Take Me To The Upfronts: The CW

In All, Television by David

Welcome back Take Me To The Upfronts. I have already taken a look at ABC’s and CBS’ offerings, and now I am ready to take a look at The CW. Also, before we start, you can still see my thoughts on the pilots that vied for spots this season here and here. Let’s get to it.

It’s still here, and ready to show it can play in the big leagues.

The CW FALL 2016-17 SCHEDULE

(New programs in UPPER CASE)

MONDAY

8-9 PM — Supergirl
9-10 PM — Jane The Virgin

TUESDAY

8-9 PM — The Flash
9-10 PM — NO TOMORROW

WEDNESDAY

8-9 PM — Arrow
9-10 PM — FREQUENCY

THURSDAY

8-9 PM — DC’S Legends of Tomorrow
9-10 PM — Supernatural

FRIDAY

8-9 PM — The Vampire Diaries
9-10 PM — Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Not Scheduled: The Originals, RIVERDALE, The 100, iZombie, Reign

Initial Analysis:

  • At this point there is a clear pattern to The CW. Every night starts with a super hero show–or Vampire Diaries, which one could really argue is a super hero show–and then follows it with something rather different. That doesn’t mean the network’s schedule is completely random, as for years The CW has been really good at pairing programs each night in a way that makes some sort of sense thematically, even if they appear completely different subject-wise (with the exception of The 100, but that is because nothing else on The CW is really like The 100). That holds true in this upcoming season, as all the nights give off a different vibe. Mondays and Tuesdays pair light and optimistic super hero shows in Supergirl and The Flash (well, assuming The Flash remembers that it is supposed to be that kind of show after a experimenting a bit too much with a darker tone in its most recent season) with zany comedies in Jane The Virgin and No Tomorrow. Wednesday goes with a more gritty vibe with Arrow and Frequency. Thursday pairs its craziest super hero show in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow with the ever undying Supernatural, which as a show can fit with basically anything. Even Friday makes a bit of sense, as The Vampire Diaries and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend share a lot of sensibilities, despite the fact that one of them has vampires in it, while the other presumably never will (I guess you never know, though, and musical vampires have been a thing before). It’s a packed schedule, which is why The CW has five shows that are being saved for the midseason. The network is now running into a real problem of having too much programming, but unlike other networks, The CW seems equipped to handle that. It is also nice to see that even with the network more and more simply becoming the super hero network, it has also been steadily adding female-led comedies to its lineup that have brought the network award buzz in general and Golden Globes in specific for both Gina Rodriguez and Rachel Bloom (considering how the Globes work, Tori Anderson should be prepared to get a statue of her own if No Tomorrow has the same critical success as Jane The Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend). Overall, The CW continues to do what it does quite well, while still being overlooked by most of mainstream viewers.

Decisions that made me happy and/or excited:

Embracing the Changing Television Landscape

Things be changing in television, but The CW seems ready for it. So the question is, when will shows like The 100 actually air?

  • So the reason it isn’t that big of a deal that The CW has so many shows is that the network has basically acknowledged that the current way TV seasons work is kind of broken. Too many shows are forced to do 21-24 episodes, even though most can’t handle that kind of season length (other than procedurals). Re-runs are way too prevalent during the actual season to save important episodes for sweeps, which causes a lot shows to lose momentum, and the summer is still not being utilized well enough by the major networks. The CW has been better than most about understanding how the old television model has to change to fit with the times. It was one of the first networks to realize that traditional ratings were becoming less and less important, and that especially the younger demographic that the network caters to doesn’t even really watch TV on actual, physical TVs any more. So The CW made a bold choice to renew every bit of programming from this past season and then bring in four more shows (well, five if you count whatever they are going to do with Mad TV). They are going to make this work by only giving 21-24 episode orders to shows that can actually handle that, and lowering the count on the rest to better fit the stories being told (or in the case of Legends of Tomorrow, keep the episode count lower because that show is ridiculously expensive). The network is going to be more aggressive in how it uses the time normally set aside for re-runs, and most importantly, they’ve acknowledged they will experiment with using the summer more (though I doubt we will see the fruits of that effort until next summer). All of this continues to show that The CW is a rather smart network that is equipped to change with the times and survive the great television upheaval that will one day be upon us all.

Bringing Supergirl Where It Belongs

  • So while I lamented that CBS let this show go, I can’t argue with the fact that Supergirl is now where she truly belongs. The logic behind The CW not picking up Supergirl in the first place last season was sound. The network worried about being too overloaded with super hero shows, so it was smart to stop acquiring them one show too early instead of a show too late. But once Supergirl aired, it became more and more clear that it belonged on The CW as opposed to CBS, which never really seemed to accept what the show was and instead tried too hard to make it fit into the CBS formula because it didn’t trust people would watch a super hero show on its own. Supergirl found its stride anyhow, but its time on CBS always felt a bit off. Now it is on a network that will support it properly (creatively speaking, at least–the show’s budget is going to go way down, unfortunately), Supergirl can really start to soar. More importantly, now the crossovers with the other DC properties on The CW can become a much more common occurrence and not be the scheduling nightmare that was getting Grant Gustin as a guest star last season. A lot of fun can come from this, and the already hinted at quadruple show crossover that will occur this upcoming season is going to be so much fun. The CW admitting it was wrong to pass on Supergirl originally, and then stepping up to rectify that mistake even if it did create a bit of a scheduling issue was a smart call by the network, and continued to highlight that Mark Pedowitz is the right man to lead The CW going forward.

Continuing To Add Female Fronted Shows

  • With the exception of Riverdale, which could almost count as well, considering how important Betty and Veronica are sure to be in a show based on Archie comics, all the new shows The CW brought in have females as the main leads. This continues the trend of the network making an effort to make more diverse shows and keep a lot of its WB DNA. And the network isn’t just making shows with female leads, but also making ones with very unique female leads. Like ABC, The CW is doing its best to get women into roles that aren’t simply the same old archetypes that have been done on television for decades, partly by fighting against the idea that a woman can’t lead a show that’s meant to have broad appeal. In the case of Frequency, the network realized that the film’s premise could work with a woman in the lead role just as well as a man, and went with it. This has really helped the network create a fascinating mix of shows that aren’t all carbon copies of each other. It has also helped combat the fact that, due to a variety of factors, Supernatural has been allowed to become one of the worst shows on television in terms of its treatment of women, which is still baffling to behold. On top of the Supernatural issue, it must be said that The CW is still struggling with making its network less white, especially in its main stars (though the network has been trending in a better direction with this as well, with shows like Jane The Virgin and The 100), so let’s not act like the network is perfect. But it is refreshing to see The CW continually being willing to take shots on female-led shows where other networks might not be because they don’t fit into a predetermined box.

Decisions that made me sad and/or confused:

Not Picking Up UNTITLED MARS PROJECT (aka Colony)

  • I can’t be too hard on The CW for picking up a show I’ve never seen. Maybe it just wasn’t any good. But I’m still sad to lose out on a program that had way more potential than any of the other pilots for The CW this season. This show really could have been another The 100 in terms of storytelling (hopefully without the creator baggage The 100 now suffers from), and otherwise a very different show from the rest of the network. Admittedly, it also would have finally given Georgina Haig a permanent show, which has eluded her after strong runs on Fringe and the Frozen season of Once Upon a Time, so that was also a nice plus, but the main disappointment is just that this pilot seemed by far the strongest of the bunch conceptually. The CW has always been a network willing to take chances, and it is worrisome that they didn’t here. Now that the network has gained more prominence thanks to its slate of popular super hero shows, could it start becoming more conventional in its show choices? These are very small concerns, but still they are concerns nonetheless, and I am left once again lamenting the loss of what could have been a really strong major network sci-fi show.

Picking Up Frequency

I want this show to be good, but my Boring Procedural sense is tingling.

  • Look, I’ll admit I could be wrong about this one, especially if the show is really willing to delve into the time warping shenanigans that the trailer shows, but I was concerned about this show in my pilot article and I am still concerned now. Mainly because I just worry that Frequency will become simply too much of a procedural, which would make it a poor fit for the rest of The CW’s programming as well as a waste of network favorite Peyton List, to whom they’ve been trying to give a starring vehicle for quite some time. This show just feels too conventional for The CW, and when paired with the network not picking up a far more potentially interesting show, it’s troubling. Also, in general this feels more like something CBS would do: grab a random movie and try and make a show out of it–except in this case, The CW picked Frequency, which is just bizarre. Frequency certainly wasn’t a failure as a movie, but it is not like that film has hordes and hordes of fans dying to see more of this concept. So none of this really makes any sense. Hopefully, this show will let its timey wimey flag fly and end up working really well, especially as a pairing with Arrow, but The CW’s track record with procedurals is spotty at best (iZombie‘s worst parts are generally the procedural elements, which seemed forced at times), so it is hard to get too excited about seeing what Frequency will bring to the network.

Still Not Adding More Programming Slots

  • So as nice as it is that the network is embracing the idea that it can move shows around and air them at different times to make up for having overscheduled, it doesn’t change the fact that The CW is only in this predicament because it continues to bizarrely only offer ten hours of programming a week. Now, there is a lot more to this issue than it would first appear, as there are a lot of contracts and agreements that have to be made with local networks in order to get extra programming time, but it seems like now would be the perfect time for the network to at least start airing things on Sunday. Admittedly, this idea has been around for quite some time for The CW, but the network is is clearly acknowledging that its lack of programming space this year or else it wouldn’t feel the need to get so creative with how it is going to schedule all the shows it has. So maybe this is the year this idea finally gains some new traction. Still, it continues to be frustrating that this hasn’t happened yet, because this is one of the reasons The CW has always been treated like more like a mini-major network than a major. The CW has always hovered at a level that puts it above other cable networks, but never quite on par with the Big 4, even though the the quality of its programming more than holds its own with Fox, ABC, NBC, and CBS. So I’d really like to see the network get more proactive about using its new prominence to obtain more programming time. Now like I said, the network is expanding its programming in other ways, and even if it doesn’t stretch to Sundays, well, there is a real case to be made that it doesn’t matter, as a network’s online presence quickly becomes more important than traditional television slots, but it would still be nice to see The CW actually really try to take a swing at joining the big kids table in a more permanent capacity.

Failed Pilots:

Comedy

  • Nothing

Drama

  • Transylvania
  • UNTITLED MARS PROJECT (fka Colony)
  • UNTITLED PARANORMAL PROJECT

Pilots I Wished Would Have Been Picked Up: UNTITLED MARS PROJECT (fka Colony)

Overall Thoughts:

  • The CW continues its strong run, and with the addition of Supergirl the network might now have two shows that get rating numbers that could hang with the Big 4. It continues to try to stay a step ahead of the changing trends in television, and keeps looking like one of the few networks that has taken advantage of the how the Internet and television have become more and more linked. Its schedule is strong and relatively stable going forward, even as it looks like that long-time network backbone The Vampire Diaries is on its last legs. Hopefully that show will be allowed to have a final season, and not be forced to become the constant revolving door of creative voices Supernatural has over the years. The state of The CW is strong, and this upcoming year could be one of the biggest ever for the network.

That’s it for The CW. Next up is Fox. Fox hasn’t been doing so well these past few years, at least until Empire swooped in and helped stabilize the network (and even that is no longer a sure thing). But one show does not a make a network, so what else does Fox have to offer? We’ll find out next time.