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Fresh off seven renewals, The CW president Mark Pedowitz took the stage Sunday morning at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour in Pasadena to defend his decision to renew the network’s critical darling but low-rated Crazy Ex-Girlfriend as well as provide an outlook on the future of The Originals and some of its high-profile reboots in development.
Pedowitz, who initially was the only broadcast chief set to participate when the TCA schedule was first announced, was greeted with a warm round of applause from critics — a rarity for any session. (Worth noting: Fox added an executive session to its schedule after an outcry from critics.)
Here are the highlights from Pedowitz’s time before the press:
The CW chief defended his decision to renew Rachel Bloom’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend for a third season. While Bloom is nominated for a Golden Globe at Sunday’s show, her series ranks as broadcast’s lowest-rated program. The executive noted the renewal had “nothing to do with numbers,” and stressed that Crazy has helped “alter the perception of what The CW has become.” “When you have great critical work on a critically acclaimed nominated show like Crazy, it deserves to be picked up,” he said, recalling his tenure at ABC, when he wished he could have continued Eli Stone and October Road. “Critically acclaimed, great programming — sometimes you just leave it on the air and hopefully it finds an audience,” Pedowitz continued. “I’m hoping that happens and if it doesn’t, I’ll have no regrets about renewing the series.” He added that positive buzz from shows like Crazy and the recently renewed Jane the Virgin — whose star Gina Rodriguez is also up for a Globe on Sunday — has helped “re-energize the network.”
About Those Rookies…
Freshman fall offerings No Tomorrow and Frequency recently became the first CW series since Emily Owens, M.D., to not score full-season orders. Pedowitz noted that neither show was designed to go beyond its initial 13-episode order, largely because of the network’s deep bench that includes rookie Riverdale and veterans The Originals, iZombie, Reign and The 100. “We knew as an attempt to get in all the programming to have year-round originals, it was important to do that,” he said of the rookies. “Unless something extraordinary happened, the plan was never to go beyond 13,” the exec said while praising the creative. Neither series performed particularly well, given fierce competition from coverage of the presidential election, historic World Series and even NBC’s This Is Us, which went head-to-head with dramedy No Tomorrow. “The linear numbers are not where we want them to be,” said Pedowitz. Both shows remain in contention for May renewals, with insiders paying close attention to No Tomorrow and Frequency’s performance on Netflix and its other digital platforms.
Building on Critical Acclaim
Speaking more to how critical favorites like The Flash as well as Crazy and Jane can help build the network, Pedowitz stressed that it “has a big bearing.” “In today’s fragmented world … it gives you a calling card. The CW is here to stay,” he said while touting his network’s digital gains. The CW now controls ad sales on its digital platforms, with the number of streams doubling in the past year, according to the exec.
What About Episode Counts?
Crazy’s second season featured a reduced episode count, and Pedowitz indicated that while decisions on order counts will be made in May, he is open to seeing a mix of full-season (22-plus) and abbreviated orders. “Certain shows are better suited to be 13, 16 or 18,” he said before stressing that renewed DC Comics fare like Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, Arrow and The Flash are built to sustain full-season orders.
Life in The Originals
With the flagship series The Vampire Diaries signing off later this year, Pedowitz noted that the story isn’t necessarily over for spinoff The Originals. Left off Sunday’s renewals, he “hopes The Originals can continue [but] it depends on its performance,” the exec said of the midseason series from executive producer Julie Plec. As for whether former leading lady Nina Dobrev will return for the Vampire Diaries series finale, Pedowitz remained tight-lipped, other than to promise a “fantastic series finale.”
Days after announcing a Charmed revival from the producers of Jane the Virgin, Pedowitz stressed that the reboot will be a “self-contained” series. “In terms of whether characters or actresses will come into the series, we’ll see what happens as the series goes on — that’s to be determined,” he said, stressing that it is a separate show from the flagship. Asked specifically about lessons from Netflix’s Gilmore Girls revival and what that has taught the network president about his audience’s taste for nostalgia, Pedowitz stressed that viewers “like to see things that they loved and how they’re reimagined.” Charmed is one of three high-profile reboots currently in development at The CW, which also is readying The Lost Boys with Rob Thomas (iZombie, Veronica Mars) and Dynasty with Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage (Gossip Girl, The O.C.).
Critics were very enthusiastic about The CW’s upcoming Archie Comics reimagining Riverdale, but questioned why the network would return to high school programming like The O.C., Everwood and Dawson’s Creek. “We’ve broadened ourselves out to where we can go back to a genre,” Pedowitz said, stressing that they don’t see Riverdale as a high school drama. The series, which debuts Jan. 26, features a number of adult storylines, with the pilot scoring an extended premiere (to 46 minutes) largely to help accommodate its focus on adult characters including Archie’s father (played by Beverly Hills, 90210 grad Luke Perry). “[Freeform’s] Pretty Little Liars is going through its last season; [MTV’s] Teen Wolf is on its last season. For us, it was very simple: We had grown enough that we could go back into a genre we thought we’d edged up a little and put it in our programming mix.”
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Thomas Brodie Sangster