You know you're at the CW Upfront when the flamboyantly dressed woman in front of you turns out not to be a particularly funky ad rep but a gyrating hip-hopping audience plant who's part of LMFAO's opening number. You also begin to realize that you may not exactly be in the mini-web's target demo anymore.
But still, you remind yourself, TV has a way of keeping you feeling young. And while I grew out of the Gossip Girl and 90210 habit a while ago, as long as I can still spy remnants of the long-lamented WB within the CW's DNA, I am at peace. In that regard, you could hardly ask for more than the return of Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy!), who once epitomized the don't-judge-me allure of the good old WB days. Headlining the CW's most promising new series — in a dual role yet — Gellar is no longer slayer but potential slayee in Ringer, as a pair of endangered twins embroiled in a life-swapping romantic mystery melodrama. This premise, developed by sister network CBS, sounds kind of original if your memory isn't clouded by vintage TCM Bette Davis potboilers like A Stolen Life and Dead Ringer. Hey, if it was good enough for Miss Davis!
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I'm just sorry Ringer is yoked to 90210. I'd love to see this genre piece paired as a kick-ass combo with Nikita. That underappreciated spy thriller is being shuffled off to Fridays (still, beats cancellation) to make room on Thursday for The Secret Circle, a too-like-minded companion piece to The Vampire Diaries. It stars Lux from Life Unexpected as a witch, and even with Kevin Williamson casting the narrative spells, I need to be convinced that this teenage coven will deliver the thrills.
Besides the supernatural stuff (and Supernatural itself, the last surviving WB holdover), the other WB format I yearn for each season is the young-adult heartwarmer, which reached its apex with Felicity and Everwood. I'm trying to stay positive about Monday's Hart of Dixie, a light drama that transplants a snotty New York med-school grad (The O.C.'s winsome Rachel Bilson) to small-town Alabama, where she improbably inherits part of a local medical practice. Friday Night Lights' Scott Porter is one of the local yokels who catches her eye. That's the good part. Unfortunately, the contrivances and Southern-fried clichés appear to be piled on as thick as day-old grits, and it looks more like an ABC Family castoff. Still hoping to be charmed.
So far so typical. But like a fork in the eye, the CW continues to try to expand its reality footprint, and even in the cesspools of cable, it rarely gets as toxic as H8R ("Hater"), a grotesquely phony ambush show in which notoriously polarizing celeb-reality stars surprise "everyday" people who profess to hate them. Because really, the one thing the likes of Snooki and the Kardashians need is another media platform to strut their overexposure.
For a moment, I began to worry that CW stood for Class Warfare. And in this case, class isn't winning.