The bloodbath has begun. Every year, the TV networks unveil ambitious programming slates, fully aware that the majority of their new series won't last a full season — or even a full month. NBC handed out 2011's first pink slip Tuesday to the critical and ratings disappointment The Playboy Club, a Mad Men-like take on the early days of Hugh Hefner's gentleman's club. Now, critics are laying bets on which TV show will get snuffed next. Five notably vulnerable series:
1. Free Agents
While NBC picked up full seasons of Up All Night and Whitney, says Daniel S. Levine at The Celebrity Cafe, its only other new comedy series, Free Agents, about co-workers who are sleeping together, did not get the same good news — predictably enough, give the show's "anemic numbers." NBC may be betting that enough viewers will eventually discover the series. Forget it, says Josef Adalian at New York: "There's virtually no shot the series will turn around enough to warrant" a pick up.
2. Charlie's Angels
Name recognition: Check. Extravagant promotional push: Check. Yet Charlie's Angels debuted to only 8.74 million viewers and a critical thrashing. Says Entertainment Weekly: "We’re not sure what’s more embarrassing — this show or those ratings." Worse, viewership plummeted almost 30 percent for its second episode, making Angels a likely bet to vanish "before Thanksgiving."
3. How to Be a Gentleman
How to Be a Gentleman, a sitcom in which Entourage's Kevin Dillon plays a trainer tasked with making a magazine writer more macho, was expected to perform strongly, given its plum time slot after the wildly popular The Big Bang Theory. Yet the Gentleman premiere's ratings fell well below those of top-rated new shows like New Girl, and "the now-canceled $#*! My Dad Says that lived ever-so-briefly in that timeslot last season," says Chris Harnick at Aol. Expect the "cancellation axe" to "start swinging very soon."
"No one was expecting breakout ratings from The CW's reality series," in which celebrities confront the everyday people who constantly trash them, says Rick Porter at Zap2it. But H8R averaged just 1.2 million viewers through its first two episodes, abysmal "even by CW standards." Considering the critical disgust for the series, says Adalian, it makes no sense to keep the low-rated show on the air when its time slot could be used to "let viewers sample [the network's] other new shows."
5. Hart of Dixie
Speaking of The CW, two of the network's freshman dramas, Hart of Dixie and Ringer, "haven't impressed with their ratings" either, says Adalian. Dixie, in which Rachel Bilson plays a New York cardiologist who moves to small town Alabama, and Ringer, in which Sarah Michelle Gellar plays twins harboring dark secrets, have been steadily declining in the ratings, with the latest Ringer hitting a low of 1.49 million viewers. Still, it's highly unlikely that the network will "slam the door on La Gellar, no matter how unremarkable her ratings are," says Entertainment Weekly. Sayonara, Hart of Dixie.