The CW sets their sights on a slew of new shows for next year’s fall season.
Fresh off his 22-episode pickup for veteran drama One Tree Hill, executive producer Mark Schwahn has something new in the works for the CW. A slew of new shows for next year’s fall season have been announced by The CW. At the head of the class is Schwahn’s Spy School for Girls, which focuses on female spy trainees at a CIA facility. Schwahn, who has an overall deal with CBS-TV Studios, will be writing and executive producing the project, in the same vein as his work on One Tree Hill. The project is based on a book in the works by Larry Kolb, who according to Variety will also be an executive producer on the show.
Schwahn is also working with country music sensation Brad Paisley and writers Neal Dodson (executive producer for Another Cinderella Story and creative executive for the upcoming Footloose remake) and Matt Bomer (ex-Ben Reade, Guiding Light). The writers, who have both previously appeared on the now defunct Guiding Light as well as All My Children, are still wet-behind-the-ears with only one writing credit between the two of them other than the pilot script. A dream team by no means, this foursome of executive producers aims to bring you Nashville, a drama that centers around a young female singer destined for stardom and a male songwriter whose career isn’t quite as certain. It’s definitely remnant of the 1993 film, The Thing Called Love, with River Phoenix. This is the first venture into television for Paisley, who would write songs for the series and appear as himself.
Rob Thomas’ Plymouth Rock revolves around a group of young people on a spaceship traveling to a far-off planet in order to colonize and save the human race. The Veronica Mars writer will executive produce alongside Danielle Stokdyk, Jennifer Gwartz and Dan Etheridge, the team behind cult hit Party Down, Cupid and Veronica Mars. Thomas is also credited with launching the CW’s reboot, 90210, last year as the original executive producer.
Alloy Entertainment, the production company behind Gossip Girl and the CW’s lone fall hit The Vampire Diaries, is working on Confessions of a Backup Dancer. No, this isn’t the E! True Hollywood Story of Jennifer Lopez, but it is a drama about a female dancer who nabs a gig as a backup dancer for a major pop star. The L Word‘s Ilene Chaiken will write and executive produce the show. Alloy Entertainment’s Les Morgenstein, who was the brains behind the re-launch of L.J. Smith’s The Vampire Diaries books and executive producer of The Vampire Diaries series, will also exec produce this show.
Other projects on the CW’s docket include The March Sisters, a drama about working-class siblings who try to make it on Park Avenue. The show is being billed as Little Women meets Sex and the City. Jill Gordon, whose television credits include cult hit My So Called Life, The Wonder Years and 90210, is writing and executive producing, with film producer Meryl Poster (Chicago, Chocolat) serving as an executive producer as well.
Lionsgate and Ish Entertainment are working on Bitches in Britches, a family drama set against the backdrop of the equestrian world of Millbrook, New York. Emmy winning writer Bob Brush (The Wonder Years) and Mel Harris will write and exec produce. Reality show exec producer Michael Hirschorn and VH1 talent producer Stella Stolper will also executive produce alongside fashion designer Zac Posen, who will design the look and feel of the show. Posen previously appeared on the CW’s now cancelled The Beautiful Life: TBL this fall.
Rounding out the list of wannabe fall shows is a yet-to-be-titled drama from Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Entertainment and writer Julie Martin (Kings, Law & Order: Criminal Intent). The show is based on the life of Sloan Barnett and is set in Manhattan’s Early Case Assessment Bureau, where the socialite worked. Martin and De Niro will exec produce along with the New York City President of Tribeca Productions, Jane Rosenthal (Public Enemies).
The CW has a lot of questions to answer and it’s no secret that the network needs a few hits. Melrose Place thus far has been a dud, despite a heavy ad campaign all summer. Melrose‘s only hope is pinned on Heather Locklear’s return this November. The Vampire Diaries is the only hit of the new fall schedule, with The Beautiful Life: TBL suffering an early cancellation in the second week of airing. Gossip Girl, while maintaining a mainstream press phenomena, has never lived up to the hype surrounding its actors off-screen antics. Ratings for the show are less than stellar. The show is consistently beaten by its lead-in One Tree Hill, which hasn’t gotten a quarter as much press in 7 seasons as Gossip Girl has in its 2 and a half seasons on air. But how much longer can the show go on? One Tree Hill has successfully revamped itself twice before, but will its stars continue on for season 8? Chad Michael Murray and Hilarie Burton have already moved on. What would OTH do if Sophia Bush or Bethany Joy Galeotti or James Lafferty decided to leave? Then there’s America’s Next Top Model. The CW’s ratings darling has creatively hit a snafu. Between Tyra Banks’ alleged diva behavior culminating in multiple judging moves and the mere fact that the show now just seems played out, ANTM needs resuscitation and short models are just not the way to do it. How long until ANTM‘s audience realizes they’ve seen it all already?
Supernatural seems to be holding strong on Thursday nights, but it loses a large portion of its Vampire Diaries lead-in. There’s also the fact that show creator Eric Kripke has publically stated that he wants the show to end in its fifth year, which it is currently in, because he had always envisioned a 5-year plan for the series. This year, the CW has pushed cult hit Smallville to Friday nights. Not because it has no faith in the show, but because they can put Smallville anywhere on the schedule and it will still perform. The show banks on DVD sales and international rights, so the CW is free to develop other programming on Thursday nights a la The Vampire Diaries, which is important for the future of the network.
The CW only has 10 hours of primetime programming to successfully fill and the fact that they’ve failed to do so for yet another fall season is disconcerting. With a new crop of dramas to choose from, the CW is striving to get it right this go-around. We’ve seen what a few bad decisions can do (dropping the budding dramedy Privileged just as it was hitting its stride and passing on promising pilots Body Politic and the Brittany Snow-led Gossip Girl spinoff in favor of The Beautiful Life: TBL was what internet bloggers would refer to as “epic fail”. Here’s to hoping the CW can make some good decisions this pilot season.