Friday, May 20, 2011

The CW’s 2011-12 Season

cw_logoThe CW, the network that some has described as “the cable of broadcast television,” has announced its 2011-12 line-up. Four new hour long series will be debuting in the Fall with two new series and one returning series debuting at mid-season. In addition three series will be changing either their time or their night.

Cancelled: Hellcats, Shedding For The Wedding, Life Unexpected, Smallville (planned ending).

Moved: Gossip Girl, 90210, Nikita.

Renewed: America’s Next Top Model, Vampire Diaries, Supernatural

New Series: Dramas – Hart of Dixie, Ringer, Secret Circle
Reality – H8R

The CW also has two reality series – Remodeled and The Frame – for mid-season. As well returning series One Tree Hill will be returning at mid-season for thirteen episodes to bring the show to its conclusion.

Complete Schedule (All times Eastern, new shows in Capitals)

8:00-9:00 p.m.  Gossip Girl (New Time)
9:00-10:00 p.m.  HART OF DIXIE

8:00-9:00 p.m.  90210 (New Day)
9:00-10:00 p.m.  RINGERS

8:00-9:00 p.m.  H8R
9:00-10:00 p.m.  America’s Next Top Model

8:00-9:00 p.m.  Vampire Diaries
9:00-10:00 p.m.  SECRET CIRCLE

8:00-9:00 p.m.  Supernatural
9:00-10:00 p.m.  Nikita (New Day)

In Hart of Dixie, Rachel Bilson plays Dr. Zoe Hart, a new doctor who expects to follow in her father’s footsteps as a cardio-thoracic surgeon. That is she does until her dreams fall apart and she receives an offer from a stranger, Dr. Harley Wilkes to work in his rural Alabama practice. When she gets to the Gulf Coast town of Bluebell Alabama to join the practice she discovers that Dr. Wilkes has died and left the practice to her. The problem is that at least some of the locals aren’t displaying the legendary Southern hospitality, notably Dr. Brick Brick Breeland the other doctor in town, and his daughter Lemon (Jaime King) on the other hand she does have a few allies: the towns may Lavon Hayes (Cress Williams), her bad-boy neighbour Wade Kinsella (Wilson Bethel), and lawyer George Tucker (Scott Porter) who just happens to be Lemon’s fiancee. While Rachel’s initial instinct is to go back to New York, a visit from her snobby mother leads Rachel to change her mind and discover both small town life and a side of herself she never knew existed.

H8TR is a new reality show hsted by Mario Lopez that brings celebrities face to face with the ordinary peple who hate them, in an attempt to win them over.

Ringer marks the return of Sarah Michelle Gellar to series television in a dual role. Gellar plays Bridget Cafferty and her identical twin sister Siobhan Marx. After recovering addict Bridget witnesses a professional hit. Despite the assurances of her FBI protection agent Victor Machado (Nestor Carbonell) she decides to flee New York and go to her sister. Bridget and her sister Siobhan have been estranged for some time to the point where no one in Siobhan’s wealthy and pampered life knows of Bridgett’s existence, including her husband Andrew Marx (Ioan Gruffedd), The sisters seem to be on the road to mending their relationship when Siobhan suddenly disappears. Bridgett decides to take on her identity. As Siobhan she discovers shocking secrets about her sister'’s life and marriage and about Siobhan’s best friend Gemma (Tara Summers) and her husband Henry (Kristopher Polaha).

Secret Circle is the new series from the creators of The Vampire Diaries. After Cassie Blake (Britt Robertson) loses her mother in a seemingly accidental fire the teenage girl goes to live with her Grandmother Jane (Ashley Crow) in Chance Harbor Washington. As Cassie gets to know her new classmates –  sweet-natured Diana (Shelley Hennig), her boyfriend Adam (Thomas Dekker), brooding loner Nick (Louis Hunter), mean girl Faye (Phoebe Tonkin) and her sidekick Melissa (Jessica Parker Kennedy) – strange things start to happen. Cassie doesn’t believe them when they inform her that they are descendants of powerful witches, and that they have been waiting for her to join them to complete a new generation of the Secret Circle. However when she finds a a message from her mother in an old book of spells in her mother’s childhood bedroom she comes to understand her true and dangerous destiny. None of the teens are aware of the darker powers at play in the town that may be linked to the adults in town, including Diana’s father (Gale Harold) and Faye’s mother (Natasha Henstridge).

In mid-season reality series Re-Modeled modelling industry veteran Paul Fisher attempts to bring together small modelling agencies from around the country into a single organization known s The Network. The objective of the Network is to keep the small town agencies rom getting screwed and to empower models to take control of their careers and lead healthier lives.

The Frame is a concept that I’m not sure I can do justice to because I don’t fully understand it myself so I’ll leave it to the network press release about the show: “Ten teams of two, chosen for their dynamic personalities and their existing deep-rooted relationships, are selected to compete in this wild social experiment. These teams will each live in one Frame - a stripped down version of their home living space - for up to 8 weeks, with the entire world watching their inter-personal soap operas play out atop a highly formatted game. Couples cannot physically see one another, but each "frame" is rigged with plasma screens & communication devices that allow for visual and verbal interaction. The teams will face outrageous challenges, punishments, head-to-head competitions, and eliminations, all while isolated from the outside world. With 24/7 web cams streaming content live, and a bi-weekly television show, audiences will vote for - and have control over - many elements of the show, from rewards to punishments to eliminations. The last couple standing will be America's favorite pair, and walk away with a cash prize.”


The CW is always a difficult network to evaluate because what defines success and failure for them is usually quite different than it is for other networks. Few CW shows, even the ones that have been on since the network began, have ever earned the sort of ratings that would see the shows from being cancelled after the second episode. The person who called The CW “the cable of broadcast television” isn’t far wrong if you define “cable” in this context as catering to a niche audience. The CW has largely defined its niche as a teen and young adult female audience, hence shows like Gossip Girl, 90210, One Tree Hill, America’s Next Top Model, and Vampire Diaries. Shows that don’t entirely fit into this model do exist – I’m thinking specifically of Supernatural and to a lesser extent Nikita – but they tend to be aberrations. Clearly, of course, I am not a member of the core group that the network is trying to reach, which makes evaluating their shows difficult for me.

Nevertheless there are a couple of things that can talk about. Clearly the big story for the network is Ringer. The show was originally intended for CBS (which owns 50% of The CW Network and is the “C” in CW), but it seems that while programming executives at the network liked the show, they didn’t seem to think it would work on CBS. They did however think that it was an ideal fit for The CW. It is also probably the only CW show that I am likely to make a serious effort to watch. I would certainly have watched it if it had in fact made it into the CBS lineup, or any of the big broadcast networks.

I’ve seen at least one commenter in a forum state that the series summation for Hart Of Dixie made it sound a lot like Everwood and I’m not entirely sure that they’re wrong about that. Admittedly the principal of the show fits the CW’s preferred demographic more than Everwood did – a young single woman doctor rather than a middle-aged widowed male doctor – but so many of the details are the reminiscent of the older show. As to Secret Circle, this show is undoubtedly going to get a good run. It’s a good fit following The Vampire Diaries but quite frankly it is a show that is so far outside my wheelhouse that there’s not much I can say about it.

Turning briefly to the network’s reality shows, I can’t wrap my admittedly aged (by CW standards, and even by network demographics standards) brain cells around why any network would want to touch H8R with a ten foot pole, and Re-Modelled just sounds boring. The one reality series that the network has that sounds even borderline interesting is The Frame. I don’t entirely get it, but I get the impression that it’s a lot like Big Brother the way the British do it… so of course my impression will be entirely wrong. Given the “success” of The CW’s attempts at reality shows (including the apparent decline in ratings for America’s Nest Top Model) maybe The CW should abandon that type of programming the way they dropped sitcoms.

I think that, while I cannot claim to totally understand some of the decisions the executives at The CW have made, this is a relatively good schedule for them. It isn’t going to set the world on fire, but how often has anything that has come from The CW really set the world on fire. When I’m able to say that there is one show that I am likely to watch more than one episode of on the network it’s a good thing. I haven’t honestly been able to say that about any show that has debuted on The CW – most of the shows that I have watched on that network were brought over from the old WB. It’s not a standard that I’d hold other networks to, but for me, having that one show that I want to see more than once means that the network’s new schedule is a success.

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