Thursday, May 17, 2018

The CW Schedule Analysis for the 2018-19 Season

Earlier today, The CW unveiled its schedule for the upcoming 2018-19 season and then promoted the lineup to advertisers. But right now, I'm taking a closer look at the network's scheduling plans and analyzing what is likely to work and what might fail.

The CW's schedule for the 2018-19 season can be found here.
Trailers for the new shows can be found here.

The CW made headlines earlier this year when Mark Pedowitz announced that the network would be programming Sunday nights again starting in the fall. That was a huge surprise. For years, people have been wondering if the network would ever program that night again. It seemed unlikely because the network would have to negotiate with the local affiliates to get them to air their programming on that night instead of whatever they had planned. And yet, that was apparently not as daunting as some thought because The CW got the majority of clearance across America before it made this announcement. As such, it can be seen as a move of strength. For years now, The CW has had some of the most diverse and interesting shows on broadcast television. It has had the freedom to experiment with the form while also giving those creative risks the time to actually tell a complete story. And now, the network is giving even more shows that opportunity. Yes, it could be a risk because of how low-rated their shows are compared to the rest of broadcast television. But that's no longer quite as damaging a barrier as it used to be because The CW has a very profitable streaming deal with Netflix. This Sunday move allows them to funnel even more content to the streaming service. As such, it's a win-win for everyone. It's also the network returning to the identity of one of its former networks. The CW hasn't programmed Sunday nights in 10 years. It did so in the first year following the merger of The WB and UPN. It was The WB's programming strategy because they always scheduled Sunday nights. The CW then settled into the UPN model because they simply didn't have the content to program six nights a week while being a successful company. It took ten years but the network is willing to make that commitment again and it's very exciting.

As such, it was very curious to see which shows would get the first tryout on Sundays. Was the network going to move some veteran dramas onto the night so that it could open with strong and consistent ratings out of the gate? The network doesn't want this to be a massive failure that they have to take back at next year's upfronts. They want to be prepared for this to be an aspect of their business model moving forward. That means it has to work this year. Putting shows that the network knows are hits would ensure doing that. Or would the network place its buzziest new shows on the night in the hopes that they could really ignite there? Of course, that would require The CW to have a better development cycle than they did last year. In the 2017-18 season, The CW picked up four new shows - Black Lightning, Dallas, Life Sentence and Valor. Two of them are returning for second seasons. However, Black Lightning was the only one that actually caught on with viewers. It turned out that a remake of a once very successful primetime soap opera was not something that actually inspired a lot of people to watch on The CW. As such, the network could be hedging their bets a little too highly on updated versions of Charmed and Roswell for this upcoming season. Those are recognizable titles that have the perception of coming with a built in audience. The same is also true of Legacies which lives in the same universe as The Vampire Diaries and The Originals - a once successful franchise for the network. That means there were many different options for The CW when it came to Sunday nights.

In the end, The CW decided to put the fourth season of Supergirl and the new version of Charmed on the night. It always felt a little inevitable that Charmed would be placed here because the original show aired the majority of its run on The WB on this night. Sure, it's not the same exact time slot as before. The network isn't asking the new series to be a complete self starter and kick off this entire new night of programming. They have Supergirl there as well to offer a sense of stability. That show has moved networks and managed to survive in the ratings and popularity. So, the odds are good that it will be able to change nights and still be found by its loyal audience. Of course, there is also a huge controversy swirling around the new Charmed. Now, the team behind Jane the Virgin has earned my devotion and willingness to watch anything that they come up with next. Jennie Snyder Urman came up with the story for the new Charmed, with Jessica O'Toole and Amy Rardin ultimately writing the pilot. Those writers have earned my respect through their work on the telenovela dramedy. And yet, there has already been a backlash to this series because the cast of the old show is completely against it. They still view theirs as this strong feminist take on the material that didn't need to be remade - especially just ten years after it went off the air. And yes, it's been important to get the original stars or executive producers on board with a remake to make it more palatable to audiences. That will just help with the marketing as well. It makes everyone more open to the idea of a remake. Here, that isn't occurring. A lot has already been said about the show. That could be good publicity because it'll make people check out the first episode. Or it could also make it a quick flop destined to send The CW scrambling to fill the hole on Sunday night.

Elsewhere, it's so completely impressive that Greg Berlanti will be programming three nights for The CW in the fall. A lot has been said about Dick Wolf Wednesdays on NBC and Shonda Rhimes Thursdays on ABC. But for the CW, Berlanti is producing all of the shows on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. He has earned the all-time title for the producer with the most shows on the air at the same time. He is producing 14 shows at the moment. That's crazy impressive while making it seem like he couldn't possibly sleep at all. He has seven shows at The CW at the moment. For most of them, they will perform the same as they did this past season. However, it should be very interesting to see how the pairing of Riverdale and All American works out. The CW probably figures that they will appeal to the same audience because they are both shows set in high schools telling coming-of-age stories. But based on the trailer, All American seems very grounded in a world willing to tackle issues like race, class and gun control. Meanwhile, Riverdale is an absolutely ridiculous and over-the-top soap opera. It's a campy show that knows it's playing things for the camp. That's the tone it has set for itself and built an audience out of. As such, it may make for an awkward transition between the two shows. And yet, All American produced the best trailer out of the Upfronts this year. That too is impressive. It makes it the pilot I'm most excited to see this fall. Of course, trailers aren't always indicative of the overall quality of a show. So, only time will tell if things will work out. But right now, things are looking very hopeful.

And finally, The CW confirmed today that the upcoming seasons of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, iZombie and Jane the Virgin would be their final ones. Now, that could be a very daunting prospect for the network because it puts only more pressure on the development team to find their replacements. And yet, it also makes sense based on the creative side of things. The creators of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Jane the Virgin have said that they have been writing towards specific endings and knew exactly when their shows would end. The CW gave them the confidence to tell the story they wanted to tell in the exact amount of time they needed. As such, it will be fascinating to see how they'll come to their satisfying conclusions. With iZombie, it feels more like a bubble show being brought back only to give the fans some clarity and closure with the story. I'll be honest in saying that I've allowed several episodes of the show's recent season to pile up. I don't know if I'll get caught up before the upcoming season finale. And yet, I'm also grateful that the writers can go into the new season knowing that it will be the final one. That's a luxury I wish for so many shows. It helps inform the creative process from the moment the writers return to work on the new episodes. That means I'm expecting greatness from all three. Sure, it will be sad once they are gone for good. And yet, I have trust in the creative teams to give them the endings they deserve.