The Upfronts 2016: The CW

cwPoor CW, always the runt of the network channels, and I add insult to injury by leaving a big gap between postings. The CW plays to a very specific younger demographic and their fan enthusiasm and loyalty gives a tremendously stable line-up of shows, many of which interlink and feed off each other either directly or thematically. It’s cemented itself as the home of DC superheroes to the extent that wayward child Supergirl makes the very sensible move away from CBS to join the family.

What’s cancelled or retiring
Beauty and the Beast has rather incredibly been running for three seasons, however the fourth season which will be broadcast over the summer will be its last. Containment didn’t do anything like as well and will end after a very short 7 episode first season. It always looked rather out of place on The CW, looking like a more mainstream network show, but probably not good enough to make it on CBS or Fox.

What’s back
Supernatural - Season 5Good grief, Supernatural moves into season TWELVE. It’s old enough that it used to be on The WB! I keep saying, that when and if I know it’s got a happy ending, I’ll go back and catch up on all the seasons I missed since I judged it too depressing. I’m beginning to think it’s never actually going to end. The Vampire Diaries is rather surprisingly still going too (renewed for season 8) despite losing the lead actress. The contrarily named spin-off The Originals is renewed for season four, although possibly only as a half season conclusion.

Jane_the_Virgin_logo (1)The DC universe shows trundle onwards with Arrow renewed for a fifth season, The Flash for a third and Legends of Tomorrow for a second. As mentioned above, Supergirl’s second season will also come to The CW. Period piece Reign is renewed for a fourth season, The 100 for a third and iZombie for a second.

The CW has managed to find considerable critical success with its comedies, with both Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend garnering awards attention for the first time for the channel and therefore unsurprisingly renewed for third and second seasons respectively.

What’s New
Frequency – based on the Dennis Quaid film, it’s sort of time-travelly, with a daughter in 2016 talking to her soon-to-be dead father in 1996 via a ham radio. The trailer actually looks pretty good and the fact they’re both police officers working on a case spanning the decades looks to be an interesting hook.

No Tomorrow
– a bloke with a powerpoint is convinced that the world is ending in 8 months and he’s living like there’s no tomorrow. Then he meets a “risk-averse procurement manager” and he persuades her to start living the same way. I think it was supposed to be a comedy. I didn’t laugh.

Riverdale – based on the Archie comic strip which has been running since the 40s, it’s basically a teenager goring up in a small town. Sounds utterly unremarkable.

Beauty and the Beast: Pilot Review

Re-imagining the fairy tale, whereby Beauty is a New York cop investigating (amongst other things) the murder of her mother a decade ago, Beast is a doctor who enlisted after his brothers died in the World Trade Centre, and was turned into a supersoldier with anger management issues. He saved her the night of her mother’s murder, and they’re reunited a decade later.

According to the people that vote for the People’s Choice Awards in America, Beauty and the Beast is their favourite new TV drama series this year. I know it’s not been a great year for drama (Nashville is the only pilot I’ve seen so far that I think is actually good), but this does not bode well for the 2012/13 season or for the sanity of the voters for the People’s Choice Awards. I guess Beauty and the Beast is better than Arrow, but then that’s really not particularly hard. The lead actors are slightly more charismatic than the plank of wood starring in Arrow, they can’t act any better but they at least have a passing familiarity with human emotions and it’s possible there’s a sense of humour in that might manage to struggle out in a few episodes time. The director/network also somehow resisted the temptation to have their leading man take his shirt off every 5 minutes, although maybe that’s not a mark in the show’s favour.

One of the big similarities with Arrow is that while that was a low budget Batman, this is a low budget Incredible Hulk – “You wouldn’t like him if he got angry” and all that malarkey. The connection to the fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast is so peripheral that it’s barely worth the effort. The beast here is ‘cursed’ by the military rather than a witch or whatever, but that’s the only real link. The Beast in the fairy tale looked like a beast all the time, not someone who changed back and forth. This beast is a model with a scar on his cheek, then he morphs into a model with some tiny prosthetic cheek bones. It’s hilariously un-beastly.

This show looks set to be a New York set police drama, with a slightly odd sidekick and a shady conspiracy theory over the top. That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, but nothing in the pilot gave me any sense that the show could do it convincingly. It seems to be trying to emulate Bones, or Castle with it’s quirky cases (next week’s is about ballerinas!), but those shows are held together by charismatic actors and well written scripts, this one doesn’t compare well. The two leads felt too young and too shallow, more drawn towards brooding and ‘love at first sight’ inevitability than any depth of character. The script meanwhile relied on chunky exposition and that most dreaded of fallbacks – a narration. The point where Beauty started talking to her dead mother via letter writing was the moment I truly gave up on the show.

The whole thing just felt flimsy, insubstantial, and cheap – a relatively unknown cast (the only name of note is Kristin Kreuk, Lana Lang from Smallville), blatantly not being filmed in New York (although it’s Toronto, not Vancouver as I guessed) and make-up effects more minimal than even Star Trek’s wrinkly foreheads. The inevitability of Beauty and Beast falling in love (despite a complete lack of real chemistry) and the way it endlessly tries to imitate other, much better shows, just makes it all rather dull. If this is the people’s choice for best new drama this year, I’m dreading watching the rest of the pilots I have waiting for me.

Beauty and the Beast airs on Watch on Tuesday nights, and has been picked up for a full season by The CW.

Other reviews – Beauty and the Beast is such a fundamental failure that its badness isn’t even FUN to watch. It’s so bad it’s bad. It was a waste of my time and if you watched it, it was a waste of yours.

Hollywood Reporter: That is either awesome or messed up, or awesomely messed up. Because The CW doesn’t even get it. If the network got it, someone would have said, “Hey, guys, this is ridiculous even by our standards. You know that, right?”

TV Fanatic: Vincent Keller, “The Beast,” is part of an experimental military genetics program? And he’s a scientific genius? AND he’s hot 99% of the time except when his adrenaline kicks in? Yup, it’s a CW show through and through. As long as you’re aware of that tuning in, I see only good things in your future.

The Upfronts – The CW

After a brief delay I finally get to the last of the channels to announce their line up – The CW. The network continues to fill it’s schedule with teen-friendly monsters, superheroes and teenage angst. I’m not judging mind you, I’m quite partial to those genres.

What’s out

Another clean sweep of cancellations of things I don’t watch. One Tree Hill bowed out after nine seasons, while H8R, Ringer and Secret Circle didn’t make it to season 2. I thought Secret Circle looked ok for the teenage witchy thing that it was, but Ringer’s pilot at least was so badly written and cheaply produced that even Sarah Michelle Gellar couldn’t make me give the show a chance.

What’s Back
The only show I actually watch on the CW is Supernatural, which is renewed for its 8th season, but to be honest, I haven’t actually watched much of season 7 yet due to the somewhat relentless misery of it. Gossip Girl is also renewed for its 6th and final season (the first couple of series were a guilty pleasure, but I didn’t go back to it). The Vampire Diaries is another massive hit for the channel, but I didn’t get past the worse-than-Twilight pilot. Nikita is also renewed, which I didn’t watch because I felt I’d probably be better off watching Alias if I was going to watch something like this.

Also renewed are the new version of 90210 (if it doesn’t have Luke Perry in it, it’s not worth watching) and Hart of Dixie, which I thought was awful. Left hanging a bit longer is The LA Complex which I haven’t seen yet.

What’s New
Arrow – Based on DC Comics’ Green Arrow series, the trailer looks to be doing exactly what it needs to be doing, a reasonably dark and gritty “Batman light” type superhero seeking vengeance thing. Just with a bow and arrow. I’m not exactly excited about it, but I am intrigued.

Beauty and the Beast – Beauty is a detective, Beast is a doctor with Hulk tendencies. there’s not much to go on in the trailer, the only opinion I can really have at this point is that it overuses power ballads.

Emily Owens, M.D. – Mamie Gummer (Meryl Streep’s daughter – a label I’m sure she never gets tired of) stars as a slightly quirky new doctor. I like the actress a lot (she’s been in The Good Wife and short lived Off the Map) but I think the internal monologue voiceover and perky backing music may be more than I can take.

Cult – people are becoming obsessed with a TV show, and the show now seems to be spilling over into the real world. The synopsis is mind twisting but original and interesting, the trailer (this poor quality one is the only one I could find and it may not stay around long) looks weird, creepy and intriguing. This is definitely one of the shows I’m most curious about for the new season.

The Carrie Diaries – a prequel to Sex and the City, describing Carrie’s transition from suburbia to Manhattan. No trailer is available in the UK, so I’ve no idea about this. But not being a fan of Sex and the City or of anything set in the 80s, I’m not optimistic.

The Futon Critic
The CW official site
TV Addict – Snap Judgements