Welcome to The CW Comedies breakdown in our 2016 Runway series! Let’s not waste time and get right to it…
Aaaaand we’re done!
Just kidding, of course. But The CW is simply not a network that hosts “comedies” in the traditional sense; the half-hour is effectively dead at CW, which is why we’re not providing a breakdown of their 2016 pilots in the same way we’ve been doing for the rest of the networks. That said, a lack of sitcoms doesn’t mean that The CW is without comedy – although just a few years ago, that wasn’t necessarily the case.
The younger-skewing network evolved with the millennial generation out of a decade of teen soaps and into an era of DC-based action adventure series. Many were accusing the network of still being nothing more than a home base for soapy, shallow dramas stacked with pretty people (a description that could easily be thrown at any network at some point in its history), but that really wasn’t the case anymore. So how did the network respond to critics who still insisted that there wasn’t anything on the CW schedule worthwhile?
They picked up Jane The Virgin, a series that blatantly poked fun at that “soapy, shallow” critique while targeting a rapidly growing and underserved market – with tons of humor and heart. Jane celebrates foremost telenovellas, soap operas, and the audiences that watch them. If viewers were going to view them as nothing more than a safe-haven for love triangles and unplanned pregnancies, then the network decision makers were going to give viewers the most over-the-top version of those tropes but ground all of them in a dynamic cast of characters – anchored by the amazing Gina Rodriguez. While Jane didn’t land Supernatural numbers, it was a critical hit, and earned Rodriguez a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy and a Peabody Award for the series.
Last year, CW’s development picked up Rachel Bloom’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, a show about a a woman who gives up her life as a successful lawyer in New York to move to West Covina, California to win back her high school boyfriend after randomly running into him on the street one day. Does it sound a little similar to 90s WB series Felicity? It should! The J.J. Abrams drama followed the titular character as she changes her college plans and moves to New York after her high school crush says something nice to her at graduation. Crazy Ex doesn’t simply poke fun at the concept, it also delves into its heroine’s mental issues, and includes at least two to three musical numbers per episode (incidentally, the series was expanded from its original inception as a half-hour into a one-hour format to suit the network’s style). The 2015 Golden Globes nominated both Jane‘s Rodriguez and Crazy Ex‘s Bloom, with the latter taking home the prize this time.
While many continue to look at CW as the DC-universe channel without giving the lineup its well-deserved credit, the CW has caught the attention of critics with its more light-hearted material. The current development period will continue the network’s trend of picking up an hour-long dramedy that rests outside of its ‘Berlanti-brand’, with the series NO TOMORROW. Like Jane, the show is based on a Latin American format, while it also appears to have some Crazy Ex inspiration as it follows a straight-laced girl, Sarah, who falls head over heels for a thrill-seeker who believes the world is coming to an end. If the trend continues even further, maybe Tori Anderson (Sarah) will be the one standing on stage at the Globes next year.
None of this means that the CW is not still searching for a way to tap into straight-up comedy. Just this week, the net announced that they would be bringing back Fox’s sketch series MADTV after nine years off the air. The eight-episode order is scheduled to air during the CW’s primetime lineup. The revival is executive produced by David E. Salzman, Mark Teitelbaum, and John Montgomery, with Telepictures as the studio, and will see a brand new cast with former players occasionally stopping by. This is the second live-comedy reboot for the channel, after previously bringing back ABC’s Whose Line Is It Anyway? The order comes after a MadTV 20th Anniversary Special aired in January and CW Seed acquired 75 episodes of the original series.
Check back in on Thursday, when our analyst takes a more in-depth look at No Tomorrow and the rest of The CW’s dramatic prospects.