The fall television season is almost upon us, and we’re here to help guide you through the schedules of each of the major television networks — and, yes, that includes The CW. Though the smallest of The Big Five broadcast networks will seemingly forever be at fifth place in the ratings, it continues to be one of the best places to find both quality genre TV and female-led television. Sometimes, even at the same time.
What’s happening on The CW during the 2015 fall season? Here’s everything you need to know.
Um, practically nothing. (This is fine with us given that The CW’s programming rocks right now.) The CW made an unprecedented move last season in choosing to renew all of its current shows for the 2015-2016 season. (Insert CW contract-ending conspiracy theory here.) This means that only one — yes, one — new TV show will be added to the network’s schedule this fall. The lucky winner is musical dramedy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, an exception in many ways for the more genre-based channel.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend tells the story of Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom) who moves across the country to California on whim to try to win the heart of her presumed soulmate Josh, her high school boyfriend she broke up with 10 years prior. The show was originally a half-hour comedy developed for Showtime, but was picked up by The CW at the last minute when the former passed on it. The pilot had to be reworked into an hour-long show that would be appropriate for network TV.
Yep, this premise sounds totally zany and we’re still not sure why The CW picked it up given that it has been trying to nab more male viewers — perhaps in an effort to diversify its offerings in other non-supernatural/superhero directions? We’re willing to give this a chance, especially if it is half as charming as the other dramedy the network is currently peddling, Jane the Virgin, which will air following Crazy Ex-Girlfriend in the Monday night block. Both shows premiere October 12th.
Frankly, what’s isn’t returning on The CW? It’s a returning television show reunion on this network. As previously mentioned, the critically-lauded Jane the Virgin will pick back up with its second season Monday nights at 9 p.m. The show did an amazing job in its inaugural season balancing the many elements of its structure: heartfelt family drama, outlandish telenovela, mystery, and romantic comedy. With the baby born (and kidnapped), will Jane be able to continuing juggling its many narrative tones with such delightful competency? We hope so.
Tuesdays on The CW will see the return of ratings winner The Flash at 8 p.m. and quirky zom-com iZombie at 9 p.m. Both of these shows are heading into their sophomore seasons after proving themselves competent, fun, moving shows in their inaugural outings. Both shows had arguably their best episodes yet with their season finales. Both shows return October 6th. Tuesday nights may just be The CW’s best bet this fall season.
On Wednesday, The CW is doubling down on two perennial favorites. At 8 p.m., Arrow will be returning for its fourth season after a divisive third that had many fans complaining about the angst, narrative looseness, and nonsensical nature of Oliver’s unilateral decision-making. Showrunners have pledged a return to a lighter show (though presumably not as light as The Flash), and we’re holding them to it. At 9 p.m., Supernatural will be returning for its 4,467th season. OK, actually it’s Supernatural’s 11th season. Both shows returns October 7th.
Thursday nights belong to the vampires on The CW this fall with The Vampire Diaries launching its seventh season on October 8th at 8 p.m., followed by spinoff The Originals picking up for its third season at 9 p.m. This is the first time that the two shows will be airing consistently on the same night. Hopefully, this means we might get a crossover worthy of the shared fictional universe. Probably not, though.
The CW caps off its week with returning historical fantasy (emphasis on the fantasy) drama Reign and America’s Next Top Model airing back-to-back on Friday nights this fall. ANTM will return on October 2nd, with Reign premiering the following week on October 9th. Reign continues to be a lot of fun with some strong, complicated female characters at its helm, but has not gotten the critical buzz or the viewers it deserves. With Reign airing on Friday nights, it’s hard to imagine this season will be any different.
What’s New That We’re Excited About
Is it cheating to say that we’re most excited about The CW’s midseason shows? Too bad. Don’t get me wrong, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend intrigues me, but it is Arrow/The Flash spin-off Legends of Tomorrow and Julie Plec-helmed outbreak drama Containment that I am most excited about.
The former sounds completely bonkers with time travel, characters back from the dead, and Victor Garber. Coincidentally, these are also the things that happen to most excite me about this show. Throw in Doctor Who’s Arthur Darvill (aka Rory) as time-traveling superhero from the future Rip Hunter and you have one of the zaniest, most comic book-y shows on TV.
Containment is based on a Belgian drama about the community that forms and the hysteria that grows on either side of a quarantine. I caught the pilot at San Diego Comic Con and was impressed with its emotionally-grounded drama and sense of stakes it managed to immediately convey. Julie Plec has proven herself a talented creator and storyteller by helming character-driven genre classics like The Vampire Diaries and Kyle XY. Hopefully, Containment will be no different.
What’s Returning That We’re Excited About
How can you not be excited about The Flash’s second season? It ended its first season by creating a singularity over Central City that will continue to cause problems in season 2. We’ll be getting alternate world Flash Jay Garrick as a recurring character and launching into a multiverse narrative. We’ll also still be getting all of the best elements from the first season: the relationship between Joe and Barry, Cisco’s nerdy quips, and a superhero who is as good as he is powerful.
We’d also like to take this chance to throw in a bid of support for The CW’s midseason return of The 100, which is one of the best shows on TV right now. If you’re not watching, take the long hiatus to catch up on this post-apocalyptic tale of the cost of survival in an unforgiving world.
What’s New That We’re Skeptical About
We’re going to go ahead and throw both Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Legends of Tomorrow in this category. Is it cheating to put Legends in both the “most excited about” and “most skeptical about” categories? Maybe. But we are complicated TV watchers. Both Legends and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend are incredibly ambitious in terms of premise. Legends in particular has a lot of moving parts. That being said, The CW has had an excellent track record in recent years (barring any angel-related missteps) and we trust the Greg Berlanti Brain Trust.
The fact that both of these shows “skeptical” statuses come with asterisks speaks to the strength of the current CW line-up. Also, to the fact that there are so few new shows being added to The CW schedule this year.
What’s Returning That We’re Skeptical About
There are a lot of CW dramas that are, somewhat ironically given the youth-geared nature of the network, getting a bit long in the tooth. Supernatural is in its 11th season and TVD is launching its seventh season (its first without star Nina Dobrev). Though they both still have charismatic casts and characters we care about, they are past their primes and might have to make some bold moves to keep interest going, lest they go gently into that good night.
Though The Originals has Veronica Mars’ Jason Dohring joining its cast this season, I still can’t get excited about this show. It spun off from TVD with some solid characters in the form of the charismatic Mikaleson sibling trio, but the show has never quite figured out how to use these characters as protagonists rather than antagonists. After two seasons and the loss of Claire Holt’s Rebekah as a regular character, I’m not sure if they ever will.
The Big Picture
This is the last full season in The CW’s 10-year affiliate contract with the Tribune. The network also has contracts with Netflix and Hulu to renegotiate in the next two years. Though last season saw its best numbers in recent years with the one-two punch of The Flash and Arrow, the network’s ratings and key demo numbers are more important than ever. The network is in a solid place narratively, with very few weak links on its schedule. In traditional ratings, however, it continues to lag behind the other Big Five networks.
If The CW can find better ways to capitalize on its strengths — most notably, genre shows that encourage passionate online fandoms — then it could serve as a case study for what the future of network TV might look like. Though the sounding of the death knell for the traditional broadcast TV model would be decidedly premature, networks are the first to admit that they need to find ways to capitalize on the ever-growing number of viewers who seek out and watch TV in non-traditional manners. Though The CW is in the worst position amongst The Big Five networks in terms of the traditional broadcast model; it may be in the best position amongst The Big Five networks for transitioning into whatever comes next. In the meantime, we’ll just keep madly consuming all of the awesome genre TV that The CW broadcasts.