The challenge CW faces as the fifth and final broadcast network to deliver its upfront presentation is to find a way to stimulate ad buyers who’ve been doggedly overstimulated for three straight days without aggravating their hangovers. Thursday morning, the clients were nursing headaches born of indulging at Adult Swim’s party, where Jay-Z played a one-hour set, and at CBS’s, where members of the catering staff wore tiny TVs pinned to their jackets. (The little screens looped through such audience favorites as NCIS, Hawaii Five-0, and 60 Minutes’ Obama interview about the killing of Bin Laden.)
The CW’s solution is to launch its 11 a.m. show with a musical performance, often a jolt of unnuanced babe; the lubricated skankbots of the Pussycats Dolls performed one year, for instance, and last year found Katy Perry in a bouncy mood and a rubber dress. This time around, the network welcomed the party rappers LMFAO to the stage of Jazz at Lincoln Center to play their current club hit. It was kind of dicey for a while there, with their electro-noises scissoring into the temples. But then the heavy bass began pounding into one’s shoulders like a smiling masseur, and everyone could feel young again.
This was the last CW upfront for outgoing entertainment president Dawn Ostroff. (Hers is apparently the rare instance in which a TV executive who says she is leaving her job “to spend more time with her family” actually means it and is not wielding a euphemism for “terminated for cause.”) What Ostroff contributes to the “Woman-in-charge” theme of this upfronts week is a whole network dedicated to women from the ages of 18 to 34. The CW, home to Gossip Girl and America’s Next Top Model, is aggressive about using technology and social media to sell these women stuff, and hearing Ostroff describe the mobile application Shopkick as “the first bridge all the way from television and into the store,” the Marxian in me trembled with erotic terror. Shopkick sounds much more worthy than CWingo, which offers you a way to play a variation on bingo on Facebook while watching The Vampire Diaries. CWingo seems pretty square. Still, it is a clear improvement on ABC’s 2007 experiment of actually launching a show titled National Bingo Night.
The flashiest of the new CW shows, Ringer, stars Sarah Michelle Gellar, who is the erstwhile Buffy Summers and thus the face that launched a thousand deconstructionist essays about “patriarchy slayers” and such. On the noirish new show, SMG plays identical twins—one a rundown drug addict, the other living a lifestyle closely modeled on a Michael Kors ad campaign. It is probably too much to hope that the show will combine The Real Life of Sebastian Knightwith The Double Life of Véronique, but its trailer ranks among the most intriguing of the week. The Secret Circle—less psychologically thrilling to anyone already danced his last prom dance—is a supernatural teen melodrama about a co-ed coven of rhymes-with-bitches.
H8R, which I can’t wait for, is a reality show where host Mario Lopez brings “everyday people face to face with the celebrities they love to hate.” On an early episode, one hater brings the hatee home to his family, and the haters-in-law prove very adult about things: “How would you like it if we all called you Nicole instead of Snooki?” There’s also a midseason reality show called Remodeled, which is like Kitchen Nightmares but with flailing modeling agencies substituting for incompetent restaurants. Hart of Dixie stars Rachel Bilson as a New York City doctor in Alabama. It co-stars actress Jamie King, formerly known as model James King, as a Southern belle, and this fact, in conjunction with the CW’s affection for fashion models, presents a decent excuse to posit that Jennifer Egan is most compelling when writing nonfiction. Ladies and gentleman, James is a girl.
Girl, you’ll be a woman soon.