Now that “Supernatural: Bloodlines” has aired, it’s time to put your network executive hat on. What would you do now?
This is truly an insane season in the television world. Pilot season is so nuts that the FOX network has decided not to do a traditional Pilot season and start developing shows in clusters throughout the year. NBC is following a pseudo model where they have already picked up some shows while still making pilots during traditional season. For The CW, they are doing it the old school way. Welcome on our little CW scheduling/show pitch clinic.
Every mid-season, a network looks at the holes in their schedule and orders new pilots presented to them in script form based where their needs lie. A new show could also bring in a new audience for them, like when The CW developed “Arrow.” Suddenly The CW was attracting 18-34 males again. “Arrow” was also successful in bringing back a lot of the audience they lost when “Smallville” went off the air. A new show can also be a wildly different idea, something that this network sees long term potential and sets them apart from others (see “Reign.”)
Another idea that’s very popular among networks with successful shows is the spinoff. The idea is that you have a show that’s created a legacy for your network and you want to keep that name going for a very long time. What better way to do that than build a franchise of shows with that name? Franchises make lots of money. The best modern day example is “CSI.” That very popular show for CBS was expanded into a billion dollar franchise with the spinoff of two successful and long running shows, “CSI: Miami” and “CSI: New York.” Now there’s a new “CSI” spinoff in the works considering the other two shows are now gone and the original is still going.
The CW tried for the first time last season a spinoff of their number one show, “The Vampire Diaries.” They had the perfect vehicle for a spinoff, the original family. The actors, the characters, and the story possibilities were so rich that the Mikaelsons could easily carry on their own series while giving the original series room to breathe and expand into new territory. “The Originals” so far has been a huge success, giving the CW another strong hour on their schedule and suddenly they have a franchise going for “The Vampire Diaries.”
Last fall, given the success of “The Originals,” The CW turned to their other very successful shows, “Arrow” and “Supernatural,” in hopes that they could have a successful spinoff as well. The producers of “Arrow,” working with their DC Comics partners, chose a spinoff involving the popular DC character “The Flash.” This would mean a whole new universe, but no character from “Arrow” would be part of the new series. Given the popularity of The Flash in the comics though, it wasn’t a hard sell. It’s the most buzzed about pilot this year.
“Supernatural” has a very rich archive of stories and characters from nine seasons, but the decision was made to create a whole new universe starting with a blueprint created by “Supernatural” rather than spinoff an existing character into a new show. They would do a side story about monster families using various monster types that have been featured in other episodes. This kind of spinoff also has been done in TV (See “Mork and Mindy,” which spawned from a supposed strange dream by Richie Cunningham in a “Happy Days” episode), and always with mixed results. It’s especially a hard sell with “Supernatural” fans, who are wickedly devoted to the main show. The network saw the script in January though and went forward with the backdoor pilot. It would be episode 20 of “Supernatural” season nine.
The idea of a spin-off of any show is meant to retain the old audience while attracting new ones. The CW is gaining a foothold in 18-34 audiences (male and female) and wants to create shows that strengthen those gains. Now that “Bloodlines” has aired, The CW has some decisions to make. What happens from here?
If the intent was to attract “Supernatural’s” current base while appealing to the current CW audience overall, “Bloodlines” needs some work. So far, the fans have been lukewarm to really hating it (our poll really leans toward the hated it, others are more even). There’s been positive reaction too, but it’s hovering right now around 30 to 40 percent at best. The pilot as presented did not have the appeal to the mass “Supernatural” audience, but it does seem to fit the network brand. Is that enough? The reaction of “Supernatural” fans becomes a consideration in making a decision, but it’s not the only factor.
The CW will likely show “Bloodlines” to test audiences as it will the other pilots. They usually offer screenings in various malls around the country (I know there’s one at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas). They’ll also have other screenings for focus groups. Reactions from those screenings come into play as well, and that could be where “Bloodlines” gains traction.
If there’s still interest, then the network tries to visualize where “Bloodlines” fits in the 2014-2015 schedule. This is where things get fun! Welcome to network scheduling 101.
The CW Schedule
The CW has renewed “Supernatural,” “The Vampire Diaries,” “Arrow,” “The Originals,” “Reign,” “Whose Line Is It Anyway,” and “America’s Next Top Model.” The latter show, ANTM, is planned to air this summer, so it doesn’t factor into the fall schedule. Shows yet to be renewed are “Hart of Dixie,” “Beauty and The Beast,” “The Carrie Diaries,” “The Tomorrow People,” “Star Crossed,” and “The 100.” Out of those shows, only “Hart of Dixie” (it’ll fill a needed Friday slot) and “The 100” (likely midseason) are expected to return.
The CW has six pilots this year: “The Flash,” “Identity,” iZombie,” “Jane The Virgin,” “Supernatural: Bloodlines,” and “The Messengers.” (For more information on what these pilots are about, go to our report on our sister site TV For The Rest of Us.) Intel is “The Flash” and “iZombie” are already penciled into the fall schedule. Actually “The Flash” is a done deal, it will be picked up. So the question is, will there be room for the other 4 pilots?
The CW programs ten hours a week, 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm M-F ET. Here’s the current schedule:
8:00 Beauty and The Beast/Star Crossed (midseason show)
9:00 The Tomorrow People
8:00 The Originals
9:00 The 100 (midseason show)
8:00 The Vampire Diaries
8:00 Whose Line is it Anyway
9:00 Hart of Dixie
In looking at this schedule, all of Monday will likely be cancelled. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday shows are either renewed or will be. Friday is likely to stay intact too, and will also be used for repeats of new shows and other filler. Considering Monday will have to be rebuilt, a veteran show is going to have to move to Mondays to help boost a new show. My money is on Supernatural moving. It’s an older show that’s been moving slots for the last few years and it still manages to have top ratings on the network. The audience is loyal and will follow it anywhere. So this is what the new picture looks like:
8:00 New show
8:00 The Originals
9:00 Reign or new show
9:00 New show – This could be “The Flash” but then again maybe they don’t want to put both their hot DC properties on the same night. “The Flash” could join “Supernatural” (or whatever veteran show) on Mondays.
8:00 The Vampire Diaries
9:00 Reign or new show – The CW loves premiering new shows after it’s #1 show for a strong lead-in, which is why I have Reign pegged for moving.
8:00 Whose Line is it Anyway/repeats/ANTM
9:00 Hart of Dixie/repeats
Where do you see “Supernatural: Bloodlines” fitting? Do you see it fitting? I don’t think “Reign” is strong enough to be paired with a new show, and that’s the show on this schedule I see as the best fit. It could also air after “The Originals” or “The Vampire Diaries.” It is not compatible with “Supernatural.” However, “iZombie” will likely be on this schedule, and that can be Monday or Thursday. Then there’s the other three pilots, all which could be midseason or passed upon. Or, maybe one or more of those pilots are stronger than “Bloodlines” and the network will pass on the project. That is a very real possibility. It could also be saved for midseason.
What’s Your Pitch?
Imagine The CW passes on “Bloodlines,” but comes back to the “Supernatural” producers and asks for another try at a spinoff. You have five minutes with CW president Mark Pedowitz to make your pitch. What spinoff would you do?
Include the following in your pitch:
Possible companion on CW schedule:
Considering Adam Rose (aka @RealAdamRose on Twitter), who played Aaron in “Everybody Hates Hitler” pitched to us on Twitter his idea for a show involving a Golem (hint, hint), here’s an example of that pitch (trust me, this doesn’t come with a ton of thought).
Title: Supernatural: Legacies
Premise: Aaron Bass and his Golem, who he inherited from his late grandfather, carry on the legacy of The Judah Initiative, a secret society meant to protect the Jewish people from persecution from the Nazis and other secret organizations. Using his grandfather’s archive and help from the Men of Letters in Lebanon, Kansas (tie-in!), the often quarreling pair uncover old world secrets kept in a secret library by a local Rabbi about the supernatural and a new threat that could mean the extinction of their people and mankind in general. There are always complications with building a secret society when your giant clay Golem decides to take matters into his own hands.
Characters: Aaron Bass, Golem, Betsy – Aaron’s very talkative and scatterbrained assistant, Rabbi (insert name here).
Possible companion on the CW Schedule: Supernatural or Arrow.
Okay, your turn! What kind of spinoff would you like to see? What kind of spinoff do you think would keep the legacy going? No idea is too outrageous or dumb. Or, if you want to share your CW 2014-2015 schedule.