4:30pm PT by Daniel Fienberg
The CW's New Show Trailers: A Critic's Ranking
When you renew your entire active schedule — even Reign? Yes, Virginia, even Reign — in March and then snag CBS' jettisoned Supergirl in May, it turns out that it's surprisingly easy to deliver your entire upfront presentation to advertisers in an efficient 45 minutes.
The CW only had three trailers to showcase at the last of the network upfronts on Thursday morning, and following in the footsteps of corporate sibling CBS, The CW succeeded by introducing three shows that seem completely on-brand, or at least as on-brand as you can figure on for a network that doesn't really cancel shows these days. Like remember when The CW kept trying different shows that felt like throwbacks to the old WB, but they kept seeming to fail so we assumed they were off-brand, but now shows like Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend look like successes because The CW hasn't canceled them? Suddenly those shows are on-brand by virtue of not being explicitly rejected.
So all three new shows look on-brand, and following The CW's very possibly accurate claim to be the most critically acclaimed broadcast network, two of the three look like they might even be good. Maybe.
Here are my instant responses from worst (but not awful) to best (but not great) for The CW's trailers:
3) Riverdale — I need somebody to sit down and explain to me what value the Archie brand has for The CW's core demo and then to point out what things constitute the Archie brand, because other than KJ Apa's questionably dyed red hair, nothing here conveys more than a wisp of Archie-dom (Lili Reinhart's Betty comes closest to recognizable attributes). But this is me being a grumpy old man who thinks that a vintage convertible isn't the same thing as Archie's ol' jalopy. What Riverdale looks like is early One Tree Hill with a body count — who is Lucas if not Archie, Brooke if not Veronica, Haley & Peyton if not Voltron-Betty, Nathan if not Reggie? — or Twin Peaks if David Lynch viewed the teen-soap underpinnings without his typical Lynchian abstractions. I can't tell if it's a good version of those things, because the Archie-ness or lack of Archie-ness is like a thick veil and all I can do is ponder, "Wait, where's Jughead?" or "Is that supposed to be Midge?" or "An Archie who is more interested in banging a teacher in a car than going to the soda shop with Betty or Veronica is not my Archie." Hashtag #NotMyArchie. I wonder how long it'll take to get over that. The answer isn't "Three minutes," but maybe it'll be "42 minutes." [Note: The Riverdale trailer has not been made available online.]
2) No Tomorrow — Leading lady Tori Anderson looks to have been concocted in The CW's laboratories, by which I mean Canada, and only time will tell how long it'll be tolerable for an actress who looks like this to play a character constantly obsessing about her awkwardness and dorkiness and social discomfort, but for three minutes it remains charming. Bless whoever decided it would be OK for Joshua Sasse to keep his native accent, because this feels like it could be the breakout exposure for him that Galavant really was not. With its quirky visual flourishes and a level of whimsy that already verges on exhausting, this might as well be called My Crazy New Boyfriend and The CW might have been tempted except that they know what the ratings are for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Oh, and what's going to happen after eight months if an asteroid hasn't destroyed the planet? Or what's going to happen if it has? This looks like a totally amiable diversion, one that matches perfectly with shows nobody watches on The CW.
1) Frequency — I wouldn't have necessarily guessed that my problems with the movie Frequency could be alleviated by replacing Jim Caviezel with Peyton List, but I'm absolutely in favor of List getting this shot to topline a show after so many years of playing girlfriends, sisters and supporting pieces in an ensemble. It's going to take a while for me not to blame Riley Smith for how annoying his Nashville character was or for me not to be sad that Mekhi Phifer is playing the latest in an apparently long line of Wary African-American Detectives on The CW, but this trailer worked for me much better than I would have guessed, especially given how many time-travel trailers I've watched in the past four days. The DNA here feels like it may be nearly as much Sliding Doors as Frequency, which is OK, and the various timeline paradoxes could have potential when it comes to elongating what doesn't instantly seem a meaty enough premise to be a full series. It's also very sad and disturbing that "1996" has become a historical era people communicate with. I'm more interested in Frequency after watching the trailer than I was before, which is all these teasers are going for.