Jack Myers Weekend Think Tank: Where's the Next 'Dawson's Creek' and 'Buffy'? A Generation Yearns!
Where is the programming for that demographic now?
It's so typical in this industry that when something works, everyone thinks duplication is the only answer. "Lost" prospered, and look how many serial dramas premiered this past fall. Granted this system doesn't always end in big wins ("Smith," "The Nine"), but reaching the teen demographic the way the former WB did is a guaranteed success. Just look at the long list of shows mentioned previously -- all noteworthy achievements.
With The WB no more and MyNetworkTV focusing on telenovelas, this job of reaching teens has fallen to The CW. They have continued "Gilmore Girls," "Smallville," "7th Heaven" and "One Tree Hill," but that's not enough. "Gilmore Girls" is most likely coming to an end, "Smallville" is very sci-fi, and "7th Heaven" has run its course, so that leaves only "One Tree Hill." Yes, The CW also has "America's Next Top Model," "Beauty and the Geek," and "Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll," but that's all reality programming. I want to know where the "Felicity's," "Buffy's," and "Dawson's" are for the today's teens. These shows are cult classics. "Buffy" is still so popular that, four years after the series ended, Joss Whedon is writing its eighth season in comic-book form. "Buffy" also has a popular sing-along tour (in the style of "Rocky Horror Picture Show") where fans can watch and sing along with their popular "Once More with Feeling" musical episode. Most of these former WB series can still be viewed in syndication.
Last night following "Gray's Anatomy," ABC premiered its new show "October Road." My colleague Jacki Garfinkel believes "October Road" is the new "Dawson's Creek" for current teens as well as the past WB generation, since it appeals to both demographics. It's the first show that elicits the same feelings in teens and young adults that "Dawson's Creek" did. Viewers will want Nick and Hannah to kiss just like they yearned for Pacey and Joey to. The first few minutes of October Road take place in 1997, which helps old "Dawson's" fans transport themselves back to their teen years, and because it's in 1997, it returns the cast to their teen years, quickly drawing in the viewers of the same age. "October Road" is the closest great drama to what the teen demographic needs. Why is it the only one?
Of course, there are networks like MTV and ABC Family, but they aren't supplying this exact type of content. MTV's "Laguna Beach" is primarily viewed as comedy by its young adult viewers, and although fans are severely sucked in to the Lauren/Heidi/Spencer drama on "The Hills," these are still reality shows. They do not provide the type of scripted drama where each line is purposely written to elicit certain emotions. Most of ABC Family's programming is geared younger. Teens like to feel more mature. "Dawson's Creek" didn't entirely reflect your average teen viewer. When was the last time you heard two 15-year-olds in a fight utter the lines:
"Look, it was never about looking for something better, Dawson. It was about looking for someone who wasn't so close to me. Where I could tell where I ended and he began. I mean, our lives have always been so intertwined that in many ways I feel like you partially invented me, Dawson. And that scares me so much. I need to find out if I can be a whole person without you. I need to find out if I can be a whole person.... alone."
Teens want shows featuring kids their own age into the early twenties. This allows for storylines that mirror their lives, but perhaps feature more mature or cooler characters, so they can learn from them and strive to be like them.
As TV.com wrote last weekend in honor of the tenth anniversary of the first "Buffy" airing: "The Slayer was every woman who ever fought for equality, every scrawny geek who ever stood up to a schoolyard bully, every individual who ever fought city hall, every flop of a movie that ever got made into a successful TV series. She was everyone who was outcast, different, special, or downtrodden, and she demonstrated that all of us could still stand up and fight the good fight, no matter how hopeless it may seem from the outside. By accepting her own power, Buffy gave a bit of that power back to we who watched." Someone needs to step up again and bring the teen demographic the shows they need and deserve.