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The new CW network : My dream lineup (joss whedon mention)

Maureen Ryan

Wednesday 25 January 2006, by Webmaster

News came Tuesday that the WB and UPN will shut down in the fall, and the best shows from each network will migrate to a new broadcast network called The CW, a joint venture between Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS.

I’ve come up with a dream lineup for the new CW (and keep in mind that currently, UPN and WB broadcast only two hours of prime-time programming each weeknight):

Monday: Right now, the UPN has a block of mostly so-so comedies and the WB has “Seventh Heaven,” which is gone after this season, and “Related,” a struggling comedy-drama. This is a prime spot for some fresh, bold programming.

Get "Buffy," "Angel" and "Firefly" creator Joss Whedon on the phone and have him whip up one of his patented, obsessively loved cult dramas. Cowboys in space, vampire detectives, superhero gals — whatever. But making Whedon the cornerstone of this night would be a smart move (and in this iTunes-oriented and DVD-crazed age, there’s no doubt The CW would make a mint from ancillary sales of any Whedon drama).

It would make sense to pair up Whedon’s new show with the critically acclaimed “Veronica Mars” (which Whedon adores and has guested on). The downside: My head might explode from sheer joy.

Tuesday: On this night, UPN will soon debut a reality show starring “Laguna Beach’s” Kristin Cavallari, “Get This Party Started” (Yes, my excitement is palpable, isn’t it?). Over on the WB, there’s the one-two punch of the wonderfully intricate, verbally complicated “Gilmore Girls” and the simple but effective, stud-muffin frightfest “Supernatural.” Personally, I think the network should keep the “Girls” on this night, but come up with a more appropriate companion for the show. “Gilmore Girls” and the terrific “Everwood” on this night would be a dream combination.

Wednesday: This is where things get tricky. Of course the new CW should air UPN’s “Veronica Mars,” but should the new network once again use “Mars” as cannon fodder against “Lost”? Tough question. Though it’d be nice to move “Mars” from the line of fire, ratings might slip if the show got shipped to another night.

How about having “Supernatural” lead into “Mars”? The spooky WB series might give a ratings boost to “Mars,” you never know. I’m open to switching the lineup and putting “Mars” first, or even keeping in place the current lead-in to “Mars,” UPN’s “America’s Next Top Model.”

As for WB’s “One Tree Hill” and UPN’s “South Beach,” the other shows currently on this night, well, the latter might be gone before I finish typing this sentence, and as for “OTH,” how about shipping it to Thursdays or Fridays? Or to the Land of Cancellation?

Thursday: Currently “Smallville” is kicking some major behind on this extremely competitive night, so it makes no sense to move it. The trouble is, on this night, UPN has the great “Everybody Hates Chris.” Would “Chris” and “Smallville” really work together? Who knows, but right now the WB’s got “Smallville” paired with the reality show “Beauty and the Geek,” so maybe the lesson is that “Smallville” works with just about anything.

“Chris” would need a new half-hour comedy companion, though. How about giving the creative folks behind “My Name Is Earl” or “The Office” this comedy slot and asking them to whip up a new half-hour show to follow “Chris”? A brand-new quality comedy would be just the ticket as a “Chris” companion. If that bold move doesn’t appeal, the network could import one of UPN’s established half-hour comedies (perhaps “Eve” or “Girlfriends”).

Alternately, giving “Smallville” a brand-new one-hour drama companion might be the best move: A “Smallville”/“Aquaman” lineup could be just the ticket. In that case, how about moving “Chris” to Sundays and building a comedy block around it?

Friday: This is every network’s trouble spot, except for the juggernaut that is CBS, which has made the night work with mix of procedurals and Jennifer Love Hewitt.

If The CW really wanted to stake a claim on this night, it would bid farewell to both UPN’s wrestling "Smackdown" and WB’s mix of stale comedies (except for “Reba,” which deserves a spot somewhere). How about importing the UPN reality stalwart “America’s Next Top Model” and the WB’s enjoyable “Beauty and the Geek” — both fluffy shows that would give viewers a superficial but fun night of tube fare on Friday nights?

However, I’m willing to bet that the new CW execs aren’t willing to risk two of their most dependable franchises in Friday berths. So, what to do? Perhaps a new lineup of slightly edgy but feel-good reality would work here. Giving Jay McCarroll of Bravo’s “Project Runway” his own fashion-oriented reality show would be a hoot (perhaps fellow “Runway” types Santino Rice and Austin Scarlett, as well as loose-cannon supermodel and "Top Model" judge Janice Dickinson, could sit on whatever judging panel the show comes up with? How delish would that be?)

Having said all that, WWE wrestling has actually done pretty well for UPN on Fridays, and the new network might stick with it. That wouldn’t be my dream, but it might be The CW’s safest bet.

Saturday: Saturday night has become repeat night, so, when in Rome.... Repeats of all the new network’s best shows would work here: “Mars,” “Chris,” “Everwood,” etc.

Sunday: UPN doesn’t program any new fare on this night, and the WB has more or less given up on Sundays as well, offering a tired mixture of repeats and the aging witch series “Charmed.”

The trouble is, ABC has a stranglehold on the most affluent older viewers with its potent lineup of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” “Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” while the brash, mostly animated fare on Fox is a big draw for younger viewers. What’s a new network to do? Tough call.

My opinion: This is a night that calls for bold new programming — not necessarily importing a current show, even a proven performer such as “Smallville” or “Chris” (though a new, quality comedy night built around "Chris" is pretty appealing).

Here’s where the CW’s secret weapon comes into play. Dawn Ostroff, current head of UPN, will be the new chief of The CW. Given how she’s rebuilt UPN from the embarrassing home of “Homeboys in Space” (yes, reader, I remember those days — count yourself lucky if you don’t) to a genuinely non-terrible, actually pretty respectable network, it’s a safe bet that she can come up with some canny move on this night. After all, “Chris” and “Veronica Mars,” both UPN shows, were on the year-end top 10 list that my colleague Sid Smith and I came up with (and here’s the thing — that’s twice the number of NBC shows that ended up on our list).

Still, Ostroff and her new team of executives have their work cut out for them coming up with a new lineup for Sunday nights, one that can navigate the competitive waters between ABC and Fox. I’m glad I don’t have to come up with that particular programming array. But that’s why they’re paying Ostroff and her network suits the big bucks.

All things considered, though, Ostroff has some decent building blocks to work with. Once you merge the best of The WB and UPN, you have a network that’s actually a reasonable contender for legitimacy, a network that actually has a bountiful crop of watchable fare. And that’s good news for viewers.

But the best news may be this: This fall, we won’t have to choose between watching “Chris” and “Smallville” on Thursday nights.