Greetings to the New Season: The CW – UPDATED

And so we come to the last of the big network upfronts…if, that is, you consider The CW to be a big network. I’m not saying I don’t, you understand. I just mean that there are still some people out there who haven’t yet accepted Fox as being a real network, so you can only imagine what they think of The CW.

But I digress.

Sort of.

It probably is worth noting that, unlike ABC, CBS, NBC, and, yes, even Fox, The CW held their upfront without providing photos, let alone videos, to accompany their new fall series…and since there are only two of them, you’d think they could’ve at least managed to throw together logos for them to serve as preliminary artwork. Instead, I’m stuck falling back on the tried and true network logo.

Yawn.

Okay, sorry, that really was a digression…and, as it turned out, a mostly unnecessary one, since the photos had appeared on The CW’s press site by 10:30 AM EST. Still, that was well after the press release about the fall schedule went out…a press release which, FYI, required two revisions due to various accidental omissions. I’m just saying.

Anyway, on with the show(s)…

MONDAY

8 – 9 PM: 90210

9 – 10 PM: Gossip Girl

TUESDAY

8 – 9 PM: One Tree Hill

9 – 10 PM: Life Unexpected

WEDNESDAY

8 – 9 PM: America’s Next Top Model

9 – 10 PM: Hellcats: a coming-of-age story about Marti Perkins, a young, pre-law student at Lancer University in Memphis, Tennessee. Marti is cool, hip and alt, but her world flips upside down, literally and figuratively, when she loses her scholarship, and realizes the only way she can stay in school is by reigniting her dormant teen gymnastic skills to win a place on Lancer’s legendary cheerleading team, The Hellcats. Against her every instinct, Marti goes for it and makes the squad, and is thrust into a world of camaraderie, backstabbing and the intersection of sports, backroom academia and big money.

Marti’s new roommate, Savannah Monroe, a petite, peppy Texan, is among the diverse cast of athletes, undergrads, family and friends, all set on the sprawling campus of a powerhouse college football program in the deep South. The series stars Aly Michalka as Marti Perkins, Ashley Tisdale as Savannah Monroe, Heather Hemmens as Alice Verdura, Robbie Jones as Lewis Flynn, Matt Barr as Dan Patch, with Sharon Leal as Vanessa Lodge and Gail O’Grady as Wanda Perkins. “Hellcats” is executive produced by Kevin Murphy (“Desperate Housewives”), Tom Welling (“Smallville”), and Allan Arkush (“Heroes,” “Crossing Jordan”). The pilot was directed by Arkush.

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TCA Tour: The CW Executive Session

Dawn Ostroff, President of Entertainment for The CW, just took the stage for her executive session, during which time she had these things to say:

* After a year which found some pretty impressive increases in the number of young women viewers (77 percent on Mondays, 26 percent on Tuesdays), they’re going to try and build on that momentum and make their schedule more cohesive. They’re viewing themselves less as a network and more as a magazine, where people come to see what’s going on in the world. That perhaps would explain why I always feel so horribly out of touch whenever I tune in.

* The CW has stepped away from sitcoms at the moment because they can’t seem to find any which are “loud enough or noisy enough to get the attention that we get from our drama and reality shows.” In fact, they didn’t have a single sitcom in the running this season.

* Why the move of “Smallville” to Friday nights? “We felt it was the best way to open up the night,” she said, since Fridays had previously been more of a standalone night for the network. Is this the last season for the show? “I hope it isn’t. Zod is going to be the big villain this season, and Clark has to save the world, or we’re all going to be kneeling before Zod.” She says the cast and producers are excited, and she has high hopes that the show will stay on the air for awhile.

* What about seeing Michael Rosenbaum return as Lex Luthor, since he’s still talked about constantly? “I don’t know if we really had a conversation with Michael, but I think the talk was to keep the character alive and make his presence felt.” She I don’t know if (a return) will happen this season.”

* Similarly, the hope is that “Supernatural” will also continue. “Eric Kripke has done a great job creatively, and the show’s gotten better every year.”

* What does she say to a 35-year-old guy who wants to know what he can find on the network? Her response was to reel off most of The CW’s lineup and suggest that guys watch almost all of them, even “America’s Next Top Model,” even if they don’t necessarily want to admit it. But with that said, she also defended their decision to be specific about the demographic they’re courting…which is good, because, wow, talk about a total cop-out of an answer. (A 35-year-old guy can find something to watch anywhere if he doesn’t want to admit that he watches it!)

* The much-hyped “Gossip Girl” spin-off that never got off the group has now officially been given the status of “not likely.”

* “Body Politic,” the pilot which took a look at Washington politics through the eyes of up-and-coming staffers, is officially dead.

* How about a “90210” crossover? “Technically, we could do that,” she said, “because both shows are shot in L.A. I think down the road, after ‘Melrose’ gets up and running, we would consider that. It would be a big event for us.”

* As far as Mischa Barton’s health, the only real concern was that she was ready for production…and she was. “We’re happy that she’s better,” said Ostroff, “and what went on in her personal life is her business.” A question about the fact that she looks heavier in current photos than she did in the original presentation we saw for “The Beautiful Life,” asked in the context about whether re-shoots would be required, was met simply with assurances that “she looks great.”

  

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The CW: The Fall Schedule

Although I’m as cautiously amused about the idea of a “Melrose Place” reboot as I was with “90210” last year, and I’m sure my “Twilight”-loving wife will be into the network’s new Thursday night drama, I really only have one observation to make about The CW’s fall schedule: instead of pairing “Smallville” with a third season of “Reaper,” they’ve canceled the latter and are wasting an hour of their schedule re-running the episode of “America’s Next Top Model” from earlier in the week.

Are you kidding me?

Okay, that’s all I’ve got. I’m just really pissed off about that and needed to get it out of my system. Read on to see what else The CW has in stores for “the kids” this season…

MONDAY

8:00 PM – Gossip Girl
9:00 PM – One Tree Hill

TUESDAY

8:00 PM – 90210
9:00 PM – Melrose Place

In an elegant Spanish-style apartment building in the trendy Melrose neighborhood of Los Angeles, a diverse group of 20-somethings have formed a close-knit surrogate family. Sydney Andrews (Laura Leighton) is the landlady, still beautiful at 40, and a central figure in the lives of all her tenants, especially handsome and rebellious David Breck (Shaun Sipos). Sydney started an affair with David despite her turbulent history with his estranged father, Dr. Michael Mancini (Thomas Calabro). Both father and son learned through experience that Sydney was not above using blackmail to control people. Another tenant, high-powered publicist Ella Simms (Katie Cassidy), once considered Sydney her mentor, but their friendship was destroyed by betrayal, and Sydney threatened to evict Ella and ruin her career. Sydney also played a pivotal role in the career of Auggie Kirkpatrick (Colin Egglesfield). After they met at an AA meeting, she became Auggie’s sponsor and encouraged his dream to become a chef. Now a successful sous chef at the trendy restaurant Coal, Auggie has been avoiding Sydney since she began drinking again. The other tenants include Lauren Yung (Stephanie Jacobsen), a medical student in desperate need of money to pay her student loans, and Jonah Miller (Michael Rady), an aspiring filmmaker who has just proposed to his live-in girlfriend Riley Richmond (Jessica Lucas), a first-grade teacher. The newest tenant, 18-year-old Violet Foster (Ashlee Simpson-Wentz), has just arrived in LA with her own secret connection to Sydney. When a bloody body is found floating in the courtyard pool, David is the leading suspect. However, as the police are soon to discover, almost everyone living at Melrose Place had a reason to want the deceased out of the way.

WEDNESDAY

8:00 PM – America’s Next Top Model
9:00 PM – The Beautiful Life

The life of a high-fashion model appears glamorous and sexy, but as every new model quickly learns, behind the beautiful façade is a world of insecurity and cutthroat competition. Two teenage models who are about to discover this world for themselves are Raina Collins (Sara Paxton), a stunning beauty with a secret past, and Chris Andrews (Benjamin Hollingsworth), a strikingly handsome Iowa farm boy. When Raina makes an unforgettable impression at a show introducing the new line from designer Zac Posen, she steals the spotlight from her friend Sonja (Mischa Barton). Sonja has been out of the country for mysterious reasons and is now desperate to reclaim her standing as the reigning supermodel. While Raina and Sonja live at the top of the fashion food chain, Chris is starting at the bottom, having just been discovered by agent Simon Lockridge (Dusan Dukic) of the Covet Modeling Agency, which is owned by former supermodel Claudia Foster (Elle Macpherson). At his first photo shoot, Chris’ inexperience almost derails his career until Raina comes to his rescue, showing him how to relax and work the camera. That afternoon, Raina brings Chris to the “models’ residence” where she lives along with other young hopefuls, including Marissa Delfina (Ashley Madekwe), Egan (Jordan Woolley), Issac (Corbin Bleu) and the current alpha-male-model known as Kai (Nico Tortorella). At an exclusive industry party that night, Chris is again impressed by Raina’s generosity when she steps aside to make sure Sonja lands a job that will resurrect her career. However, after an ugly scene with Simon, Chris is left to question whether he can survive in this world of dangerous excess and fleeting fame.

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“Reaper” returning to life more quickly than anticipated

The good news is that, according to Variety‘s James Hibberd, The CW has decided to bring back “Reaper” on March 3rd, which is a couple of weeks earlier than originally planned. The bad news is that it’s pretty clear that they’re doing so because they need a sacrificial lamb for the spot on the schedule against “American Idol,” and since they don’t want to keep wasting perfectly good episodes of “90210,” they’ve decided to use a series in which they clearly have limited faith.

Says Hibberd:

To make way for “Reaper,” the CW also advanced its first-season finale date for “Privileged.” The show will conclude Feb. 24, having aired fewer repeats than originally planned. The network has not yet decided whether the drama will return next season. “90210” has been wrestling with “Idol” in recent weeks. Yet it and “Privileged” enjoy the highest percentage of DVR gains among any show on any network.

I don’t want to sound like a pessimist, but while I think we can count on both “90210” and “Privileged” making it back in Fall 2009 (I can’t believe they won’t keep both shows at least into a sophomore season, given the importance of DVR stats in today’s TV), the odds of “Reaper” seeing a third year are already looking slim…and it hasn’t even premiered yet! The CW already hedged their bets with the show’s second year by only giving it a 13-episode commitment, and this maneuver stinks of someone at the network saying, “If it’s a hit, awesome, and if it’s not…well, we didn’t really expect it to be, anyway, so it’s no skin off our nose!”

ADDENDUM: Tyler Labine has been one of my Facebook friends ever since I interviewed him for Bullz-Eye, and when he changed his status this morning to indicate that he was “off to LA to get a new gig,” I immediately responded by asking, “Wow, is there really that little hope for a third season of ‘Reaper’?” He quickly replied, “No, no, just a big hiatus to fill up with gigs. Just a few movie ops. Season 3 is a definite maybe right now. I’ll keep everyone posted.” Oh, okay: if he’s hopeful, then I reckon can find it in my heart to be hopeful as well.

  

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2008: The Year in TV – Will Harris

Once the writer’s strike was over, the television industry got back to business with a vengeance, offering up quite a lot of high quality material…so much, in fact, that my TiVo is STILL loaded down with shows I just haven’t had the time to watch. Seriously, I’ve got three episodes of “My Boys” that I’ve been sitting on since July. There just aren’t enough hours in the day…and I’m a full-time TV critic, for God’s sake! But here’s at least some of the stuff that I dug and despised during the course of 2008…and sometime around 2012, maybe I can offer up a complete picture of 2009.

TOP 3 SHOWS

1. “The Big Bang Theory,” CBS

No other sophomore series came roaring out of the gate like this one. Fears that the show had already jumped the shark by getting Leonard and Penny together were dismissing before the end of the second-season premiere, the addition of Sara Gilbert to the cast was an added bonus, and the suggestion that Sheldon is a sex object to physics geeks is almost too funny for words. Mark my words: this is the year that Jim Parsons earns his first Emmy nomination.

2. “30 Rock,” NBC
There’s no truth to the rumor that you can’t be a member of the Television Critics Association if you don’t like “30 Rock,” but, really, what’s not to like? Tina Fey is both gorgeous and hilarious, Alec Baldwin can’t open his mouth without getting a laugh, and, come to think of it, there’s really no-one in this ensemble who isn’t funny. So why do they keep bringing on all of these guest stars? Beats me. But since they incorporate them so well into the episodes, it’s hard to complain.

3. “Life on Mars,” ABC
When I did my 2008 Fall TV Preview, I hadn’t yet seen the pilot for this series, but if I had, it would’ve beaten out “Fringe” for the top spot on my list of new shows I was most excited about. Rising above its “based on a British series” origins, “Life on Mars” has one of the strongest casts on television (Jason O’Mara, Harvey Keitel, Michael Imperioli, Gretchen Mol, and Jonathan Murphy), a great premise (a police detective gets knocked unconscious in 2008 and wakes up in 1973), and – perhaps most impressively – managed to survive its network’s recent purge of quality dramas. For God’s sake, don’t let it go the way of “Pushing Daisies.” If you haven’t watched it yet, it’s not too late.

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