Chuck vs. the Podcast 83: On Ratings and S5 Renewal

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With 5 weeks at a 1.7 rating, Chuck seems to have found a very consistent core audience. However, many are concerned, as shows with much higher than 1.7 have been canceled.

Is Chuck safe? Is Chuck doomed? This week we devote almost a half hour to discussing the factors that affect ratings and renewal, including some inside information that casts new light on the issue. What is syndication, and how does it factor in? Can international fans make a difference? What is the most effective use of our energies? We tackle it all.

We round out the episode with a lively discussion about the very fun “Chuck vs. the First Bank of Evil,” and of course the latest news and spoilers!

Follow us on Twitter for the latest updates – @chucktvdotnet, @prlsoflizdom, and @GrayJones.

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Also, if you like the show, please consider supporting us with a monthly vote at Podcast Alley.

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  1. Thanks for the lesson in television broadcasting. 🙂 Will there be a quiz next week?

  2. Thx! Ha ha, only if you want one!

  3. I dont want to see CHUCK cancelled , BUT then again how much more can they do with the story? I think the show has run its course and should end on a high note rather than drag it out.

    • How much more can they do with the story? Easy. First think about Chuck and Sarah’s backgrounds and the kind of people they are. Now imagine them starting a family… Has your question been answered?

      • I don’t want them to start a family, in my opinion that would ruin the whole show. Look what they did to Ellie, she was a PhD, MD, and now she acts ditzy.
        But they could make the episodes great like they used to be. Don’t get me wrong, I love the episodes this season, but I love it when they have more comedy and flirting with Chuck and Sarah. Like the honeymoon episode and the one with the tiger.

  4. Hi Hans,

    part of that has to do with never knowing whether they will be renewed, extended, or how many episodes they have to write for.

    My prediction is that NBC will renew for a 5th and final season, with a fixed number of episodes (as was done for shows like BSG and Lost) so that the writers can very intelligently wrap up the story, and the show can comfortably reach the number of episodes WB needs for a solid syndication deal.

    It’s only my opinion, but a fairly educated one. 😉


    • Hey Gray,

      I really liked what you had to say about Chuck getting renewed. I’d also like to add to what you said in terms of another show that was in a similar fate as Chuck.

      There was a show on in the 80’s that I’m sure many people will remember called Hill Street Blues. It was a very unique cop show that started in 1981. Up until that point, there was no other cop show that had been done like this one. This show really laid the ground work for shows that followed it like NYPD Blue, Law and Order, etc. It wasn’t so much about the actually “cop” story as it was about the characters and their relationships. The writing and acting were superb, but I think because it was such a ground breaking show and it was so totally different from other shows up till then, the ratings were not good.

      So after it debuted in 1981 the show became the lowest-rated program ever renewed for a second season. However, it was only renewed for ten episodes. A full order was picked up part way through the season. The writers had the idea to fashion the series into 4- or 5-episode story arcs. Any of this sounding familiar?

      Anyway, the show never really had good ratings, but it was so well done and had such a core of dedicated, enthusiastic and hard-working fans that the show lasted for 7 seasons. The fans of the show literally kept it on the air. And the only reason that it was cancelled was because the star of the show, Daniel Travanti announced he would not return the next year, so the producers decided to end the show in 1987.

      If Chuck was a poorly written and poorly acted show, then that would make it easy for NBC to cancel. But, as long as we the fans keep supporting Chuck any way we can, I think NBC will see they have this core of 5 – 6 million people who continually watch the show and will renew it. As long as we keep doing what we’re doing, I think we will see another season.

      Anyway Gray, I appreciate everything you, Mel and Liz do!

      • Hi,

        thanks so much for offering that helpful perspective! I loved Hill Street Blues when it was on (and learned to play the Mike Post-composed theme on the piano) but didn’t know anything about its context.


  5. Hey Mel, I would like to see a grand total of the 50% off Sleepy Sheep that were sold to Chuck fans at the end of march. That would be awesome!!

    • We’ll be asking Cloud B to share that number with us, but based on the posts to their FB page for this endeavor, we’re definitely making some noise!

  6. Gray, doesn’t the cast get royalties for the syndicated shows when they are aired. I remember Bob Denver said he was living off royalties from Gilligan’s Island.

    • Yep! How much depends on their individual deals, but I know that the cast & writers can get some pretty fat cheques for residuals on long running syndicated shows.

      – G

  7. I think people get confused about what “syndication” is. It is basically the reselling of repeats of the show after the original network has run them. It can start while the original show is still on air (e.g. NCIS) or start after the original network has canceled.

    It can take two forms:

    Syndicating the show to broadcast stations: This is usually done on a barter basis. The syndicator (WB) retains half the ad time to sell to national advertisers and local stations around the U.S. agree to air it. They get the other half of the commercials to sell to local advertisers. Each local station chooses when to run the show. Some stations give it good time slots. Others can run it in the middle of the night where few people see it. One hour dramas run once a week.

    Shows being syndicated in this way for the following September are usually announced in January by a convention called NATPE where local station programmers meet. It can take time for the syndicator to sell the show because they have a lot of different programmers to deal with.

    The other type of syndication is to sell the rerun rights to a cable network. The cable network pays a license fee and sells all the ads in the show. They can choose how to run it.

    TV shows can be in both broadcast syndication and cable syndication at the same time.

    100 episodes is not the minimum number of episodes for either type of syndication. Syfy just picked up the rights to air the Terminator: Sarah Connor series and that doesn’t have 100 episodes. Stargate: Universe is currently running in broadcast syndication and was just canceled after two seasons.

    More episodes is better than few episodes, but there is no minimum.

    • No, 100 episodes isn’t a MUST anymore, but it’s much more attractive to potential buyers if they have enough for a long cycle of reruns.

    • Exellent post. When I was a kid ( before VCRs & DVDs ). We
      only had the three local network stations, they had two hours
      in the afternoon for syndication. We got ” Star Trek ” ” Get Smart ”
      ” I Love Lucy ” ” Gilligans Island “. Only a handful of popular
      shows made it to reruns, the others disappeared into TV oblivion.
      Cable TV , iTunes, TV on Dvd changed all that. I just don’t think
      syndication has the power it once did. I hope Chuck get a Season
      5 but the number if eps is irrelivant.

      • Hi DKD,

        thanks for expanding the detail about syndication. While what you say is true, the lines are continually blurring and being redefined, and what’s true today may not be true next year.

        Also, I heartily agree with Mel (and this is confirmed by people internal to the show) that shows that hit or surpass 100 episodes are much more attractive to potential buyers, because of their greater capacity for cycles of reruns.

        While it is possible for shows to start syndicating with less, this number is indeed still used as a barometer by producers of shows still in production.


  8. I like your laugh, Gray. 🙂

  9. So Gray with your inside intel how many episodes could be likely for a season 5? Are we looking at a run of 13 or closer to the 19-22 range?

    • Sorry, even Schwartz and Fedak don’t know that one. It’s all up to NBC, and will likely be the result of lots of closed-door bargaining with WB.

  10. In regards to where the story could go, I agree that the show has pretty much run its course. Once Chuck and Sarah finally get married, that pretty much winds up a major reason that people kept coming back for more (the whole “will-they, won’t-they” play between chuck and sarah).

    However, I think there are still a few goldmines that the writers have not tapped yet. What about an episode from other characters PoV? I think the fans would like to see a day in the life of Jeff and Lester, or possibly big Mike. Something like this would have been great for Morgan, Ellie, or Awesome, but the fact that they are now clued into the whole spy world sort of kills the idea.

  11. What a great podcast, guys!
    That’s not because I agree with almost everything you said (but ain’t that nice???) but because you all gave me confidence that your “read” on the renewal situation is correct.

    With all the business machinations going on with Comcast and NBC-U, that’s no small thing.

    Well, no one can say definitively what the future holds (duh!) but given Chuck’s history, I don’t think we have to be pessimistic.

  12. I’m a huge Greek fun of chuck. I love the show. The humour-fun that the writers and producers use. I love the cast and the action scenes. BUT i thing that the 5th season will be disappointment. The best things must be able to stop at the top. that’s all from GREECE.

  13. Really enjoyed the podcast, Liz, Gray and Mel. I kept waiting for Mel and Liz to “pass” a Sleep Sheep from square to square since you’ve all got the “looking at each other” thing down pat. Good advice on the merchandising angle. Thanks for all your hard work, folks. 😉

  14. While I think a Season 5 would be fantastic, it would make a difference knowing whether the whole cast’s and crew’s hearts are still in it. I get the impression from what few interviews I’ve seen of Chuck ‘people’, that they are all still very much involved with keeping the show going, but at the same time it has to be very hard on them mentally not knowing if they will be back, if so, how many episodes will they get to produce. I feel bad for everyone involved with this wonderfully entertaining show, that they have to live in such a topsy turvy environment, especially the writers.

  15. I think chuck has to be end. We shouldn’t be selfish. We can see Zac and yvonne other different project
    I don’t want to see that ratings getting down anymore.

  16. Brandon Johnson

    Ok I have read alot of the comments posted. And everyone on this website have valled points made. I love the show and have loved it from the beginning. The past 4 seasons have been great, full of comedy action, and romance. A season 5 would be great and honestly I would love to end with a season 10 ( honestly after all we have done to make the show as far as we have, S10 will prob never happen) I love the cast and give props to the writer for every week they suprize me. But I think that Zac, Yvonne have done a great job in advancing there careers. I honesty don’t think they want a S5. Zac is so talented as we all saw him last Sunday. They r ready to move on. As hard as it is to say. This is the only show that I have ever really cared anything about ant tried to save. I love everyone involved with the program, would love a S5 and I will fight for it do whatever it takes. I hope the cast wants a S5 and that I am wrong. My life would suck without this show. Hell I’m rocking a CHUCK shirt right now. Lol i love my fellow Chucksters. ROCK ON CHUCK!!!

  17. From all the comments i read, i noticed that there is something like 50-50% division between people who want and dont want Chuck to continue. The main reason why people would not want Chuck to have more seasons is that the storyline cannot evolve anymore. To be honest, i completely disagree with that as i would really like to see how Chuck and Sarah start a family. Kids would be great and seeing Sarah panic as she realizes she is pregnant would be priceless. So i would love to see the Walkertowski family dealing with spy stuff :D. therefore, GO season 5 + syndication GO!

  18. I want them to keep Chuck on the air!…It’s one of my favourite shows ever! Let Chuck LIVE!!

  19. Great podcast, very informative. Gray, my friend, who I introduced to Chuck last summer with DVD’s is now watching Chuck everyday at lunch on his new Android phone with some App he told me about. He says it is a livestream of some kind, I’m not a tekkie, so I don’t know what that means. I was wondering if things like that count towards Chuck overall ratings. I’m a DVR person so I’m glad they count us. I suppose I will have to watch a few commercials so I can go take that survey Mel mentioned and be counted some other way. Thanks for all the great info. As to whether or not to have S5 or not…My feeling is that if the storylines can remain fresh for one more season–perhaps a shorter season then that would be fine. What I don’t want to see is the show go on for too long and get stale for the fans who have been loyal all along. Every good story has a beginning, middle and and end. Chuck has been a great story so far and I look forward to more.

  20. I super love Chuck! INP loves Chuck! We want a Season 5! 😉 ~from the Philippines <3

  21. People worry that there aren’t any story lines left to pursue after season 4 if Chuck and Sarah tie the knot. Well I’m sure there is a writers room for Chuck that would wholeheartedly disagree with that assessment. The producers and writers have a good pulse on this show and they have kept us entertained for 4 seasons folks. I don’t see that going away. A legendary writer of sci-fi once said that he wrote stories he wanted to hear. Not what he expected people to want and that they didn’t factor into the writing. He didn’t please everyone but it sure built the foundation for a pretty impressive franchise called Star Trek in the vision of Roddenberry. If they stay true to that philosophy, things will be ok.

    The parallels between chuck’s life and that of his father and mother are interesting to me in how he chooses to follow or stray from what his parents did. I’d be pleased if a season 5 recapped the events from season’s 4 finale and then pull a battlestar galactica, fade the screen to black and then in white letters across the bottom have it say “Five Years Later.” Then pick the story up from there by writing in new directions for these characters and introduce new plot devices. Would help the writers and answers the questions of how will life work out for all of these characters.

    The only that could top that for me since this show is themed in the 80’s somewhat, is a Dallas style season opener where Sarah had died in season 4’s finale or something and we see Chuck walk into the bathroom circa still living with Ellie & Awesome to discover… an embarrassed sarah walker in the shower. The old “Reset Button.” Wouldn’t that just kill Chuck fandom? lol…

    I dare the writers to pull that on us… muwahahaha….

  22. Hart to Hart lasted a long time with a married couple–the storylines could be excellent without so many popular stars to run up the budget–you could still throw in a few if/when needed.

  23. Instead of actually having a season that shows what their lives are like after the wedding, maybe they could end the show like Scrubs did for their final episode (before the stupid ones where 1/2 the cast was gone). They ended the show with a “flash” of the future of the characters.

  24. guys, go onto
    vote for chuck!

  25. Mel, Liz, and Grey loved listening to the Podcast that makes about 50 of them, sorry didn’t get started from the beginning, and I quite enjoyed the discussion on the renewal hopes and the help of product placement during the show. Could not help myself from looking for all the products inthe latest episode, I wonder if the got payed by Parker Brothers(Monoply), Milton Brothers(Mousetrap), and Nintendo(Final Fantasy 2) for the placement of thier games on the table at castle. I noticed a few others but could not tell you thier names, lets not forget The MiniVan and the juice box. It may help pay for the show but you hope it doesn’t become a trend that becomes more advertising over strong story lines just a thought thanks for everything – Robin