It's pilot season in Hollywood, a time when producers of middling-rated TV series glance over their shoulders for news about prospective TV shows that could usurp their spot on broadcast networks' fall schedules.
In February and March, broadcast-network executives commission as many as two-dozen pilot episodes of potential new TV series. In May, execs whittle that number down -- sometimes by more than half -- and reward the pilots they like best with a series order. In the process, low-rated TV shows already on the air often get sacrificed to make way for these new programs.
While producers of existing shows attempt to read between the lines of networks' machinations, fans of these shows have little opportunity for input. Sure, you can write a letter, but the odds are it will be ignored.
Another way to make your voice heard: Vote in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's annual "Keep or Cancel?" poll, which allows viewers to register their compliments and complaints about prime-time television. The voting booth is now open at post-gazette.com/tv.
The 2011-12 TV season has had few breakout hits, especially among scripted shows. NBC's The Voice is a reality hit, but with only a few scripted exceptions -- Fox's New Girl, ABC's Suburgatory, CBS's 2 Broke Girls -- success stories have been few. This means there are a lot of shows that are "on the bubble," in TV parlance. Viewer support in a poll might not turn the tide, but at least you will feel better having cast a ballot for a favorite.
One vote per computer will be accepted. Series receiving an inordinate, unbelievable number of votes will be disqualified. Votes will be tallied through April 22, and shortly thereafter the results will be published in a column. We will send the results to each broadcast network president before the week of May 13, when the networks announce their new fall schedules.
If you want to beseech a TV network on behalf of a specific series, we've included network addresses, which are always available online at post-gazette.com/tv under "TV Links."
Here's where some of the most vulnerable series stand as of early March:
Address: 2300 Riverside Drive, Burbank, CA 91521
Once Upon a Time and Revenge are locks to return, but Pan Am and The River won't be back. If ratings don't improve, Cougar Town might be a goner too.
Body of Proof is on the bubble and ABC won't be able to gauge the fate of some shows -- Don't Trust the ... in Apt. 23, and Scandal -- until they debut next month.
Address: 4024 Radford Ave., Studio City, CA 91604
What a problem to have: CBS is so successful it has few openings on its fall schedule. That means there's a higher bar for existing shows to clear if they want to get renewed.
The Good Wife will be back, but it will be a surprise if all three CSI shows return. The expectation is that at least one will be canceled, most likely CSI: NY or CSI: Miami. A Gifted Man also is on the chopping block.
Should CBS attempt to add a new comedy block -- maybe 9 p.m. Thursday? -- Rob and Rules of Engagement stand a better chance of renewal.
Box 900, Beverly Hills, CA 90213
We already know House will end in May and Fringe might be on the fringe of cancellation if producing studio Warner Bros. doesn't accede to Fox's publicly intimated request for a reduced license fee. Low ratings for Raising Hope might get it canceled well before baby Hope ages out of diapers.
Terra Nova has been declared extinct. Question marks hover over midseason dramas Alcatraz and Touch.
Address: 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608
So many shows are low-rated on NBC that it's hard to know where to start. The cancellation of Community would cause the biggest outcry, but from a relatively small group of viewers based on the show's low ratings (Community returns at 8 p.m. Thursday). More likely candidates for cancellation are Up All Night, Whitney, Chelsea, and Harry's Law. The future of Parenthood might also be in doubt.
Grimm could go either way, but seems more likely to return. NBC executives will watch the ratings for Smash closely in the coming weeks to see if it lives up to its title. The Firm, relocated to Saturday, already is a goner.
Address: 3300 W. Olive Ave., 3rd Floor, Burbank, CA 91505
Another network without much success. The Secret Circle seems like it stands a better chance for survival than fellow freshmen dramas Ringer and Hart of Dixie.
The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rob Owen is a staff writer for the Post-Gazette. Follow him on Twitter: @RobOwenTV.