I arrived at Madison Square Garden shortly after 10am. I briefly saw Chace Crawford (Nate, Gossip Girl), Tristan Wilds (Dixon, 90210) and Paul Wesley (Donnie, The O.C.) signing autographs before heading to the red carpet, which was likely actually green, The CW’s signature color.
I didn’t have red carpet access unfortunately (but, really, I am just grateful I was allowed to go to the event at all; please remember I am just a one-woman, non-profit operation with no plans of doing anything like this when TeenDramaWhore.com started) and instead headed toward the entrance for the event. Outside were CW staffers, probably actually models, dressed in green, black and white “guarding” the entrance. The area soon filled up with people and I spotted the One Tree Hill Examiner, Meriam. (Yay for identifying people through Facebook pictures and Twitter avatars!).
Shortly after we connected, it was time to go in. We had tickets that had to be scanned, insuring that only invited, confirmed people entered the building. Once inside, there was a table of CW-branded bottles of water for everyone. I snagged one and will likely never open it.
There were 30 minutes to kill between when the doors opened and the presentation started and it felt like it lasted forever, since I was really anticipating the presentation. Also, when we first entered the theater, I thought there was no way it would fill up but it seemed to. The program actually started a few minutes late but still managed to finish around noon, even though it felt long–in a good way.
Katy Perry kicked things off, performing her hit “Hot N Cold.” In the middle of the song, she yelled out “Is it too early for you to stand on your feet and have some fucking fun?” Many people laughed…but no one moved. After a few moments, a few people stood up and then soon nearly everyone did. Perry also performed her latest single, “California Gurl,” before announcing it would be The CW’s “anthem” for their summer programming. She also had a penchant for lifting her dress a little too high as she sauntered across the stage.
Perry introduced Rob Tuck, the network’s executive vice president of sales, which means he is pretty much in charge of getting companies to buy advertising. He spoke very briefly, noting that “The CW had a lot of success this year” and that young people today see no difference between watching something on a TV screen and a computer screen. The latter point was stressed in several different ways a lot throughout the presentation.
Tuck introduced Dawn Ostroff, the network’s president of entertainment, who had control of things from there on out. One of the biggest “take-aways” from Dawn, right from the start, was that the network is targeting “Generation D,” with the D standing for digital. It refers to the generation of people who consume media across a variety of platforms–mobile devices, televisions, computers, etc. She segued from that into highlighting some of the network’s biggest successes. She pointed out first that The Vampire Diaries was not only the break-out hit of the past season but it is also currently the network’s most successful show in terms of total audience numbers and the key 18-34 demo. She said “Gossip Girl continues to be our most buzzed about show” and touted that the first few episodes of season 4 will take place in Paris. She also said “90210 hit its creative stride” this past season and pretty much attributed it to the move from the classroom to the beach. She especially emphasized that 90210 is the most DVR-ed show on television. For those that wonder why Gossip Girl and 90210 are so revered by the network and got early renewals despite low next-day total audience ratings, well, there are your answers: Gossip Girl’s buzz and 90210′s hidden ratings success. And together, they have the best demo rating in the 18-34 women bracket, which the network also highly covets.
From here Dawn went back to talking about the audience and the network itself. The median age of a CW viewer is 33. The CW is “the youngest-skewing network” and also has the highest concentration of viewers in the key demographics, she claimed. “In just four seasons,” Dawn said, “we’ve created a unique brand.” This segued back into the principle that is guiding the network: their audience is consuming media through different platforms at their own convenience. (AKA, TV shows aren’t necessarily appointment viewing anymore. Not only can you watch when you want and how you want, you can also engage in related media outside the scheduled weekly one-hour broadcast.)
Dawn took a break, letting a video do the talking. Along with clips from the shows, it highlighted the various ways The CW reaches people: TV, CWTV.com, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, mobile apps, etc. They tossed out figures meant to demonstrate the success of their Facebook, Twitter and YouTube use but the only figure that they actually claimed beat the other networks was Twitter, noting their official account has more followers than any other network’s. It all boiled down to this motto: “The CW: everywhere is possible.”
After the video, Dawn highlighted the two new series: Nikita and Hellcats. A description for each was given and a fairly long trailer of each was shown. The CW website has clips but I’m not positive they are the same trailers we saw today, as I haven’t checked yet.
Many in the media keep calling Nikita a remake of La Femme Nikita but, like 90210 and Beverly Hills 90210, I more see it as a “requel”–remake + sequel. It has elements that are completely being redone, as in a remake, and somewhat of a continuity with what came before, as in a sequel. In Nikita, Nikita (the title character) has “gone rogue” and left the mysterious “Division,” a group of powerful assassins. Nikita has been in hiding for several years but has now decided to come out to take down the “Division” as it trains a new group of assassins. Melinda Clarke (Julie, The O.C.) has what seems to be a supporting role (I didn’t catch her in the trailer at all) but she is very enthusiastic about it, as you can tell from my interview with her. It is executive produced by McG, who was the executive producer of The O.C. and is currently an executive producer on Supernatural. Action isn’t quite new to The CW with The Vampire Diaries, Smallville and Supernatural but unlike those, this doesn’t have a science-fiction element to it. The network hasn’t really had a strong, kick-ass, bad-ass female protagonist before, in my opinion, so I’m interested in seeing how people react. It’s even more interesting to me that the lead actress, Maggie Q, is of Asian descent.
Hellcats takes place in a college setting, one that they emphasized was “Southern.” The main character, Marti, has somewhat of a Peyton-esque vibe to her. She is studying to be a lawyer but doesn’t seem to really want to do it but it doesn’t matter when her scholarship is revoked and she’s on the verge of being kicked out of school. She learns that scholarships exist for cheerleaders and, despite her disdain for the “cheerleader-type,” she goes out for the team and–whattyaknow–makes it. (The rationale behind it seems to be that she was a gymnast when she was younger so she is incredibly talented at doing backflips and whatnot.) Matt Barr (Ian “Psycho Derek” Banks, One Tree Hill) seems to be her best friend, though I think he may want to be more. Also interested in her seems to be a male cheerleader played by Robbie Jones (Quentin, One Tree Hill) and I can only assume there will be some sort of love triangle with the three of them. Interesting to me considering how we know Matt and Robbie from OTH (plus Matt from Gossip Girl and The O.C.) and because it could allow for another interracial couple on the network (the other being 90210′s Dixon and Ivy and, previously, Dixon and Silver). Just having Robbie, though, adds some much-needed diversity to the network. Unfortunately, the trailer left me less-than-intrigued as it all seemed fairly predictable. It seemed to like a version of Bring It On in a college setting and a show you might see on ABCFamily. (Which, I suppose isn’t really a dis considering several of their shows get higher ratings than several of The CW’s shows.)
From there Dawn introduced two new reality shows: Plain Jane, which will air this summer, and Shedding For The Wedding, which will air mid-season. We only saw a trailer for Plain Jane, which essentially took us through the plot of one episode: an “average-looking” girl is given a makeover and coached on dating skills in hopes of getting her dream guy. It was pretty cheesy but also sweet and elicited a fair share of “aw”s at the end. But it also got quite a few shocked laughs during one of the segments, where the girl is zapped–as in, like electrocuted–every time she makes a “wrong move” while trying to flirt. (Think about a dog going past the invisible fence in the yard.) The promo still for Shedding also elicited shocked laughs as it showed two overweight bodies (no faces), one holding a much smaller wedding gown and the other a much smaller tuxedo. Couples will compete to see who can lose the most weight in time for their wedding, with prizes essentially being freebies for the wedding itself. It seems a bit crazy, I know, but it’s from the producers of The Biggest Losers and that show is pretty darn successful so perhaps this will work, too. I don’t know.
Now it was time to highlight the new fall schedule night by night. This will be the first season the network has original programming for all 10 slots: two new shows a night, no repeats. (Of course, if a new series is canceled and there is nothing new to replace it, as was the case this season…)
Monday showcases “addicting dramas” with 90210 at 8pm and Gossip Girl at 9pm. This keeps Gossip Girl in its current slot and moves 90210 to a day earlier. They played up a Left Coast-Right Coast rivalry, which is somewhat interesting to me and something I hadn’t given much thought to before. Dawn brought out Chace Crawford (Nate, Gossip Girl) and they awkwardly chatted before AnnaLynne McCord (Naomi, 90210) came out. She and Chace debated whether New York or California was better.
Tuesdays contain two shows, One Tree Hill at 8pm and Life Unexpected at 9pm, with “passionate fans” who “demanded” the shows be brought back. Dawn also said One Tree Hill has “the most active bloggers” of any of their series. I have no idea what that is based on and I would guess possibly a letter sent to her as part of the fan campaign that indicated all the different sites and forums for the show, along with (I think) traffic figures and the quantity of content. I’m sure it’s impressive…especially when no other show sent in their info. I doubt the network’s staff really sat down and tried to figure out which show truly had the most bloggers out there–and who knows how they define “bloggers.” Anyway, they had Robert Buckley (Clay, One Tree Hill) and Kristoffer Polaha (Baze on LUX) come out and pretend not to have any idea who the other person was and then swear to be besties.
The main idea for Monday and Tuesday is that Monday night features “established series with dedicated fans” that will lead into Tuesday. Sure.
Wednesday will still have America’s Next Top Model at 8. No one from the show was brought out on stage for it but they emphasized that they’ve upped the grand prize. Instead of a cover of Seventeen, the winner will be featured on the cover of Italian Vogue, the biggest/most respected fashion magazine in the world. ::shrug:: At 9 will be Hellcats, which seemed to have all its main cast there, including Matt and Robbie. They basically said how excited they are and gave a shout-out to Smallville’s Tom Welling, whose production company is behind the show and he is an executive producer for the show.
Thursdays at 8 will remain as they are now, with The Vampire Diaries airing. Paul Wesley (Donnie, The O.C.), who plays Stefan on TVD, Ian Somerhalder (Damon) and Nina Dobrev (Elena) came out and the guys “feuded” on whose character is dating “Elena” as Nina faked looking uncomfortable and finished things off with a crack that it’s just like men to think they have the final say. (The real joke being that it’s the writers who have the say.) Nikita will air at 9, which, with TVD’s success, was probably the most prime spot on the schedule and shows just how strongly the network feels about Nikita. Maggie Q came out and was incredibly entertaining, mainly because she veered from the teleprompter and joked about how hot it was backstage (with all the good-looking CW stars) and how she needed to lift up her A-cup breasts, because, yes, people with A-cup breasts do exist. It was pretty funny and she was very charming. She also noted, as per the script they gave her, what an honor it is to have TVD as their lead-in.
Friday re-pairs Smallville (at 8 ) with Supernatural (at 9). Dawn stressed how good the shows did together in the past and inferred that it will happened again. Tom Welling came out and awkwardly announced that it would be Smallville’s final season, something that probably would’ve been less awkward and more significant had he not accidentally spilled it to the media yesterday. No one from Supernatural was brought out on stage.
Dawn then summed up the schedule–established programing anchoring each night with two new series destined to be hits and summed up the whole presentation, noting that the audience is unique and the network has a unique connection with it. Wherever the audience is, the network is first, she claimed. The network is offering itself through a variety of platforms and the audience is engaging with it on those varied platforms.
She called Katy Perry back out, along with–surprise, surprise–a whole slew of other stars that were backstage the whole time but not brought out during the actual presentation. (They did the red carpet, I’m sure, but again, I wasn’t over there as most people weren’t so the vast majority of us were quite surprised to see so many other stars.)
With that, everyone filed out of the theater and Meriam and I decided to go towards the red carpet area, because there was a slew of fans hanging out there, indicating that was likely where the stars would be exiting. We joined the crowd and made like fangirls (more me than Meriam, I have to say; she was calm, cool and collected!). As soon as the last star was ushered into a waiting vehicle, we were all told to disperse so I headed to the Upper East Side for work at Gossip Cop.
I’ve seen some “FAQ” being sent to me on my Twitter account that I thought would be easiest to answer for everyone here.
1. Who from our teen dramas were there?
In addition to Crawford, McCord, Buckley, Barr, Jones and Wesley, Connor Paolo (Eric, Gossip Girl), Zuzanna Szadkowski (Dorota, Gossip Girl), Tristan Wilds (Dixon, 90210), Ryan Eggold (Ryan, 90210), as well as Life Unexpected’s Ryan and Cate, aka Kerr Smith (Jack, Dawson’s Creek) and Shiri Appleby (Rene, Beverly Hills 90210), were also in attendance.
2. How many episodes of One Tree Hill were ordered?
This was not mentioned during the formal presentation. There was a press conference later on but I wasn’t there for that. Based on reports from mainstream sites, it appears as though nothing is 100 percent final but it is likely OTH will start with about 13 episodes with the potential for a full season of 22.
3. Will this be One Tree Hill’s last season?
This also wasn’t addressed during the formal presentation and I haven’t seen anything about it coming up during the press conference. The CW stands to gain a lot of publicity and ratings if they announce fairly on, like they’ve done with Smallville, that it is the last season. But I’m guessing they honestly don’t know yet if it will be.
4. Was Melrose Place’s cancellation discussed?
Not at the formal presentation. The presentation is designed to sell the network and its programming. They highlight strengths and successes, not weaknesses and failures. (I’m not trying to be mean about MP. The show was canceled after it’s first season. It is considered in the industry to be a failure.) It’s possible MP came up during the press conference but I don’t know for sure either way.
Some observations: The network says their viewers’ median age is 33 but I can’t help but feel that they’re actually targeting, for the most part, 15-year-olds. I mean, obviously the numbers don’t lie and “older” people are watching but that’s just the feel the shows and all the promo material gives me.
I can only assume so few cast members were there for Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill (and 90210, really) because most had prior commitments. For One Tree Hill, the short notice probably had something to do with it as well. (In contrast, when I went to the upfront in ’08, the entire casts of GG and 90210 were there–it was also 90210′s first year and Gossip Girl’s second and GG was finishing its hugely popular first season–with more than half of OTH’s cast there as well.)
It seemed to me Ostroff spent the least amount of time talking about Life Unexpected and One Tree Hill and the only real strength she pointed out for those shows were their fanbases. I seriously wonder, though, if their renewal had less to do with the shows’ merits and fan campaigns and more to do with the network’s development slate really not panning out as planned. They only picked up two of six pilots–though at least two are reportedly in contention for midseason, one being Nomads, which features Michaela McManus (Lindsay, One Tree Hill). Had there been stronger pilot results, I think it’s very likely OTH and/or LUX would’ve been canceled. In fact, it’s very possible The CW is attributing their survival so much to the fans because that’s better for them to say publicly than to admit it’s really because of the failures of their development slate. Fans of OTH and/or LUX should count their blessings.
Speaking of One Tree Hill, Jana Kramer (Alex) was not mentioned in the press release. She was upgraded to regular status in the midst of this past season, and I’ve been told she will be back next season. And yet, her name was MIA from the regular cast listing in the release and as was her plotline from the description given for One Tree Hill’s next season.
I figured Gossip Girl and 90210 would be paired together, but I expected Gossip Girl to move to Tuesdays at 9, with LUX and OTH staying on Mondays. Instead, 90210 is now on Mondays and LUX and OTH moved to Tuesdays. I also would’ve expected, however, OTH to get the 9pm slot (it feels like the more “adult” hour to me and OTH feels more “adult” to me than LUX), but I guess they rather have a strong lead-in for LUX–assuming, of course, OTH’s ratings don’t continue to drop.
The scripted speeches or banter by the stars mostly fell flat. These people are supposed to be actors. Why the short pieces weren’t memorized or why they weren’t able to read the teleprompter a bit better–or, better yet, improv–I don’t know.
That’s a wrap for this recap…but wait, there’s more!
Stay tuned for pictures and video for the event. They will be posted tonight and/or tomorrow. I also snagged three (very, very, very) brief video interviews with Szadkowski, Barr and Smith, which will be posted on Sunday.