As the warm season approaches, networks often have difficult (and not-so) decisions to make regarding their schedules and roster of programming. Surely the ratings have a lot to do with the decision making processes, but, as fans, we like to believe other factors come into play to some extent — whether it’s product placement monetization, #hashtag trend prominence, or executives possibly playing favorites hopefully with our favorites. We choose to believe in these less quantifiable and more unconventional series success variables so to justify our hope in the future of a favorable TV landscape, a future of fully packed DVRs and neglected loved ones. The hope fuels the ubiquitous social media campaigns, the zealous written pleas mailed to the network in bulk (do people still do that?), and manic financial support for commercial sponsors. Whatever the cause for each decision, cancel or renew, either a fandom finds corroboration in an x number of episodes commitment or viewers curse the callousness of network suits and their unwavering reverence to whims of Nielsen homes.

And all of that is simply to say this — listed at times with brazen bias:

  • Community has been renewed by NBC for a fourth season of 13 episodes. Not a surprise necessarily but surely a relief to many. This season has been filled with ups and downs for Community fans — consistently low ratings followed by a long impromptu mid-season hiatus, then a solid return with quality episodes that appeared to showcase creator Dan Harmon’s pointed response to the show’s received criticisms and uncertain future. To top it all off, it’s funny as fuck. The recent episode “Curriculum Unavailable” provided a ceremonious goodbye to the paintball episode tradition and, in essence, the Community of old. Times are a-changin’. And Community still has time (a new time actually, on Fridays come Fall), even if, rumor has it, Dan Harmon doesn’t.
  • FOX is giving Fringe a fifth and final season of 13 episodes, 13 more opportunities for Peter-Olivia shippers to be simultaneously placated to and kept in a persistent state of unease. That Fringe.
  • NBC has also given 30 Rock the go ahead to produce 13 more episodes for what is being labeled the final season. The guarantee is more that Tina Fey and the gang will be returning, not necessarily that the amount of episodes is set in stone or in this being the true last season, last inevitable live episode, last batch of Donaghy-isms, etc.
  • TBS has successfully acquired Cougar Town from ABC, saving the comedy from certain cancellation. Another opportunity for comedic relativism (“You just don’t get it. It’s funny.”) to gain some traction for those that stand by Courtney Cox’s ability to deliver on humor.
  • A bunch of no brainers were renewed including: ABC’s Happy Endings and Shonda Rhimes stuffs; an assortment of CSINCIS’s on CBS; Parenthood, Smash and Law & Order:SVU on the peacock network; and Bones and New Girl on FOX.
  • New shows The Secret Circle, Ringer, both on the CW Network; GCG on ABC; The Finder and Breaking In on FOX; NBC’s Awake, Best Friends Forever, and Are You There Chelsea? have all been canceled, Awake due to its overly advanced brand of storytelling, the rest because they sucked. But to be fair, there’s no guarantee Breaking In will stay canceled — that sly Christian Slater.
  • Have you ever watched NYC 22? Good. And now you won’t have to.
  • TV by the Numbers has a handy list of all other cancelations and renewals for the whole season.
  • Finally, Community and Fringe have been renewed! (Still great news the second time around.)
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Alicia Florrick

I know. “The smartest show on TV” is a pretty lofty title to bestow but it must be said that I didn’t take it the least bit lightly. By far, The Good Wife is currently the smartest show on CBS – not that they care. “Smart” tends to run havoc on Nielsen boxes throughout the country so networks are often wise to steer clear. Hawaii Five-O and Mike & Molly are certainly fun but also don’t ask much mentally of you or even their protagonists. CSI(s), NCIS(es)  and Criminal Minds(es) pretend to think on occasion but that’s seven shows all thinking as one, like seven hands all fiddling a Rubik’s cube but only aiming for reds on one side. And the comedies, Big Bang Theory in particular, show us each week how dumb smart needs to get in order to have people tuning in.

The Good Wife seems to stand out from the pack in that on its surface it’s a legal drama that’s ostensibly ignorant to the fact that we don’t watch them anymore. Remember when Ally McBeal and The Practice had a crossover episode? (Remember Night Court!?) Probably not. That was a long time ago, in a different television landscape where lawyers with their fast talk and book smarts and suits as sharp as their cynicism ruled the air. Now all we have is a wide-eyed Kathy Bates in Harry’s Law dumbing down legalese for regular folk, thoroughly playing the “I’m not that sort of lawyer” card.

The Good Wife is chock-full of that sort of lawyer, those sort of people – the smarty-pants. Alicia Florrick, played convincingly by a beautiful Julianna Margulies, is a smarty-pants junior litigator with a complicated personal life. What makes the series itself smart is how she can navigate a drama like this without a punchline; there’s no catch. The writers treat every character like an adult and in doing so treat the viewers like adults. The show uses its legal cases and scandals (like Alicia’s husband political career) to ask the viewer if they’ve not only read the paper recently (like Law & Order is known to do) but if they understand the news. The repercussions of a politician committing adultery, for example, take time to unravel and the writers have adeptly opened a window into the lives of those involved.

Chris Noth does a great job playing (Big playing) Peter Florrick, a smart-pants State’s Attorney who has an entertainingly strong grasp of both law and politics and contributes largely to the true-to-life mess of a romance between him and Alicia. Josh Charles, as Will Gardner, rounds off the love triangle that’s made the show irresistible recently. In fact, every one’s just great. Michael J. Fox and Anika Noni Rose even stop by now and then to make sure. This is truly the show that you deserve as a grownup. There are certainly other shows out there that are rich with genius (Community may come to mind) or try really hard to come off as thought-provoking (surely Kelsey Grammer’s new hustle, Boss) but I don’t think any show on television today thinks you’re actually smart and treats you as such as you watch. Watch it. The Good Wife comes back this Sunday, January 8.