It’s May, which means we’re very close to the network upfronts. Choices about which series live and which series die are probably being made right now by all the major networks. This of course means it’s time for fans and critics to start stumping for their favorite series stuck on the bubble between cancellation and renewal. This year though, this are a bit different. So many of the series that would have received heaps of praise and #SaveX hashtags were renewed extremely early. Thus, we don’t have to worry about Community, Parks and Recreation or Fringe. All three of them are coming back next season for full seasons, which is just shocking and amazing.
Meanwhile, the slate of programming left on the proverbial bubble is a bit thin this spring. When I realized I wanted to do this feature, I was surprised to find that there were only a few series I thought were worth saving. I tried to find one for each network, but I think you’ll see that a few of them aren’t necessarily super-bubble series in the traditional sense (we’ll talk more about this when I get to those posts). And even one of the go-to barometers for “saving” criteria doesn’t quite apply this season either. So many of this season’s new broadcast programming was terrible and is thus obviously not coming back, and there is thus very little reason to try to discuss how they could theoretically improve in a possible second season.
Nevertheless, there are five series that have yet to be renewed (maybe they’re officially on the bubble, maybe not) that should be. There’s one series for each of the five broadcast networks. Over the next few days, I’ll be discussing why I think each series should come back for the network’s benefit, not just for the fans. Hopefully there are good reasons why ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and the CW should keep these series around. Some of them have stronger cases than others, but this is always a fun exercise to partake in.
C-Dub, you’re up. And even though you’ve announced most of your renewals have so very little scheduling real estate, there’s one of your three bubble series that needs to return and that’s the freshman actioneer Nikita. Here are a few reasons why this is probably a good move.
1.) You’re the CW, what other choice do you have?
Listen CW, I understand that you have a very specific target demographic that you’re trying to reach and subsequently have a certain brand of series that fits presumably appeals to that demographic. I also know that you like to trumpet the fact that even though the series you air barely register with viewers measured by the Nielsen ratings, they fit some internal metrics that still allow you to make money. So even though most of your series never top a 1.2 in the 18-49 demographic and rarely register more than 2.5 million viewers, something tells you that the 90210 reboot and One Tree Hill are worth keeping around. In any event, the point is that even single day of the week except for Friday, the CW gets thumped in the ratings.
CW, you have 10 spots on your schedule. You’ve already renewed five series, which means there are still five more sports to fill. Smallville is ending and Life Unexpected is dead, leaving Hellcats, One Tree Hill and Nikita as the only series to not get the early pick-up. I’ve read about your pilot development and it looks like there are probably only four really solid possible candidates for series orders. So following that logic, you have, at most, seven series for five spots. The question then becomes whether or not you roll the dice with more new series or stick with the devils you know. Based on your past procedures, I probably know what you’re thinking,: More the latter than the former. And let’s not forget that you never introduce more than three new series, mostly because you can’t seem to develop new series in the traditional ways. This season, you only picked up two new series in Hellcats and Nikita and it’s going to be difficult to cancel them both.
With Smallville leaving the air, Supernatural needs a Friday night buddy. There’s no way you try to build a new series there because IT’S FRIDAY NIGHT and you’re the CW. Some might argue for putting one of the more supernatural-y new series there after Supernatural but it’s a massive risk. Maybe you swap them out later, but you don’t put a new series on Friday at 9 p.m. You’re going to want to give the post-Vampire Diaries slot to Kevin Williamson’s new series, Secret Circle, and you should. That means Nikita should just slide on over to Fridays, probably at 9 p.m. and see what happens. The two series aren’t particularly compatible, but no less so than TVD and Nikita. Presumably, your schedule is going to look like this, CW:
Monday: 90210, Gossip Girl
Tuesday: One Tree Hill, Heart of Dixie (new)
Wednesday: Top Model, New series #3 (either Heavenly or Awakening)
Thursday: The Vampire Diaries, Secret Circle
Friday: Supernatural, Nikita
2.) You need all the ass-kicking that you can get
Soapy teen/young adult dramas in swanky locations can only get you so far, CW. I think you started to realize this last season when the Melrose Place reboot garnered so few viewers that you had to cancel it despite all the marketing money you sunk into it (and I’m sure it was a lot). Both Hellcats and Nikita are departures from your usual new series development, with Nikita obviously being even more of a departure. But at this point, maybe a departure is exactly what you need to build around.
Think about it, CW: Your three most successful series using the traditional metrics? Smallville, Supernatural and The Vampire Diaries. None of those three series is a straight-up teen drama and only The Vampire Diaries really comes close to that genre’s conventions (Smallville did previously, but no longer). It seems pretty clear to me that the kind of series you want to air are the ones audiences care the least about, at least going by the metrics that everyone in the industry tells us to go by, so why not step outside those conventions?
Nikita is the perfect place to start in that regard. There’s certainly a lot of soapy relationship drama happening, but it just happens to be thrown in between shoot outs, psychological intrigue and dozens of other spy-related story frameworks. This series is basically a 24 for a much younger, primarily female audience and that’s actually kind of cool. There isn’t really anything like it on broadcast television right now. If you’re a network that wants to appeal to young women, showing them two characters not much older than them kicking ass and looking super attractive seems like a smart play. I have nothing against the original CW strategy and demographic. I like Gossip Girl well enough, I’ve seen every episode of One Tree Hill‘s first six seasons and have liked every episode of both 90210 and Hellcats that I’ve watched. The CW template is an appealing one, but it’s probably run its course — at least in the most traditional way.
Blair Waldorf might be a fashion icon for young girls, but Nikita and Alex are pretty cool too. And just because they get caught up in literal warfare instead of verbal warfare when they go to swanky parties in small dresses doesn’t make them any less feminine or representative of what a woman can be. One might argue that continuously airing series that paint the female characters as completely controlled by their romantic entanglements is actually kind of awful. Nikita subverts that completely and allows you to make a slight pivot towards something new, but familiar. It’s not completely outside your formula, but it’s just different enough to signal a sea change.
3) People seem to like it
I know it’s a simple suggestion and same sort of rationale I used for Happy Endings yesterday, but “people” online are actually talking about Nikita. Clearly my Twitter feed is totally representative of all television critics and journalists or even normal audiences, but every Thursday, my feed is full of Nikita-related discussions. It’s impossible to tell, but it feels like people are just as excited about Nikita as they are The Vampire Diaries. The level of enthusiasm is close at least. I actually haven’t seen all of this season’s episodes because of personal scheduling issues, but the episodes I’ve seen I really, really liked and the indication I’ve gotten from the people who I trust is that the series has only gotten better since its fall run.
And the great thing about that is no one usually likes CW series. Gossip Girl has its value because of the setting and the fashion and there is certainly a critical respect for Supernatural and The Vampire Diaries, but most of the series on the network get little respect, probably for good reason. The ratings situation is never going to change, but having some critics in your corner is most certainly something that can. Clearly 14-year old girls don’t care about what the critics say, but surely you there at the CW HQ care about some things other than how many times tween gals in Ohio tweet about the latest episode. Nikita won’t win you any Emmys, but it will certainly raise the stature of your network in the eyes of those within the industry. Like I said before, keeping Nikita around signals to people who you’re willing to take some slight chances that still sort of fall under your general brand.
Come on, CW. Do the right thing.