There’s a really excellent book titled Season Finale: The Unexpected Rise and Fall of The WB and UPN by Suzanne Daniels and Cynthia Littleton. It covers the period in 1995 and thereafter when network television was so dominant that two companies fought tooth and nail to become the fifth major tv station. Spoiler alert: they both pretty much sucked, and eventually combined forces in 2006 to create what we now know as The CW.
The network has seen occasional success stories (hi Gossip Girl), and is buoyed through one parent company’s relationship with DC Comics (hence Flash & Arrow), but has never quite turned the corner into earning the respect of the fellow networks. The CW is basically sitting at the kids table at Thanksgiving, while the other Big Four networks get full-sized chairs.
Last development season at The CW was a bit of a bust. Frequency couldn’t really find a target audience, and No Tomorrow showed why romantic comedies struggle on network television. Riverdale was a fairly big swing, but the darker tone and midseason start date kneecapped a pretty well-reviewed show.
The CW is doing fine with comic book fans, but it needs to get a few 18-34 female-skewing wins. I’m sure execs there feel like they’re one Gossip Girl away from turning things around. Are any of this year’s pilots going to meet those expectations? Let’s find out….