Upfront Week 2010 concluded on a "Freaky Friday" note(*), with old man CBS unveiling by far the boldest schedule on Wednesday and then its little corporate sibling the CW playing it fairly safe the next day, with a schedule featuring only two new shows and a series of changes that make too much sense to be surprising.
(*) That's Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan to the CW's target demo, and other combinations to, um, earlier generations.
Of course, when you only program 10 hours a week (and, with the network for now ditching its Friday "Top Model" repeat, it will actually be 10 and not 9) and are programming to a tiny demographic sliver compared to the Big Four nets, there isn't as much room or need for innovation. The CW has the game it plays - and spent much of its upfront trying to sell itself as the "convergence" network, where advertisers can reach viewers not only on TV but Facebook, video streams, etc. - and next year's schedule seems a sensible way of playing it.
The schedule, and my thoughts on it, night-by-night:
MONDAY: "Gossip Girl" is the standard-bearer for the CW, and the network wishes that "90210" was, even though the ratings have never lived up to the hype. So why not put the two together for a night of bi-coastal bitchiness about rich and beautiful teens?
TUESDAY: The surprisingly unkillable "One Tree Hill" moves to 8, followed by critical pet "Life Unexpected" (the one CW show I still mostly watch at 9, a timeslot that will have fewer conflicts for me than when it was on Monday, so thanks, CW!). CW president Dawn Ostroff said "LuX" had a lot of support, "not only from the creative community and fans, but from advertisers." For now, both shows are only 13-episode orders, but Ostroff suggested both could easily get full seasons.
WEDNESDAY: "America's Top Model" remains in place at 8 (and the big prize next fall will be the cover of Italian Vogue, as the show again tries to act like it has any relevance in the fashion industry), leading into the first of the CW's two rookies: "Hellcat,"with "High School Musical" alum Ashley Tisdale as the captain of a college cheerleading squad and Aly Michalka as the outsider who reluctantly joins the team when she loses her academic scholarship. There remains a market for all those straight-to-video "Bring It On" sequels, so why not a series rip-off?
THURSDAY: While the two Monday soaps symbolize what the CW aspires to be (or who it wants its audience to pretend they can be), "Vampire Diaries" is actually the network's most-watched scripted show (never underestimate the power and number of vampire fans). It remains in place at 8, and will be used to try to launch a new hit in "Nikita," a remake of the '90s USA drama "La Femme Nikita" (which was itself preceded by both French and English movie versions) about a criminal-turned-government-assassin (with Maggie Q filling the role previously played by Peta Wilson, Bridget Fonda and Anne Parillaud). Here the twist is that Nikita has gone fugitive and is trying to bring her old bosses down. The clip reel for the pilot (directed by Danny Cannon, the visual architect of the "CSI" franchise) looked promising.
FRIDAY: At 8, "Smallville" enters its tenth and final season, and Ostroff said she expects "a lot of nostaliga and a lot of interesting guest cast returning." Allison Mack isn't a regular anymore, but Ostroff said she would be in a lot of episodes. At 9 is "Supernatural," which used to be teamed with "Smallville" on Thursdays. ("Supernatural" is entering its sixth season and its audience is what it is at this point, which is why the CW is moving it away from "Vampire Diaries" to use that timeslot for a new show like "Nikita.")
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at email@example.com