CW upfront spotlights 'Arrow,' previews 'Carrie Diaries,' 'Cult' and more
Judging by their 2012-13 upfront presentation to advertisers, it's pretty obvious which new show CW is most excited about. The DC Comics adaptation "Arrow" got special treatment as the first promo shown to the audience, even before network President Mark Pedowitz began the customary rundown of the new fall line-up.
Starring Stephen Amell ("Private Practice," "Hung") as millionaire bad boy Oliver Queen and his superhero alter ego Green Arrow, the Greg Berlanti-produced series appears to have a tone and look very close to Christopher Nolan's Batman. Dark, brooding and filled with exciting action.
In other words, it could reach beyond a fanboy base to appeal to viewers who found WB/CW's long-running comicbook hit "Smallville" a little corny.
Still, showcasing "Arrow" up front didn't imply that CW isn't excited about the rest of their schedule. As Pedowitz noted, the network hopes to "continue its evolution with the most vibrant new development we've ever had." It's a typical upbeat upfront sentiment, but in this case it actually felt genuine.
Every new series was hyped as having a "hot new face" or "breakout star," whether that means Meryl Streep's daughter Mamie Gummer in "Emily Owens, MD" or "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" co-star AnnaSophia Robb as a young Carrie Bradshaw on midseason's "The Carrie Diaries." In most cases, it looks like those potential breakouts are the strong points of their new shows. Aside from Gummer's natural talent and charm, the extended promo for "Emily" played like a straightforward "Grey's Anatomy" rip-off, while the '80s setting of "Carrie Diaries" and reliance on "Sex and the City" tropes makes it seem like a big question mark beyond Robb's promising star turn.
Promo reels for "Beauty and the Beast" (which gets the network's coveted post-"Vampire Diaries" slot) and "Cult" (which is being held for midseason, but could get the post-"Vampire" slot if "Beauty" fails) were a study in contrasts. They're both dark, broody shows but "Beauty" -- starring Kristin Kreuk ("Smallville") as a NYPD detective and New Zealander Jay Ryan as a military man damaged by government experiments -- looks like a conventional CW play, uncomfortably reminiscent of the WB's misguided "Tarzan" reboot from 2003, but not necessarily uncommercial.
"Cult" is much more of a wild card given its trippy concept -- life starts imitating the events on a violent TV show about cult murders -- but "Vampire" alum Matthew Davis seems like a solid anchor in the lead role, supported by Jessica Lucas ("Melrose Place" 2.0) and a very creepy Robert Knepper ("Prison Break"). "Cult" represents a promising attempt for the CW to try something different, and Pedowitz noted that the series' midseason placement has to do with ensuring the network can run the entire first season (likely 13 or 16 episodes) uninterrupted.
Following the presentation, CW executives held a small press conference and topics touched on included:
— Don't fret for the future of the Winchester brothers. Pedowitz said the network is "not looking at season 8 [of 'Supernatural'] as the final year in any way, shape or form." Moving the series from the Friday ghetto to the Wednesday slot following "Arrow" was another clear sign "Supernatural" has become the CW's legacy show.
— Despite reports that the upcoming final season of "Gossip Girl" will run 11 episodes, Pedowitz insists no decision has been made yet. The series will definitely end, but it may close with 10 or 11 or 13 episodes. The goal is simply to "run in fall and end in fall, before Christmas." Fans can also expect a retrospective, like the network did for "One True Hill." "I'm a big believer that shows that have lasted a long time on a network should have closure for the fans," Pedowitz said.
— "Hunger Games"-esque pilot "The Selection," starring Aimee Teegarden of "Friday Night Lights" wasn't picked up for fall but will go back into development. Pedowitz said the network remains very "high" on the concept. "If it was ready to go, it would be on in the fall."
— DC Comics adaptation "Deadman" is not yet dead at the network. Pedowitz said the project remains in development and he's optimistic.
— All of the network's new series will have the same output deals with Hulu and Netflix as the current series. Digital is a big part of CW's world and the buzz word of the day was "convergence" across platforms (TV, online, mobile). "As far as ratings going down in overnights, we don't judge ourselves by that," Pedowitz said. "We look at digital streams and social engagement."
— If you were worried bubble series "Nikita" wouldn't return for season three, you may want to send Pedowitz a thank you note (if you haven't already). "You get a privilege in this job to do something," Pedowitz said. "I'm a big fan of the show. It works. It may not be [big in] 18-34 but it works. I've got more fan mail saying, 'Thank god you picked it up, we really like the show!'"
— As for the darling of last year's CW upfront: Sarah Michelle Gellar's ill-fated "Ringer"? Pedowitz noted he was "proud" of show but when it came back from its winter hiatus the audience simply didn't come with it. He gushed about working with Gellar, noting "I'm sure Sarah is coming back to this network one way or another, whether it's as a producer or an actress."