And the last network to hold it's upfronts is also the biggest outlier among broadcast networks. Often outperformed by Spanish-language channels, the five-year-old CW network operates like a cable channel that offers itself over-the-air. The niche audience they seek out is very pronounced in the shows they air, very clearly seeking to appeal to young women.
This makes you really wonder how they can pull this off, especially when you realize how low their ratings tend to skew. I've read plenty of analysis on the CW, and among the best I understand regards the loophole they operate out of. Apparently, the CW operates at a loss of itself, but manages to recoup via sales of their programs in international markets, and eventually syndication. As a consequence, said programs are limited to productions by its two corporate parents, CBS and Warner Bros. In fact, one of these new fall shows is a transplant from CBS proper, and one of the partner producers, ABC Studios actually bailed out of it when it moved to the CW.
Personally, I don't really care about the CW. I seldom watch the channel, but that's mostly because I am a young man. For the most part, I just don't gravitate towards the kind of shows they pick up. Hell, this network hasn't aired a comedy since Everybody Hates Chris ended it's four-year run two seasons ago. They don't consider themselves in that business anymore, just sticking to dramas.
But, I must also give credit where credit is due. Among the female-skewing shows the CW picks up, some of them are interesting genre shows that are able to appeal to wider audiences than one would expect. Supernatural is a series that's run just long enough to have aired on the CW's predecessor, the WB. (Long story there.) I've watched some of it, and it's really impressive. The same goes for this past season's freshman, Nikita, and I've also watched one episode of The Vampire Diaries, a drama whose female appeal is quite pronounced. And yet, that was also pretty good.
In any case, onto next season. One Tree Hill, a drama which had been on for three seasons when the WB shut down and the CW launched, will wait until midseason to start it's newest season. In addition, look for new reality shows The Frame and Re-Modeled come midseason.
There is substantially less ground to cover here than on the other networks for the fall schedule. You see, unlike the other broadcasters which simply take it easy on Saturday nights, the CW skips the weekend entirely. They only broadcast Mondays through Fridays, and with as much primetime space each night as the FOX network this adds up to a mere ten hours a week.
And in those ten hours, there's a lot of shifting about as the CW tries a big batch of new shows and shuffles it's deck of existing shows for the fall:
8/7c - Gossip Girl (Drama; 5th Season)
9/8c - HART OF DIXIE (New Drama; Light drama with Rachel Bilson as a city doctor who defects to a small-town practice she inherits)
The thing that brings these two shows to the same table is the presence of producer Josh Schwartz, the creator of The O.C. As someone who's never seen it, or Gossip Girl I cannot judge of similarities between the two, although I've heard about similar themes. This new show, Hart of Dixie reunites Schwartz with former O.C. actress Bilson, and takes up an ambitious effort to reclaim "that old-school WB flav" (as I said, referring to the network's predecessor). The biggest parallel comes from Everwood, a drama that ran for the last four seasons the WB existed and had the similar premise of a city doctor uprooting his family and moving to the Rocky Mountains.
8/7c - 90210 (Drama; 4th Season; New Night)
9/8c - RINGER (New Drama; Sarah Michelle Gellar plays a woman on the run from the mob, and tries to take her twin's identity to protect herself)
The remake of 90210 tries its hand on the next night over, and all I can say it "More power to it". Following it is that CBS transplant I've mentioned earlier. Ringer brings the star of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer to the very network formed by the merger of the two that aired her old show.
8/7c - H8R (New Reality; Mario Lopez hosts the chronicle of celebrities who confront their biggest and fiercest critics)
9/8c - America's Next Top Model (Reality; 9th Year)
What makes this night distinctive is that it's the only night of the week without any dramas. Instead, one of these shows is the CW's single hit reality show, and the only series left that ran on the long-forgotten UPN. It only makes sense for this one show to stay put, and to try out more reality shows alongside it.
8/7c - The Vampire Diaries (Drama; 3rd Season)
9/8c - THE SECRET CIRCLE (New Drama; A woman discovers she's a witch and confronts a potential war going on)
Thursdays has their most popular show, The Vampire Diaries. Naturally, this season also sees another supernatural-themed series launching alongside it, a near-perfect match of one premise to the next.
8/7c - Nikita (Drama; 2nd Season; New Night)
9/8c - Supernatural (Drama; 7th Season)
And Nikita, arguably the widest-appealing show the CW launched this past season moves to Fridays in it's second run, in the slot Smallville settled well into in it's final two seasons. Supernatural joined it last season, and both shows performed about up to the low standards for both the network, and Friday nights in general. This is one scenario where the night seems to work out best.
The shows not coming back are Hellcats, Life Unexpected, Shedding for the Wedding, and Smallville.