After years of playing second fiddle to the Big Four networks, The CW has emerged in recent years as a destination for critically acclaimed programming. But the process to reach this particular place, which began when The CW was created in 2006 when The WB and UPN merged, has certainly taken some time.
After flirting with Sunday evening programming and attempting to fill the holes in its schedule with a number of questionable reality shows, The CW started to produce worthwhile programming in 2010, when the breakneck pace of the second season of The Vampire Diaries helped to transform the series from teen vampire soap into a force of nature and forced viewers to adjust their expectations — not just for the show, but also for the network and what it was capable of.
Although there were certainly embarrassing missteps along the way (did someone say Ringer?), The CW has continued to find success under the leadership of current president Mark Pedowitz, who took over for Dawn Ostroff in 2011. Under Pedowitz's tutelage, the network shed its image as the home of trashy teen soaps aimed at young female viewers by introducing and embracing genre programming, like Greg Berlanti's Arrow, which later gave birth to an entire TV universe, thus allowing the network to branch out.
As The CW has aged and become more confident in its place in the television landscape, it has taken chances on programs that other networks have passed on or would likely pass on. This has made it a network known for its originality and the home of a surprising mix of quality programming — which currently includes a Golden Globe-winning bilingual telenovela, a musical comedy about mental illness, multiple superhero series, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama in which the teens are just as or more intelligent and capable as the adults, and a crime procedural featuring a lead character who also happens to be a zombie.
But in order to fully appreciate The CW in its current state, we must look back at the bumpy road the network traveled to reach this particular point. Below, we've ranked every series (scripted and reality alike) that aired in prime time since the WB/UPN merge in 2006. You might be surprised by what you remember — and what you've tried desperately to forget.
89. Shedding for the Wedding
There are plenty of reality shows that exploit the notion that one has to be skinny to be considered attractive, but there was just something so incredibly sad about this reality competition in which overweight couples compete to lose weight in order to win their dream wedding. In fact, the only thing fun about Shedding for the Wedding is the fact that Tinashe sung the theme song!
88. Plain Jane
Yet another makeover series, Plain Jane came with an added twist: at the end of each episode the contestant would reveal her secret crush to an unsuspecting acquaintance. Not traumatizing at all!
87. Online Nation
Online Nation was a reality TV show about everything said to be capturing the attention of the internet. It failed after just four episodes. Maybe it should have stayed on the internet.
86. A Wicked Offer
How far would you go for money? This reality series went low when it tested contestants' moral and ethical boundaries by assigning them tasks involving unsuspecting family and friends in order to win cash prizes.
85. Perfect Score
Want to find a compatible partner and win money in the process? This terrible excuse for a game show featured people eliminating potential suitors secretly assigned a dollar amount based on a compatibility test.
Hosted by Mario Lopez (of course), H8R featured celebrities confronting members of the general public who were critical of them. In doing so, it crossed several moral boundaries and gave everyone secondhand embarrassment.
A less violent version of the Hunger Games played for money, basically.
82. In Harm's Way
In 2008, The CW attempted to do its own twist on Dirty Jobs with a show that highlighted people with life-threatening jobs, including Coast Guard swimmers and professional bull riders. It's not that In Harm's Way was terrible, per se, but it just made zero sense on the network. (Also, let's be real: It really wasn't great.)
81. CW Now
Remember when The CW tried to have its own news show? Yeah, we don't either.
80. Famous in 12
When the Artiaga family landed this reality show — in which they moved to LA to see how famous they could get in 12 weeks — they probably thought they had hit the jackpot. Unfortunately, the show was canceled after five weeks and the family was sent home early due to lack of interest.
78. Hitched or Ditched?
Do you know what every long-term couple needs? A friend nominating them to go on a reality show, where they have to accept a wedding date in one week's time. Because who cares if you're happy and in love unless you're legally married?
Hosted by a so-called modeling expert, the show was a makeover series for pseudo-scam modeling agencies — why? — that may or may not have also found fresh new faces. Again we ask... why?
The CW's reboot of the iconic sketch comedy series featured a new cast as well as some of the original cast members, but not even they could make it good.
75. Cedric's Barber Battle
This is one of those shows where we can see how the concept would get sold, but the execution was a total flop. While the trash-talking between barbers had its moments and some of the hairstyles were impressive, the show never quite figured out its tone, which meant it wound up being a total bore. To be honest, we expected more from a barber competition series hosted by Cedric the Entertainer.
Contestants in this fashion-themed reality series competed for a junior editor position at Elle and a year's paid lease in Manhattan. Free rent is cool and all, but it was painstakingly clear that this show was never going to help the contestants' careers, making the whole thing sad to watch.
72. The Next: Fame Is at Your Doorstep
A knockoff of The Voice in which Joe Jonas, Gloria Estefan, John Rich and Nelly coached local singers before the artists went head-to-head in a sing-off. They didn't even have spinning chairs or anything.
71. The Catalina
When it comes to shows about dramatic, drunk people forced to interact, The CW should have left it to Bravo, because the hotel-set Catalina is no Vanderpump Rules. It's not even a Below Deck: Mediterranean.
70. Significant Mother
Imagine if "Stacey's Mom" were a TV show — only instead of your friend just having sex with your mom, they actually dated your mom. That was the horrendous plot of Significant Mother.
Joaquin Phoenix helped fund this TV show in which celebrities travel the world to meet young global leaders. So if you ever wanted to see Casey Affleck learn how to empower Pawnee Nation youth through hip-hop — sorry, we're just going to stop right here. No one wants to see that.
68. Fly Girls
A year before Pan Am flopped, The CW launched this failed reality show about Virgin American flight attendants. ABC should have seen Fly Girls for the warning it was: People just aren't that interested in the "glamorous" lives of flight attendants.
67. Oh Sit!
Where were you on the day The CW announced they were turning musical chairs into a reality competition? More importantly, where were you on the day The CW canceled Oh Sit! because nobody in their right mind wants to watch a musical chairs reality competition?
66. 13: Fear Is Real
If we wanted to be scared and entertained at the same time, we'd just watch that Supernatural episode about the demonic clown who ate human flesh, rather than this horror-themed reality series. Although props should be given to Fear Is Real for having the most horrific elimination ceremony ever: with contestants being sent to the "execution ceremony" where they were then "killed off." Yeah, we wonder why this show didn't connect with mainstream audiences...
65: 18 to Life
A Canadian import about two young'uns who decided to get married at 18 and must figure out how to navigate the rest of their lives together. The premise was not only stale, but the show's entire approach to marriage felt incredibly out of touch with how The CW's young audience viewed sex and matrimony. Canada gave us Ryan Gosling. Canada can do better.
64. 7th Heaven
The 11th and final season — which was picked up after the show aired what it thought was its series finale in 2006 — was basically 7th Heaven Lite, with several cast members not returning or not appearing for several episodes to cut costs. It was basically Arrested Development Season 4-level bad, but without any of the cult fandom who had begged for more episodes in the first place.
One of two shows (the other being The Game) not inherited from The WB or UPN during the network's first year, Runaway followed a family who was always on the run from the law and trying to stay one step ahead of a killer. It was overly complicated and painfully heavy-handed at the same time. Runaway died a swift death after just three episodes, making it the first show The CW ever canceled.
62. The Beautiful Life: TBL
The Beautiful Life: TBL is a show that is only notorious for how badly it flopped. Other than the fact that it starred Mischa Barton and promoted its own acronym within the official title, most people don't remember anything about this Ashton Kutcher-produced drama about models, and that's probably for the best.
61. The Messengers
Forget vampires and werewolves, The Messengers told the story about what would happen if five random people around the country learned they were angels! Unfortunately, the show's plotting and mythology was so convoluted it was hard to tell exactly what did happen once their powers were realized.
Valentine gets points for having one of the silliest premises in CW history: a group of gods must improve their matchmaking skills or else they will become human. In order to avoid this fate, the Valentine family gets help from an oracle in a hot tub and a romance novelist. We wonder why this show never took off.
59. Hidden Palms
Canceled after just eight episodes, Hidden Palms was just so blatantly derivative of that other show about Cali teens. (To really hammer home the comparisons, Hidden Palms starred both Oliver and Zach from The O.C.) The only thing interesting about Hidden Palms is that it was actually created by Kevin Williamson. Yes, that Kevin Williamson. But don't feel bad for dear old Kevin: Two years later he gave us The Vampire Diaries and now young women will be thanking him for a lot more than just Pacey Witter for the rest of their lives.
58. WWE Smackdown
Despite favorable viewership and the occasional good match, WWE's perennial "little brother" show was treated as such for its two-year run on The CW, and lacked any of the interesting storylines and iconic matches that marked its stronger years.
In this Canadian comedy import, a sperm donor reluctantly embarked on a number of new relationships after discovering he was the father of not one, not two, but three children. It was a bit of a weird premise and one that ultimately didn't bring in the viewers.
56. High Society
In many ways, High Society was simply too late to the party. After the market crashed, the public wasn't interested in the lavish life of New York City socialite Tinsley Mortimer. Without any of the shameless drama of the Real Housewives franchise or the sitcom antics of the Kardashians, High Society was bit of a bore that was much more garish than inspirational.
The CW picked up this web series about two dudes backpacking across Europe for a summer run, aired two episodes and then sent it packing to CW Seed, the network's home for digital content, where it died. Sounds fair.
54. All of Us
Based loosely on producers Jada Pinkett-Smith and Will Smith's family, this sitcom had already lost a good chunk of its original cast before it moved to The CW for its final season, giving the network only a shell of its former self.
53. Life is Wild
Not to be confused with the ABC Family show Wildfire — about a troubled teen who gets a job at a ranch — Life Is Wild is about a not-so troubled teen whose family moves to a South African game reserve. It was cheesy, forgettable and no Wildfire, let's put it that way.
For years the world awaited Sarah Michelle Gellar's return to TV with bated breath. Ringer — which starred Gellar as two twins hiding secrets, swapping identities and running from the mob — never came close to touching the greatness of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it is iconic in its own way thanks to the notorious Ringer boat scene.
This Russian nesting doll of a bizarre television experiment was a show named Cult about a show named Cult, and within the real TV show Cult there was an ongoing show named Cult that caused its viewers to go insane, much like the real show named Cult. It was also one of the first shows to include a main character who was a "journalist blogger," a pivotal moment for the early-20-something detective genre. Both Cults — the show and the show within the show — were awesome and also really, really bad.
For a series about aliens who crash in Louisiana and the abhorrent human reaction to their arrival, Star-Crossed did little justice to its underlying story of race relations by focusing a little too much on the teen romance happening between a human and an alien.
49. Penn & Teller: Fool Us
Magic will never be considered "cool," as we've already explained, but that doesn't mean The CW's hip, young demo doesn't appreciate a good illusion. However, Fool Us would be a lot more exciting if the magicians actually revealed the secrets behind their tricks, as opposed to merely just trying to pull one over on the titular duo.
A British import meant to fill The CW's light summer schedule, Dates featured vignettes that illustrated a series of first dates among various couples who met via an online dating site. If it had been bad, that would have been one thing, but it mostly was just unmemorable as each episode focused on different people and it was hard to connect with the characters.
47. Emily Owens, M.D.
Before she created the Golden Globe-winning Jane the Virgin, Jennie Snyder Urman created Emily Owens, M.D., a decently charming medical drama starring attractive young wannabe doctors who were just as clique-y as their high school counterparts. It was canceled after just 13 episodes, but its failure helped the network course-correct and discover the types of shows its viewers were interested in.
46. Melrose Place
Although it tried really, really hard, in the end, The CW's Melrose Place sequel couldn't hold a candle to the iconic original about a group of young men and women living in the same apartment complex in Los Angeles. It's not really the sequel's fault it failed, though; nothing was ever going to compare to Marcia Cross' Kimberly Shaw taking her wig off and revealing that giant scar. Not even Laura Leighton's Sydney Andrews dying in the reboot's pilot.
45. Breaking Pointe
This inside look at a Utah ballet company opted to skip the typical reality show drama to mine the naturally dramatic realities of what it's like to be a part of a tight-knit ballet company. And while some of the cast didn't have the most enticing personalities for television, it was impossible to take your eyes off them once they actually began to dance.
44. The Tomorrow People
Based on the British series of the same name, this series about people who possess certain powers as a result of the next phase of human evolution was canceled after one season because... it wasn't great. But we aren't saying it was bad. It was just good-ish. Neither silly nor gritty, suspenseful nor adventurous, The Tomorrow People had the potential to improve greatly if it had just figured out its tone. Unfortunately, it never got the opportunity to. But, it did introduce Americans to Luke Mitchell, and for that we're eternally grateful.
43. Easy Money
Easily the best of The CW's attempts to launch a Sunday night block, Easy Money starred Laurie Metcalf as the matriarch of an eccentric family of loan sharks. Had this aired on cable and really leaned into the seedy underbelly of the loan shark world, as opposed to maintaining that CW gloss, Easy Money might have even been a minor hit.
42. Farmer Wants a Wife
This show was a surprising delight. The farm setting was a welcome break from the McMansions of other dating shows, and the challenges — oh, the challenges! — were so good, ranging from hand-collecting chickens to driving a tractor and milking goats. And yet, however pleasant Farmer Wants a Wife was, it failed to leave any lasting impression — even on its few fans.
It might never have hit the heights of the original film, but Frequency was a solid time-travel murder mystery. Was it particularly memorable or addicting? No — but it wasn't a bad way to spend an hour, which is more than you can say about some of shows on this list.
40. Beauty and the Beast
Although Beauty and the Beast never got the ratings of some of its more successful CW peers, it developed one of the network's most passionate fandoms, "Beasties," who couldn't get enough of this gritty romance procedural about a cop who falls in love with a beast who is barely a beast. (Seriously though, this is the sexiest "beast" we've ever seen.) And while we personally never quite understood Beauty and the Beast's appeal, we understand that, to a certain demo, there was something of substance here.
36. The Secret Circle
This low-rated witchy drama about attractive teens set against the backdrop of the moody Pacific Northwest ran for one season before it was canceled. While it wasn't a high quality series by any means — several muddled mysteries and a less than exciting central love triangle dragged it down — The Secret Circle consistently improved over the course of its first season and even showed real promise near the end. It also introduced us to Aussie Phoebe Tonkin, who went on to appear in The Vampire Diaries and star in its spin-off, The Originals, so we have to give it some props.
90210 was the type of show you loved to hate-watch (like Smash, but without any of the music or Debra Messing's scarves). It wasn't the wittiest of the modern era soaps, nor was it the most emotionally engaging, but it was flashy and dramatic in all the right ways to hook you in. It was basically the Cheetos of CW soaps.
37. No Tomorrow
A rather quirky premise — a guarded but attractive young woman learns to seize the day thanks to an equally attractive bearded man who believes the world is going to end — was squandered rather quickly in this hour-long romantic comedy. There wasn't any real buildup to their romance, and the back-and-forth about whether or not Xavier was actually crazy tampered enthusiasm for what should have been a charming and effervescent series. But the chemistry between the two leads and its offbeat sense of humor are well worth recognizing.
The CW's lineup spans more genres than most networks, but Reign was its first (and currently only) attempt at historical fiction. While it's true the series was less concerned with historical accuracy than it was with sparking melodrama, it did offer a look at a woman fighting for agency in a time when women were rarely in positions of power and in that regard, it was a lot of fun. Also, let us not forget Hunky Nostradamus.
Containment was the network's first attempt at a virus thriller, and you know what? It wasn't too shabby! There were plenty aspects of Containment that were formulaic and badly paced, but there were enough moments of true terror to keep viewers hooked. We only wish creator Julie Plec had known Containment would only be a one-season wonder, because a tighter storyline could have made it as addicting as it aimed to be.
34. DC's Legends of Tomorrow
DC's Legends of Tomorrow — the second Arrow spin-off featuring a legendary team up of traditional DC heroes and villains — has definitely improved in its second season as it's found its footing and nailed its tone. And maybe if it keeps going at this rate and we revise these rankings in a year, Legends will be much higher on the list, because watching the team go on wacky romps across time is a whole lot of fun! But as it stands, we can't forget how painful the show's freshman season was as it tried to convince us Vandal Savage was a great villain or that Hawkgirl and Hawkman were ever anything more than silly.
33. Pussycat Dolls Present
Much like Top Model, Pussycat Dolls Present wasn't so much about someone actually becoming a member of the Pussycat Dolls (or the original girl group Girlicious in Season 2) as it was about watching young women chase their dreams by doing ridiculous challenges. In this case, that included going on a fake promo tour in which they shot deodorant commercials, exotic cage-dancing in a restaurant, and performing dance routines from Pussycat Dolls music videos. The women were not only dramatic, but incredibly talented, allowing us to enjoy this show on a level beyond just simple schadenfreude.
32. Aliens in America
This vastly underrated comedy stuck out on The CW like a sore thumb because it was a rare half-hour comedy on a network known for sweaty teen dramas. But this achingly sweet and hilariously goofy show about a Midwestern teen who befriends a Pakistani exchange student was ahead of its time and an awkward fit on The CW, making it always doomed for cancellation after 18 great episodes. And hey, it launched the careers of Dan Byrd and Adhir Kalyan, and gave us Scott Patterson with a spray-on tan and super-whitened teeth!
31. Whose Line Is It Anyway?
The CW's Whose Line revival didn't exactly reinvent the wheel, but it wasn't quite business as usual either. In addition to Aisha Tyler taking over hosting duties, the revamped Whose Line also introduced a "special guest" each week. In every episode, a different celebrity (generally one with no improv experience) would participate in some of the games with Colin, Ryan and Wayne. It was a nice way to blend reliable, nostalgic content with exciting hooks, because who doesn't want to see Gina Rodriguez and Bill Nye play theater games?
When Arrow debuted, it was groundbreaking on The CW. And because of its success, we now have the ever-growing CW/DC superhero universe, for which we are forever grateful. Arrow's first few seasons took huge risks which paid off and helped the network appeal to both longtime comic book fans and newbies to the genre, as well as getting the rapt attention of The CW's largely female fanbase. However, despite having an arsenal of great characters and a dense mythology to draw from, Arrow's recent seasons have failed to live up to its potential (or some of its fellow Arrowverse shows).
29. Beauty and the Geek
At first glance, this show might appear extremely cringe-worthy, but don't judge a reality show (or a beauty or geek) by their cover. Rather than simply exploit the beauties' and geeks' differences to create drama, Beauty and the Geek was actually an extremely heartwarming series, in which you felt like the contestants genuinely learned something about themselves by interacting with people from different social groups. One couple even fell in love!
28. Life Unexpected
In this heartwarming family dramedy, Britt Robertson played Lux, a foster kid who had to track down her birth parents in order to become emancipated. We're pretty sure that's not actually how any of this works, but we're willing to look past the shenanigans, because once she ended up in the custody of her birth parents, Lux's life changed for the better. The show was canceled after two emotional but satisfying seasons.
27. The Game
The Game, the successful spin-off of the popular comedy Girlfriends and just one of two series (the other being Runaway) not inherited from The WB or UPN, eventually ran for nine seasons, but unfortunately only three of them aired on The CW. The series, which followed a young woman who puts her career on hold to support her star athlete boyfriend, was canceled in 2009 and picked up by BET, where it found success and much higher ratings. But it's not that the quality drastically improved when The Game moved to BET. The CW just didn't have the right audience to appreciate The Game's fun take on the challenges that come with loving football stars.
26. The Originals
After Damon Salvatore, the Mikaelsons are The Vampire Diaries' greatest gift to popular culture, and after three seasons on the long-running drama, the original vampire family was spun off into its own drama series. Since then, the stories surrounding the supernatural communities of New Orleans have never quite reached the heights of its parent show, in part because the show has struggled to establish a lovable ensemble beyond the titular Originals. However, who needs other characters when you have Klaus and Elijah? Between the Mikaelsons, Hayley and Marcel, The Originals has more than enough great characters, family drama and betrayal to keep it out of The Vampire Diaries' shadow and allow it to stand on its own as a great show.
Hellcats was clearly a wannabe Bring It On, but that's OK because Bring It On was great! And Hellcats was definitely better than any of the Bring It On sequels. Plus it put its own little spin on the genre. Before she played a lawyer on iZombie, Aly Michalka starred in Hellcats as a law student who had to join the cheerleading squad to get the scholarship she needed to stay in school. It had great cheer routines, soapy drama, catfights and even Sully from Harper's Island. What more could a viewer ask for?
While 24 may seem high for Supergirl, which spent its entire first season on CBS, the series has shown marked improvement in its short time on The CW. The writers quickly jettisoned storylines that weren't working, introduced an amazing coming-out story for Alex, and the addition of Chris Wood as Mon-El has injected even more charm into an already charming cast.
It's still too soon to truly determine where Riverdale will fall in this ranking, but so far the dark take on Archie is going strong. In its first season, Riverdale effortlessly balances sexed-up versions of the typically squeaky-clean characters with a murder mystery and a hell of a lot of atmosphere and style. The result is a whole lot of fun, and unlike anything the network has really done before.
The sunny and optimistic Privileged may have been ahead of its time — it premiered during The CW's trashy teen soap era and failed to connect with viewers — but we're inclined to believe that if it debuted just a few years later, it would have made it more than one season. Starring JoAnna Garcia Swisher as an aspiring journalist who becomes a tutor to two rich teens in Palm Beach, the quirky and sweet series quickly became one of our favorite series The CW ever produced.
Only Reba's final aired on The CW (the previous five aired on the WB), but unlike many sitcoms (cough, cough How I Met Your Mother), Reba ended strong. This family sitcom with a Southern twang was so great, it broke our hearts a bit when The CW decided to move away from half-hour comedies in the years ahead.
Before Tracee Ellis Ross was slaying it on Blackish, she was slaying it on Girlfriends, which was one of the top-rated shows among African-Americans and the longest-running live-action sitcom on network TV at the time. It's only a shame that Jill Marie Jones left the show before it made the move to The CW, where it aired its final two seasons — not to mention the fact that The CW didn't even allow Girlfriends to film a proper series finale by canceling it as soon as the writers' strike ended. But despite all that behind-the-scenes drama, Girlfriends' run on The CW didn't allow itself to be marred by these disappointing circumstances, and it remains the network's best half-hour comedy to this day.
Throughout its four-season run, The CW's reboot of the 1997 series La Femme Nikita (which was based on the 1990 film Nikita) always felt a little off-brand for the network, even if it was also a capable and well-liked action series. As The CW went all in on the supernatural and started to launch its superhero slate, Nikita saw its ratings slowly decline until the decision was made to allow the show to wrap up with a six-episode fourth and final season. But even if the show didn't exactly live up to network expectations, Maggie Q and the rest of the show's talented cast delivered a well-done spy drama week after week that was thrilling and engaging.
This long-running Superman prequel preceded the network's current superhero lineup by more than a decade and showed the evolution of young Clark Kent as he grew from a hunky, young, heroic high schooler into the dashing superhero he would famously later become. We like to joke about the amount of head trauma the women of the series experienced of the years, but the truth is, the influence of Smallville cannot be understated. Without it, who knows if we'd have Arrow and its many spin-offs? Who knows if we'd have ever discovered how good looking Michael Rosenbaum is without hair? Thank you, Smallville. We owe you big time.
17. One Tree Hill
How does one even begin to describe the influence of WB-turned-CW drama One Tree Hill? The high school series went through a number of changes over the years as characters aged and moved away, only to be replaced by equally good-looking newcomers with their own baggage. Although there were definitely highs and lows throughout the show's frequently melodramatic nine-season run, there was one person who could be counted on to ground the drama: Brooke Penelope Davis. Yes, we all remember squinty Lucas with his Dante quotes, and we all swoon over the epic love story of Nathan and Haley, but at the end of the day, the one thing that kept us glued to One Tree Hill over the years was the opportunity to watch the evolution of Brooke as she took over the damn world.
16. Hart of Dixie
Hart of Dixie was a quintessential "feel good" show. Over the course of its four seasons on The CW, it didn't matter how we were feeling, it always managed to cheer us up. Whether it was the wacky hijinks of Bluebell — a town so weird it made Stars Hollow seem normal — or the show's complicated romances, we could always count on the dramedy to put a smile on our faces. It was a pleasure to turn on the TV every week and be transported to a world that included Wade Kinsella, Lemon Breeland, and — of course — Don Todd.
15. Gossip Girl
When Gossip Girl premiered, it was a cultural phenomenon — and for good reason! The show was instantly addicting and we found ourselves incredibly invested in the dramatic lives of the Upper East Side elite. Although the quality waned in later seasons and we'd rather die than accept Dan as Gossip Girl, the soapy series is easily one of the greatest teen dramas of all time — not to mention the most fashionable. Because be honest, who didn't buy a headband in 2007 specifically as an ode to Blair Waldorf?
14. The Flash
Unlike many superhero shows, The Flash has a sense of humor about its subject matter — which is not to say that The Flash is a silly show. In fact, it can be incredibly heart-wrenching (particularly when it deals with the West-Allen family drama). But there's a lightness to The Flash that allows it to appeal to both hardcore comics fans and newbies. Grant Gustin is also a damn delight as Barry Allen, anchoring the show with his charismatic ease and emotional vulnerability.
In 2017, Reaper would fit right in with the The CW's supernatural- and superhero-infused lineup. But despite largely positive reviews, the comedy — about a slacker who becomes a reaper and must track down escaped souls from hell before returning them to the DMV (it's a portal to hell, of course) — was canceled after just two seasons in 2009. It's a shame because not only was the show incredibly funny, but Ray Wise was more than excellent as the devil.
12. The Carrie Diaries
As a prequel to the mega-successful Sex and the City, The Carrie Diaries, a coming-of-age drama following the high school exploits of a teenage Carrie Bradhaw, had a lot to live up to. Somewhere along the way — probably following the introduction of a young Samantha — the show found its groove and we actually forgot it was supposed to be a prequel and just enjoyed the characters and their adventures as a wholly separate entity. That's honestly probably the highest compliment we can bestow upon this low-rated gem.
11. America's Next Top Model
America's Next Top Model is like a cockroach... but a beautiful, addicting cockroach. It aired for 16 seasons on The CW before the network canceled it (and VH1 ultimately picked it up). And although ANTM's cultural relevance decreased over the years, the quality never waned. In fact, once Tyra Banks introduced men into the mix (not to mention the incredible all-stars season) the show got a whole new life, giving us dramatic hookups, beard weaves and Nyle DiMarco.
10. Everybody Hates Chris
For some reason, when people look back on the greatest modern sitcoms they often forget Everybody Hates Chris, which was not only a hilarious take on Chris Rock's childhood, but also provided great explorations of race and class. There is a reason it was nominated for three Emmys and a Golden Globe.
9. The 100
The 100 could have easily become another "sexy teens in extraordinary circumstances" show, but instead it became one of the best sci-fi dramas of recent years. Its violence is ruthless, particularly for The CW, and its interest in political dynamics and tribalism is something the network had never touched upon before. And yes, we all know Season 3 had its issues, but that doesn't cancel out everything great Jason Rothenberg and his team have given us.
8. Gilmore Girls
The majority of Gilmore Girls' fast-talking, pop culture-referencing seven seasons aired on The WB, with only the show's final season — the one without creator Amy Sherman-Palladino — making the jump to air on The CW. Although the final season wasn't the show's finest 22 hours, there is no denying its influence, and the warmth we still felt every week as we watched the three Gilmore women continue to stumble and grow into themselves. That season may not have been perfect, but life never is. And we wouldn't have it any other way.
7. The L.A. Complex
Nobody watched The L.A. Complex. When it premiered, it was literally the lowest-rated broadcast drama debut of all time, but we'll never understand why. Although many assumed it would be a cheap Melrose Place knock-off, The L.A. Complex knew how to play with archetypes, smartly revealing layers to characters you never would have expected. And the cast — including Jewel Staite, Cassie Steele and Joe Dinicol — imbued their characters with a sense of realism that kept the show grounded in even the most ridiculous situations. And boy, were there some ridiculous situations! Still, there were also some incredibly thoughtful storylines, including ones about a gangster rapper struggling with his sexuality and a couple competing against each other for the same comedy writing job. And while the show could sometimes veer a little too inside baseball for those outside the Hollywood industry, it consistently delivered smart takes on what it's like to be an aspiring artist still waiting for their break (or for those whose 15 minutes of fame has already ended).
It would be easy enough to blame the longevity and immortality of the Winchesters on someone at The CW selling their soul to a crossroads demon, but the success of Supernatural is really all about its ability to find new and interesting ways to inject humor and conflict into a story that has seemingly been everywhere and done everything. We love Sam and Dean more than we love our real brothers, and even when the show enters a predictable slump (ahem, Season 7), a brilliant episode or arc (the introduction of the Men of Letters) comes along to remind us that this little show that began as a monster-of-the-week drama before morphing into an epic battle between heaven and hell and somehow expanding even beyond that still has gas in its tank in Season 12.
5. Veronica Mars
Opinions surrounding the drama's third season, which was the only one to air on The CW, are as polarized as the division between Team Logan and Team Piz. There's no denying that Season 3 failed to live up to the show's previously established high standard — an unfortunate fate that can be explained by creator Rob Thomas listening to network notes in the hopes they would score higher ratings, and therefore a renewal (thanks for trying, Rob!) — but once you get past the disappointingly one-dimensional collegiate archetypes and drastically lighter tone, there are a lot of great things to appreciate in Season 3. After the drastic failure that was Duncan, Veronica Mars: The College Years finally introduced a worthy romantic adversary for Logan, along with delivering a welcome focus on Keith and Veronica's relationship and more screen time for some of VMars' best supporting players, Weevil, Mac and Dick! And who can complain about more Dick, amirite?
4. The Vampire Diaries
The Vampire Diaries could have easily been just another vampire romance, but it quickly developed into an epic family saga with real emotional depth. To newbies, the mythology of The Vampire Diaries can appear overwhelming, but the intricately-woven web of relationships — which stretch across centuries and generations — is always grounded in universal truths that give weight to the heightened world of the supernatural. Although there have been a few stumbles in The Vampire Diaries' eight-season run, the show has never gotten the full credit it deserves for the way it has consistently evolved its characters in interesting and unexpected ways.
The CW's loose adaptation of the DC Comics' property may be young — Season 3 premieres April 4 — but the show's first two seasons have proven that in the right hands (hands which belong to Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright) a show about a zombie who helps solve murders is not just quirky and fun, but can also be a complex metaphor about depression that effortlessly tackles season-long arcs on top of cases of the week. Let's see The Walking Dead do that! With a lead that takes on a new personality each week as she ingests the brains of victims in order to solve their murders (and learns a bit about life in the process), and a supporting cast of equally multi-dimensional characters, iZombie isn't just one of the best shows on TV, it's one that constantly surprises us as it continues to exceed our wildest expectations.
2. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Not that long ago, a show like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend would have been unheard of, particularly on broadcast TV. But immediately after meeting Rebecca Bunch — a Jewish woman who struggles with mental illness, is obsessed with her childhood boyfriend, and breaks out into song and dance in a moment's notice — we realized she's the heroine we never knew we needed. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend's ambition is truly staggering, but not more so than the fact it manages to consistently land its high-wire act, constantly switching between modes of storytelling, tonally hitting every note on the spectrum and exploring complicated issues regarding love, depression, sexuality and loss — all with careful nuance and without missing a beat in any of its dozens of Broadway-worthy songs.
1. Jane the Virgin
When crafting this ranking, there was never a question of Jane the Virgin's prominent place at the top. The telenovela has raised the bar at The CW, both in terms of quality programming and in terms of positive and realistic representations of women on TV. Guided by Jennie Snyder Urman's hand and anchored by Gina Rodriguez's Golden Globe-winning performance (though truthfully there's not a weak link in its impressive cast) Jane burst onto the scene fully formed and has only gotten stronger as it and its titular heroine has grown as a person, a mother, a daughter and a partner. Charming and delightful, the series has remained nearly perfect across two complete seasons of 22 episodes each and now, in the middle of its third, continues to push boundaries and surprise as it uses its dramatic genre to tell universal but emotionally engaging stories. After the darkness that accompanied the antiheroes of the so-called Golden Age of TV, Jane the Virgin has been a refreshing change of pace and the light we need to guide us into the next chapter of Peak TV. Without a doubt, it is the series that most clearly represents The CW's changing image and place within the television landscape. Keep up the excellent work, show.
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS, one of The CW's parent companies.)