The CW skipped its usual Thursday morning upfront week presentation but still unveiled its first fall lineup under new owner Nexstar. Amid the writers strike, the network is leaning in on FBoys—and moving away from almost all of its current scripted series.
Nexstar has been transforming the network since its purchase of 75% ownership interest in The CW last fall, with executives such as CEO and chairman Mark Pedowitz exiting and the company cleaning house of The CW’s old series in search of profitability.
Under Nexstar, The CW moved out of its traditional Thursday upfront week presentation slot, as its new parent company held an upfront event in April to showcase The CW, NewsNation, TheHill, Nexstar Digital and more than 200 local stations. Instead of an upfront week presentation for advertisers, The CW held a press event Thursday morning to unveil its fall lineup.
Walker and All American are the only two of The CW’s scripted series that the company is confirming to return at this time, as the fall schedule introduces new shows imported from Canadian TV and series cast off from other networks, including FBoy Island, which was canceled at HBO Max, and 61st Street, which AMC canceled in January despite a second season already being produced.
The new season kicks off with All American on Mondays, and the Courtney B. Vance-starring, Michael B. Jordan-produced drama 61st Street airs after that.
Tuesday brings comedies with several new series, including Son of a Critch, which comes from a Schitt’s Creek executive producer and stars Malcolm McDowell; Run the Burbs, from Kim’s Convenience star Andrew Phung; Children Ruin Everything, from producers of Schitt’s Creek and Letterkenny; and Everyone Else Burns, which has Broad City producers behind it.
New female-led dramas take over Wednesdays. Sullivan’s Crossing, based on the book series by novelist Robyn Carr, will feature Chad Michael Murray’s return to The CW. The Spencer Sisters, which stars Lea Thompson and Stacey Farber, will air after that.
Meanwhile, Thursday is all about the FBoys, with the network saving the Nikki Glaser-hosted FBoy Island after HBO Max removed it from the platform.
Friday is the only day staying intact from last season, with Penn & Teller: Fool Us returning with new host Brooke Burke and a new season of Whose Line Is It Anyway.
On Saturday, The CW will go with two episodes of Masters of Illusion, followed by two episodes of World’s Funniest Animals. Then, Sunday will showcase films from the I Am documentary franchise, a series of documentary features showcasing icons such as Jackie O.
Walker is slated to return midseason, and the network will also premiere new series FGirl Island midseason. Meanwhile, The Critics Choice Awards return on Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024.
“This fall, The CW embarks on the first step to become bigger and broader by offering our viewers a wide variety of programming from premium adult dramas to bold comedies and binge-worthy unscripted franchises,” Brad Schwartz, president of entertainment, The CW, said in a statement.
UPDATE: During a press conference on the fall schedule, Schwartz addressed the writers strike, acknowledging its difficulties but saying it “didn’t have too much of an impact” as the company built its new lineup.
“It’s not so easy reimagining a seven-night-a-week broadcast network with limited time and in the middle of a writer’s strike, but we’re excited about where we’re at,” Schwartz told reporters.
Schwartz said All American was the only show that could be potentially affected by the strike. If that were to happen, it could change how the network deals with some of its other on-the-bubble shows for 2024, including Superman & Lois, Gotham Knights and All American: Homecoming,
And though the company is getting away from high-cost superhero shows in favor of more budget-friendly fare, Schwartz assured that the network had 12 original scripted projects in production, 10 more in development and is negotiating on around 25 more. Among the series coming eventually, The CW teased the Sophie Turner-starring show Joan, a spinoff show called The Librarians: The Next Chapter and The Swarm, which the network touted as a “big swing” limited series.
The network is also looking to expand its sports content and plans 14 weekends of LIV Golf. And Schwartz said unscripted will remain a key part of the strategy.
“The CW brand has such a passionate connection to a small audience. I’m trying to hold on to that as much as possible,” Schwartz said. “But we’ve got to get bigger and broader.”
Schwartz emphasized how The CW can reach a variety of audiences through its linear channels and free app, which the company said has nearly 100 million downloads, pointing out a 30-year age gap between the average viewer watching All American on linear vs. the app. However, the exec continually talked about making profitable programming.
“We can’t just write a $10 million episode check for some show with dragons,” Schwartz said. “We will be building things in an efficient way.”
The CW’s fall 2023-2024 schedule
(New programs in ALL CAPS)
8-9 p.m. — All American
9-10 p.m. — 61ST STREET
8-8:30 p.m. — SON OF A CRITCH
8:30-9 p.m. — RUN THE BURBS
9-9:30 p.m. — CHILDREN RUIN EVERYTHING
9:30-10 p.m. — EVERYONE ELSE BURNS
8-9 p.m. — SULLIVAN’S CROSSING
9-10 p.m. — THE SPENCER SISTERS
8-9 p.m. — FBOY ISLAND (encore)
9-10 p.m. — FBOY ISLAND
8-9 p.m. — Penn & Teller: Fool Us
9-8:30 p.m. — Whose Line Is It Anyway?
9:30-10 p.m. — Whose Line Is It Anyway? (encore)
8-8:30 p.m. — Masters of Illusion
8:30-9 p.m. — Masters of Illusion (encore)
9-9:30 p.m. — World’s Funniest Animals
9:30-10 p.m. — World’s Funniest Animals (encore)
8-10 p.m. — I AM FILMS
FGIRL ISLAND, Walker