Thursday, May 17, 2007

The CW Upfronts: Quick Thoughts

The CW unveiled a downright odd schedule on Thursday (May 17) morning. Any time your network unveils three new scripted dramas and every single one is secured by a reality series lead-in, that's slightly bizarre. There are some structural risks to The CW's schedule, but they're not high-ceiling risks. Does anybody at The CW believe that "Aliens in America" or "Life Is Wild" could become a network-shaping hit the way they're currently programmed? Only "Gossip Girl" is positioned as an obvious breakout and with one success per season, The CW isn't going to grow competitive very quickly.

Before going into my night-by-night analysis, I have to say that as a "Veronica Mars" fan, I feel some regret about the show's absence on The CW's fall schedule (hope springs eternal for midseason, but I *sure* wouldn't hold my breath). But the outrage on the part of the show's fans is wasted. We're talking about the second lowest-rated original program on all of network TV this season, ahead of only "Runaway." We're talking about a show that had one of The CW's finest possible lead-ins for an entire season and got only the smallest possible ratings bump. After three seasons on the air, "Veronica Mars" wasn't suddenly and magically going to find a huge audience and The CW really couldn't renew a show with those kinds of numbers. It's a business and the show was already floated for three seasons. So cherish the memories, enjoy the DVDs and recognize that The CW didn't do anything wrong and that the past two seasons of renewals were gifts to fans already.

Oh and "One Tree Hill: The Aftermath" is probably The CW's biggest leap, pushing that cheeseball drama forward four years. It's a good idea, because your Hilarie Burtons and Chad Michael Murrays were never believable as high school students for a second and they weren't going to fit in much better as college students. Better to give Chat a decent haircut, get Sophia Bush a more grown-up wardrobe and let the characters deal with the soapy problems of people two or three younger than the actors playing them, rather than seven or eight years younger. But think of all of the tawdry mess we're going to miss from those four years? Lucas could have gone back and forth between Brooke and Peyton 20 times in four years. Haley and Nathan could have divorced and remarried five or six times. They could have at least five more babies.


A quick night-by-night review and a glance at the pilots The CW didn't pick up is after the bump, so click on through:

MONDAYS: "Everybody Hates Chris," "Aliens in America," "Girlfriends," "The Game." Not one of those three returning comedies averaged more than 2.75 million viewers last season. Both "Chris" and "Girlfriends" were done by more than a million viewers apiece. The only interesting thing is that these four comedies, TV's most diverse, are going up against CBS' Monday comedies, TV's least diverse. Since they're corporate siblings, I guess that Les Moonves figures that combined, the 8 CBS/CW Monday comedies will bring in one full audience. But where is the upside in this night for The CW? Is there any chance that ratings will somehow improve? If not, what business are you in?

TUESDAYS: "Beauty and the Geek," "Reaper." Sorry, but "Beauty and the Geek" is a fill-in show, a fantastic fill-in show. It's a great thing to have around and know that if need to fill a couple dead programming months, it's there. But is it a show you want starting your fall? A show you want leading into a potentially fun new show? I don't know. But I like Bret Harrison and I love the idea of Ray Wise as Satan, so I'll find a way to be recording "Reaper." If The CW was smart, though, they'd move "Reaper" out of the way of NBC's "Chuck," because the target demos are identical.

WEDNESDAY: "America's Next Top Model," "Gossip Girl." No complains her at all. The CW obviously liked "Gossip Girl" and I'm looking forward to it myself, at least to checking out the pilot. With "ANTM" as a lead-in, viewers will sample it and it should do fine. That's logical programming.

THURSDAY: "Smallville," "Supernatural." I liked pairing "Supernatural" and "Reaper" in a thematically compatible Sunday block and using "Smallville," surely on its last legs by now, to launch something new in what may be its last season as a functional lead-in. Nope. That's what I mean by "low upside programming." You know what The CW Thursday will deliver, but it won't do any better next season than it did this season.

FRIDAY: "WWE Smackdown!" Fine ratings, no connection to whatever The CW brand is supposed to be.

SATURDAY: The lights are off.

SUNDAY: "CW Now," "Online Nation," "Life Is Wild," "ANTM Encore." If "CW Now" and "Online Nation" aren't next season's two least watched original programs on any network, I'll eat my hat. That bodes ill for "Life Is Wild."

INTERESTING PILOTS (BASED ON PLOT AND CAST, NOT ANYTHING I'VE SEEN) THAT DIDN'T GET PICKED UP: The comedy "Eight Days a Week" co-starred Anna Chlumsky, Christina Milian and Mario Lopez and it was written by my friend Marcie. I wanted that sucker on air. I'm also disappointed that Autumn Reeser, so important to the 4th season creative rebirth of "The O.C.," wasn't able to swiftly land back on air, since her pilot wasn't picked up either. Mostly, though, The CW seems to only seriously develop a few shows this spring...

And check out our more exhaustive upfronts coverage over at Zap2it.


  1. Anonymous10:55 AM

    I'm upset about the loss of Veronica Mars since I only started watching during the third season but I'm feeling less irritated about the loss of it now.

    I still think that the ratings system is kind of screwed up and the show probably was doing better than the numbers would imply.

    Also the time slot was rather mismanaged. House is an superior show to pretty much everything on TV at the moment and Veronica against it was a killer for sure.

    On a related note, I see a similar fate for Reaper. Reaper looks interesting but it's up against House.

    Anyway, working at a CW affiliate I got to watcht he upfront via sattelite feed. The mass of reality programming is dissapointing. Farmer Wants a Wife? What the hell is up with that?

    Most of the sales staff here watching the presentation commented that Life is Wild won't last two episodes. I can't say it's something I'll watch. They all liked Aliens in America and Reaper though.

    Surprisingly a several of them liked the idea of CW Now and Online Nation so maybe those shows aren't as dead as they might appear to be. As long as the shows are kept fresh. Not as many people are as internet savy as you might think.

    I'm kind of indifferent to Gossip Girl myself. I did miss part of the sequence though as my primary job at the time was making sure the feed was running properly to everyone's offices. Reaper I like as I said but as I watched the preview I kept thinking "This looks pretty good... if it were a movie".

    Anyway I'm kind of rambling now.

  2. Anonymous8:51 PM

    I think it's hard not to feel sad about Veronica Mars when you know that one of the possible primetime slots went to something called "Farmer Wants a Wife."