Premiering in January 2013, FOX’s serial killer thriller The Following was one of the biggest surprise hits of last year, averaging a quite healthy 2.6 in the key 18-49 demographic and pulling in an average total audience of just under 8 million viewers. Despite generally mixed critical reviews, FOX would have been insane to cancel any scripted show earning those kind of numbers, so it was no surprise when the network quickly renewed the series for a season 2.

FOX’s recent decision to renew The Following once again is a tad more surprising. Season 2 of the Kevin Bacon/James Purefoy-fronted drama has averaged only a 2.1 in the 18-49 demo, and almost two million less total viewers. The numbers actually get even worse when you exclude the season premiere, which aired on a Sunday and immediately followed the NFC Championship Game.

Take those football-inflated ratings out, and season 2’s average demo drops to a meager 1.7. That’s still better than most FOX dramas, but the show still has eight more episodes to drop even further. That said, it should be noted that The Following has an abnormally high DVR viewership, and that likely played a big factor in its renewal.

In addition to The Following getting a season 3, FOX has also announced the renewal of Tuesday night sitcoms New Girl, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and The Mindy Project for seasons 4, 2, and 3, respectively. With almost every other FOX show having previously been renewed, and Family Guy being a lock to return, there’s still one high profile series twisting in the wind: Almost Human.

The sci-fi series starring Karl Urban and Michael Ealy has averaged a 1.9 demo, and just over six million total viewers, numbers that are very, very close to what The Following has been putting up. Logically, if FOX sees The Following as worthy of a pick-up, they should feel the same about Almost Human. Of course, this is FOX, a network infamous for dropping the ax on one high concept sci/fi series after another.

At first glance, one might think a special effects-heavy show like Human would probably cost more to produce than a horror-tinged procedural like Following, but stars like Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy likely don’t come cheap. In the end, there is really no obvious reason why FOX would renew one show and not the other, outside of pure star power. That said, it’s definitely not a good sign that Almost Human ended its season on Monday, only for FOX to remain tight-lipped about its future.

Creatively, one wonders where The Following could possibly go in season 3. Most of Joe Carroll’s cult didn’t make it out of season 1, and even more have perished during season 2. Also, one would think Ryan Hardy is going to grow wary of falling for damaged blonde women eventually, and Agent Mike Weston will be lucky to escape from 2014 with his sanity intact.

Perhaps the show will take the True Detective approach and focus on new characters next year? It probably wouldn’t be a terrible idea, but FOX is unlikely to want to part ways with Bacon and Purefoy. Either way, The Following’s writing staff will get another season to try and figure it out.

The Following airs Mondays @9pm on FOX. Season 3 will premiere in early 2015. Almost Human just finished season 1 and has yet to be canceled or renewed.

Source: Variety