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— reads the omnipresent signage at the CW’s upfront at Madison Square Garden.
The verbs are part of the network’s new branding campaign, “TV to Talk About.” The idea is to emphasize that CW shows are oft-discussed by the network’s target female 18-34 demographic (if not oft-watched during traditional live viewing). So “chat, IM, tweet, blog”? Sounds great, except there’s no wireless access at the presentation, thus this report is starting a couple hours behind, composed in a hotel room.
So let’s start. I’ll update this post as I write — time-shifting, if you will, just like 39% of viewing of CW programming.
Ed Westwick, who plays young playboy tycoon Chuck Bass on “Gossip Girl,” takes the stage in character to talk about how the CW is a prime investment despite the economy.
“These are turbulent times, with financial markets in flux, with trust funds running low …” he drones. “There is no doubt, no discussion — the CW is a must buy …. I’d bet my ascot on it.”
Westwick, who looks like he applies self-tanner with a trowel*, amazingly pulls off this upfront stage visit better than Simon Baker, Laurence Fishburne or Neil Patrick Harris at the CBS upfront. Having a character that can address in a humorous context the issue facing advertisers makes the skit work and the ad buyers are smitten.
Next comes entertainment president Dawn Ostroff. Last year she was unforgettably presented as a hologram. This year she’s been paired with a large touch screen she uses to present the fall schedule. But Ostroff is no John King, and the screen is no CNN election map. It’s actually a projection, not touch activated, so she’s not actually changing it by touching it, and those unseen producers who are actually controlling the screen are running a few beats behind her actions so the whole effect is weirdly distracting, like somebody waving at birds pretending to make them fly.
I wouldn’t want this criticism to discourage pairings of Ostroff with technological innovations at future upfronts, however; the whole trend is marvelous. Next year let’s hope to see Ostroff teleported across the room.
“The buzz the CW generates transcends television,” Ostroff says, noting the network has the lowest median age by about a decade. “It has literally become part of the fabric of pop culture.”
She also says this is their strongest development season yet, which remains to be seen but the clips look promising (more on that in a moment). Ostroff also describes the slate as “shows with a consistent quality and tone” and “the most cohesive lineup we’ve ever had.”
Indeed, next season the network will be extremely on brand, with every show targeting young women and most of them scripted dramas.
The seemingly obligatory slight on NBC: “Next fall the CW has the same amount of scripted programming as NBC.”
The trailers for the new show…
— “Melrose Place.” Based on this, it looks very solid. It walks and talks just like you want and expect “Melrose Place” to walk and talk like. And then they throw in …. murder! A body face down in the middle of the apartment complex’s pool. C’mon CW, we know what you’re up too. You’re trying to prime those young single female viewers to watch CBS once they’re married, aren’t you?
— “Vampire Diaries” looks “Twilight”-light and obvious. Based off abook series, so I suppose the plot is pre-ordained, but the story seemsto play out exactly like you think it will. A good hot vampire and badhot vampire and small town hot girl. Tagline: “The battle for her soulbegins with her heart.”
— “Beautiful Life” … this one surprises a little bit. You “fashion industry drama on the CW” you expect it to be like “Gossip Girl” with flashbulbs. But the story is about a sweet and sensitive guy and gal who just happen to be gorgeous and making their way in the fashion world while falling in love. Aww.
— “Parental Discretion Is Advised” … the most grown-up show, teen reunites with her birth parent, shows promise.
Post-upfront press conference:
On the “Gossip Girl” spinoff, Ostroff says the network is still considering it for midseason … confirms “Reaper” is dead…
The CW may do character crossovers between “90210” and “Melrose Place” later in the season.
So basically, the CW is pitching itself as it should given its overall ratings decline this season: extremely targeted, scripted, buzz-worthy shows.
But one also gets the sense the network sees tweeting and blogging and such as a form of technology-driven magic that’s unique to their programming. When, really, that’s how people — young people in particular — communicate.
Any vaguely popular product targeted at younger demographics, whether Jonas Brothers or “90210,” results in tweets, blogs, IMs and such. If that’s the measurement, the CW’s “buzz” isn’t really an illusive quality. It’s just people talking.
*CW spokesperson says: Westwick just returned from a five-day vacation in Arizona. “No self tanning.” Stand corrected!
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