The CW at the TCA winter press tour: The network that just couldn’t wait to grow up
The CW has the opposite problem of that which plagues the other U.S. broadcast networks: Its audiences could do with a little aging up. While CBS, NBC, Fox, and ABC busy themselves by courting youngsters with disposable income, The CW’s slate of teen soaps, supernatural dramas, and genre series automatically draws the eyeballs attached to those youngin’s’ wallets. But the youngest of those audience members are also the ones vexing TV programmers with their goldarn technology and razzin’ frazzin’ unpredictable viewing habits, hoarding their shows on DVRs and watching online streams advertisers don’t want to underwrite. (Or, you know, just straight up swiping them from torrent sites.) As such, grasping toward the “34” end of the 18 to 34 demographic was a recurring theme in CW President Mark Pedowitz’s executive session at the Television Critics Association winter press tour.
Of course, one other press tour attendee already suggested that Pedowitz and his team have achieved their stated goal: NBC chair Bob Greenblatt previously reported to TCA members that the median audience age for the The CW, a network whose identity was forged by Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries, is 41. With the gauntlet for challenging accepted CW logic thrown down so early in the tour, a noticeably punchy Pedowitz met with a ballroom full of punch-drunk critics to rifle through seemingly every programming decision The CW has made in recent years. That Battle Royale series is off the table (never made it beyond a phone call to get the rights, according to Pedowtiz), but casting for the Wonder Woman series Amazon and The Vampire Diaries spin-off about The Originals is underway. The L.A. Complex’s cancellation in Canada led to its cancellation in the U.S. Emily Owens was canned because it couldn’t find an audience. 90210’s fate is undecided. And even though Pedowitz admitted that the metric is essentially meaningless, Pedowitz reported Arrow is very, very popular on XBox Live.
It was a bit of an onslaught, but fitting for a network whose identity is very much in flux. The CW’s priorities are all over the place currently, but the two shows it presented at this press tour, The Carrie Diaries and Cult, point toward a period of balancing glitz and glamor with grit and fantasy. The Carrie Diaries should prove to be the more successful of the two newcomers: It has the Sex And The City name recognition and the anointed status of being Gossip Girl’s successor at the network. Also, Cult is all kinds of stupid, The CW’s stab at a high-concept conspiracy thriller about the strange goings on surrounding a high-concept conspiracy thriller that airs on The CW. It’s trash, but eminently watchable trash—and certainly not the type of programming that’ll give The CW the air of maturity its aching for. In theme and execution, The Carrie Diaries is more in line with that goal, and as a drama about teenagers that’s set three decades ago, it efficiently covers the 18 to 34 spread. (It also covers every bit of potential dead space with intrusive voiceover narrative, which was bound to happen with a Sex And The City-related property. But I digress…) Previous CW attempts at maturing the audience’s identity have come off as kids dressing up in their parents’ clothes. The main character of The Carrie Diaries actually pulls that act off with some aplomb, suggesting the network that can’t wait to grow up may actually be doing so. Failing that, it’s providing a quick nostalgia trip for those 41-year-olds Greenblatt mentioned earlier in the tour—a service it’s provided for quite some time now.