Top TV Stories of 2006: The CW
(Part 5 of 5) In the winter of 2006 CBS and Warner Brothers got together to create a new 5th network . . . The CW. You read right, I said 5th network. That's probably confusing you right now since you thought there were six major broadcast networks on the air last winter: ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, WB, UPN. Yes, that's true, but The CW was to do something unique to make it the 5th network. It was going to combine the programming of both the WB and UPN, eliminating those networks completely.
It sounded like a good idea at first. Take the best programming from both WB and UPN and put it on one network. No more jumping between the two networks to find the show you wanted to watch. No more confusion as to whether Veronica Mars was on WB or UPN. Plus, there was elimination of much of the mediocre crap that filled their weeknight schedules.
Like I said, it sounded like a good idea.
There were many issues with the creation of this network. First and foremost was how to deal with the WB and UPN affiliates. I mean, when the dust settled, only one would become a CW affiliate and the other would have to scramble to find weeknight programming to fill the gaps. One solution was MyNetwork, which was the brainchild of Fox. The MyNetwork concept was to air two American telenovelas six nights a week (the sixth night would be a recap of the previous week's shows). Nice idea, but one that didn't impress the viewing public that much. The ratings have been so low for MyNetwork affiliates that FOX has considered dropping the whole all-telenovela concept. If this happens, those affiliates would once again need to scramble for prime-time programming.
Another issue was what shows would come to The CW. It was safe to assume that many of the major players like Gilmore Girls, Smallville, America's Next Top Model and, heaven help us, WWE Smackdown would join the schedule. What was up in the air was whether some of the mid-level shows like Reba and critical but not ratings favorites like Everybody Hates Chris and Veronica Mars would be joining the network. All three of those shows did join the network, although Reba was in doubt at the beginning because the network didn't feel her show fit the 'hip' image it wanted to show (That, and star Reba McEntire wanted more money). What didn't join the network was the WB's Everwood, which came as a shock to many of its fans.
A third issue came from two WB shows that provided the highest ratings for the network: 7th Heaven and Gilmore Girls. The story behind 7th Heaven was quite odd. Here was a show that had been canceled by the WB. A big good-bye was given, complete with a series finale that featured everyone pregnant with twins (even Happy). Then, the executives decided to renew the series with a much reduced cast and budget. When the show returned for an 11th season last September it was a pale image of its former self, with much of the focus on Lucy Camden and her husband Kevin rather than on the rest of the Camden family. Add to that the continuing storyline of father Eric Camden's fatal heart disease and you have a 7th Heaven that is not performing very well at all this season.
The story behind Gilmore Girls was more straightforward. The creators of the show, Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino, could not come to an agreement with the studio on their contracts so they up and left the show. This left a gap in the style and pacing of the show that has not returned this year with new show-runner David Rosenthal. As my brother Joel mentioned in his 'Best and Worst of 2006' list, Gilmore Girls is falling apart fast.
So, two of The CW's biggest shows are just ghosts of what they once were and could possibly not return next season. A third, Smallville, seems to have 'jumped the shark' this season and isn't as big as in previous years. As of this writing there are no new shows in development for the network. Is The CW a success? Right now it sure doesn't seem like it. However, there is plenty of season left. We will have to see if 2007 is the year for this infant network.