Thursday, October 20, 2005

The WB: Imitation is the sincerest form of ratings

Today's TV Column concerned almost exclusively the creative juggernaut that is Ashton Kutcher. I haven't seen anything or anyone so overrated since thalidomide in the 60's. That being said, I don't wish flippers on his soon-to-be-born baby.

The interesting part of the article comes at the end - as de Moraes dissects the latest schedule swappin' at the WB network.

In a nutshell, WB is pulling expensive original programming out of the way of ABC's "Lost" on Wednesday and ABC's "Desperate Housewives" on Sunday, and filling those hours with repeats.

All told, WB will have 3 1/2 hours of repeat programming on its 13 hours of prime time.

I've never considered the WB a real network (sorry WB brand marketers), and unless they change course dramatically, I never will.

But it may be to their benefit never to become a 'real' network. The WB does have a knack for finding niche audiences for its hour-long dramas (WB comedies are about as funny as clubbing baby seals.)

Does anyone think that '7th Heaven' would have survived anywhere but on the WB? 'Buffy' would have been cancelled after one season if she had arrived on NBC. (I know, I know, the WB ended up cancelling it anyway and Buffy moved to UPN.)

'The Gilmore Girls' has done an excellent job of grabbing onto that young girl/older women/gay men/straight guys who won't admit it audience. If I'm not mistaken, GG's ratings last year were higher than ever - and that was with a major shift in story-line, what with Rory going off to Yale (Yes, I know the story-line, stop giggling).

'Charmed,' 'Smallville,' the shows the WB has established are impressive. Their success in getting people to watch Rose McGowan on a regular basis is reason enough for celebration.

It's time for the WB to jump out of the 'network' system and think originally and freely for the first time. To take television in a whole new direction by copying HBO.

Think about it. I'm surprised we haven't seen a regular network adopt more of HBO's policies already. Let the WB concentrate on a few great shows per year. Stop picking up this comedy schlock (and I'm convinced they know it's crap before it goes on the air) and hold out for something great that will attract that large audience that they need.

The catch is that no one in their right mind is going to pay premium prices for the WB like they do for HBO. The WB can't ditch all their advertising. But how much money are they really making with the advertising during 'What I Like About You?' That show is in its fourth season and I've never even heard of it. Does it have a purpose besides giving Dan Cortese money for strippers?

The WB could curate excellent programming, have it premier all through the year, and make up the loss of quantity by investing in quality. The network would get a boatload of press just for announcing the change.

Could you imagine the reaction when the official fall season line-up announcement consists of four shows premiering in September, two in January, three in April and two in June?

It's time for a change WB. Getting rid of the frog was a good start; now take it further. Chant with me, change is good ... change is good.

But cancel Gilmore Girls and I'll take a shrimp fork to your face.


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