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THE PROGRAMMING INSIDER

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

 

LIVE FROM THE SUMMER TELEVISION CRITICS ASSOCIATION PRESS TOUR IN PASADENA, CA

 
CW
 

CW Executive Session:

Dawn Ostroff

 

On the CW Panel Front:

-Vampire Diaries

-The Beautiful Life

-Melrose Place

-Life Unexpected

 

Press Tour Tidbits:

Notes of Interest

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CW Executive Session:

Dawn Ostroff

 

Accentuating the positive, the good news for The CW is having a specific five-night focus, and that target is young females. For the first time in the network’s short history, each night of the week (including the unnecessary America’s Next Top Model repeat on Friday) is themed to that demographic. 

 

“In three short years, we have carved out a niche in the marketplace programming to young women, and we feel that this network is starting to resonate across all platforms,” said Dawn Ostroff, The CW’s President of Entertainment. “As a network born in the digital age, it’s vital that our brands extend beyond TV, and we’ve had a lot of success reaching our viewers everywhere they are. We’ve had over 200 million video streams on cwtv.com.”

 

Young skewing The CW is, indeed, the broadcast network most digitally driven. But the bad news, of course, is the ongoing deteriorating ratings. Year-to-year the numbers are down by double-digit percentages; there is no way to mask that. But eliminating deadly Sunday means the network can focus on the weeknight sked.

 

“The economy was taking a big turn, and I think it just made a lot of sense for us, as well as for our affiliates, to give back the night and for us really to focus on Monday through Friday, which is really where our bread and butter is and where we know we can migrate all of our viewers across the schedule,” noted Ostroff.

 

Since the success of any given network can ride on the heels of one big hit (which could, no doubt, lead to other successes), The CW has four new opportunities to keep it afloat: dramas Melrose Place, The Beautiful Life and The Vampire Diaries this fall, and Life Unexpected in midseason. The odds are stacked against any new show breaking out of the box, but the most likely to take a bite out of the competition, so to speak, is Vampire Dairies, which has shades of two former huge WB successes: Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Charmed. The network has no plans in the immediate future, meanwhile, to get back into the sitcom business.

 

“I think women are probably very interested in sitcoms,” said Ostroff. “I just don’t know if we can do sitcoms that are loud enough or noisy enough to get the attention that we’re able to get with the dramas and with some of the reality shows.”

 

In other news at the CW, there are plans to move forward with the proposed Gossip Girl spin-off (Lily) or drama pilot The Body Politic; veteran Smallville may not be ending next season if it produces positive results in the new Friday 8 p.m. time period (anything would be an improvement over recent occupants Everybody Hates Chris and The Game); and the new season on The CW is launching before the competing networks. 

 

“Because of the strike a lot of our shows had gone later the season before, and could not  get back up to start earlier this year, so it became a real nightmare for us logistically,” noted Ostroff. “But we’re starting three weeks before the season.”

 

Keep in mind that the official start of the season is Sept. 21. The CW’s 90210, Melrose Place, America’s Next Top Model, The Vampire Diaries and Supernatural all roll out the week of Sept. 7. One Tree Hill, Gossip Girl and The Beautiful Life are one week later. See below for the official CW series/season premiere dates. 

 
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On the CW Panel Front:

 
Vampire Diaries
Thursday 8 p.m.
 
-The Premise:

Based on the Alloy book series, a young woman is the object of desire of two vampire brothers…one good and one evil. The cast includes Candice Accola, Sara Canning, Steven R. McQueen and former Lost star Ian Somerhalder.

 

-Competition: FlashForward (ABC), Survivor: Samoa (CBS), SNL Thursday Night/Community and Parks and Recreation (NBC), Bones (Fox)

 
-Who Was on the Panel:

Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley, Katerina Graham and executive producers Kevin Williamson, Julie Plec and Bob Levy. 

 
-The Scoop:

The concept of the show according to Kevin Williamson (who, of course, created Dawson’s Creek):

 

“We are sort of cross-genres. There’s a lot going on here. We have the teen element, which you can compare to Dawson’s Creek. We’re not really going with that sort of heightened type of dialogue and stuff. We’re just trying to stay true to the books in that sense. But it’s not just a teen show. We’re trying to not make it a high school show. It’s sort of more of a small-town show. Once we you get past the premise of girl and vampire, we start to develop the story about a town. And what we love so much about the books is the mythology of the town and what they created. The vampires are our way into that.  

  
-The Reality:

The CW is in desperate need of a new breakout hit and developing something reminiscent of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Dawson’s Creek is a definite step in the right direction for the target young females. Smallville kept the Thursday 8 p.m. hour warm for years; now it is time for Vampire Diaries to step in. The competition is fierce, but viewers in this age range tend to find what they want. Plus, the vampire drama concept is hot right now thanks to HBO’s True Blood. Keep a positive eye (or two) on Vampire Diaries. 

 

-Chance of Survival for Vampire Diaries (Based on a scale of 1-1 to 10-1):

2-1
 
-Did You Know?:

The Vampire Diaries is based on a series of novels written by best-selling author of the Night World series, L.J. Smith.

 
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The Beautiful Life
Wednesday 9 p.m.
 
-The Premise:

A group of young aspiring male and female models in New York is the focus on this new drama. The ensemble cast includes Mischa Barton (The O.C.), Corbin Bleu, Ben Hollingsworth, Ashley Madekew, Sara Paxton, Nico Tortorella and Elle Macpherson. 

 

-Lead-in: America’s Next Top Model

-Competition: Modern Family and Cougar Town (ABC), Criminal Minds (CBS), Law & Order: SVU (NBC), Glee (Fox)

 
-Who Was on the Panel:

Sara Paxton , Corbin Bleu , Elle Macpherson and executive producers Ashton Kutcher, Jason Goldberg and Karey Burke.

 
-The Scoop:

No, Mischa Barton was not there (who executive producer Ashton Kutcher said was unavailable because she was on set shooting the series). With her recently reported personal problems, one of the members of the press boldly inquired where she was:

 

“Mischa’s in New York working today on the show,” said Ashton Kutcher. “The wonderful thing about having her in the cast is that she’s done it before. She was one of the leads in The O.C., so her sort of navigation and guidance for the rest of the cast, I think, is essential for us as a unit.”

 

Mr. Kutcher, apparently, is not too aware of Ms. Barton’s limited acting skills.

 
-The Reality:

Yeah, we know, Mischa Barton is having some personal problems. That aside, can anyone remember the last time a scripted series about models succeeded?    Although America’s Next Top Model offers respectable lead-in support, it also did for former occupants Stylista, Farmer Wants a Bike, Pussycat Dolls Presents and Crowned: The Mother of All Pageants.

 

-Chance of Survival for The Beautiful Life (Based on a scale of 1-1 to 10-1):

7-1
 
-Did You Know?:

Other model driven scripted series that have come and gone include Paper Dolls (1984), Living Dolls (1989) and Models, Inc. (1994).

 
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Melrose Place

Tuesday 9:00 p.m. ET

 
-The Premise:

The over-the-top serial returns with Thomas Colabro and Laura Leighton reprising their roles as scheming Michael and Sydney as a new group of 20something year olds inhabit a small apartment courtyard complex in West Hollywood. Katie Cassidy, Stephanie Chaves-Jacobsen and Ashlee Simpson also star.

 
-Lead-in: 90210

-Competition: Dancing With the Stars Results Show (ABC), NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS), The Biggest Loser (NBC), So You Think You Can Dance (Fox)

 
-Who Was on the Panel:

Colin Egglesfield, Michael Rady , Jessica Lucas , Katie Cassidy , Stephanie Jacobsen , Laura Leighton , Thomas Calabro and executive producers Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer.

 
-The Scoop:

You know the drill…a diversified mix of young adults (the naïve one, the slut, the best friend, the schemer; etc.) live…and love…at the trendy Melrose Place address.  

 

“We were huge fans of the original,” said Todd Slavkin. “But when we set out to do our version of Melrose Place, we wanted to pay tribute to the old show and really create our own show with our own group of characters that were inspired more from the experiences Darren and I have had. We grew up in Los Angeles and have known each other since sixth grade. So this city is special to us, and this was a great way to pay homage using the old show as a great backdrop and creating something new and exciting.”

 

As to the original cast members popping in on occasion (in addition to Thomas Colabro and Laura Leighton):

 

“The door is always open for Heather Locklear,” said Slavkin. “We are huge fans of hers and, you know, have a great way for her to come into the show. Josie Bissett is shooting as we speak, and she is great. She is coming back as Sydney’s sister so that felt organic to us bringing her back. And that’s really what’s important to us when bringing alumni back to the show is, “Does it feel organic? Does it not feel contrived?” Daphne Zuniga is coming up in a terrific role we are thrilled about and I think she will fit in very nicely in the storyline we have for her. Last night I got to talk to Grant Show and that was very exciting. So stuff is brewing, definitely.”

 
-The Reality:

The fit out of the revival of 90210 should certainly be flawless. But since season one of 90210 has not exactly taken off, why bother now?

 

-Chance of Survival for Melrose Place (Based on a scale of 1-1 to 10-1):

5-1
 
-Did You Know?:

Unless my mind is playing tricks on me, wasn’t Laura Leighton as Sydney mowed down (and killed) by a speeding car. Is this Sydney’s equally evil twin sister?

 
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Life UneXpected
Midseason
 
-The Premise:

A 15-year-old girl (Britt Robertson) who has bounded from one foster family to the next, is accidentally reunited with her birth parents (Shiri Appleby and Kristoffer Poloha), who are granted temporary custody. After the initial awkwardness, the trio attempts to become a family. 

 
-Who Was on the Panel:

Britt Robertson, Kristoffer Polaha, Shiri Appleby , Kerr Smith , Austin Basis , Reggie Austin and executive producers Janet Leahy and Liz Tigelaar.

 
-The Scoop:

The basics of good television according to Janet Leahy:

 

“I have a lot of background in a variety of television shows, but I learned the basics of good television and good storytelling from Bill Cosby. You start with the truth and work from there. Now, you could conceivably say, “Yes, this is an idea that was brought together, you know, in fiction,” but what you do is you start with the truth. And these characters are all very truthful. Liz created an enormous array of honest-to-the-bone characters with all the goods and bads.”

 
-The Reality:

Obviously, I cannot handicap Life Unexpected without a confirmed time period. But there is a growing buzz building and the press is comparing it to Gilmore Girls, once a big hit for the CW. So, if the subsequent series looks as quirky as the pilot did, there could be hope.

 
-Did You Know?:

One of the earlier titles for Life Unexpected was Parental Discretion Advised. 

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CW Series Premiere Dates:

 

To refresh your memory, what follows are the roll-out dates for the new and returning CW series:

 

90210: Tuesday, Sept. 8 p.m. ET

Melrose Place: Tuesday, Sept. 8, 9 p.m. ET (new)

America’s Next Top Model: Wednesday, Sept. 9, 8 p.m. ET (two hours)

The Vampire Diaries: Thursday, Sept. 10, 8 p.m. ET (new)

Supernatural: Thursday, Sept. 10, 9 p.m. ET

One Tree Hill: Monday, Sept. 14, 8 p.m. ET (new time)

Gossip Girl: Monday, Sept. 14, 9 p.m. ET (new time)

The Beautiful Life: Wednesday, Sept. 16, 9 p.m. ET (new)

Smallville: Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET (new day)

America’s Next Top Model – Encore Episodes: Friday, Sept. 25, 9 p.m. ET

 
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Press Tour Tidbits:

Notes of Interest

 

-Guest Judges on Top Model:

Veteran CW reality/competition America’s Next Top Model, which opens cycle 13 on Wednesday, Sept. 9 featuring contestants all 5’7” and under has announced 10 guest judges. They are (in order of appearance), Chanel Iman, Lauren Conrad, Jaime Rishar, China Chow, Josie Maran, Jessica White, Kim Kardashian, Kirsty Hume, Marisa Miller and Ann Shoket. The winner of the next cycle will receive a $100,000 contract with CoverGirl Cosmetics, a contract with Wilhelmina Models, and a cover and six-page spread in Seventeen Magazine. 

 

-Medium – NBC vs. CBS:

Since I did not have the chance to give any ink to drama Medium yesterday, here is what creator Glenn Gordon Caron had to say about moving from NBC to CBS:

“You know, it’s so hard in this environment to launch a show and sustain a show. I think we’re all incredibly grateful to NBC. We were on their air for five years. And nobody wants to take shots. I think there were times along the way when everyone, even people inside NBC, thought, “Gee, maybe if we gave that show a little more attention, if we publicized it a little more vigorously, it might actually do better for us and might bring more viewers to the network.” It’s all part of the give and take of the broadcast business now. The good news is we’re on CBS now, and for the first time in three years we’re going to do 22 episodes. And we’re beginning a season, knowing when we’re premiering.

According to Mr. TV: Out of compatible Ghost Whisperer, Medium is poised for its best ratings since season one on NBC. Although many shows have historically moved from one network to another, I personally have no recollection of the most-watched network picking up a canceled series from the No. 4 network. NBC was not in last place when CBS acquired Jag. 

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Coming Up Tomorrow: NBC