THE TV SEASON IN REVIEW 2014-15: THE CW

It's all about Prison Break, virgins, zombies and resilient Beasts




Writing about this network is always the toughest. Emotions run high, fandoms face each other, there is poll voting, twitter feuds, too many fictional love triangles and lots of tears… Well not so much this year because Mark Pedowitz basically renewed EVERYTHING ahead of time [except for The Messengers and HOD… but come on…]

So let’s look back at what The CW had for us this year:

The CW shares my obsession with Prison Break [and spydaddy]


When The Flash first premiered, I called it “an action packed show with some sweet character moments andsporadic funny dialogue”. I think that still holds. Even though I had a positive first impression, I predicted I would lose interest [as it happened to some extent with Arrow]. However, The Flash actually grew on me. There is a definite sweetness about it that works beyond the genre [the dialogue and twists are spot on too]. Moreover, The Flash probably takes the prize for best guest stars in a freshman season. Not only they had Prison Break star Wentworth Miller, but they went ahead and hired his TV bro Dominic Purcell [AND baddie extraordinaire Robert Knepper]. Add to that the likes of Victor Garber [AKA my favourite morally ambiguous dad] and Mark Hamill [who reprised his role from the original Flash] and you have a very happy viewer. 

The Truth About Jane…


"I am pregnant? But I am a virgin!"
And what about Jane? I’ve discussed this show at length on twitter but as you may have noticed I have [deliberately] not written anything about it. I was afraid I was too biased to write about it [Irrational TV Hatred and all that], but I decided it is time to break my silence.

Full disclosure: I have not watched all the episodes and I am always reluctant to express my opinion when that is the case. However, I think I’ve watched enough episodes to get the gist of it.

Do I like the show? The short answer is “I sooort of do… still a bit on the fence” [I definitely don't love it]. I wouldn’t classify Jane as a “bad show”. In all honesty, it was a LOT better than I imagined it would be after I first heard the premise [even if it hurts me a little to admit it]. My exact words after last year’s upfronts were: “Jane the Virgin has got to have the most ridiculous/unappealing premise ever [Let’s skip the sex and go straight to the pregnancy…] I must admit that even with [what I still think is] the most ridiculous premise, the show is not the most ridiculous show out there.

Jane might not be a “bad show” but it MOST DEFINITELY is an OVERRATED show. The attention and critical acclaim has been completely disproportionate in my opinion. Much better shows than Jane never got an ounce of the love and similar shows were considered ‘sappy dramedies’. I mean… it is not Mad Men. Let me say that again. IT IS NOT MAD MEN.  I can’t help thinking that the over-the-top reception has to do with people celebrating “cultural diversity” [not that there is anything wrong with that].  Personally, I don’t think JTV is the best depiction of Latin culture [seems more like an outsiders’ idea of what latinos are like] but that’s a whole other debate I don’t want to get into [right now].

But let’s see what Jane has going [or not] for it [hint: They are not inventing the wheel]:

The source


Original "Jane the Virgin" Venezuelan telenovela
Jane based on a soap opera AKA “telenovela”, which is not the richest source material. I know telenovelas are deeply associated with the Latin culture. Even if I don’t like/watch them, I know most latinos do. So at least there is a valid reason to pick soaps for adaptations. What Americans have been doing for a while is make primetime comedies that take a satirical approach to telenovelas. The first one I recall is Ugly Betty, which purposefully used telenovela staples like dramatic walks and corny music. More recently, Devious Maids has been using the same devicesAnd, while not based on a telenovela, Desperate Housewives had all the elements that make a soap a soap [deception, love affairs, crazy suburbanites, dramatic twists, etc.] Moreover, let’s not forget about the true hit of the season Empire. I am not sure why Jane the Virgin receive significantly more praise than Devious Maids [I actually think the latter is a bit cleverer when it comes to the comedy]. It could be related to the next element.


The Style


Pushing Daisies [If you never watched it... WATCH IT NOW!]
This is the core of what makes Jane “special” in the eyes of many. The writers had the very clever idea to make a soap in the style of movies like Amelie and The Royal Tennenbaums. This “style” incorporates a whimsical narrator, freeze frames and fun with superimposed titles. An interesting choice, but hardly a new concept. Wes Anderson has made a career out of this style and let’s not forget the brilliantly made TV show Pushing Daisies. In comparison to these masterpieces, Jane pales a little. Still… it’s a good idea [that works most of the time if not always]. But a show can’t be all about a ‘format’. And at the end of the day… I am not sure I can get behind the premise… and I am not convinced by the cultural implications. Nevertheless those are two very personal choices.

In summary I have no major issues [quite a few minor] with JTV other than the fact that it is overrated. On the other hand, at the risk of being very controversial, I have concluded that I don’t like Gina Rodriguez. I confess, I don’t have a good reason for this. I don’t think she is a bad actress, but something about her does not connect with me. [And before you go ‘there’, let me mention I am more Latina than she is]. This is obviously a matter of taste, but I can’t see what makes her significantly more special than other newcomers out there.

Midseason doom?


iZombie
When a network grants early renewals for 90% of the lineup, things don’t look too good for the yet-to-be-premiered-midseason-shows. I thought the CW’s renewal fever was a bit unfair and premature in this context. Almost like they were expecting iZombie and The Messengers to crash and burn.

However, iZombie, performed very well [better than JTV] and just got renewed for a second season. As a loyal Rob Thomas fan, I’ve been anticipating iZombie since it was announced. And it hasn’t disappointed me. I wouldn’t say it is my new “obsession”, but I am quite pleased with it. Plus the CW had some leftover karma after cancelling Veronica Mars. If anyone deserved an IOU from the CW it was Rob Thomas. [Greg Berlanti certainly got his!]

So… iZombie wasn’t dead on arrival after all. Now… The Messengers, that’s another story. Scheduling a new show on a Friday Night with no big lead in is almost an instant cancellation. And, after watching the pilot, I can’t really say I care.

What about the oldies?

Finally I want to talk about a sophomore show: The 100. Since it premiere last year I have somewhat changed my opinion on it. At first, I thought it was an OK post-apocalyptic show, with some interesting elements but nothing more. However, it came into its own this year. They took it 10 steps further than your average “teen” show. They created compelling stories, not shying away from killing off main characters and having their heroes commit murder or other morally ambiguous actions. Plus the adults are “on the ground” now, so there is more diversity generation-wise. I wasn’t thrilled with the last two eps of this season but overall it was a very good run.

Beauty and the Beast
As for the rest, I am absolutely thrilled the underdog show Beauty and the Beast got an early pick up. Arrow and Supernatural have solid ratings so they were a given. My excitement for The Originals and The Vampire Diaries is not what it used to be and many seem to share my feelings. It will be interesting to see what will happen to TVD without Nina Dovrek next year, but I don’t see it lasting long now. Perhaps they should have planned to end that show sooner when it was still relevant [but I understand fans would disagree with that]. Finally Reign… Just like I always thought Hart of Dixie should have ended sooner [season 2 tops], I think they made a mistake with Gossip Tudor Girl [as I like to not so fondly call it]I don’t think it is creatively strong, the ratings have been going down and it doesn’t look like it generates a lot of money on other windows. But, I don’t have insider info, so I could be wrong about that.


And that’s it… as usual the CW is anything but predictable when it comes to programming.
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Alejandra

Alejandra spends her days watching TV, writing for TV, writing about TV. Hopefully, one day, she will get substantially paid for all three. Follow her on twitter @azannier

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7 comments:

  1. I agree with you about JTV. I have watched the first 5 episodes and as a prof. educated Latino, I was insulted by it. It is demeaning to women in general, not just Latino's. It is obvious, someone behind the scenes is backing this show all the way. It just stereotypes Latinos and I just don't like that. It is overrated and as far as awards go, what they say is true (bought and paid for). I'm not the only one that thinks this way, as I have my myriad of Latino GF will attest to. As far as telenovelas go, at least the have a set number of episodes laid out and it ends after X number of chapters. This is where N American TV fails. There is no end in site when a show begins, they just bleed it dry, so it goes out with a whimper instead of a blast

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    1. I am so glad you commented on this. Honestly, for a country that has such a large latino population I am a little disappointed by how the culture is depicted on US TV, or rather how the mainstream media reacts to it. There are a number of latin actors already on TV that play different types of characters not defined by race that go from cops, doctors and politicians to assassins [Nestor Carbonell, Mia Maestro, Edward James Olmos,Jimmy Smits just to name a few]. However no-one seem to even notice they are all latinos. They only give attention to the cultural diversity when they make shows that are completely stereotypical like this one [bc even if it has some nice things, it IS stereotypical]. It's a very limited way to portray a very diverse culture which is NOT lacking educated, successful individuals. Even the typical "Latin TV family" with the slutty mom and annoying religious grandma bugs me to be honest.
      As a latin woman I'd love to see a character that isn't struggling to make ends meet and is not hung up on conservative outdated "values"... I'd love people to pay more attention to characters that just happen to be latinos, not just the walking cliches.

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  3. It's just insulting to our culture and WAS (past tense) painful to watch. As a Latino, I wouldn't be proud to do this type off show. Anyone that does like the show, either doesn't know a Latino or has ever had any kind of interaction with them or their culture. This is probably why the ratings are less than stellar. I just don't know how any Latino with any pride would like how this show represents us.
    There I've said my piece.
    Oh by the way, as for your comment on BatB, I agree with you 100 percent. I love the romance and action of this show, mostly the Vincat chemistry

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    1. I looked at the producers/writers out of curiosity and none of the staff writers are latinos... that tells you something too...Might be wrong, but at least that's what it looks like according to IMDB

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  4. My god, I am so happy BATB was renewed. I think it won't be painful to watch this season so yay! LOL I am curious since it is premiering on Thursday June 11th during the summer, do you think the network has ratings expectations? I hate that it airs in Canada 4 days earlier, just because I think any leakage online could hurt the show's live ratings, even if just a little (people dl the ep and can see pics and gifs online). It's like the CW doesn't want to do anything to help the show at all. More advertising please. But, at least don't air it somewhere else first!! What do you think of BATB being the only CW show (that used to be aired during the reg season) to air during the summer? Why was Reign given 22 episodes and us only 13? Why does Reign get to air during the regular season and BATB doesn't? I am sincerely asking bc maybe it is doing better online or internationally or something than BATB. I am just scared that it will come down to BATB and Reign again for renewal and Reign due to it getting 22 eps and BATB 13 Reign will be close enough for syndication to oust BATB. Maybe Reign airing during the regular season is a gift, maybe a burden? I just don't get why it got more eps during the regular season when it had the same ratings at BATB but behind a better lead in. TVD got .8s and .7s and HOD got like .5s and .4s when we were behind it. Their lead in was way better and they did the same as BATB. Also, I wonder if another show will join BATB in the summer. I was shocked Reign didn't. Do you have any thoughts on that? I hope they don't just plan on having BATB run for 4 seasons, an abbreviated 4th season, and then just quietly cancel it like HOD. I mean I think Rachel Bilson just had a baby so they had to have only 10 eps, but I feel bad for fans of HOD. I don't want that to happen to BATB fans. How well do we need to do during the summer to get a season 5? I just hate liking a show that lives as a bubble show. It's like an emotional roller-coaster. LOL

    JTV: I think it is so over-rated. I don't think it's that great. It's not terrible, but where was the love for Happy Endings? For any other quirky shows? The awards circuit picked it up and now the actress is everywhere and it gets a ton of press because it gets a ton of press. I truly think that a pilot's review can make or break it because JTV got rave reviews and just because it became popular to give it good reviews it keeps getting them. It's like trendy to like. And I have only seen the pilot, which was certainly good enough. It just wan't worthy of it getting nominated for everything it was nominated for. It's good that we are celebrating diversity, but I, too, like seeing Latina doctors, lawyers, etc. where it isn't as much about their ethnicity. I just don't think she is this wonderful actress either. She's just fine to watch, but my god someone said she was like Meryl Streep. I just don't get it. I don't think she is any different from the other actresses on the CW except she gets to do more humor. I just don't get why she is recognized and they aren't. I mean it's because they love the show, but again it's a fine show, just not that great and definitely over-rated. I just don't get the hype. And the hype feeds the hype.

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  5. Alex, what do you think the chances of BATB getting a season 5 are? What do you think the show needs to do to get one? You're an expert so I'm curious to know your thoughts. It seems like the CW keeps low-rated series around for 4 seasons and then cancels them so I am thinking that might happen to BATB :( Maybe having 13 eps a season helps its chances? What do you think?

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