Call me crazy, but upon reviewing the scheduled panels for this week’s Television Critics Association event, I’m beginning to think the sophomore season line-up of the struggling CW Network sounds much, much better than its first.
Returning favorites Supernatural, Smallville, One Tree Hill, America’s Next Top Model, Girlfriends, The Game and Everybody Hates Chris all deserved another season, so it’s no surprise that they’re all coming back. Critically acclaimed private eye series Veronica Mars isn’t coming back, but with its persistently basement-dwelling ratings all through last season, that news didn’t shock even its most diehard fans. But while this season is likely to be Smallville‘s swan song, the rest of the CW’s returning shows have plenty of life in them.
Many fans were especially relieved at Supernatural being granted a third season. Arguably the network’s best kept secret, Supernatural had gone head-to-head with twin ratings juggernauts CSI and Grey’s Anatomy all year long, making it look like an iffy David going up against two ratings Goliaths in that killer time slot. Next season, it’s a slot that’ll get even tougher with NBC moving The Office there.
It’s true that whatever the CW puts there will get smooshed like a bug on a very, very big windshield, but as Supernatural is easily one of the best, if not the best, that the CW has to offer, it’s sad to see it barely holding its own and toiling in obscurity week after week. Supernatural plain old deserves better, but at least it’s coming back for a Season Three.
The fact that One Tree Hill is rebooting its storylines by fast forwarding the plot to five years in the future, post-college, was a genius move by creator Mark Schwan. The actors are all far too old to play teenagers any more, and this way, we get to skip the tedious and frequent show-killing “college years” seasons and just get right to the aftermath. I predict there will be a host of new and interesting storylines for the characters to mine, maybe something a little more relatable to the audience that has grown up with it.
I’m glad it got the five-years-in-the-future reboot, instead of a similar gimmick proposed for the now-defunct Veronica Mars. Additionally, One Tree Hill is moving to Wednesdays at 9, a much less competitive time slot, and the CW is running it a la 24 – all in a row, without a long midseason hiatus, which has been proven several years in a row to be a surefire ratings killer across the board on every network. So although the third and fourth seasons of One Tree Hill have lagged behind in ratings, this show’s fifth season has all the makngs of an impressive comeback.
In even better news for the CW, most of the network’s new offerings look very promising, too.
Gossip Girl, the new show by the creator of The OC, Josh Schwartz, has managed to garner the network what it has heretofore been lacking: some actual industry buzz. Based on a smart and deliciously Mean Girlsish young adult series by the same title, with a solid cast and word on the street being that it’s one of the better pilots delivered this pilot season, this is the one many TV critics are keeping an eye on for the fall season.
Still, one can’t help but find it ironic that they’ve signed Veronica Mars’ Kristen Bell on as the faceless, anonymous narrator, only employing her least flattering quality as an actress: her squeaky little speaking voice.
Another new serial drama, Life is Wild, sounds suspiciously like Everwood. Maybe I’m cheap and easy, because I was an obsessive Everwood fanatic, and so I’ll watch anything that sounds like Everwood. I can perhaps even forgive that it’s on the same network that boneheadedly canceled Everwood for Runaway and a terrible last season of 7th Heaven.
This show is about a transplanted, blended New York family living in a South African game reserve, filmed on an actual South African game reserve, with a legitimate international cast more diverse than even Lost‘s, and with the patriarch role being played by the legendary and still smokin’ hot Rutger Hauer. Basically, it’s Everwood Meets Meerkat Manor! What’s not to love about that? With a winning and family-friendly Sunday timeslot, this one has sleeper-hit potential written all over it.
Aliens in America is a new and very well-received half-hour comedy about an urban family that takes in a Pakistani exchange student. The family includes a, shall we say, alienated teenager who forms an unlikely bond with the exchange student, who also has trouble fitting in. Its pilot script was funny and thoughtful, and coupled back-to-back with the always-hilarious and whip-smart Everybody Hates Chris, it should boost the CW’s prestige in being a frontrunner of smart comedies with strong minority casts. I’m glad that they renewed the female-centric comedies The Game and Girlfriends, too.
Dawn Ostroff, president of the CW Network, liked to claim – unironically – that The Search for the Next Pussycat Doll was a show about female empowerment. That’s obviously a complete joke, but at least the two sitcoms that really do focus on the lives and concerns of its primarily female casts both got another season, and that’s better than nothing.
Reaper is the one entry into the fall season line-up that I think may be less than a sure thing. Its premise is distasteful and complicated. Starring Adam Brody’s real-life best friend, Bret Harrison, it’s a comedy about a man who becomes the Devil’s bounty hunter, rounding up lost souls and sending them back to hell in order to avoid the same fate himself.
It bears repeating: it’s a comedy. Now, I may be missing something here, but sending people to eternal damnation for one’s own personal gain does not exactly speak of a wealth of hilarity to mine, but apparently the CW execs see things differently.
Its pilot is directed by acclaimed director Kevin Smith, who conjoined irreverence and religion in the film Dogma to mixed reviews, so the jury is still out as to whether or not this one will be watchable. The real problem is that it’s difficult to imagine what its target demographics are intended to be. I just don’t know who they think will turn out to watch this show in droves.
Not families, nor fans of horror/paranormal shows (it’s a comedy!), nor teenagers (the actors are not at all cute enough, there is no romantic pairing, and the satiric irony of the premise far overreaches that demo). No, I think it’s safe to say it’s doomed to a quick and painful ratings basement death. There’s irony in there somewhere, but I’m still too put off by its premise to think too hard on it.
Reality shows are very cheap for networks to make, and this had to be especially appealing to the ad-revenue-challenged CW Network, which explains their new crop of reality fare. Its most controversial, Farmer Wants a Wife, has the stupidest reality show title ever since My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance, but the premise itself could possibly – note the cautious qualifiers there – be interesting. As I understand it, it’s a show that is about a farmer choosing a wife among ten city girls who are fed up with city living and city prospects.
It is a well-known cultural phenomenon in American culture that there is a sort of renaissance of idealization of “simple country living” among urban women ages 18 to 34, and it is possible that this show will look at those ideals and contrast them to how the realities of “simple country living” measure up. I realize the show will probably oversimplify this to the point of near-incomprehensibility, but I also think that as far as reality fare goes, it’s quite different, and it has the potential to be somewhat thought-provoking.
This previous season of television was a strong one in terms of serial dramas, sci-fi and fantasy shows with “cult” potential, and generally strong program line-ups. Nevertheless, there are many valid and well-documented reasons why the ratings on every show, every prime time network, every genre continue to slip across the board. Kudos to the CW Network for daring to take some risks to address and, hopefully, counter that next year. I and my TiVo can hardly wait.
Oh, who am I kidding? I just want the damn network to do well so I get four or five more seasons of Supernatural. Did I mention I was cheap and easy?