'Tell Me a Story' Canceled; CW Acquires First Two Seasons of CBS All Access Drama

It's unclear when the Kevin Williamson-created anthology will make its linear debut.
CBS
'Tell Me a Story'

A new trend is beginning to emerge as broadcast networks look to fill coronavirus-induced programming holes on their schedules.

Hours after Fox acquired Spectrum's L.A.'s Finest, The CW has picked up linear rights to the CBS All Access fairy tale drama series Tell Me a Story. The seasonal anthology has also been canceled at streamer CBS All Access and will not return for a third season. It's unclear when the first two seasons will make their debut on The CW and its free, ad-supported streaming platform, CW Seed. Seasons one and two will also continue to stream on subscription platform CBS All Access. (Season two will remain exclusively on CBS All Access until the fourth quarter.)

The news comes as The CW — which is a joint venture between Tell Me a Story producers CBS TV Studios and Warner Bros. Television — is poised to announce its fall schedule later this week during what would have been its time before Madison Avenue ad buyers during its since-canceled upfront presentation in New York.

"The brilliant Kevin Williamson brought our favorite fairy tales to life in an anthology format that twisted and subverted the stories we all know into modern thrillers. It has been a privilege to work with such an elite and talented group of creative minds like Kevin, Aaron Kaplan and the team at Kapital Entertainment, as well as the amazing cast of Tell Me a Story, who did a phenomenal job personifying and reinventing beloved characters from these six fairy tales," Julie McNamara, executive vp and head of programming at CBS All Access, said Monday in a statement.

The CW, like other broadcast networks, is facing an uncertain fall as TV and film production enters its third month amid the coronavirus pandemic. Production on new and returning scripted series typically resumes after the July Fourth holiday. Conversations are currently underway about safety methods for how production could potentially start up again, though a date is considered a long ways off. Sources say network and studio execs are optimistic for a July return to work.

For its part, Fox on Monday set its fall schedule with the unscripted hit The Masked Singer serving as the only show that could be impacted if production is unable to resume. The network licensed the first two seasons of Spectrum's Sony TV-produced Bad Boys spinoff L.A.'s Finest, with the freshman run set to air Monday nights come fall alongside fellow dramas Next and Filthy Rich. The latter two projects were picked up to series last year and held over from their planned summer launches.

For The CW, meanwhile, the decision to pickup Tell Me a Story makes sense given that creator Williamson created one of the network's signature franchises in The Vampire Diaries after the younger-focused broadcaster was rebranded from The WB Network. Season two of the anthology also starred Vampire Diaries favorite Paul Wesley. Season one starred James Wolk and explored The Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel. Kapital Entertainment produced the series.

The CW will also be the linear home for DC Universe's superhero drama Stargirl, which will air the day after episodes debut on the Warner Bros. TV-backed streaming platform.

Picking up already completed streaming programming from within the corporate ecosystem (and licensing others from third-parties, like L.A.'s Finest) is but one of the strategies networks are exploring as they face an uncertain future with hours of scheduling left to program and previously completed episodes beginning to run out.