Chuck vs. the ratings: Could this be the series' last season?

Contributed by
Dec 14, 2012

Oh, Chuck. You're breaking my heart. This week's ratings of the NBC show tied its series low the week before, and things are looking bad. Could this season be the end of the resilient little spy-fi series?

If NBC does finally stick a fork in Chuck, the good news is that at least Chuck Bartownski and his love, Sarah, will probably make it to the altar for the season finale on May 16. The bad news ... Chuck would be ending, and with an episode called "Chuck Versus the Cliffhanger"—and after we ate all those Subway sandwiches and wrote all those letters and threatened that we'd never watch NBC again if they canceled the series.

Alas, this year things have only been going downhill. The series opened up last September with 6.06 million viewers, with a 2.1/6 of the important 18-49 viewers, according to How'd it do last Monday? 4.219 million viewers, with 1.3/4 for the 18-49 adults.

But what about the DVR numbers? It's true that Chuck adds about a million viewers to its total and a few points to its 18-49 ratings. And that all sounds great. But NBC makes its money on advertising, and a good chunk of people who record Chuck to watch it later skip through the advertisements.

While the networks are willing to use the numbers to pad their ratings, few shows are actually benefiting from the DVR numbers at this point in time. This may change, but not soon enough for Chuck.

But isn't Chuck doing better than The Event? Yes. The Event looks even less likely to make it to another season than Chuck. The conspiracy series has suffered falling ratings since it premiered, and a break for The Cape did the series no favors. Monday's outing could only manage 3.850 million viewers, with a 1.1/3 in adults 18-49. That, said The Event did top the DVR rankings by gaining a 50 percent increase in its numbers recently. But again, those numbers haven't translated into money in any real way up to this point.

As for The Cape, it also fell like a stone in the ratings after its premiere and has already been canceled.

Even though Chuck isn't doing as terribly as other shows, how long can NBC justify these kind of numbers on Monday nights? Especially when Chuck's ratings continue to fall.

But what about the strong competition Chuck has to face? Yep, having 20 million people watch Dancing With the Stars has sucked ratings away from more popular shows than Chuck. Unfortunately, Chuck was hitting series lows BEFORE Dancing premiered its new season. So while NBC is going to expect a drop when the megahit is on opposite Chuck, they don't want to see ratings this low when it's not facing the Dancing monster.

However, there is some possible good news that might give Chuck fans some hope.

NBC had a disastrous season this year when it comes to their new shows. Chuck's survived this long because it's been on NBC, and they are struggling. In an article by's Nellie Andreeva on the early buzz the television pilots are getting, she makes a case that Chuck might get a fifth season based on the fact that NBC is only likely to renew a couple of its new shows, and it has a lot of hours to fill. So NBC needs to pick up a bunch of new pilots, and perhaps hang on to Chuck to fill the schedule or to use as a midseason replacement.

A fifth season means profitable syndication for Chuck. This is actually the strongest reason we might see another season of Chuck. Warner Bros. would love to see the series get that fifth season, and it might just be willing to slash its price (yet again) to make a deal with NBC. In this case, we'd likely see Chuck: The Final Season with a shortened order of 10 or 13 episodes. And it's entirely possible the series could be moved to a different day.

If canceled by NBC, Chuck could move to another network. Chuck's numbers and fan following might be appealing, especially to a cable network, and Warner Bros. would be motivated in order to get at least a fifth season for syndication. While it's never easy jumping from one network to another, we're seeing it more and more these days.

So, while it's possible Chuck could manage a fifth season, its biggest stumbling block is that its ratings are falling. Shows with falling ratings seldom get picked up for additional seasons.

With three episodes to go, Chuck desperately needs to stabilize and even build on its ratings. That means people need to watch it live, and fans need to start promoting the show as if the show's life depended on it. Because it does.

Do you think Chuck should get a fifth season? Or have you had it with Chuck and think it's about time NBC canceled the show?

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