If consistency is a virtue, then … well, the CW is our most virtuous TV network.
But if variety is the spice of life? This spice rack is almost empty.
The mini-network is in its premiere week now, two weeks after the big guys started. It has two new shows – the impressive “Batwoman” and the not-bad “Nancy Drew” — and lots of same-old.
Many of those shows have followed “Arrow” (shown here), which is starting its final, 10-episode season, “Who would have thought it would spawn six shows, a whole universe?” asked Mark Pedowitz, the CW’s programming chief.
Those shows – dubbed the “Arrowverse” — are impressive … if quite similar. Recently departed are the CW’s most distinctive (and award-winning) shows.
In consecutive years, the Golden Globe for best comedy actress went to CW’s “Jane the Virgin” (Gina Rodriguez) and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (Rachel Bloom). The Television Critics Association nominated both for best new show and named Bloom as best comedy person overall.
Now both are gone, as is “iZombie,” another show with sharp humor. The shows that remain are slickly filmed, smartly conceived … and kind of similar. Of the 12 current ones:
— Six have comic-book roots.
— Eight have supernatural elements.
— And seven are produced by Greg Berlanti … who has two more shows (“Katy Keane” and “Legends of Tomorrow”) waiting for mid-season
To be fair, Berlanti produces lots of shows everywhere, including the big networks (“God Friended Me,” “Prodigal Son,” the terrific “Red Line” miniseries) and streamers. In two inconsistent fields – youth shows and the supernatural – he’s brought intelligent scripts, rich filming and great casting.
But he’s also brought that sameness, with a dark color palette and a darker mood. Under Berlanti, Archie Andrews – maybe the sunniest guy in comic-book history – ended up in prison, doing cage fights; his pal Jughead became a gang leader.
That dark cloud seems to descend over many CW shows, including “Nancy Drew” (which isn’t a Berlanti production). We miss the brightness of the departed shows.
But the quality is there, starting with the ability to find young actors who perfectly fit each role.
Kennedy McMann was fresh from college (Carnegie Mellon), living a double life in New York as a nanny and an aspiring actress. “I would be auditioning every morning,” she said, “and then running to go catch a train and change into my nanny outfit.” She landed one-shot roles on two series and then, suddenly, the lead in “Nancy Drew.”
Ruby Rose grew up Australia, struggling with bi-polar disorder, depression and – after coming out as a lesbian at 12 – bullying. “I do think that we are coming a long way in acceptance,” she said. “People are becoming more progressive and we are getting much more representation on television.”
Now that representation hits a new level: In “Batwoman,” she’s a hard-nosed, kick-butt hero who happens to be a lesbian, on a show that – like its predecessor, “Gotham” — is richly crafted.
Like most CW shows, “Batwoman” is heavily serialized, giving viewers less to savor at the end of each hour. Still, it avoids common flaws of the others: Many of the fantasy shows make the villains and heroes so powerful that the confrontations aren’t interesting. And two of the non-fantasies have cardboard villains – the police chief on “Nancy Drew” and almost everyone on “Riverdale.”
But what about shows that simply come from real life, with few murders and no superpowers? This fall, CW has only two — “All American” is quite good; “Dynasty” isn’t.
Coming later, however, are “Katy Keene” and “In the Dark.” The latter – a deeply layered portrait of a cynical young blind woman – started well, drifted a bit, then ended its season powerfully. In different ways, the CW manages to recapture our interest.
Here are the CW shows; except for “Arrow” (Oct. 15) all start their season Oct. 6-11:
— Sundays: “Batwoman,” 8 p.m.; “Supergirl,” 9.
— Mondays: “All American,” 8; “Black Lightning,” 9.
— Tuesdays: “The Flash,” 8; “Arrow,” 9.
— Wednesdays: “Riverdale,” 8; “Nancy Drew,” 9.
— Thursdays: “Supernatural,” 8; “Legacies,” 9.
— Fridays: “Charmed,” 8; “Dynasty,” 9.
— Later: One new show, “Katy Keene,” and several returning ones — “Legends of Tomorrow,” “The 100,” “In the Dark,” “Roswell, New Mexico”; also, summer shows.