Upfront Critique: CW
The theme of the presentation was "Chat IM Tweet Blog Talk" -- at least according to the signs all over and on the snack boxes the network kindly provided for us for their 11 a.m. showtime. We'll make no snarky references to the idea of them leaving lunchboxes for all of us for snacktime. But we will say that we were surprised that the CW provided bottled water rather than Kool-Aid (as in, "drank the Kool-Aid"), which would've been so much more age-appropriate, anyway.
So the network is positioning itself as "TV To Talk About," clearly indicating that it will let buzz drive ratings, with this, its most cohesive slate ever. So let the young women buzz about it cohesively, and the young women will watch -- cohesively.
Which sounds like a pretty good plan, since all of the programs seem pretty, well, cohesive, themselves.
Quick, name the CW show: I have an ensemble cast of mostly beautiful unknowns. We appear to each have sizable trust funds. The cast features at least a good-looking "good" guy, a good-looking "bad boy," a "girl next door" ingénue, and a "bad girl" frenemy.
Answer: pretty much all of them. A cohesive network with a cohesive theme. Throw in the occasional supernatural character, superhero, or supermodel, and you're pretty much set. To the untrained demographic, this could very well be all the same show.
Someone named "Chuck Bass" comes out and gives a somewhat Brando-esque, in-character assessment of the investment opportunities for such a network. While I struggle to connect character to series, the row behind me tells me all I need to know about whatever CW show he's touting: "He's so hot!" So character development must be a large part of the CW's "secret sauce" here.
"90210" and "Melrose Place" are a fine team, no matter what decade you air them in. Thomas Calabro and Laura Leighton lend an air of experience and gravitas to the reboot drama. It also can't hurt that neither of them left the set since 1999, so they either had to cast them or evict them. So welcome back, sexy grandparents!
(Please, even the parents on the CW look like they don't have to shave yet. And shouldn't that be a milkshake in that martini glass, Katie?)
Ostroff assures us that there is "built-in awareness" of the new "Vampire Diaries." Yes, for the series of books. Awareness of the series of TV programs based upon the books is up to your target demographic's adherence to the talking theme. Well, that should work itself out.
"Smallville" and "Supernatural" come back with male-heavier casts but still delivering young female audiences. Also back are "One Tree Hill" and "Gossip Girl." Perhaps you've heard of that one. They like ice cream, but I also think there's more to it than just that. There was also an article inside Rolling Stone.
"America's Next Top Model" returns, paired with Ashton Kutcher-backed (boy, are they working that demo HARD) "The Beautiful Life," a new scripted series about the trials of making it as an overnight success high-fashion model.
Tyra Banks trots out her latest America's Next Top Model" winner, who appears to need that classic introduction to America's Next Top Cheeseburger. It would appear a quarter-pounder might actually double her weight. Seriously, she must keep her internal organs in someone else's body, because I don't know where else they could possibly be.
And with that, we once again meet the casts of the CW (they all do blend together in one big homogenous flash mob of beauty and unrelenting youth). So while that may not matter to someone who comes from a demographic far, far away, at least it will give us something to talk about.
And with that, the CW brings its 2009 upfront -- and 2009 Upfront Week -- to a close.
C'mon, kids -- naptime!