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Upfronts Analysis: The CW 2009-2010 Fall Schedule

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The CW 2009-2010 Fall Schedule

May 21st, 2009

Everyone likes to point to NBC as a network in crisis, and I really can’t contest that point; however, while Jay Leno may be a bad plan, it is at least actually a plan. The CW, by comparison, has been floundering for the past few years and has no strategy to really change that fact. Each year seems to be as much of a struggle as the last: while a few flagship programs perform well, and the network has more cultural awareness than one would expect considering the anemic ratings, there is something wholly dissatisfying about a network which identifies itself either entirely based on demographics or, worse of all, based on repeating its current (non-)success ad nauseum.

This results in a schedule summed up beautifully by Lilly Hill in yesterdays CBS Upfronts edition of the TV on the Internet podcast: “It sucks.” After giving away Sunday nights to the affiliates, and not even programming one half of Friday nights, it’s a schedule that lacks this past season’s one promising new addition, gets rid of the principle of comedy entirely, and one which offers little in new or exciting ventures for advertisers or viewers to be excited about. NBC may be struggling, but one feels as if their lineup for the upcoming year at least combines an awareness of critical opinion, audience patterns, and future programming oppotunities.

My comparison, it appears The CW has actually let its core demographic of teenage girls create their schedule through rigged focus groups designed to give them the answers they want, and not the answers they really need.

Full schedule and analysis after the jump.

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Upfronts Analysis: The CW 2008-2009 Fall Schedule

“Scheduling, 90210”

The CW 2008-2009 Fall Schedule

Say what you will about The CW’s second year, but it will be remembered as a general failure in the eyes of most analysts. There was just something about its lineup that fell apart, and no one really knows why: Gossip Girl has been one of the most buzzed about shows on television, the network had two strong pilots in Aliens in America and Reaper, and it seemed as if for once things were going well for Dawn Ostroff. Then, however, everything fell apart: Gossip Girl has been an on-air failure compared to its internet traffic, its reality shows have been absolute busts, and its comedies have struggled mightily.

So, heading into its third year, The CW is taking off the gloves and looking to make a mark on television again. The result is a combination of blatant attempts to rekindle old television glory, further branding their audience based on the teenage girls who make Gossip Girl buzzworthy, and a few bones to critics to prove that the network isn’t in as much of a state of flux as we know they are. The result is something that seems oddly familiar, and The CW only hopes the results aren’t familiar as well.

The New Shows

90210 – Tuesdays at 8pm

It is inevitable that I will be watching this series, even after Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars, Cupid) moved on to his other two pilots (Neither of which has been finalized due to ABC’s decision to largely keep pilot decisions until midseason) and left it in the hands of other people. It has cast members I want to see, particularly the fantastic Jessica Walter (Arrested Development) as the Matriarch, and I’m a sucker for teen dramas.

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The Sophomore Test: ‘Chuck’, ‘Reaper’, ‘Dirty Sexy Money’

Think making a television pilot is hard? Pfft, a pilot is nothing. A pilot has an astronomical budget, a lengthy shooting schedule, and a certain level of freedom not seen within an episodic structure. The real test of a series’ quality, then, is the second episode. It’s the one that gives a better indication of a showrunner’s ability to wrangle their initial pilot concept into an affordable and still entertaining series.

So, let’s see how three of the year’s series (None of which I’ve spent considerable time discussing) held up this week not just in terms of ratings, but in terms of quality.

Chuck

What I liked about Chuck’s pilot was its geeky sensibility and slick production values. There has been a lot of talk about Chuck lacking content below that surface, that it rides by on production and concept alone without any depth. And do you know what? I think that these people are correct. And, well, I don’t really care.

The series will only fail at this point if it takes itself too seriously. At this point, the comedy and the drama are almost at odds, fighting it out for the focus of the series. I want the show to be able to embrace its light-hearted side just a little bit more, finding a balance that works for it.

I think the second episode did an admirable job of keeping the series’ geeky elements from becoming too cliched (It was impossible to do so entirely) while keeping things (relatively) balanced. My concern, however, is that they will keep trying to find spy-related storylines and be unwilling to let Chuck’s personal life dominate. This isn’t Alias, the comic setup is good enough to support more personal developments.

The verdict: Good, but not great. It didn’t expand to anything the least bit revolutionary, but it has comic and dramatic potential to be tapped.

Reaper

In the first non-Kevin Smith episode, I honestly felt like there wasn’t a huge tonal shift in Reaper’s second episode. I think that this is, on the one hand, a good thing: after all, I liked the pilot. On the other hand, I think that the similarity had much less to do with a continued sense of quality, and more a sense of deja vu.

Yes, Reaper stayed fairly consistent in its second week, but with that came both its good and its bad. On the good side, Ray Wise stayed sharp as the devil, and Bret Harrison continues to define scrutable in the lead role. But, unlike Chuck, which had a fairly energetic pilot, Reaper’s was occasionally a bit slow and expositional.

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Tuesday Night Wrapup: Reaper and Ratings Report

Tuesday Night Wrapup

September 26th, 2007

Reaper – “Pilot”

What: The reworked pilot to The CW’s new comedy series directed by Kevin Smith. The reworking applies only to those scenes featuring Andy, the love interest, who was recast (Details here).

Highlights: The show remains funny, Ray Wise remains fantastic as Satan, and I didn’t necessarily hate Missy Peregrym.

Lowlights: Peregrym, however, is rather boring and does nothing to improve the series over Nikki Reed, and the reshot scenes were too obvious thanks to Bret Harrison’s stubble.

Tuesday Ratings Report

What: The Fast National Nielsen Ratings for the second night of TV’s new season from PIFeedback.

The Winners: House and Dancing with the Stars stole the show with stunning demo and viewer performances, with House combining with a strong Bones (In the demo, anyways) to win the demo for FOX. Law & Order: SVU also performed well, dominating its timeslot in the demo. CBS’ NCIS and The Unit kept up last year’s numbers.

The New Shows: Reaper earned similar numbers to Veronica Mars’ performance last year, but actually grew out of Beauty and the Geek and might get a reprieve because of it. CBS’ Cane, meanwhile, performed well in terms of viewers but couldn’t match last year’s short-lived Smith in the demo which could hurt it in the long run.

The Losers: Beauty & the Geek and The Biggest Loser struggled against new competition, and Boston Legal couldn’t retain much of its Dancing with the Stars lead-in.

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