hulu and RewardsTV’s numbers on a Tuesday after no Chuck drop. The point is that those who say only the ratings matter, well they’re right in one sense, if the ratings aren’t there nothing else matters, but a 1.5 isn’t death, especially on NBC. Don’t get hung up on one number or let the negativity stop you from doing what you want to support the show.

    • atcDave says:

      I’ve read a few places that Chuck’s activist fan base is well appreciated by advertisers. And of course that is a good starting point of any save the show effort. We obviously can’t win with pure numbers, so we have to do it with quality!

  11. patty says:

    Anything can happen vcu just beat Kansas. :-D

    • joe says:

      ???? It’s still going on? When Villanova lost in the 1st round I thought the country stopped paying attention.

      [Joe ducks the multiple shoes being thrown from the general direction of Connecticut...]

  12. Tamara Burks says:

    The current vote at Hulu’s best in show has Chuck in the lead with 56 to 44

  13. Faith says:

    Well said Ernie. My main concern is we’re running out of bear food to outrun. As you’ve stated LOLA is probably a lock (for now), and Harry’s Law, well they’re a bit of a special case (*cough*hailed as NBC’s only new hit this season*cough*—which believe me doesn’t say much at Chuck-like and increasingly depreciating numbers).

    There’s also something to be said for creative direction. IMO Community was renewed because it was the critics choice this season (as seen by Sepinwall stabbing us in the back on the hulu poll ;)). Before January, they were getting pretty close numbers to Chuck, with a bit more going for them because they had the Office and well, the Thursday night block. So the question becomes, will NBC take the same approach with Chuck: consider the full picture, creative direction and critics included? I think they just might. Though it wouldn’t hurt to have better numbers.

    Lastly, with the deluge of pilots, you can almost guarantee that a majority of them won’t even make it to air. They pick them up, watch the pilot and often toss them. I agree that money becomes a bigger factor with that. As is they often don’t even bother promoting Chuck (which in my opinion works in our favor–expectations) and yet it gets consistent numbers. Promotion costs money and new shows need heavy promotions.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      I fully understand your concern, and share it, to a degree. At a certain point however the bear can’t swallow another bite, and ratings relative to other networks cease to matter. Another show or two to feed the bear would make me feel better, as would a few extra steps for Chuck (ratings points), but we are approaching what I saw last year, the point where the buzz around Undercovers, The Event, or Chase, and the money they cost to promote, let alone what they will cost if they tank in their first three weeks makes Chuck seem a less and less promising meal.

      • atcDave says:

        Well we have to be concerned. If we weren’t we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. But Ernie, I think the point you’ve made so well is that there’s plenty of cause for optimism. Between your case for the bloated bear, and other intangibles like good TAMI numbers, good +7 numbers, outspoken fans, etc. I think we have a better than 50/50 chance of getting another season. But unless the numbers start heading well north, we’ll be sweating this out until we get official word.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Your analysis, unfortunately, leaves out a lot of data points and it seems YOU want to keep talking about Season 3, not anyone else. But forget that, let’s look at the data points you missed or chose not to talk about:
    1) After last week’s episode drew just 4.2 million viewers, it means Chuck has lost 50 percent of its audience since the premier. That includes either the Pilot or Helicopter. You choose. Either way, though, NBC’s viewership hasn’t declined by that much over the last four seasons. So Chuck is UNDER performing the network now.
    2) Chuck’s core audience continues to decline dramatically from season to season. Fewer watched Season 2 than Season 1, fewer watched Season 3 than Season 2 and fewer watched Season 4 than Season 3. That would indicate a further decline in viewers for Season 5. And where do you go from 4.2 million viewers in the key demo?
    3) Chuck’s most rabid fans (and I’ve been one of them) keep insisting NBC would keep it around because it has a rabid core of fans. Not anymore. After Season 2, people were “sure” we’d reached the core audience of 6 million. It would never go lower than that. Last year, when the final two episodes just barely got an average of 5 million viewers, we were all sure we’d reached the “core” audience of 5 million. Now Chuck is doing 4.2 million with FIVE episodes to go. What should NBC assume NOW is the core audience? Four million? Less?
    4) At 4.2 million viewers for the last new episode, Chuck drew only about 150,000 more viewers in the key demo than The Event. And we KNOW the Event is dead.
    5) Most of this year’s episodes have suffered a viewership DECLINE at the half-hour splits. That indicates that viewers aren’t particularly thrilled with what they are seeing. Even last year’s disastrous two-hour finale had an uptick in viewership. Subway did 4.9 million viewers. Ring Part II did 5.1 million.
    6) Check out Friday’s ratings. Against CBS and TBS showing NCAA Sweet Sixteen basketball, NBC threw up two hours of Dateline, an uber-cheap, schedule-spackle news magazine. Its two hours did 1.6 to 1.9 over the four half-hour splits. In other words, it did BETTER than Chuck. On a FRIDAY. Chuck’s competition now isn’t an expensive new scripted show. It isn’t cheap reality programming. It’s now being outrated on a off night against brutal competition by an uber-cheap news magazine. Why wouldn’t NBC be better off programming an hour of Dateline at 8 pm Monday rather than Chuck?
    7) Struggling fifth-year programs, which is what Chuck would be, usually survive into the fifth year because the producing studio gives the network a big break on the licensing price. Well, Warner has been giving NBC that “big break” price since Season 3. There’s probably no more flex in the budget now. So unless NBC has negotiated some participation in the downstream revenue (and that HAS been rumored, I grant you), there’s no reason for it to renew Chuck at these ratings levels.

    I will be the first to admit that I have ZERO clue about Chuck’s future. And I have a feeling no one at NBC or Warner Brothers really knows yet, either. The ratings might tick upward. The pilots could suck. NBC might have already done a deal for renewal based on a share of syndicated revenue down the road. There are so many factors to consider and we don’t even know what we don’t know. But we should be realistic about Chuck’s problems. If Chuck isn’t renewed, it won’t be Season 3′s fault. It’ll be due to Chuck’s miserable ratings THIS season. And the fact that the show has been hemorrhaging viewers without stop since the Pilot.

    • Anonymous says:

      BTW, when I say “disastrous” about Subway/Ring II, I was talking about the ratings, not the contents of the show. We all pretty clearly know that quality of a show (or specific episodes) rarely affect ratings.

      And, yes, this is FirstTimer… WordPress just don’t like me…

      • ArmySFC says:

        FT i disagree, i firmly believe the quality and content of an episode or show is reflected in the ratings. one thing i found out is most fans believe the ratings of an episode are reflected the next day. in reality they are not. it is the week previous that is reflected the day after the current episode. unless you factor in outside influences for all viewer loss and exclude the show itself.

      • Faith says:

        Dateline wouldn’t survive against the competition of Monday nights. While numbers on Fridays do decline, the competition is as such where the numbers are more favorable for a news program. The same cannot be said on Monday nights which is why history usually dictates that scripted shows aren’t placed in that time slot.

        Chuck has also seen a rapid decline in promotion throughout the last 4 years, which also correlates with their deceasing budget. Yet NBC still decided to keep the show on the air. So while you’re correct that the numbers have declined, you also have to look beyond the numbers and realize that at some point the lack of promotion contributes to the ratings. Also that the show doesn’t (based on the # of critics that have said the show’s budget was slashed to stay on the air) cost much works in its favor, and is in fact what has kept the show on the air.

    • ArmySFC says:

      FT i agree. the splits had me puzzled for a while. then i noticed a trend in posts here and else where. if i had a dime for each time i heard, “the first half was slow but the ending pulled it together,” i would have a couple dollars more. each episode does (most part) start out slow and ramp up. not a good way to hold viewer interest.

      • atcDave says:

        I also understand it is common among reality show viewers (DWTS and Bachelor both) to switch to the reality show late just watch results. Even if they watch the end of Chuck the next night it no longer counts in our same day numbers.

        Obviously that is still a problem. The trick is make it so more viewers want to watch Chuck first and their other show second. But I believe a lot of this is a more negative reflection on said viewers than it ever is on the show.

      • ArmySFC says:

        dave i agree. im not sure what your last sentence means though. i believe that if a viewer tunes into a show they really like, they will not tune out half way. however a viewer that does not like a show as much will tune it out anytime to watch something they like more. i dont know if thats a reflection on the show itself or the viewer. the show should hold all the viewers that tune in, if a show cant do that maybe its not good enough to do it. i’m not talking about chuck just shows in general.

      • Faith says:

        You’re making a lot of suppositions on essentially correlating factors, none of which implies causation. For starters the numbers are incomplete. They only list (per the chart I posted) the half hour numbers sparingly so whose to say there are improvements on those they didn’t list or perhaps there are other certain other factors that caused for such number on an individual basis.

        The quality of the show doesn’t always dictate ratings. It may, or may not. But for the record the most hailed episode this season by us fans was Phase Three, which subsequently got the lowest ratings before these last couple of weeks. Is that a quality of the show and ratings congruence? No, because even critics overwhelmingly praised that episode and yet the nielsen numbers didn’t indicate that.

      • ArmySFC says:

        faith, i agree on the quality of the show not being reflected in the ratings. quality shows get canned all the time for lack of viewership. i agree about phase 3 ( i personally feel its one of the worst so far this year) being loved by the fans. i made this point in another post, the ratings for the episode were set up by how viewers felt about the previous episode. prior to phase 3 being aired the viewers made a conscious effort to not tune in. NOBODY knew how good or bad the episode would be prior to it being aired. EVERYBODY that watched FOD knew how good or bad it was. FOD was panned as a bad episode by most people that reviewed it. maybe it was bad enough that some viewers passed on the next episode because of it?

        i know ratings are simply the number of people that tune in to view a show and don’t reflect the quality of said show. many shows i don’t like have great ratings, some shows i like have lousy ratings.

        i see a few simple reasons the ratings were bad for phase 3. either so many viewers didn’t like FOD and tuned out, or they simply did something else. no matter how good phase 3 was people decided prior to its airing not to tune in.

      • atcDave says:

        Army my previous comment was just a slam on the sad state of affairs that reality shows are so popular. I completely don’t get it.

      • atcDave says:

        I’ll further add that the popularity of reality tv is an excellent proof of the point that quality does not equal ratings. But Chuck has had a multitude of issues that have led it to the state it’s in. The fact that the tone of the show changed drastically in S3 and again in S4 is among them. A significant number of viewers who liked the first two seasons didn’t like the change of tone for the third and left. Well, big surprise, many of those who actually did like S3 have been less thrilled with this season. I’m not even specifically slamming S3 when I say this, it’s just that the show has changed it’s mood three times in two years. For a show that doesn’t even get much promotion, and the promotion it does get often does not accurately reflect the current tone of the show, that is a big problem.

      • armysfc says:

        dave, i don’t get reality tv either. the best thing i can come up with is you dont need to think to enjoy it. just plop down and on with the show. for me its the true definition of mindless tv. you dont need to follow plots, worry about character development. pli oli nothing.

      • Tamara Burks says:

        The only reality tv I ever really got into (besides one show called he’s a lady) is things like Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs plus things on tru tv or the like that have to do with real cases.

      • McNugget says:

        @Army

        Aside from our feelings about Phase 3 , I can’t disagree with you more about the reason for the ratings for it .

        vs Fear of Death granted wasn’t an awesome episode . But it aired on N0v 15th , after being preempted the week before for that Matt Lauer interview with Pres Bush . Historically Chuck has always taken a hit when it’s aired after a preemption . If you look at the ratings for said episode it was a 1.8 after the 2.0 that First Fight had gotten 2 weeks prior . Before that eps 2-6 were all 1.9 then Timothy D showed up ( ep 7 ) and we got a bump to 2.0 . Then the 1 week hiatus , FOD aired ( Nov 15 ) rating 1.8 . The following week ( Nov 22 ) was when Phase 3 aired against the finale of DWTS which if I’m not mistaken was up significantly from the previous week . That effect most likely caused the 1.7 −4.3 M viewers . When Chuck aired vs the leftovers a week later ( Nov 29 ) when it was up against Skating with the Stars Chuck rebounded with a 2.0 − 6M viewers .

      • armysfc says:

        Nugget, i stand by my theory. there is no way to ever know why folks left or did not tune in. your comments do help my case. you said DWTS had an effect on chucks ratings. viewers will tune out a show they like or don’t like for something they want to see more or like more. my previous posts said that as well. based on what you said enough chuck fans tuned out that night to cause a .2 drop in the ratings. now to the missed week causing a viewer drop. the same can be said. fans that like the show a lot will be concerned enough to know when the show airs and tune back in. the fan that is not really that dedicated to a show wont care if they miss an episode or two.

        there are lots of reasons why viewership drops in a show, any show not just chuck. i contend that most drops occur because fans don’t like it as much as they once did and find something else to watch. use the event as an example. it pulled a 3.7 on the first night and quickly tanked. why? people viewed the first episode and decided they didn’t like it for one reason or another and tuned out. you can’t blame it on lack of promotion either.

  15. dnm says:

    What about the dreaded renewal call of (albeit more episodes) “mid season” replacement. Would the fandom rather that than a full on cancellation?

    • atcDave says:

      Of course I’m sure most of us would prefer a fall season; but mid-season would be better than nothing. I know I don’t speak for everyone, but I’d be surprised if many viewers felt differently.

    • ArmySFC says:

      dnm, i think if they get a partial renewal it will air starting in september. chuck has historically done better the the beginning of the season than the end. if chuck would have ended after 13 episodes i feel we would seen it renewed already.

  16. Rick Holy says:

    Bottom line is the bottom line. If there’s still a way for WB and NBC to make money on squeezing out a fifth season from this Orange (Orange), then we’ll get it.

    I don’t know if this is even possible for a show in it’s fifth season, but if you do some kind of “re-vamp” of the show, put it on another “theme” night, then you’ve got a chance to do something with it. Truthfully, I think S3 was an attempt, albeit not a very good one, at some level of a re-vamp. It was promo’ed alot as “No More Mr. Nice Spy.” And of course, there was the new version of the Intersect.

    I don’t know how you could “revamp” the show at this point, but there’s always a possibility.

    Honestly, if it ends this season, it ends. It will have been a good run. If we somehow do get a fifth season, I just couldn’t see a sixth in the cards. They’re already struggling enough with where to take the show this season. I think if they DID actually renew it in a revamped fashion, COMPLETELY SELF-CONTAINED EPISODES would be the way you’d have to try to do it.

    Some may not like that approach, but let’s face it, long story arcs – and even short ones – AREN’T working – they’re just not. I seem to remember on the back of my season 1 DVDs that some critic described the show as a mix between “Get Smart” and “24.” I never watched “24,” so I can’t say anything about it – but I think it’s time to focus primarily on the comedy – with maybe a pinch of drama, but not as much as we’ve had in past seasons – and see how it flies.

    If the show is brought back next season continuing the story line “as it is,” I just think it will continue to bleed off viewers and die. Something has to go BAM, and smack people in the face for them to tune into it again. The current story line is dead/dying. Not that this has been a bad season. Creatively it’s been o.k. BUT – and this is coming from someone who has watched each episode numerous times – I reported that I fell asleep during “vs. the Muurder.” I did. And truth be told I actually haven’t even gotten online to watch the episode in it’s entirety, because I don’t feel like I’d be missing much. And that’s coming from a die-hard/addict.

    Now, I DO think the forthcoming (non-repeat) episodes will get me back on board.

    At this point I still think it’s a toss-up concerning a fifth season. But if we DO get the axe, I won’t be upset – not like I would have been after Season 2. There have been some “golden moments” this season – and it’s been a season that I liked – but it’s not “grabbed me” like the show has in the past. And it’s obviously not grabbing and holding onto numerous viewers either. They’ve tuned out. They’re done. And because of that, the show may be, too.

    But there’s always hope. Hope for a fifth season, and not just “any” fifth season, but a damn good one. It’s possible. Heck, ANYTHING’s possible!

    • atcDave says:

      I agree with a lot of this Rick. I understand very serialized shows often loose viewers steadily over the course of their run. So Chuck’s performance is typical. But if it’s going to survive it would have to be more episodic. I do think it could be re-imaged by promoting the spy couple angle. They’ve done that some; but with a wedding coming, “Mr and Mrs Bartowski” is clearly something different they could push.

      You really are missing the best part by not getting back to the ending of the episode. And I would add, this episode definitely gets better on repeat. It will never be in my top 10, but it was a lot of fun.

  17. Big Kev says:

    Ernie,
    Thanks for this post. I know nothing about how US Network TV works, but everything that you say makes perfect sense to me. if 75% of the 22 pilots ordered fail (the average) then they’re filling 4 hours of TV, when they have 6 to fill (I think) – so I’d say a guess at better than even odds is certainly a good guess. Add that Zac seems to be part of Comcast’s future, possible syndication and all the other things, and those odds strengthen slightly from where I’m standing.
    There’s one other thing, and it’s this. Ratings at 1.5 are just about exactly where NBC should be expecting them to be, based on past history. When last year’s renewal decision was made, there was 3 years of market data on Chuck – and it’s amazingly consistent. It’s not the news we would like – but it’s consistent.
    The show loses 25% or so of its audience, every season, pretty much regardless of what fans and critics think of the quality of the show. Slightly more over S3. We take a hit every year over DST. So you would think NBC would have had a best case scenario business model that we came back with a 2.4, and declined over the season to 1.8, or a worst case that we came back with a 1.9, and declined to a 1.3. And they would (or should) have factored in a decline over DST. Where we are is maybe slightly at the lower end of that, but there’s nothing about our ratings, at this point, that should be shocking anyone at NBC. They’re on the curve.
    The question of course then becomes – where do you pitch your business models for next Season? Without promotion, probably coming back with another 2.1 is the best case, with anything down to about 1.7 being the worst. If the business models still say the show van make money at those levels, compared to the other alternatives they have, then we get a fifth season. It doesn’t look like Comcast is going to clean house completely, so once again, I think you’re talking somewhere in the realms of just over 50% chance of renewal.

    At this point, I’m very much more worried about whether the writers have any more compelling stories to tell, than about whether we get another season. That worry wasn’t helped by Muuurder, which, frankly, I thought was a turkey, the last 10 minutes aside. The creative direction is obviously going to be the subject of your next post, so I’ll leave that discussion here for now. But I would be fairly surprised at this point if the show doesn’t get at least a mid season replacement order.

    • armysfc says:

      Kev, i think every network takes those things into consideration. most shows take a hit with DST each year. chuck does well i the fall/winter time frame. as for the creative aspect i think there is a lot they can still do with the show but they have to use the age old adage KISS or keep it simple stupid. they need to stop intertwining every episode with call backs and parallels. how many of those were pointed out in this episode alone? the whole mama b/ sarah, chuck/orion. they may have been been nice to know and see but it takes a lot away from what can be used to enhance an episode. i hear it all the time, “they crammed a lot in that episode” well here’s an idea, spread it out over 2 episodes or leave some things out and devote more time to the A plot.

    • uplink2 says:

      Kev, we have been discussing this elsewhere and I have a few ideas creatively where to go. Also Chuck does better in the fall and I kind of agree with DR that if they are going to bring it back it will be for the fall and not the spring. But I do see a possible change in the day it airs. Maybe fridays or even wednesdays. Something to change the status quo.

      On the creative front I see some real possibilities. First, expand the Ellie role even more. Not as an active spy certainly but as a consultant and researcher. Add a certain level of danger and unknown. New “nanny” lets say is actually a rogue spy hired by Jill and kidnaps Clara. Sarah’s family is actually organized crime and Jack Burton took her to protect her from them. Sarah get’s gravely injured and loses baby she didn’t know she was expecting. Have Alex killed. Bring in a new agent. A real trainee for Chuck to be handler. Transfer Beckman and bring in a new boss that tries to transfer Sarah and they go on the run. Much more can be gotten certainly but I agree the element of surprise and danger needs to return. Just not to their love for each other, but endanger the relationship.

  18. jacop says:

    If anyone do have any questions concerning ratings I suggest listening to this podcast, very informative.

    http://chuckgasmic.blogspot.com/2011/03/chuck-you-tuesday-episode-61-adults.html

  19. Robert H says:

    I don’t know much about the technical side of this discussion and I don’t pretend to.
    I’m inclined to agree with Fr Rick, Uplink2, atcdave, and Kev so Ill just venture an opinion w/o claiming any expertise here with the numbers.

    Renewal is a tossup either way. The Comcast people will have a say in this obviously.
    If the show is still making money, if something can be worked out on syndication with it being so close, if most of the sponsors remain on board and if the ratings don’t tank any further or get a slight uptick, then maybe just maybe the show may squeeze by for a 5th season but that will definitely be it. Changing the time slot may help if it gets renewed. On the other hand it may be decided enough is enough and it’s time to try something different. Just too early to say one way or another.

    If the show is renewed for one more year, I agree with Uplink2 the format and the way
    the characters are presented has to change radically depending on what’s left in the budget. Uplink2 threw out some interesting ideas. Hope to see more of them and am looking forward to the next post on this.

  20. Robert H says:

    P.S. one very telling point made by atcdave about viewer fall off for Season 4 I’ve never considered which may well be correct. Just as there was massive defection by people who disliked Season 3 there may have have occurred a significant defection by viewers
    who liked Season 3 but don’t like Season 4. If true looks like the show got hit hard on boths ends which makes one wonder what will be left of the viewer base if the show gets renewed for one more year assuming that really happens.

    One more thing at the bottom of this page Chuck news around the web there is an article The Future of NBC’s Chuck by Time Out Chicago. Apparently according to the
    article there will be no series finale in the final episode which is entitled Chuck vs The
    Cliffhanger but rather a season finale. If true this would indicate two things. One the producers are gambling on getting renewed and two any loose ends will NOT be tied
    up if the show is cancelled. If this is accurate sounds like a Battlestar Galactica ending
    where the producers do what they want to and to hell with the viewers or whatever is left of them at the end of the last five episodes. Looks like from a production point of view they’re staking everything on one last throw of the dice. Should be interesting to see what happens or doesn’t one way or the other.

  21. Kevin says:

    I sure hope you right that the Bear is too full to chomp on another show. I would love to see a Chuck season 5. Why do the people leave in the second hour and not see how the show ends? Thats what I don’t get why don’t the people stay for the full hour. I love the show Chuck and the characters on the show. They do great performances and want to see the show come back. I agree the ratings are not that bad but still we need more people watching Chuck and get the ratings back up to 1.9 instead of a 1.5. The bear might be to full now but we hope Chuck can stay off the bears watch and get people to watch more Chuck. I do have a review of Chuck as of the Ratings on Chuck on my website, thats how much I want to save the show. I would like to pass this on.

    • armysfc says:

      trying to get an answer to that is the same as trying to figure out why chuck lost 25% of it’s viewers this year. based on a 2.0 first 2 episodes and a 1.5 last episode.

  22. Faith says:

    Very worthy of a read/participation.

    1. Save our shows! TV series fight for survival
    NBC. The newest (and revamped) Law & Order returns April 11, and the network will wait to see how it fares before making a renewal decision. Perennial bubble show Chuck cheated death throughout its four seasons, but producer Warner Bros. has a financial incentive to compromise on costs for at least a partial-season pickup. The show will have aired 74 episodes by May, nearing the total needed to sell the show in syndication, TV’s profit generator.

    2. Take the USA Today survey here: http://t.co/abDHuIl
    Let them know we want Chuck back!

    • Anonymous says:

      Only one slight mistake in that article. Chuck will have aired 78 episodes by the end of May. Exactly one full season from the 100 episode mark.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Sorry, anonymous was me from my iPad. I didn’t realize I wasn’t logged in.

  23. Pingback: Don’t Freak Out! | Chuck This

  24. Mike says:

    If you’re a fan of chuck check out http://dontendchuck.com.

    • Aerox says:

      Having an additional pickup now would be taking a dead horse, reviving it through the use of some crazy ass scheme, just so you could beat it to death AGAIN. Just let the show die in dignity, please. It’s already stretching REALLY thin. Another 9 episodes and they might as well put bullets in the main 3 their heads.

      • atcDave says:

        I cautiously disagree. Unless they’re planning on killing the characters off I see no reason why more story can’t be told. Even if Chuck and Sarah are happily retired with a hoard of little ones a scenario can always be built that would draw them back into the action. The blend of action, comedy, and warmth that is Chuck is pretty much unique on television, I’d always be happy to see more of it.

        BUT, production has ended, the sets broken up, the cast moved on. Reality is, the show is over for the time being. I will always hope a movie, mini-series, or revived series appears at a later date. But that has to be considered a long shot. In all probability no new Chuck will ever be made. I will always wish there had been more, but we do need to accept that will probably never happen. Enjoy what we got!

      • Aerox says:

        Oh, that’s fine if you disagree :P I posted this knowing full well that these were shark infested waters. Having said that, if you were to let them leave the business only to be roped back in at a later time, that’d be Godfather 3-esque stuff right there and I love this show too much to see it go to such measures. The story (imo) is told. The cast has come full circle, the growth has been made, the relationships have been established, the evil has been (or will be) vanquished. That’s more than enough for me. I’ve been extremely grateful for the five seasons we had–and are still having–but I think Fedak said it himself in Season 4. They told the story they had wanted to tell and all that was left for a possible season 5 was a satisfying ending and that would be that.

        Does that mean I would be opposed to a film? Nope. Hell, if they made it, I would probably be the first in line to get tickets. Probably three times (still doesn’t beat my record for the Dark Knight, but it gets close!). But as for the TV series part of it all? Done and delivered in my books, which is why if they get another season or even a back 9 order, it’ll feel fake and wrong to me.

      • atcDave says:

        I’ve never been who really gives a rip about journeys or grand concepts. To me it just comes down to a fun show with likeable characters. I would always be happy to see these characters return with this same blend of action and comedy that works so well for me. All the rest can come later. Obviously a story that makes sense and is exciting helps, but I’d be perfectly happy with something far more episodic. Make it Chuck II; the Bartowski’s have moved to Sacremento to raise their five kiids, while Chuck manages the nine Buy More stores they now own and Sarah moonlights as a private detective when she can find a baby sitter…

        Sounds like a good set-up to me. Potential for action, adventure, lot’s of comedy, and NO angst. Original series characters apart from the Bartowskis can join the cast whenever the actors are available and affordable for a basic cable series.

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