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JUL
18
2 MOS

Tim Goodman on How He Learned to Love The CW

THR's chief TV critic writes that fall dramas "Jane the Virgin" and "The Flash" have helped the network become his new BFF.

Jane the Virgin Pilot Still - H 2014
Greg Gayne/The CW
"Jane the Virgin" on The CW, with Gina Rodriguez, center.

A very strange thing happened Friday at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. The CW and I became BFFs.

Yes, that level of strange.

It started simple enough. I watched its new fall dramas — Jane the Virgin and The Flash — and loved them. Now, in fairness, I'd already liked The Arrow and gave it a good review. I liked Nikita as well (plus, you know, was crazy for Maggie Q). Eighteen seasons ago or whatever it was, I also liked Supernatural and returned periodically to it and found it as well done as anything on CBS, for example.

So there's some history.

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But whoa, I have really and utterly hated a lot of The CW's programming. For a while there, I was pulling muscles just jumping up and down on some of their offerings. The odd piano-wiring, shiv-in-the-back hootenanny and straight-up beat-downs became a tiring exercise.

Toss in the fact that I called it "the network of magical thinking" because it always touted itself, in executive sessions, as doing just fantastically when there was no concrete evidence of that in the real world and you have a recipe for, well, two entities that don't belong in the same room.

For me, the zenith of our relationship (sure, The CW might think this was the nadir), was just last summer when I asked CBS CEO Leslie Moonves how it was that CBS had worked at optimal efficiency for so long and, conversely, "how is it possible that the lights are still on at The CW?"

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"So one softball and one thrown right at my head" Moonves said, laughing. "I would expect no less from you, Tim, you know?"

Oh, I know. I'm not shy about calling bullshit and for the longest time couldn't believe The CW was still in business. 

But hell, Moonves gave me an answer I'd been seeking for a long, long time to no avail from The CW, which is sometimes prone — and I say this with affection now that there's so much love in the air — to talking about buzz and social media influence and voodoo, instead of hard Nielsen numbers. Said Moonves: "The CW, by the way, as an entity may lose some money. However, CW is owned by two companies that produce the shows. The shows bring us more revenue than the losses do. So it's still valuable, and there's still a marketplace for it. How's that?"

That was perfect. And then I proceeded to ferociously hate that next batch of CW shows. So that should give you an indication of how — I think "miraculous" might be a good word for it — this newfound affection really is.

The CW and I hugged it out. No, really. I actually did hug one of their publicists on Friday — twice, I think.

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And my tweets from the panels for Jane the Virgin and The Flash were not just positive but positively giddy. I had all the feels, as the kids at The CW probably don't say, but still. I had them. I have them now.

And let me just reiterate that Jane the Virgin isn't just a great pilot — it was thoroughly enjoyable, filled with solid writing, the superb execution of a complicated idea and a whip-smart accuracy on the show's tone, which until you see it you won't understand how difficult that was to pull off. The acting performances were universally impressive. But right in the midst of all that goodness is Gina Rodriguez, who plays the title character. Not only is Rodriguez flat-out amazing in this role, she will be, without a doubt, the breakout star of the fall season.

I said just that — more than once — on Twitter during that session, as did so many other critics. The vast majority of that room, watching the Jane the Virgin panel, were flipping out over Rodriguez. The CW really has a gem in her. Other networks would kill to have a star pop that way in a room full of critics and TV writers.

The Flash, too, was a real revelation. The pilot is impressive — a number of critics have already proclaimed that it's their favorite of the fall. I was not a comic book kid and, like Arrow and some of the other DC and Marvel characters, I'm a bit lost on the mythology and supporting heroes and villains. But that's fine. What I saw in that pilot has me hooked. I'll be putting season passes on Jane and Flash as soon as I move out of residence at the Beverly Hilton, home of the TCA press tour.

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(And yes, people who follow me on Twitter were tweeting back, "Who are you and what have you done with Tim Goodman?")

But this new BFF status with The CW doesn't stop with its bright fall shows. The channel runs Whose Line Is It Anyway? — a longtime unscripted fave. I will get back on the Arrow bandwagon for sure (playing catch-up as the summer winds down). And a few critic friends have been periodically nagging me to give The Vampire Diaries another shot (after I really loathed the first few episodes of the first season, then was meh on it not that long ago). Hey, bygones. Here's another hug. It's a brand-new day.

Beyond that, I'm going to make amends on The 100 as well. Having torn a rotator cuff and probably severed my own retina beating on a succession of CW shows, I passed entirely on The 100 out of fatigue (or a vacation, I can't remember), then heard good things about it from some critics I trust. So, I've made a date with that show as well.

Ah, it's amazing how less tense I feel. (And what are all these colorful and beautiful flowers surrounding the hotel?) This newfound feeling is deeply weird, though. I mean, I'm more of an FX kind of guy and, well, was recently lukewarm on its last two dramas, Tyrant and The Strain, while being vociferously disappointed about its latest two comedies, Married and You're the Worst, which premiered Thursday night. 

And now I'm genuinely excited about The CW. I have a feeling people affiliated with the network and its showrunners are probably more freaked out and wary about this turn of events than even I am.

I'll have to give them a big hug next time I see them.

Email: Tim.Goodman@THR.com
Twitter: @BastardMachine