The broader the better. Give it to The CW, the little network that could be forgiven for having had a Rodney Dangerfield complex in past seasons, as it enjoys a rare moment of critical goodwill. You'd almost think we were back in the glory days of The WB — whose sole remaining remnant on the current slate is Supernatural, which brought its stars out for a 10th-season victory lap. Though The CW is only launching two new shows this fall (in October), they're two of the very best, a result of the network setting out to "broaden what that [target] 18-34 year-old audience was ... to get the perception that we were no longer a teenage-girl audience," entertainment president Mark Pedowitz declared at the TCA press tour on Friday. (For more CW news, go here.)
With Arrow and its breezier new spinoff The Flash (Tuesdays at 8/7c) taken from the pages of DC Comics in a so-far-successful attempt to bring men back to the network, Pedowitz went looking for balance, "so we don't get perceived completely as a genre network." His search for a multigenerational family show in the tradition of Gilmore Girls led to the charming Jane the Virgin, based on a Venezuelan telenovela. "The one thing we have learned, audiences do not come to us to watch procedurals," the bread-and-butter of behemoth sister network CBS), said Pedowitz. "But they do come to us to watch interesting characters in a very serialized form."
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The Flash, introduced last season on Arrow, was described by DC Entertainment's chief creative officer Geoff Johns as "the most faithful DC Comics adaptation ever." I'm no comics expert, but agree with boyish title star Grant Gustin, previously best known as a villainous Warbler on Glee, when he described this latest incarnation of Barry Allen (Flash's alter ego) as "just so endearing, he's so sweet, he's curious, he's a nerd. And now he's a superhero. There aren't that many better characters out there to play." The pilot is as spectacular as it is entertaining, and executive producer Andrew Kreisberg (who also oversees Arrow) described the first episode as "a steep learning curve ... And if you've continued to watch Arrow you know Arrow has only gotten bigger and bigger. Whereas that was about stunts, [The Flash] is a lot more about visual effects, we're hoping we're going to be able to maintain the same level of action, adventure and excitement in this show." Run, don't walk, to this one.
Even better is Jane the Virgin (Mondays at 9/8c), an outlandish but unexpectedly sweet comic fable of a virtuous girl who is accidentally artificially inseminated, creating all manner of complications. Described by its producers as a cross between Ugly Betty and Gilmore Girls, a whimsical but grounded fairy tale, Jane is blessed with the star presence of Gina Rodriguez in the title role. One of the season's true breakouts, she's a rapturous bundle of ingenuous and optimistic energy, and had the TCA audience enthralled as she spoke passionately about her career choices, which included turning down a role on Devious Maids while she waited for her big break.
"Every role that I've chosen has been ones that I think are going to push forward the idea of my culture, of women, of beauty, my idea of liberating young girls, of feeling that they have to look at a specific beauty type. And I wasn't going to let my introduction to the world be one of a story that I think has been told many times. I wanted it to be a story that was going to liberate young girls and say, 'Wow, there we are too, and we're the doctors, and we're the teachers, and we're the writers, and we're the lawyers, and I can do that too. And I don't have to be a perfect size zero. I can be a perfect size me.' And that's what I live. So Jane, I waited for her patiently ... Because this is a dream come true to me." Gina Rodriguez is this season's "That Girl," and I can't wait for the rest of the world to make her acquaintance.