(View the complete network primetime schedule for fall here.)
In keeping with the image it tries to uphold of being Taylor Momsen’s mom, The CW announced its fall schedule via press release this morning and tried to act like it was a young, hot shit we should care about. Instead, it mostly just came up with a bunch of shows that sound like its other shows, designed mainly to get people old enough to remember the glory days of The WB but young enough not to realize the new show Ringer has weird, distressing similarities to The Patty Duke Show to watch all of their programming and pretend other networks don’t exist. (CW fans are few and far between, but they’re freakishly cult-like in their devotion to the network, save for a few stray, confused C.W. McCall fans.) In keeping with A.V. Club tradition, Carrie Raisler will be forced to review every single one of these shows at some point.
Most of the network’s veteran shows stay in either the same time slot or on the same night (save Nikita, which moves to Fridays, and 90210, which goes back to Tuesdays where it started out), but the network has found room for three new dramas and one new, hour-long reality show, which is remarkable when you consider it only programs 10 total hours every week. The new shows feature Sarah Michelle Gellar, most famous for starring on Buffy The Vampire Slayer on both CW ancestors, The WB and UPN; Rachel Bilson, most famous for starring on The O.C., which wasn't on The CW but you'd be forgiven for thinking it was, what with it being a teen soap and all; and witches, who are secretly controlling the world.
The new fall schedule follows:
(New shows in CAPS. All times ET/PT.)
8 p.m.: Gossip Girl
9 p.m.: HART OF DIXIE
8 p.m.: 90210
9 p.m.: RINGER
8 p.m.: H8R
9 p.m.: America's Next Top Model
8 p.m.: The Vampire Diaries
9 p.m.: THE SECRET CIRCLE
8 p.m.: Nikita
9 p.m.: Supernatural
Midseason: The Frame, One Tree Hill, Re-Modeled
And now, night-by-night analysis:
Gossip Girl has never really drawn the ratings necessary to justify the insane amount of media attention lavished on the program, though it does well enough in whatever hyper-specific demographic The CW claims to be targeting to continue to deserve renewal. (The network is presently targeting 18-34-year-old women in specific, but will almost certainly soon turn to targeting 26-year-old trust fund brats who are single mothers and ferret owners.) The network follows the soap up with another series from Gossip Girl executive producers Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, the small-town dramedy Hart Of Dixie, starring Rachel Bilson (who worked with Schwartz on The O.C.), all-American girl, ice cream shill, and all around picture of perfection, as a “fast-talking New Yorker” who ends up living in the South. Expect broad regional stereotypes on both ends, lessons learned, and probably something where Bilson’s character encounters an animal she’s never seen before and screams in fright, only to be laughed at for her idiocy by a toothless old man carrying a jug marked XXX and wearing a straw hat. (Possible source material for this series: Barney Google And Snuffy Smith.) It’s difficult to see how the increasingly desperate sexy times of the Gossip Girl cast will lead into the more WB-ish adventures of Hart Of Dixie, but, hey, that’s The CW’s problem, not ours.
90210 started out here a few years ago but promptly fizzled because The CW didn’t realize that no one was exactly clamoring for a 90210 sequel and they could only make news by occasionally bringing back members of the original cast, who were just happy to have the work. The show garnered just enough of an audience to stick around and to create occasionally baffling references to the show in EW.com comments sections, but it’s never going to become a cultural monolith, and The CW seems to have given up on making it a hit and just stuck it back on Tuesdays to play out the syndication string.
The network follows the show with what’s probably its most anticipated pilot, Ringer, which is mostly anticipated for starring Sarah Michelle Gellar because she starred on Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and any time you get so far as to say “Buf…” on the Internet, at least a million different people begin making their general way toward your site to tell you about how television just hasn’t been the same since Buffy The Vampire Slayer was canceled, and why oh why can’t someone make GOOD shows like that again? (Since I said the magic word, before you start, I loved Buffy, but Jesus Christ, people, 2003 was eight years ago, and Gellar was never the best actor in that cast anyway. Also, while we’re at it, season six was good, season seven was bad, and “neither” was the correct choice between Spike and Angel.) Anyway, Ringer is all about a woman on the run from the mob who assumes the identity of her own twin for some reason. CBS rejected it, probably both for sounding nothing like a CBS show and for sounding terrible, but they passed it on to their kid sister, The CW, like a parent giving their struggling twentysomething one of the old family cars. (Possible source material for this series: The Patty Duke Show.) The CW is making a big deal of Gellar returning to Tuesdays, where she starred in Buffy all those years ago, but, c’mon. You program five nights a week. She very likely could have landed here by blind chance, and it’s not like the combination of Gellar (or “SMG,” for those of you who’ve finally gotten here thanks to my utterance of the secret phrase) and Tuesday is so magical it will pray anyone away from The Biggest Loser.
After two nights dedicated to schizophrenic scheduling, The CW tosses two reality shows onto this night, one of which is the show that singlehandedly kept the network alive for many years but now seems to be heading toward the exit. The first show is new reality series H8R, which is that show where Mario Lopez forces celebrities to spend time with people who don’t like them because that should be fun for everyone. (Possible source material for this series: the campaign against California’s Proposition 8.) The new series is followed by America’s Next Top Model, which is fading but still one of the network’s highest rated series. Reportedly, the show will try an all-star edition at some point, which should be “fun.”
The Vampire Diaries is just about the only thing still working on this network and, thus, it not only gets to keep its time slot but also gets to boot companion Nikita to another night in favor of another series from showrunner Kevin Williamson, The Secret Circle, based on a different series of books from Vampire Diaries author L.J. Smith. The Vampire Diaries is a fairly underrated show, actually, boasting all kinds of weird, wild twists, and The Secret Circle aims to shift the focus of America’s 18-to-34-year-old woman, firmly locked on vampires as it is, to witches, though it’s not immediately clear how this will be accomplished, since the series description essentially sounds like “The Vampire Diaries with witches” (not that this is necessarily a bad thing). Same small town wackiness, same tragic backstories, same quietly strong female lead (this time Life Unexpected’s Brittany Robertson). (Possible source material for this series: The Crucible.) Still, of all of the nights The CW programmed, this one makes the most sense, what with this being the same series, two times in a row, with different supernatural beasties.
And the week ends with twisty action drama Nikita moving to pick up the slack for the finally dead Smallville at 8, followed by the aging but somehow still relevant Supernatural at 9. Expect lots of people from fringe genre Web sites to tell you this is one of the best nights on TV, and, hell, it might end up being so, but it’s not like we’re going to stay home and watch The CW on Fridays! Except for Zack Handlen, who will be thrilled to continue covering Supernatural for you.
In case you were wondering (and you weren't), One Tree Hill will return at midseason for a ninth, presumably final, season of 13 episodes, bringing its episode count to 197, which is not just more than several one-and-done series but more than a lot of HIT shows, incredibly amazing for a show that seems to end every season on the bubble and is, by any measure, objectively awful.
And with THAT done, I can finally, at long last, sleep. See you in the summer for TCA.
Complete series descriptions, straight from network press releases, follow (clips will be attached in the afternoon):
HART OF DIXIE: Fast-talking New Yorker and brand new doctor Zoe Hart (Rachel Bilson) has it all figured out. After graduating top of her class from medical school, she'll follow in her father's footsteps and become a cardio-thoracic surgeon. But when her dreams fall apart, Zoe decides to accept an offer from a stranger, Dr. Harley Wilkes, to work with him at his small practice in Bluebell, Alabama. Zoe arrives in this small Gulf Coast town only to find that Harley has passed away and left his half of the medical practice to her in his will. She quickly finds that Southern hospitality isn't always so hospitable. The other doctor in town, Brick Breeland, is less than pleased to be sharing the practice with this young outsider, and his daughter, Lemon (Jaime King), is a Southern belle whose sweet disposition turns sour when she meets Zoe. Zoe's only allies are the mayor, former football star Lavon Hayes (Cress Williams), her bad-boy neighbor Wade Kinsella (Wilson Bethel), and handsome lawyer George Tucker (Scott Porter), who just happens to be Lemon's fiancé. Zoe is out of her element and ready to pack her bags, but a surprise visit by her snobby New York mother leads to Zoe's decision to stay in Bluebell for a while, discovering small-town life and a side of herself she hadn't known was there. Hart Of Dixie is from Bonanza Productions Inc., in association with Fake Empire, Warner Bros. Television and CBS Television Studios, with executive producers Leila Gerstein (Gossip Girl, Eli Stone), Josh Schwartz (Gossip Girl, Chuck, The O.C.), Stephanie Savage (Gossip Girl, The O.C.), Len Goldstein, and Jason Ensler (Gossip Girl, Chuck). The pilot was directed by Jason Ensler.
RINGER: Sarah Michelle Gellar stars as a woman who, after witnessing a murder, goes on the run, hiding out by assuming the life of her wealthy identical twin sister, only to learn that her sister's seemingly idyllic life is just as complicated and dangerous as the one she's trying to leave behind. Bridget is six months sober and starting to turn her life around when she is the sole witness to a professional hit. Despite the assurances of her FBI protector, Agent Victor Machado (Nestor Carbonell), Bridget knows her life is on the line. She flees to New York, telling no one, not even her Narcotics Anonymous sponsor, Malcolm. In New York, Bridget reunites with her estranged twin, Siobhan. Wealthy, pampered, and married to the strikingly handsome Andrew Martin (Ioan Gruffudd), Siobhan lives what appears to be a fairy tale life, a life where no one knows that Bridget exists. The sisters seem to be mending their frayed relationship, until Siobhan disappears mysteriously, and Bridget makes the split decision to take on her sister's identity. She discovers shocking secrets, not only about her sister and her marriage, but also about Siobhan's best friend, Gemma (Tara Summers), and Gemma's husband, Henry (Kristoffer Polaha). And when someone tries to kill Bridget in her sister's penthouse, she realizes she is no safer as Siobhan than she is as herself. Ringer is produced by CBS Television Studios and Warner Bros. Television in association with ABC Television Studios and Brillstein Entertainment with executive producers Pam Veasey (CSI: NY, The District), Peter Traugott (Samantha Who?), and Emmy Award-winner Richard Shepard (Ugly Betty). The pilot was directed by Richard Shepard.
THE SECRET CIRCLE: Cassie Blake (Britt Robertson) was a happy, normal teenage girl, until her mother Amelia died in what appeared to be a tragic accidental fire. Orphaned and deeply saddened, Cassie moves in with her warm and loving grandmother, Jane (Ashley Crow), in the beautiful small town of Chance Harbor, Washington, the town her mother left so many years before, where the residents seem to know more about Cassie than she does about herself. As Cassie gets to know her high school classmates, including sweet-natured Diana (Shelley Hennig) and her handsome boyfriend Adam (Thomas Dekker), brooding loner Nick (Louis Hunter), mean-girl Faye (Phoebe Tonkin), and her sidekick Melissa (Jessica Parker Kennedy), strange and frightening things begin to happen. When her new friends explain that they are all descended from powerful witches, and they've been waiting for Cassie to join them and complete a new generation of the Secret Circle, Cassie refuses to believe them, until Adam shows her how to unlock her incredible magical powers. But it's not until Cassie discovers a message from her mother in an old leather-bound book of spells hidden in her mother's childhood bedroom that she understands her true and dangerous destiny. What Cassie and the others don't yet know is that darker powers are at play, powers that might be linked to the adults in the town, including Diana's father and Faye's mother and that Cassie's mother's death might not have been an accident. Based upon the book series by L.J. Smith (author of The Vampire Diaries book series), The Secret Circle is from Outerbanks Entertainment and Alloy Entertainment in association with Warner Bros. Television and CBS Television Studios with executive producers Kevin Williamson (The Vampire Diaries, Scream, Dawson's Creek), Andrew Miller (Imaginary Bitches), Leslie Morgenstein (The Vampire Diaries, Gossip Girl), and Gina Girolamo. Elizabeth Craft (The Vampire Diaries, Lie to Me) and Sarah Fain (The Vampire Diaries, Lie to Me) were executive producers on the pilot, which was directed by Liz Friedlander (The Vampire Diaries, 90210).
New reality shows
H8R: Celebrities go head-to-head with civilians who hate them to win their haters over. Hosted by Mario Lopez, H8R is from Horizon Alternative Television with executive producers Lisa Gregorisch-Dempsey (Extra), Jeremy Spiegel (Extra), and Mario Lopez.
RE-MODELED: Modeling industry veteran Paul Fisher is planning to bring together hundreds of small agencies around the world in a new venture called The Network. The Network will give Paul the leverage to change the industry from the inside out. He has two missions: to make sure agents in small towns no longer get screwed, and to empower models to take control of their careers and lead healthier lives. Re-Modeled is from Fly on the Wall Entertainment and Sony Pictures Television with executive producers Allison Grodner (Big Brother, You're Cut Off, She's Got The Look, Plain Jane), Rich Meehan (Big Brother, You're Cut Off, She's Got The Look, Plain Jane), Amy Palmer (You're Cut Off, Plain Jane), Paul Fisher (I Want To Be A Hilton), Greg Seuss (What's Wrong with Virginia, Tug), and Erik Stone (Aisha Tyler Is Lit: Live at the Fillmore).
THE FRAME: What happens when your whole life is reduced to one Frame? There's only one rule: If you're out of the Frame, you're out of the game. Ten teams of two, chosen for their dynamic personalities and their existing deep-rooted relationships, are selected to compete in this wild social experiment. These teams will each live in one Frame, a stripped down version of their home living space, for up to eight weeks, with the entire world watching their inter-personal soap operas play out atop a highly formatted game. Couples cannot physically see one another, but each frame is rigged with plasma screens and communication devices that allow for visual and verbal interaction. The teams will face outrageous challenges, punishments, head-to-head competitions, and eliminations, all while isolated from the outside world. With 24/7 web cams streaming content live, and a bi-weekly television show, audiences will vote for and have control over many elements of the show, from rewards to punishments to eliminations. The last couple standing will be America's favorite pair, and walk away with a cash prize. The Frame is from Shed Media and Armoza International Media with executive producers Nick Emmerson (Bethenny Ever After, Supernanny, Who Do You Think You Are, The Real Housewives of New York City) and Jen O'Connell (Bethenny Ever After, Supernanny, Who Do You Think You Are, The Real Housewives of New York City).