A year ago, the former stars of the WB and UPN found themselves uncomfortably mingling on one stage for the first upfront of the new CW network. They looked like the kids at the wedding of two single parents.
This year, the CW took a step toward developing its own personality, shedding the aging Gilmore Girls, Veronica Mars (the longest-running unsuccessful show in prime time) and All of Us (the weakest link in its lineup of urban sitcoms). The network is even taking the teen out of teen-angst drama One Tree Hill. When that show returns in mid-season, the characters will have been fast-forwarded to their lives after college.
The network is replacing All of Us with Aliens In America, a comedy about a Muslim exchange student coming to live in Wisconsin. It looks funny and a little provocative. Who would have thought the CW would have the first sitcom to deal with post-9/11 attitudes?
Tuesday at 9 pm brings Reaper, about a slacker whose parents sold his soul to the Devil, played with a brilliant oiliness by Ray Wise. The show represents the general tone of the new fall lineups presented this week: lighter fare with more special effects and fewer dark, complicated story lines with dense mythologies.
The moms who watched Gilmore Girls with their daughters will be very sad when they see Gossip Girl. Small-town values, reading books and watching old movies have been replaced by a snarky blogger, privileged prep-school girls from the Upper East Side and barely a parental unit in sight. Gossip Girl, which airs Wednesday at 9 pm, is getting the best lead-in the CW has in America's Next Top Model. Clearly the network thinks this one is the future.
On Sunday at 7 pm, the network will try a younger entertainment news show called CW Now, followed by Online Nation, an America's Funniest Home Videos for the YouTube generation. At 8 pm, 7th Heaven will be replaced by Life Is Wild. Although it's shot on location in South Africa, you'll still see more black people on CW's Monday comedies than on this show. Network insiders say that will change - let's hope so. The wildlife backdrop gives this family drama a distinctive look. Too bad the network didn't have this show last year to replace 7th Heaven on Monday at 8 pm, when viewers still looking for a family show would have found it. - Stephen Battaglio