[08/05/09 - 11:16 AM]
The CW at TCA: Ostroff, Producers Tout New Season
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- "People are tweeting about The CW once a minute," Dawn Ostroff, the network's president, touted during her executive session at the TCA summer press tour yesterday. "And that's not me sitting in my office, tweeting alone."

Said stat was one of many the netlet chief noted about its success beyond its Nielsen numbers (up 77% on Monday nights and 26% on Tuesday nights among young women). "We've had over 200 million video streams on cwtv.com. 'Gossip Girl' has nearly one and a half million fans on Facebook. 'One Tree Hill' has more than a million fans on Facebook."

Ostroff nevertheless was confronted about several of The CW's failures and the status of various projects:

On "Smallville's" move to Friday nights: "Friday night for us is almost -- this is the first year we're actually migrating all of our viewers over to Friday night, because prior to this, it had always been sort of a standalone night."

On if this is "Smallville's" last season: "I hope it's not the last season. I think the producers have done a great job coming up with really good storylines this year. Zod is going to be the big villain and Clark has got to save the world, so we're all going to be kneeling to Zod. But I do think that the show still has a lot of life left in it. The cast is very excited, as are the producers, so we have high hopes for it staying on the air for a while."

On if this is "Supernatural's" last season: "We hope 'Supernatural' will go on. I mean Eric Kripke's done a great job with the show creatively. The show has gotten stronger every year. The cast is wonderful, so we're hopeful that it will stay on the air for a long time."

On the failure of its Sunday programming: "We tried something new, something different, which I think is one of the great things about being this young network. We really get to try different things and experiment. But ultimately, a couple of things happened. The programming wasn't working. The economy was taking a big turn, and I think it just made a lot of sense for us, as well as for our affiliates, to give back the night and for us really to focus on Monday through Friday, which is really where our bread and butter is and where we know we can migrate all of our viewers across the schedule."

On if the "Gossip Girl" spin-off is still in the works: "Not right now. It doesn't look like it's likely."

On if the pilot "Body Politic" is still in the works: "No. It's dead. We had a -- I've been doing this for a long time, and I've never been in a situation where literally every pilot we shot this year could have made it on the schedule. They were just great pilots. We had a really difficult time deciding what was going to fit on the network. It was almost like a 'Sophie's Choice.' As much as we all loved 'Body Politic,' it just didn't -- we just didn't go with it."

On the health of "The Beautiful Life" co-star Mischa Barton: "We were just concerned that she would be able to be ready for production. She was. Not even an issue... She started work. There's been no issues. We're happy that she's better. What went on in her personal life is a personal matter."

On if they'll try sitcoms again: "I think women are probably very interested in sitcoms. I just don't know if we can do sitcoms that are loud enough, noisy enough to get the attention that we're able to get with the dramas and with some of the reality shows."

The netlet also held panels for its four newcomers this season, highlights of which follow:

THE VAMPIRE DIARIES: "I worried a lot. I was like, 'Oh, God, we're the ripoff. That's so great.' No one wants to do that. And I actually said, like, 'No way,'" executive producer Kevin Williamson told reporters about the "Twilight"-sized elephant in the room. "And then we read the books." Co-star Paul Wesley likewise feared the comparison, noting "I specifically went out of my way to not watch 'Twilight' because I didn't want it to in any way influence me because I knew that it was a similar subject matter." Williamson however was quick to point out the differences between the two will become more apparent in the upcoming episodes: "We're really sort of telling the story about a small town and all the sort of evil that's sort of -- this darkness that sort of lies underneath this town and how this vampire comes to town and sort of stirs it all up."

Fellow executive producer Bob Levy also added that the series will only pull from the first three books as "by the fourth book the series goes to a different direction." The L.J. Smith-penned novels however will continue on in its own separate universe. As for what drew them to the project, executive producer Julie Plec praised the character of Stefan ("It's to me in my head if Jordan Catalano was a vampire or Dylan McKay.") as well as the unique process in which people become vampires in their mythology ("It is not, 'Oh, you are bitten and, therefore, you are now the undead.' There is a choice element to it. There is an actual choice element when you are reborn, in order for you to make the turn you have to feed.")

THE BEAUTIFUL LIFE: The status of Mischa Barton was not surprisingly a hot topic with executive producer Ashton Kutcher quickly pointing out "Mischa's in New York working today on the show... she was never unavailable for a day of work." Corbin Bleu likewise drew questions about his transition from the "High School Musical" franchise. He revealed his character Isaac was actually a child model who is having trouble being accepted in the profession as a adult, partly due to his height. "Isaac is [also] actually a musician... he's going to always have that battle back and forth between doing the music, doing what he really wants to do, what he loves doing, and then trying to make it successful in the modeling world, which can really, truly help him in the music world as well." He also added that "there's actually an interesting storyline with a nice little sugar momma that's coming up."

As for the draw of the show itself, Kutcher points out it's an industry that "puts the new thing, the next big new thing on the pedestal, so there's a lot of drama in that. Most of us work in industries that the longer you've been there, the more wisdom that you have, the more integrity you have in the workplace. The fashion industry is always about the next big thing, so the longer you've been there isn't necessarily the good thing, and so I think we're going to find a lot of drama in that as well." Kutcher also addressed the challenges of being a producer of both digital and broadcast content. "I do think that the two will merge. I do think that there is a certain point in time when we, as an industry, figure out the economics of digital media and advertisers start to understand the digital landscape and the impact that it can have on an audience and the engagement that the audience has on that platform, but the ad dollars will gradual shift over into that medium, at which point in time we, as a business, can become more financially sound, and then we can start to figure out how the unions are going to cut up the pie. Then we can actually start an industry of digital media that will converge with television."

MELROSE PLACE: Executive producers Darren Swimmer and Todd Slavkin said that in addition to Laura Leighton and Thomas Calabro they're more than open to other original cast members returning. "Josie Bissett is shooting as we speak, and she is great," Slavkin revealed. "She is coming back as Sydney's sister so that felt organic to us bringing her back. And that's really what's important to us when bringing alumni back to the show is, "Does it feel organic? Does it not feel contrived?" Daphne Zuniga is coming up in a terrific role we are thrilled about. And Jo Reynolds will be back with a vengeance and I think she will fit in very, very nicely in the storyline we have for her. And we have plans -- last night I got to talk to Grant Show and that was very exciting. So stuff is brewing, definitely." Lisa Rinna and Heather Locklear were likewise brought up by reporters however nothing is in the works just yet. Not so lucky is Shooters, the original hangout of the parent series. "I think that Shooters is under new management somewhere," Swimmer said. "And there's no plans now to revisit it.

In terms of the revival itself, Swimmer noted the murder of Leighton's character "won't be milked out for an entire season, but it will go over several episodes. But one thing that we will be doing is the idea of mystery and suspense and intrigue is very much a part of the overall tone of the show. And so whether or not an initial murder is solved, there will still be plenty of mystery and suspense and some crime elements and fun stuff like that to keep going that we'll keep continuing through the life of the series." Leighton herself will also stick around from beyond the grave. "We're huge fans of noir, and Sunset Boulevard is one of our favorite films," Slavkin added. "And we thought it would be a very interesting idea with Sydney Andrews, is we tell her story in the past, how it affects our current characters beyond just the murder mystery because she's involved with all these characters in very deep ways. And we kind of uncover that as the series moves on. She still plays a strong part in everyone's lives." The showrunners also added that Nicolas Gonzalez's detective character will continue to recur and to also "keep watching very shortly" for a gay character in addition to Katie Cassidy's "try-sexual" Ella ("which [means] she will try anything," Slavkin quipped).

LIFE UNEXPECTED: Several reporters cracked that the midseason entry may be designed for a network [The WB] that doesn't exist anymore. "Yeah, that's a very fair question," said creator Liz Tigelaar. "I mean, I think, you know, many of us -- Janet [Leahy], Kerr [Smith], Shiri [Appleby], myself -- come from kind of the old WB, so I feel like even though there might not be a show like this that exists on CW right this second, obviously, 'Gilmore Girls,' which made the jump that Janet was a part of, did. And I think that it's a testament to CW and branching out a little bit."

Tigelaar also addressed the multitude of names attached to the project, which began as "Light Years" ("We tested and everyone thought it was a sci fi show."), became "Lux" ("We couldn't call it [that] because I think Alloy had something called "Lux" already."), then "Parental Discretion Advised" ("I don't know exactly -- I think it maybe sounded a little more sitcomy, like maybe it didn't have much weight to it.") before finally settling on "Life UneXpected" ("[It] tested the very highest, so we were really happy calling it that.").

  [august 2009]  


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