With Just One New Fall Series, The CW Takes the Biggest Risk of Any Network

The CW concludes Adweek’s week-long fall TV preview today not with a bang, but with a whimper. While the other four broadcasters are rolling out at least five new series apiece over the next two months, The CW has only one freshman show on its schedule. That’s what happens when you only program 10 hours a week and renew your entire lineup from the previous fall, as the network did earlier this year.

While the network still isn’t a factor in the broadcast battle for adults ages 18-49, it picked up significant momentum last year with The Flash, its most-watched series ever in the 18-49 demo, and Jane the Virgin, the first CW show to win a Peabody and Golden Globe. That sets a pretty high bar for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

As we've been saying all week, while a pilot isn’t always the best way to judge a show’s potential, it’s often the only episode that audiences watch before making a decision about whether to stick around or cut bait (especially with all the other new and returning shows fighting for their attention). With that in mind, here are The CW’s fall shows, ranked from … well, there's just one show, so here it is:

1

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (8 p.m. Mondays, premieres Oct. 12)

The plot: A high-strung, successful and unfulfilled Manhattan corporate lawyer (Rachel Bloom) has a chance run-in with her summer-camp boyfriend and suddenly decides to quit her job and follow him to West Covina, Calif., trying to convince herself that she’s not upending her life just because of him. (Spoiler: she is.) The show includes several elaborate musical numbers, which probably only exist in her head.

The verdict: In a fall overrun with safe, on-brand shows, The CW is the only network going out on a limb with its new entry. Much like Jane the Virgin (remember how stupid that show's premise sounded at first?), Crazy Ex-Girlfriend could either be a complete disaster or one of fall’s best shows: There’s no in-between for a show like this, as the degree of difficulty is considerable. And I'm still not sure yet whether it works, because The CW has only shown critics the half-hour pilot presentation that had been originally developed for Showtime (The CW swooped in after Showtime passed). So its potential as a one-hour series remains questionable.

Will the musical sequences seem more or less exciting once they are spaced out? Will subsequent episodes feature as many of them? Is Bloom’s character truly “crazy,” or is she actually the most sane of them all? Will I ever stop asking questions? I will say this: Bloom’s fearless performance is one of fall’s most memorable, and while Crazy Ex-Girlfriend's pieces don’t completely gel yet (the musical numbers, however, are outstanding), I hope more networks take these kinds of bold chances with their new shows.

Is it good for your brand? That all depends on what kind of show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend ends up being—a musical, a comedy, a psychological thriller about a stalker?—and whether Bloom's character turns out to be mentally unstable or just lovestruck. Either way, pharmaceutical brands should keep their distance for now.