Several cable networks have green-lit new seasons for a number of new and returning shows as the industry continues to remain aggressive in the original scripted-series genre.
But not all cable originals are making the grade: FX last week said it was canceling its drama series The Riches after two seasons due to poor ratings.
HBO said it will keep the Entourage crew together for a sixth season, with production set to begin early next year. The Hollywood buddy series, which stars Adrian Grenier, has averaged 1.5 million viewers for the premiere of its first five episodes of its fifth season and 5 million a week on a cume basis, including repeats.
The series is among the longest-running original scripted shows on HBO, one season removed from the total-season runs for The Sopranos and Sex and the City.
“Entourage is that rare phenomenon in TV: a smart, sharp comedy series that continues to evolve,” said Michael Lombardo, president of HBO's programming group and west coast operations, in a statement. “[Entourage producer] Doug Ellin and his remarkable team consistently deliver a show that's must-see viewing.”
Top-ranked USA Network Friday renewed Burn Notice and Psych, two of its most popular series, for another season. Both shows have received orders for an additional 16 episodes, which represent a fourth season for Psych and a third for Burn Notice.
In the first half of its sophomore season, spy series Burn Notice was up 23% in total viewers to a 5.85 million average. More importantly, the show was ad-supported cable’s best among the Madison Avenue-coveted adults 18-to-49 set, attracting 2.76 million of those watchers, topping TNT’s The Closer in that measure during the second and third quarters, according to USA officials. Burn Notice rang up a 19% gain with that demo and a 20% advance among adults 25 to 54 to 3.08 million.
As for Psych, its most recent turn averaged 5.2 million viewers, up 10% from premiere airings during third quarter 2007. On the demo front, it was ahead 5% to 2.24 million 18-to-49 watchers and 8% to 2.52 million of the adult 25-to-54 group.
“Burn Notice and Psych are key components of USA’s success story,” Jeff Wachtel, USA’s executive vice president, original programming, said in statement. “Both shows have a huge fan base on-air and online and reflect the high quality of programming that viewers have come to expect from USA.”
Elsewhere on the basic-cable side, FX has renewed its freshman series Sons of Anarchy for a second season after only five weeks on the air. The motorcycle drama, starring Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal and Ron Perlman, has cumed 5.4 million total viewers over five weeks, including 3.5 million viewers among FX's targeted adult 18-to-49 demo. Based on that performance, Sons of Anarchy has been the network's most-successful rookie show since Rescue Me, according to FX officials.
FX Networks president and general manager John Landgraf said the show has performed consistently and will serve as a more-than-adequate replacement for its drama series The Shield, which is ending its seven-year run this year.
“In our universe, [Anarchy] is a bonafide hit,” Landgraf said. “Given its creative and performance consistency, and the fact that we think its good and critically acclaimed, we feel we have our replacement for the The Shield.”
On the comedy front, TBS has ordered a third season of its comedy series My Boys. The series, which stars Jordana Spiro (Must Love Dogs) as 20-something sportswriter looking for love in Chicago while surrounding herself with all-male friends, averaged 1.8 million viewers in its sophomore season, an 17% increase over season one, according to TBS executives.
“This past summer, My Boys continued to catch on with audiences and critics,” said Michael Wright, senior vice president in charge of the Content Creation Group for TBS, TNT and TCM. “It's that truly rare television combination of a talented cast with great chemistry, extremely smart and funny writing and outstanding production.”
ABC Family also took a deeper dive into the genre last week, greenlighting two new comedy series pilots, 10 Things I Hate About You and Ruby and The Rockits, which will begin production this fall.
Based on the hit movie of the same name, 10 Things I Hate About You will follow the lives of two sisters with different personalities as they start attending their new high school, said ABC Family officials.
Ruby and The Rockit stars Patrick Cassidy (Smallville) as a teen idol trying to live a quiet family life when his brother and former band member David Cassidy (The Partridge Family) — and his teenage daughter — unexpectedly turns his life around. Alexa Vega (Spy Kids), Austin Butler (Zoey 101) also star in the show, which is executive-produced by Shaun Cassidy (Invasion).
The two series could join previously announced comedy series Roommates and Sophie on ABC Family's 2009 schedule.
One show that's not coming back for another season is FX's The Riches. The sophomore series, which starred Minnie Driver and Eddie Izzard, drew 1 million viewers — less than half of the 2.1 million the series averaged in its freshman campaign. More importantly for FX, Landgraf said the series' cume audience of 18-to-49-year-olds over four repeat runs dropped 38% season to season.
Production on the second season of The Riches was delayed by last winter's Writer's Guild of America strike and, as a result, only seven episodes were produced.
“We thought the show gained momentum creatively from season one to season two, but for whatever reason — the concept, the writer's strike, the time slot — it clearly lost a fair amount of momentum from season one to season two,” he said. “At the end of the day, our audience rendered a verdict.”
Mike Reynolds contributed to this report.