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Whose bubble will pop? Ratings-challenged shows waiting for ax to drop on their run

By Chuck Barney, Contra Costa Times –

Is it any wonder so many TV fans have a fear of commitment? You form a strong bond with a particular show, developing what you believe to be a pretty incredible relationship and then … poof, it goes AWOL on you.

And this is the time of year when anxiety really sets in for some viewers. Networks are in the thick of their development season, shooting new drama and comedy pilots, and something has to give. To make room for the fresh inventory, certain ratings-challenged shows will get the boot.

That means these shows, for now, find themselves precariously perched on the “bubble” — waiting to see if they’ll live or die.

Of course, not all of them are worth fretting over. Take, for example, NBC’s dreadful “Are You There Chelsea?” I pray that when fall arrives, she isn’t. As for Fox’s “I Hate My Teenage Daughter,” well, the word hate just isn’t strong enough.

But there are always at least a handful of good shows that don’t deserve to live in protracted fear of cancellation. The absence of these shows would leave a gigantic crater in our hearts and make prime time a much less desirable place.

With that in mind, here’s a list of bubble shows that I don’t want to see go “pop”:

“Parenthood” (NBC): Standout family dramas are few and far between, and this is one of the best we’ve seen in years. Like the late, great “Friday Night Lights,” its writers and actors have an uncanny ability to touch nerves and pinpoint the emotional truths in everyday interactions. They know how to keep it real. The recent season-ender, pegged to Crosby and Jasmine’s wedding, could easily work as a series finale, but I’d really love to see much more of the Bravermans when fall rolls back around.

“Cougar Town” (ABC): We let out a big cheer when the wine-guzzling cul-de-sac crew recently returned from an excruciatingly long hiatus. But that joy was somewhat offset by the show’s lackluster ratings. It’s hard to figure out why more people aren’t drawn to this hilarious Courteney Cox comedy, which features one of the best ensembles in prime time and has so many witty things to say about adult relationships. I’m convinced it’s a goner after this season, but if it somehow survives, I’ll happily drink to that.

“Smash” (NBC): After a solid start, this backstage drama has earned less-than-smashing Nielsen numbers. That’s not a complete surprise: A weekly series tied to the Great White Way was going to be a tough sell even if it had Steven Spielberg’s name attached to it. But considering the show’s strong writing, excellent performances and energetic song-and-dance numbers, it should be holding on to a much larger chunk of its lead-in, “The Voice.” Here’s hoping NBC has some patience and that many more viewers give their regards to Broadway.

“Alcatraz” (Fox): OK, so maybe this mystery-thriller from J.J. Abrams didn’t quite capture the same island magic as “Lost.” And maybe it leans a little too much toward crime procedural formula for my taste. But I believe there’s some spooky intrigue still to be wrung from this rookie series. Besides, if it was axed, Fox would rob us of the fun we have detecting the show’s flaws and inconsistencies connected to Bay Area geography. (See, J.J., we told you it was a mistake to film in Vancouver.) The Season 1 finale is set for March 26, after which we’ll cross our fingers.

“The Good Wife” (CBS): Network television’s smartest adult drama continues to wow us with its sophisticated courtroom stories and sexual entanglements. I’m not overly worried about this show disappearing. It’s a “status” series that earns CBS plenty of awards and critical acclaim, so they’d be crazy to dump it. But I wouldn’t have to worry at all if more people would simply plug it into their DVRs.

“Nikita” (The CW): I feel sorry for this underappreciated kick-butt action show. No series provides more thrills per minute and works harder to provide its fans with constant surprises than this one. From Season 1 to 2, it has reinvented itself, while mixing in more romance with all the roundhouse kicks. It’s a full-throttle escapist pleasure. Unfortunately, it’s also stranded on Friday nights and with a network where it doesn’t really fit in.

“Community” (NBC): When NBC left this college comedy off its midseason schedule, the show’s small but fiercely loyal band of fans nearly staged a riot. And who can blame them? The world should not be deprived of Troy and Abed, or the rest of the kooky gang and all their pop-culture references and outlandish parodies. Simply put, they make us laugh like donkeys. “Community” finally returns this week and we can only hope that more and more viewers continue to rally around the show.

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