This season, the CW formally became the red-headed stepchild of former half-networks the WB and UPN. In the merge, more WB programs made the leap than did UPN shows, and many of them, like Gilmore Girls and Seventh Heaven, had long runs even before this new network. However, with both the aforementioned shows cancelled prior to the upfronts, the CW looked like they needed to continue to bridge the gap between old favorites and new shows to put them on the map. What did they come up with?
New series are in bold.
8:00-8:30 PM EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS
8:30-9:00 PM ALIENS IN AMERICA
9:00-9:30 PM GIRLFRIENDS
9:30-10:00 PM THE GAME
8:00-9:00 PM BEAUTY AND THE GEEK
9:00-10:00 PM REAPER
8:00-9:00 PM AMERICA'S NEXT TOP MODEL
9:00-10:00 PM GOSSIP GIRL
8:00-9:00 PM SMALLVILLE
9:00-10:00 PM SUPERNATURAL
8:00-10:00 PM FRIDAY NIGHT SMACKDOWN!
7:00-7:30 PM CW NOW
7:30-8:00 PM ONLINE NATION
8:00-9:00 PM LIFE IS WILD
9:00-10:00 PM AMERICA'S NEXT TOP MODEL (Encore Presentation)
Everything old is new again! Gossip Girl is one of two series created by The O.C.’s Josh Schwartz on television this fall, and Gossip seems much closer in tone to The O.C. than Schwartz’s other show, Chuck, does. Focusing on the students of an elite Manhattan prep school and based on a series of novels for young girls, Gossip seems like another teen hit in the making – and the WB half of the CW has a long history of successful, cheap to produce girly soaps – from Dawson’s Creek to One Tree Hill. (For you two or three OTH fans, that series will return as a midseason, although it will jump ahead to the characters' post-college lives, with online 'video diaries' filling in the gaps. Yeah. That'll work.) I’m not too excited about Gossip Girl, but then again, I wasn’t too hot on The O.C. when it first came out and that became one of my favorite guilty pleasures of recent years before it collapsed under the weight of its own ridiculousness. Hopefully Schwartz will be able to balance his two shows without making the same mistakes he made on The O.C.
Life is Wild, on the other hand, is the network’s attempt to replace/duplicate the success of Seventh Heaven – although, based on the summary provided by the CW, this is more Everwood meets Seventh Heaven…set in South Africa. It’s about a vet (Brett Cullen, aka The West Wing‘s Governor Ray Sullivan, an amalgam of so many people I can’t use my standard “Fake Real Person” trope) who drags his daughter, his second wife, and their family to South Africa. Angst, romance, lions, ensue. It’s a neat concept, and it reminds me of a show that aired briefly on ABC in the 90s, but I’m guessing it will be family-friendly, and, just the way Seventh Heaven went eleven years without really addressing the important issues regarding faith in America, Life is Wild will probably ignore the myriad of problems facing both South Africa and the African continent today, save a very special episode starring Nicolas Cage as Yuri Orlov. (I cannot remember the name of that ABC show, by the way. First person to send in the answer to email@example.com gets a no-prize.)
Joining Life is Wild on Sunday night are two new reality series, CW Now, which is Entertainment Tonight – You Know, For Kids! and Online Nation, which is YouTube: The Series. (For those of you wondering, idk if my bff Jill will be making a guest appearance on Online Nation.) The other reality shows picked up or renewed by the CW for 2007-2008 were America’s Next Top Model, Beauty and the Geek, that Pussycat Dolls show, Crowned: The Mother of All Pageants and Farmer Wants A Wife. Farmer and Crowned are midseasons, and please don’t ask what they are. You’re better off not knowing.
The last two new shows on the CW sound much better than any of those. Aliens in America was a show I covered in our pilot preview, yet the concept made me think this wouldn’t get picked up. Aliens is a high-school comedy about a Wisconsin nerd whose family befriends a Pakistani Muslim exchange student. I still have some doubts about the series, as it would be incredibly easy to fall into “Muslims do this! White people do this!” tropes a la Perfect Strangers, but somehow, I have faith that it won’t be like that. I don’t know where this faith comes from, but there it is.
Reaper is a comedic take on the brilliant but cancelled series Brimstone and Dead Like Me (with a side order of Buffy), about a slacker who realizes that his parents sold his soul to the devil before he was born. When The Prince of All That Is Evil (formerly known as Simon Cowell, and played here by Ray Wise of Goodnight and Good Luck fame) informs our young protagonist about said bargain, this twenty-something ne’r-do-well learns he must serve as the Devil’s bounty hunter, collecting souls who’ve escaped from Hell. His weapon? A Dirt Devil. The pilot for Reaper was directed, but not written, by View Askewnian Kevin Smith, who is also an exec. producer on the series. I’m a little wary of this show, as it seems to be taking and combining parts from other, better shows, but there’s something about the concept that makes me smile and I’m one of these suckers who still likes Kevin Smith., so I’ll be checking this one out.
Speaking of deals with the Devil, Supernatural, the road-trip through Old Weird America begun two years ago by Sam and Dean Winchester, will go on for another season. I’m really happy about this – I think that Supernatural is one of the best genre shows currently on television and it deserves a long, Buffy-sized run and fanbase. The show had its season finale last night, and I wasn’t hot about it at first, but the more I think about it, the more I like it – Dean selling his soul to the devil is a great twist that’s actually in character for him, and the release of hundreds of demons from Hell gives the boys a new mission that also allows for the great standalones and humor that set this show apart. (There’s a Die Hard reference in the second half of the second season that is completely awesome.) While I wish that they’d move it out of that particular timeslot – Thursdays at 9 – the fact that it hasn’t been must mean that the CW is happy with what numbers it’s been pulling in the Timeslot of Doom. (Smallville, Supernatural’s lead-in, will return for what’s looking to be a seventh and final season as well.)
Not so lucky was Veronica Mars, which was cancelled by the CW after a number of experiments in its third season left the dark and twisted P.I. drama a shell of its former self. Even though the cracks started to show in season two, it seemed (From what I saw, I prefer to watch this show on DVD) to fall apart completely this year and I wonder how much of that was network interference to make it more like Gilmore Girls or Rob Thomas totally choking. If it’s the former, I hope to read about it some day, and if it’s the latter, let’s hope he gets his head back in the game and brings us another great show, and soon. Another good thing about Veronica’s cancellation is that it now frees up Kristin Bell, Percy Daggs III, Francis Capra, and Jason Dohring to go rock the house in films and other tv shows. I’m sure these guys will all land on their feet, and we’ll all be hearing from them very soon. (I’d also like to see Ryan “Dick Casablancas” Hansen get more work, but that’s because I love Dick.)
Fall Prognosis: Uncertain. Obviously, Gossip Girls has a ton of commercial potential, but with the other new shows, it’s going to be all about the execution. This could either be a very good or a very bad fall for the CW, but as long as Supernatural is sticking around for another year, I’ll be rooting for them.