The votes are in — more than 144,000 of them, a new record — and the shows TV fans most want to save from extinction are long-running NBC dramas Law & Order: SVU and Parenthood.
USA TODAY's 17th annual Save Our Shows poll found 46% want to keep SVU, which is teetering "on the bubble" between renewal and cancellation thanks to a standoff between the network and creator Dick Wolf over the size of his paycheck. Parenthood was close behind with 45% support, followed by ABC's Nashville at 40%.
Voters were less enthusiastic about CW's low-rated Beauty and the Beast, Fox's Dads and ABC's Mixology, which just 8% of voters wanted back. Mixology also took top "honors" among shows viewers say should be canceled — a third want it gone— followed by Dads and ABC's Trophy Wife at 31%.
The major broadcast networks are weighing the fate of these 15 shows against pilots for new series as they set their fall schedules, to be unveiled in New York from May 12-15. (One of them, Fox's Almost Human, received a death sentence this week.) The rest are either renewed or solid favorites to return, or on their way out, although a handful of midseason series premiered too late to be included in the survey.
Among the increasingly complex set of criteria: Ratings, growth potential, ownership, revenue from streaming services or overseas channels, and how well each stacks up against the new crop of pilots vying to replace them.
The reasons for their tenuous grip on survival are varied.
Parenthood, ending its fifth season this month, has been a critical favorite with a loyal but too-small fan base of 6 million viewers, and is down 20% from last year among young adults. Law & Order: SVU is a sturdy procedural, the last remnant of a hugely profitable franchise, but is in jeopardy because of a contractual standoff with producer Dick Wolf over the size of his paycheck, a dispute that spelled the demise of the original Law & Order in 2010.
Among voters who provided their ages and locations, teens and twentysomethings favored NBC's Community: Nearly half want it back.
"These characters need closure," says Alex McIsaac, 25, of Boston. "There are dozens of shows not half as creative and cleverly written as Community that are still on. Sure, they find an audience but let's face it ... not everyone is bright enough to follow certain genius. For those of us that can, don't rob us of some truly engaging entertainment!"
Those in their 30s and 40s love Parenthood most; about 42% favored keeping it.
"Parenthood is an adult drama that celebrates family, warts and all," says Kathy Mercer, 50, of Bettendorf, Iowa. "It provides a look at success and failure within a large extended family - with heart and humor mixed with a few tears. I cherish my weekly hour with the Bravermans."
Older folks want to keep SVU around, including 62% of those 70 and older.
"I need Law and Order SVU," says Sherri Julien, 47, of Chicago. "The characters are like family members or people I grew up with."
Some shows proved parochial favorites among fans in the states where they're filmed: Parenthood was Californians' favorite show, New Yorkers liked SVU, and unsurprisingly, Nashville's biggest support came from Tennesseans: It's "an awesome drama," says Susan Comer of Brentwood, Tenn. "I even like the music, and I generally dislike country music."
And from a list of selected shows already gone or likely to wind up on the cancellation heap, nearly 28% picked CBS' The Mentalist as the one they'd most like to rescue, an overwhelming favorite, followed by NBC's Revolution with 18%. Asked which returning shows shouldn't come back, CBS' Two and a Half Men once again took the prize with nearly 39% of the vote, followed by Fox's Glee with 18%.
Database Editor Jodi Upton contributed to this report.