Since its creation in 2006 (and before as The WB and UPN), The CW has been in a league apart from the “Big 4” networks. It has struggled to get ratings that would be considered terrible on any other broadcast network and for many years has been dismissed as a network for teen girls. It’s the network that aired my two least favorite seasons of the Gilmore Girls and while I’ve enjoyed many of it’s (mostly failed) shows in the past, they’ve been firmly in the “guilty pleasure” box of television.
When The Carrie Diaries ended last year, I thought my viewing relationship with The CW ended with it and honestly, I was a little relieved. I often got sucked in by their new shows only to have them fall just short of what I wanted them to be and I thought it would free up more time to watch “better” shows (more on that in a coming post). I had seen and loved the trailer for The Flash but my original intention was to watch Arrow at some point before starting its spin-off.
Then fall of 2014 came around and absolutely none of my plans involving The CW happened as anticipated. I couldn’t resist the buzz surrounding The Flash and not only fell in love with that show but started s1 of Arrow as well. I checked out Jane the Virgin after some enthusiastic recommendations and once again, fell in love with it. In the beginning of March, I started The 100 after I could no longer resist the allure of any show described as “Battlestar Galactica, Jr.” and not only has it become my latest tv obsession, I got my boyfriend hooked as well. I haven’t had time to start iZombie yet but it’s on my list for the summer after more enthusiastic recommendations and a cast I already love.
In just one season, I went from having nothing to watch on The CW to it potentially becoming my most watched network on all of television (depending on FOX’s cancellations in a couple weeks). That same year brought the network its first Golden Globe and Peabody Award win thanks to the charms of Jane the Virgin and its star Gina Rodriguez. So what happened? What took this network from the land of teen drama to an award contender with a broadening demographic?
Personally, I think their biggest strength in the past couple year has been their willingness to take risks. In many cases, their small size works in their favor. They take chances because they can afford to. In order to make a splash at CBS or even NBC, you can’t afford to create shows that are only watched by slightly over a million people and only crack a 1.0 18-49 ratings share on the best days. This lets them try shows that would never have a chance at another broadcast network because there is a very real chance that they couldn’t deliver the quantity of audience required to survive.