Now that the fall season is winding down, and countless sentimental holiday specials are about to assault your tear ducts, you may be wondering about how TV series are doing — especially those whose futures are uncertain. While hits such as “NCIS,” “The Voice,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” and “The Big Bang Theory” are obviously safe, the futures of “Nashville” and “Revolution” are less secure. Here’s a midterm performance evaluation, both in terms of quality and ratings quantity.
Last year, “Happy Endings” was one of the most promising network sitcoms. The ensemble was fast and tight and witty and lovable, especially Adam Pally and Eliza Coupe. This season, their tics have slid over the line from cute to annoying, and the writing has fallen from cleverly absurdist to just absurd. The ratings have been weak — though not as weak as its doomed slot-mate, “Don’t Trust the B---- in Apt. 23,” and its survival is definitely in question.
Talking fast: A
Talking funny: C
2 BROKE GIRLS
One of the more popular kids in class, with ratings good enough to anchor CBS’s Monday night comedy block, “2 Broke Girls” continues to be a porny nightmare. Wow. I was hoping that the writers would relax in season 2 and give up the desperate one-liners for some character comedy. Nope. All of the jokes are flat, and every single one of them has a lewd wink-wink to it. If the other “students” stopped paying so much attention to these two comedically broken “pupils,” perhaps they would be sent to the great principal’s office in the sky.
So much potential squandered. Dennis Quaid, with his noble scowl, and Michael Chiklis, with his ability to menace, should be enough to fuel this early 1960s period piece. But the flaccid and simplistic writing gets in their way, as the cartoonish good guys and bad guys go through their predictable motions without building any tension. Ratings-wise, the drama is a mixed bag, with about 10 million weekly viewers. CBS has already given the show a full-season order, but the network’s roster of successful dramas is crowded, which may jeopardize the long-term survival of “Vegas.”
Quaid’s righteous scowl: B+
Strip suspense: C-
This smart soap opera has built beautifully on the promise of the pilot, playing out like a bittersweet country song about love and loyalty. Connie Britton is aces, Hayden Panettiere is showing range, and the music — produced by T Bone Burnett — is consistently good and narratively fitting. The ratings aren’t robust overall, with only around 6 million live viewers, but they show strength in the 18-49 category, which is a valuable asset. That’s also why ABC has given the series a full-season order.
Britton appeal: A
Viewer interest: B-
BEN AND KATE
Little “Ben and Kate” has been a very good student. The cast is a warm ensemble, even if Dakota Johnson rips off Zooey Deschanel and Nat Faxon always seems to have had too much caffeine. Lucy Punch is hysterical as Johnson’s bossy sidekick, little Maggie Elizabeth Jones is a spark plug, and Echo Kellum is definitely a comic on the verge of breaking through. But the concept — big brother, little sister — may be too quiet for audiences. The ratings are awful, and, despite a full-season pickup, the show will probably be canceled.
Slutty British sidekick: A
Future promise: D
THE NEW NORMAL
This Ryan Murphy sitcom has gotten irritating very quickly. The messaging about family is forced, and the tone veers awkwardly from biting to sentimental. Ellen Barkin is too severe as the easy-target bigot in need of schooling in modern life. But 4 million weekly viewers are enough for NBC to have already given the show a full-season order. So it may be around long enough for another surrogate baby or two.
Volume of Barkin’s barkin’: A
Bravo-styled gayness: A
TV’s latest superhero effort is up there with “Supernatural” and “Vampire Diaries” as the cream of CW’s ratings crop. And it’s not bad, despite the overdone atmospherics, some silly bad-guy plotlines, and an oddly campy performance by Susanna Thompson. “Arrow” never transcends the superhero-as-vigilante genre, with its predictable mythology mystery. But it’s a solid show with a solid lead in Stephen Amell.
All-round OKness: B+
THE GOOD WIFE
The best drama on network TV took a risk this season, by introducing Kalinda’s secret husband and ending her character’s long-cultivated mysteriousness. And it was a flop, as Kalinda and Nick (a thuggish Marc Warren) played with knives and eggs and engaged in creepy public sexual contact. The writers quickly ruined the enigmatic Kalinda by turning her into an abused and abusive wife. The rest of the show has been excellent, with smart cases of the week, the hair-sprayed invulnerabilities of Julianna Margulies and Christine Baranski, and an endless series of great guest stars. The ratings remain ordinary, but it is CBS’s only prestige drama, which helps its future prospects enormously.
Kalinda history: F-
Current events: B+
THE MINDY PROJECT
Mindy Kaling’s sitcom was given a full-season order by Fox, despite its lousy ratings and its creative unevenness. Now Kaling has time to futz with the ensemble, losing the over-the-top New Jersey assistant and replacing her with a tomboyish best friend. Let’s see if Kaling can realize the show’s potential, which revolves around her no-holds-barred approach to comedy. I hope so.
The ensemble: C-
Dick Wolf’s youngest child is earnest and predictable. This show delivers what it promised in the pilot, and maybe then some: handsome guys, boilerplate action scenes, lots of heroism, bland romantic intrigue, and Lady Gaga’s dreamy beau, Taylor Kinney, giving lots of heavy looks. The ratings are meh — only about 6 million are watching — but by NBC’s standards for scripted shows, that’s pretty good. And NBC needs to cultivate new procedural oomph as the last of the old class, “Law and Order: SVU,” hits its final stretch.
When students graduate, high school shows face all kinds of creative problems. But “Glee” has survived the shifts intact — with Rachel and Kurt in New York, Finn still at home, Kurt and Blaine broken up — if not with the grace of the late “Friday Night Lights.” Otherwise, the musical show remains excessive and obvious, with overproduced musical numbers, cartoony characters, and in-your-face thematics. The ratings have dropped from the “Glee” heyday, but they remain strong among women and teens, and “Glee” is going to stay around.
Post-graduation reboot: B
Coverage of Cory Monteith’s wrinkles: C-
Despite a fascinating premise about a permanent global blackout, J.J. Abrams’s “Revolution” has been a slog, with uninteresting characters and a general sense of aimlessness. NBC ordered a full season of “Revolution” after three episodes, but the ratings have been iffy since then. The drama has dropped steadily, not including a bump for the fall finale, and now it’s on a long winter hiatus that’s bound to alienate more viewers. Given the long-term fates of so many other serialized sci-fi shows, including “The Event,” “Alcatraz,” “FlashForward,” and “Terra Nova,” I’m not optimistic about the staying power of “Revolution.”
Serial addictiveness: C-
There is something exhausting and decidedly unfun about Jonny Lee Miller’s tense performance as a contemporary Sherlock Holmes in New York. And Lucy Liu is wan and shallow as Watson. But still the show is an easy diversion, with its extremely familiar crimes of the week, and the ratings have been good enough to earn it a full-season order and the highly desirable post-Super Bowl slot on Feb. 3. CBS is grooming the show to be a hit.
Duplicating a PBS hit: D
Creating another CBS
“666 Park Avenue”
“Emily Owens, M.D.”
“Made in Jersey”
“The Office”Matthew Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter