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The CW, in keeping with tradition, handed out a slew of early renewals as it firms up what its 2021-22 season will look like.
As the network plots a return to business as usual during the pandemic, The CW has picked up a dozen series for additional seasons: Newcomer Walker and veterans All American, Batwoman, Charmed, Dynasty, The Flash, In the Dark, Legacies, Legends of Tomorrow, Nancy Drew, Riverdale and Roswell, New Mexico. Five of those (Dynasty, The Flash, In the Dark, Legends and Roswell) have yet to premiere this season.
That leaves only first-year shows Superman & Lois, Kung Fu and The Republic of Sarah — which also haven’t debuted yet — on the bubble as the Mark Pedowitz-led network, a joint venture between Warner Bros. TV and CBS Studios, awaits more information on them. It has, however, ordered two additional episodes of Superman & Lois, for a total of 15 this season, and five more episodes of Walker, bringing its tally to 18.
Also missing are DC dramas from super-producer Greg Berlanti, Black Lightning and Supergirl, which are both wrapping their runs this season.
“Though we’re just a few weeks into the new season, we wanted to get a strategic head start on next season with these early renewals, which allows our production teams to start laying out story arcs and hiring staff, and at the same time, continues to provide us with a strong, stable schedule to build on for next season,” said Pedowitz. “As The CW’s 2020-2021 season kicks into high gear, we are thrilled creatively with the direction of our first new shows out of the gate, Walker and Superman & Lois, that we wanted to order the additional episodes to complete their first seasons, and we are particularly pleased with the huge success of the launch of Walker, which debuted as our most watched series premiere in five years.”
While the renewal announcement typically arrives during The CW’s January day at the Television Critics Association’s winter tour stop, the pickups should still be considered early given that The CW pushed its fall launch from its traditional October kickoff to late-January as a result of pandemic. A few of the younger-skewing broadcaster’s scripted originals are still yet to launch (Black Lightning and Superman & Lois launch this month; The Flash isn’t back until March).
While originals only recently returned to The CW, the early renewals also illustrate how little linear ratings factor into the network’s decision-making. Many of the network’s originals have lucrative preexisting streaming deals with Netflix baked into them, while newer series (starting with last year’s crop) are destined for HBO Max. The network also now has in-season digital stacking rights available on the CW app, which recently shot to No. 1 after the network’s originals returned.
At the same time, the early renewals help The CW’s efforts to return to its traditional development and production calendar as Pedowitz has been vocal about going back to the October launch. Renewing scripted fare early allows writers and showrunners time to plot out the creative and, potentially, give production a leg up should the network wish to resume filming early given the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and challenging vaccine rollouts.
On the development side, The CW has yet to make any formal pilot pickups, though it is developing a number of spinoffs that are set to air as planted episodes this season. Offshoots from All American (Homecoming), Nancy Drew (Tom Swift) and Black Lightning (Painkiller) are all in the works.
The network will have room for at least two new series with the conclusions of Black Lightning and Supergirl. This season, The CW added four new shows (Kung Fu, Republic of Sarah, Walker and Superman & Lois) after ending three (Arrow, The 100, Supernatural) and canceling one (Riverdale spinoff Katy Keene) last year.
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