The first week of May isn't just the end of the television season, it's Renewal/Cancellation Season! The fate of every scripted television show on broadcast from the 2013-2014 season is known and you can find the results here from TVByTheNumbers. Many shows made it, many didn't; many were a given, while a few were honest surprises. I'm not here to dissect the nitty-gritty of what failed, what made it and why since far more qualified people at TVByTheNumbers and AV Club have already done that extensively. But since the Internet is a very useful platform for handing out useless opinion towards a vast audience so lost in noise it might as well be deaf, I figure I might as well join in. And as this is Observation Deck I'll concentrate on genre shows, though I'll leave room for other shows that tend to get a crossover audience or just otherwise notable.
You should expect major spoilers, and in all fairness this article is aimed at people intimately familiar with these shows.
EDIT: On that note, I'll go ahead and list all the shows covered here, in order of appearance (you can naturally use the search function to skip down to a particular show you want to read about). While I'm at it I'll list their cancellation/renewal status - you can check out the TVByTheNumbers link above for a full list:
Almost Human (FOX, cancelled)
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC, renewed)
Once Upon a Time (ABC, renewed)
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (ABC, canceled)
Believe (NBC, canceled, covered in the same post as Crisis)
Crisis (NBC, canceled, covered in the same post as Believe)
Intelligence (CBS, canceled)
Person of Interest (CBS, renewed, covered in the same post as Intelligence)
Sleepy Hollow (FOX, renewed)
The Blacklist (NBC, renewed)
Suburgatory (ABC, canceled - yes, this has become ABC's Community now)
Trophy Wife (ABC, canceled)
If there's a show missing I'll gladly cover it in a future write-up, provided I'm familiar with the show.
Almost Human on FOX
Lauren Davis already thoroughly dissected this show (where I also stole the above image from). I think it's a pretty common consensus that this had rather uneven quality. Honestly, I just think the writing talent wasn't there and maybe even downright antiquated. Not just "retro," I do mean antiquated. Beyond the simple failure of extrapolating meaningful plotlines and ramifications of the technology behind the worldbuilding, or the nascent worldbuilding that was there to begin with as Davis describes; to me, it felt like their whole approach was a throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks method, and start afresh at the beginning of each episode. The end effect was worldbuilding all right, but extremely disjointed worldbuilding.
Kennex (Urban) and Dorian (Ealy) were the highlight of the show, no doubt, but the show was overwhelmingly a standard procedural with sci-fi trappings rather than the type of character study seen on The Wire, FX's The Shield, or even Ghost in the Shell. Yeah, speaking of which, I'll spare you the GitS comparisons. Long story short, the show was built on an unstable foundation and did nothing to reinforce itself despite having the materials to do so. It's really telling that the one episode that came the closest felt like an overgrown high school drama (appropriately, with high schoolers). Could that have changed? I doubt it, since as I've said, I sincerely don't think the creative talent was there to begin with. And so, it's gone.
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC
I've also written about this show extensively before (I'll spare you the link-backs, but you can follow the "What I Learned About TV Networks" tag if you're curious). Like Almost Human, it was a very uneven ride, but perhaps if nothing else what's separating this show from that one, even more than the MCU tie-in, is the full, unquestioned network backing and the consequent refusal to let this show die. That means up is the only direction this show has to go at this point, and I think "Turn, Turn, Turn" revealed the fruits of that network commitment. In fact, maybe "Turn, Turn, Turn" should've been the show's start point - yes, we can even forget about "T.A.H.I.T.I." in comparison.
...or, ok, maybe not. Agent Coulson's (Clark Gregg) very existence still needed to be explained, and the payoff of "Turn, Turn, Turn" would've been meaningless without "getting to know" Ward (Brett Dalton). But we can just pretend everything prior to that episode, besides "T.A.H.I.T.I.," never happened, right? By the way, Ward and Garrett (Bill Paxton) are the best characters on this show right now.
It's just fun being the bad guy.
Once Upon a Time on ABC
I don't even know if I can say this show is hitting its stride right now because it implies it wasn't already before-hand - or that it even is right now. I guess this proves that a show can live with the same "unevenness" that plagued the last two shows as long as it's got something else going for it. What is that something else? The hell if I know in this case. But it's clearly got appeal - it's ABC's third most watched scripted show right now behind Scandal and Gray's Anatomy and has the ratings to hit it with the "big boys" on any other network including CBS. That said, I found the Neverland storyarc to be a confusing, overhyped mess that probably seemed a lot cooler in the minds of the writers than on the screen. Fortunately, it more or less rectified that afterwards and especially when the Wicked Witch (Rebecca Mader) made her appearance. Mr. Gold's (Robert Carlyle, the best actor on this show and I'll stand by that statement) sacrifice was kind of badass, then he came back which is good without taking away the impact of his death. Neal's/Baelfire's (Micheal Raymond-James) death was BS-y, just like August's (Eion Bailey) the season or so before.
I hesitate to call it good, but I'll say it's serviceable.
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland on ABC
Oh Good Lord Just no, moving on.
The only thing is that I'll say I think the "Thursday Night Death Slot" is a poor excuse, the few episodes I've seen were mediocre. Which was a shame since I was hoping for a badass interpretation of Alice, but oh well.
Believe/Crisis on NBC
Bland and almost interchangeable in my opinion, not only with each other but with similar shows that have tried and failed. In Believe's case it was clearly walking down the same "uber child caught up in a massive BS conspiracy" as FOX's Touch, while Crisis handled the same overplayed (and in its case, poorly played) "let's save the world" procedural format as....
Intelligence on CBS
This was another one already extensively covered on iO9. Once they did end their major mystery (more or less) in the second episode, the show had almost nowhere else to go than around the same tired circles as every other CSI-but-on-a-global-scale (or rather, Chuck-but-with-Josh-Holloway-as-the-Intersect, as AV Club's Todd Van Der Wertt put it) wannabe. Especially noticeable as CBS' own Person of Interest did it better until the SAMARITAN plotline/plot tumor started taking over (and now I've covered my obligations for Person of Interest in this post too). As with Almost Human, I think the writing talent to give the show real staying power was absent, especially with similar but better shows already around (and on the same network no less).
Sleepy Hollow on FOX
Whoever's producing and writing for this show must have some ability to go into the future and read Davis' article on Almost Human because they pretty much did everything she's talking about, and it shows. This might be the best drama on broadcast television right now, and if it wasn't for a certain other show which I'll get to would have no competition for best new drama on broadcast. Sleepy Hollow's biggest strength is that it doesn't just forget its overarching storyline, it directly incorporates it into practically every episode, creating a uniform feeling that there is actual story progression. It certainly doesn't hurt that the story itself turns out to be pretty compelling, or at least satisfyingly told.
The Blacklist on NBC
This is the other show that gives the above competition for best new drama series on broadcast. It's certainly got its writing strengths but the show's greatest asset is, let's face it, entirely built around the performance of James Spader's Raymond "Red" Reddington, the holder of the eponymous list. It's also cribbing major notes from FX's The Americans and other global conspiracy shows, but fortunately the writers are cribbing exactly the right notes. It's actually pretty fun seeing these background events play simultaneously with the foreground events, with Red being the only one aware of this interaction (well, until Berlin shows up).
Suburgatory on ABC
Ah, now this one actually does hurt a bit. Though, I think even the showrunners (including Emily Kapenik, who will be attached to another ABC project premiering in the fall) saw the handwriting on the wall, and it showed in a lackluster, doing-it-for-the-paycheck half season (Malik's [Maestro Harrel, who I just want to say has a badass name] and Lisa's [Allie Grant, who deserves future work and go see her in Chris Colfer's Struck By Lightning while you're at it - it has Sarah Hyland and Rebel Wilson in it too!] surprise wedding notwithstanding). Given that, I don't mind letting the show go as yet another victim in ABC's large and turbocharged revolving door and just enjoy the two good seasons we've had.
And yes, I'm well aware that the combination of Sarah Hyland and Rebel Wilson as a selling point is an odd one.
Trophy Wife on ABC
I'm only including this one because I'm having trouble seeing where all the fans were, and why the critical praise. Yes, maybe if it was paired with Modern Family it would've done better, but I also see the wisdom in having AoS be the lead-in as that show was supposed to be an automatic lock. Otherwise, it just came off as a Modern Family clone only more bland, and raising questions of what the hell these awful people are doing voluntarily hanging around each other in the first place.