Upfront Roundup: The CW

Now we move on to the CW, starting with what I said in my previous post:

  • This will be the first time the CW truly has a chance to present new shows.
  • The CW is not a network that averages a 2.1. It deserves to be treated more like a 2.3. That is not to say there aren’t problems, but any show that does worse than 2.0 is probably on the hot seat.
  • That would include pretty much all of the CW’s comedies, even “Everybody Hates Chris”, which gave UPN so much publicity in that network’s final season. Ratings have been degraded by going up against “Dancing with the Stars”, but “Chris” and “Girlfriends” were only doing around a 2.0 even before that. It’ll be interesting to see what the CW does with “All of Us” which bore the brunt of the “DwtS” onslaught, as well as “The Game”, which was the CW’s lowest-rated comedy when “DwtS” wasn’t on but became its highest-rated once it became the only comedy that didn’t have to battle the ABC juggernaut. Why the CW ended “Reba”, one of its strongest shows, is a little unclear.
  • The CW will need to fill the departures of “7th Heaven” and “Gilmore Girls”. “Girls” was still succeeding in the ratings and will probably hurt the worst. The highest rated traditonal scripted show that leaves is “Smallville”, also one of only four hour-long scripted shows left, along with “Supernatural”, “One Tree Hill”, and “Veronica Mars”, which is on the bubble. If the CW renews “VM” (which, according to reports, is looking more like a possibility than it used to) then “OTH” is the most natural fit to nurture it, though “America’s Next Top Model” would probably be better both in the ratings and thematically (though that would repeat a strategy UPN tried without success), and “Supernatural” should probably break out of “Smallville”‘s shadow to allow both shows to nurture new shows. That “OTH” and “Supernatural” are being considered as potential linchpins speaks volumes about how deep the CW’s lineup really is. (“Supernatural” would be a better pick than “OTH” but doesn’t fit thematically with “VM” all that much, much like “OTH” doesn’t fit with “Smallville”.)
  • Strong nights: Wednesday. Weak nights: Sunday, Monday.
  • Quick tip: You better have a strong pilot slate, and promote the hell out of it.

Now, how did the CW do on the points I laid out?


Sun

7pm

7:30 pm

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

CW
CW Now
Online Nation
Life is Wild
Top Model Repeats


When I indicated that the CW had only three new shows on its schedule, I had missed “Life is Wild” and I wasn’t counting midseason or unscripted shows. And since you might be scratching your heads over the start of this night, let me give you the description of “CW Now”, from the producers of “Extra”:

“CW Now blends news and entertainment to create the ultimate source for everything that’s hip, hot and happening right now in the world of young adults. With a team of experts focusing on the topics and trends that appeal specifically to the CW generation, this new series will feature informative and entertaining reports on the hottest fashions, the coolest music, the must-see movies and the must-have gadgets and technology. ‘CW Now’ will be everywhere young adults are: from cyberspace profiling the best of the web, to hitting the streets and getting inside the most popular hotspots. With young adults’ insatiable appetite for all things celebrity, each episode will report on the latest news and gossip from inside the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. Moving at a rapid-fire pace and utilizing eye-catching graphics and visuals, “CW Now” fits perfectly with the on-demand lifestyle of adults 18-34.”

Yes, this sort of thing would have been unthinkable under the UPN or WB regimes, but one need look no further than Fox’s news-magazine success (or lack thereof) to see how this thing is going to do. Is this show cynical or what? And is the CW stuck-up or what? I’m part of “The CW generation” now? Well, “Online Nation” isn’t quite that bad:

“Young adults have taken their quest for fame into their own hands as the amount of user-generated entertainment continues to explode across the Internet. Now The CW is giving them a nationally televised stage to show off what they’ve got. “Online Nation” (working title) scours the nearly infinite number of websites, blogs and user-generated materials on the Internet to find the best, the hottest, the unique and sometimes, the flat-out bizarre, and presents it on The CW audience’s other favorite screen: the TV screen. This fun, irreverent weekly series features everything and anything that has captured the attention of the online world, from the most popular sites to the addictive viral videos being shared by millions, to insights from the digital tastemakers. Born of the internet and tailored specifically to this generation, this series also features an innovative interactive element as viewers will be able to see what others are saying and communicate with them live on the air. The CW is turing mouse potatoes into couch potatoes by putting all the greatest internet clips in one ready to use package.”

Mm. Others already had the same idea. With such weak lead-ins and a night that has been a problem for the CW (and the WB before it), it’s bad news for “Life is Wild“:

“Katie Clarke (Leah Pipes, ‘Clubhouse’) may never forgive her veterinarian father, Danny (Brett Cullen, ‘Ghost Rider’, ‘Friday Night Lights’) for dragging their entire blended family out of New York City to spend a year living in a broken-down lodge called The Blue Antelope in a game reserve deep inside South Africa. Everyone in the family, including Katie’s 11-year-old brother Chase (K’sun Ray, ‘Smith’), Danny’s second wife Jo (Judith Hoag, ‘Armageddon’), her rebellious teenage son Jesse (Andrew St. John, ‘General Hospital’) and 7-year-old daughter, Mia (Mary Matilyn Mouser, ‘Eloise’), is sure Danny has lost his mind. But Danny’s reasons go beyond his desire to keep his troubled family together and making a difference in the lives of the people and animals of South Africa: his deceased first wife Claire grew up at The Blue Antelope and it’s still home to her reclusive father Art (David Butler). After just a few days in South Africa, the family has already encountered an injured lioness, a lost cub, and a gentle giraffe. They’ve also met a few locals, including a handsome young Brit, Oliver Banks (newcomer Calvin Goldspink) and his twin sister Emily (newcomer Tiffany Mulheron), whose father Colin Banks (Jeremy Sheffield), runs a safari business for wealthy tourists, and Tumelo (Atandwa Kani), a teen who dreams of becoming a veterinarian. While they are definitely outsiders, Katie and the rest of the family are beginning to love the breathtaking vistas of the bush country and the vibrant culture enveloping them. A year in this strange but beautiful place might not be so bad after all.”

This show could easily be a comedy on another network. Unlike most CW/WB family dramas, there is no room for growth or change on this one, thanks to the year-long time frame, which I’m sure they will try and contrive a way to stretch out over the years – if it goes that long. It just doesn’t seem dressed for success to me, and being plopped on such a bad night does NOT help.


Mon

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

CW
Ev. Hts Chris
Alns in Amer.
Girlfriends
The Game


“All of Us” is dead. That leaves just one comedy from UPN’s fall schedule of 2004 that remains on the CW lineup for a fourth season or later. Despite the title, “Aliens in America” is not some modernized version of “ALF” or “Another World”, which would probably be hit with the dreaded “CFUC” phrase, but instead… well

“Justin Tolchuk (Dan Byrd, ‘The Hills Have Eyes’) is a sensitive, lanky 16-year-old just trying to make it through the social nightmare of high school in Medora, Wisconsin, with the help of his well-meaning mom Franny (Amy Pietz, ‘Caroline in the City’), aspiring-entrepreneur dad Gary (Patrick Breen, Kevin Hill’), and his popular sister Claire (Lindsey Shaw, ‘Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide’), who is sweetly unaware of how good looking she is. When Franny signs up for the school’s international exchange student program, she pictures an athletic, brilliant Nordic teen who will bestow instant coolness on her outsider son. However, when the Tolchuk’s exchange student arrives, he turns out to be Raja Musharaff (Adhir Kalyan, ‘Fair City), a 16-year-old Pakistani Muslim. Despite the cultural chasm between them, Justin and Raja quickly develop an unlikely friendship that just might allow them to navigate the minefield that is contemporary high school. It’s going to be a very interesting year for Raja, Justin, his family and the entire poplation of Medora.”

Now this is a sitcom for “the CW generation”! Right out of the tradition of “Saved by the Bell” and “Boy Meets World”! If this had come before the CW started having all sorts of problems with their comedy block it would have looked terrific hammocked between “Everybody Hates Chris” and “Girlfriends”. But “DwtS” has been killer to the CW’s comedy block and “Aliens in America” is smack-dab in the middle of it. I want to believe this show will become the CW comedy of the future but it’s off to a rocky start. And people who moaned and groaned about the end of UPN’s black comedy when the CW merger happened? They’re moaning and groaning again, because this show features a white main character and Pakistani is not black.


Tue

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

CW
Beauty and the Geek
Reaper


With “Gilmore Girls” ending, the CW ends “Veronica Mars” as well, meaning they’re starting over on Tuesdays, and to meet the demand, they’re also making a change to Wednesdays. Last year, UPN show “America’s Next Top Model” started Wednesdays at 8 and WB show “Beauty and the Geek” took over later. Now “B&tG” breaks out to lead off Tuesdays. “Reaper” – well, get too far in it and you’ll know what I have to say about it:

“For the first 20 years of his life, Sam (Bret Harrison, ‘The Loop’, ‘Grounded for Life’ wondered why his parents went so easy on him. Whether it was school, sports or career choices, Sam’s mom (Allison Hossack, ‘Falcon Beach’) and dad (Andrew Airlie, ‘The L Word’) always let him get by with the least possible effort, while at the same time pushing his younger brother Keith (Kyle Switzer, ’15/Love’) to excel. As a result, Sam skipped college, took a dead-end job and now wastes endless hours playing video games and wishing he had the guts to ask out his pretty co-worker, Andi (Nikki Reed, ‘Thirteen’, ‘The O.C.’). Everything in his slacker world changes the day Sam turns 21 and discovers the ungodly reason his parents let him slide: they sold his soul to the devil before he was even born. Satan himself (Ray Wise, ’24’, ‘The Closer’) drops by to personally explain that Sam must now serve as his bounty hunter, tracking down evil souls that have escaped and returning them to Hell. At first, Sam refuses to accept his bizarre fate, but after getting a glimpse of Satan’s temper, Sam realizes that breaking a deal with the devil has consequences that are very, very bad. Armed with a constantly changing series of vessels – starting with a Dirt Devil mini-vacuum – to collect the escapees, Sam immediately finds that the work is dangerous and frightening, even with the goofball help of his friends and fellow slackers, Bert “Sock” Wysocki (Tyler Labine, ‘Boston Legal’, ‘Invasion’) and Ben (Rick Gonzalez, ‘Coach Carter’), along with Sock’s former-girlfriend-turned-paralegal, Josie (Valerie Rae Miller, ‘Dark Angel’). Still, as weird and scary as his life has become, Sam is surprised to find that he somehow feels good about his newfound ‘mission’ – removing evil-doers from the world and sending them back where they belong. With his friends and his trusty vessel-of-the-week at his side, Sam is ready to face his destiny as the Reaper.”

“Cult following, unceremoniously cancelled” – if it were good enough to get a cult following! But there seems to be a comedic element that seems out of place as well. Too weird, bizarre, and schizophrenic to go anywhere.


Wed

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

CW
America’s Next Top Model
Gossip Girl


“One Tree Hill” is withheld for midseason so the CW’s top show can support a new show, a big vote of confidence for “Gossip Girl”:

“The privledged prep school teens on Manhattan’s Upper East Side first learn that Serena Van Der Woodsen (Blake Liveley, ‘The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants’ is back in town the same way they learn all the important news in their lives – from the blog of the all-knowing yet ultra-secretive Gossip Girl. No one knows Gossip Girl’s identity, but everyone in this exclusive and complicated vicious circle relies on her text messages for the latest scoop. Serena’s closest friend, Blair (Leighton Meester, ‘Surface’) is just as surprised as everyone else to find that Serena has suddenly ended her self-imposed exile to boarding school and returned to Manhattan. The tension between Blair and Serena isn’t lost on Gossip Girl, who is determined to uncover and fuel any and all scandals. Does it involve Serena’s brother Eric (Connor Paolo, ‘One Life to Live’), Blair’s boyfriend Nate (Chace Crawford, ‘The Covenant’), or Nate’s buddy Chuck (Ed Westwick, ‘Children of Men’)? Maybe it has something to do with Dan (Penn Badgley, ‘John Tucker Must Die’) and his sister Jenny (Taylor Momsen, ‘Spy Kids 2’, ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’), whose middle-class background keeps them on the fringes of this exclusive clique. Even the parents – from Serena’s mother Lily (Kelly Rutherford, ‘Melrose Place’) a former ballerina/rock-groupie, to Nate’s high-powered father Howie “The Captain” Archibald (Sam Robards, ‘The West Wing’), to Dan and Jenny’s dad Rufus (Matthew Settle, ‘Brothers and Sisters’), a former rocker turned art gallery owner – are aware that their sons and daughters are constantly checking their Sidekicks to read Gossip Girl’s latest sightings and overheard tidbits. Overriding all the shifting friendships, jealousies and turmoil in this wealthy and complex world, the central mystery remains – Who is Gossip Girl?”

Is this another example of “Ugly Betty” starting a new wave of telenovela-inspired soap operas? Because it looks and sounds like the show’s namesake is like Charlie on “Charlie’s Angels” – never seen, only heard – or the narrator of “Desperate Housewives”. This show, it seems, is more of an ensemble – in fact it looks like “DH” in prep school. It, “Reaper”, and (apparently) “Life in the Wild” all have received rave reviews; this show probably has the best chance at success with such a strong lead-in.


Thu

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

CW
Smallville
Supernatural


The CW keeps Thursdays one of only two unchanged nights. “Supernatural” was considered to be on the bubble for renewal, so I have no need to call it to be used to set up a new night. Not much of a surprise.


Fri

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

CW
Friday Night SmackDown!


This is the other unchanged night. Again not a surprise; wrestling is a steady performer for the CW the way it was for UPN before.

In addition to “One Tree Hill”, “Pussycat Dolls Present” is also held for midseason. You might be wondering how that show could go more than one round. Well, now it appears to be moving closer to the old WB show “PopStars”. Now they’ll be trying to create an entirely new group based on the Dolls.

Two new shows also are being held for midseason. “Farmer Wants a Wife“:

“The CW cultivates romance a la “Green Acres” with “Farmer Wants a Wife”, a comedic reality series designed to help one farm boy find the city girl of his dreams. Based on the hit British format, this first US version will find a charming, hard-working farmer who is happy with his life and wanting romance and wondering if he might find happiness with a woman from the city. The show’s producers will search the nation’s cities to select a group of 10 women who have had it with bad dates in the big city and are open to making a big change. The group will consist of women looking to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and wondering if a country man with country values might offer a more attractive lifestyle. “Farmer Wants a Wife” will bring these city women to the country farmer. The ladies will have to impress them with their heart and their newfound ‘love’ for the country life, or they’ll be sent back to the city. Are these city girls ready for the realities of life and work on a farm – driving a tractor, taking care of very large farm animals and attending bingo night? Through a series of challenges, group activities, shocking eliminations and cozy dates, 10 fast-lane women will see how they match up with a back-roads guy on the path to true love.”

“The Simple Life” meets “Joe Millionaire”. “Crowned“:

“Judges Carson Kressley (‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’) and former Miss U.S.A. Shanna Moakler (‘Dancing with the Star’, ‘Meet the Barkers’) referee an eight-episode competition that dares to pit mother-daughter teams against each other in a no-holds-barred beauty pageant. ‘Crowned: The Mother of All Pageants’ explores one of the most emotional and volatile relationships as mothers and daughters from all walks of life must compete together – and against other mother-daughter teams – in order to win. Faced with challenges that focus on preparing them for the talent-show finale, the women will have to brand a ‘style’ for their mother-daughter team via clothing and swimwear, create ways of expressing a point of view about issues in the world, and practice for the big pageant dance number. Not only do good looks, talent and a penchant for world peace have to run in the family, each team must also have patience, teamwork and a healthy sense of humor. In the end, one mother-daughter team will be ‘crowned’ the winner and will receive a valuable prize package, including a $100,000 cash award, and, of course, a fabulous pair of tiaras.”

I’d say it’s unlikely to get anywhere, but it’s worth a shot. Now, how did the CW do on the points I laid out?

  • CW comedies. Grade: F. The CW does little to solve the problem with its flagging Monday comedy lineup and throws “Aliens in America” in an untenable situation.
  • Making up for the departures of hit shows. Grade: B-. The CW did well by its overall lineup by keeping Thursdays intact and using “B&tG” and “ANTM” to nurture new shows, but largely at the expense of Sundays. Then again, that night wasn’t doing well anyway.
  • Overall grade: C+. Two nights look decent, two look great by way of not changing, and two nights are train wrecks.
  • Nights that improved: Wednesday. Nights that didn’t slip as much as might be expected: Tuesday. Nights that look like a train wreck: Sunday, Monday.

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