Why the CW Has Just One New Show This Fall—and a Cameo From Britney Spears

Network president emphasizes stability

While most broadcast networks arrived at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour with a plethora of new fall shows, the CW came with only one new series on its fall schedule: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

The CW president Mark Pedowitz made few waves when he met with reporters. "We started a few years back with a strategy: broaden out our audience, find shows with adult appeal and bring back men to the CW," he said. "The 2014-15 season has been pivotal for us. It changed our perception." (The Flash became the highest-rated show in network history, and Jane the Virgin became the CW's most critically acclaimed series.)

The network, whose total audience has increased for the last three seasons, made the conscious decision to add only one new show this fall "so that people understood that we were stable," said Pedowitz. "We plan to stay with the strategy that we have been doing these last few years, and it all hinges upon adding quality programming."

Its sole bet this fall is Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which was developed for corporate sister network Showtime. "We kept thinking that this was the right fit for Jane," Pedowitz said, making Monday a strong comedy night with two strong female characters.

The series, with musical numbers inserted throughout, is one of the biggest gambles any network is making this fall. "We love the unique voice," said Pedowitz. "We think we're taking a swing with something that no one else has on the air."

Instead of launching new series, the CW will be goosing its returning shows with big-name guests. Britney Spears, a longtime Jane the Virgin fan, will appear on the show's fifth episode, playing herself and the nemesis of Rogelio (Jaime Camil). And Matt Ryan, who starred in Constantine on NBC last season, will be reprising the character for an episode of Arrow. (Both shows are from Warner Bros. and DC Comics.)

But don't look for Constantine, or any other DC characters, to make their way to the CW. While the network has an Arrow/The Flash spinoff, DC's Legends of Tomorrow, on tap for midseason, there are no plans for any other superhero shows, Pedowitz said. 

One nonsuperhero show in development is a series based on The Notebook, the Nicholas Sparks novel and 2004 movie starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. The series will be set after World War II but won't feature the elderly version of the couple. "It will make a lot of noise for a lot of our viewers, I hope," said Pedowitz.

While the CW is broadening its audience, the network also knows it can't push its programming too far out of its viewers' comfort zone. "We discovered we're best suited as a brand to be a very high-concept or genre-based programmer of serialized [shows]. What's the best way for us to succeed in our storytelling?" Pedowitz said. "If the shows check off those boxes, it has a chance to proceed. If it's a procedural, we will go nowhere with it."