FARE THEE WELL: A Tribute to The CW Network
A tribute article chronicling the history of The CW — from its inception, to its success and failures, to its untimely end, allowing us a quick, but painful, final moment to bid our beloved, “fare thee well”.
“Fare Thee Well, oh honey.”
“Fare Thee Well.”
-Rob Benedict, “Supernatural” (11×20 – “Don’t Call Me Shurley”)
On May 4th, 2016, actor Rob Benedict, who plays the role of Chuck Shurley, aka (spoiler alert), on the show “Supernatural” (2005-2020), sung a rendition of the song Fare Thee Well, at the end of Season 11’s 20th episode “Don’t Call Me Shurley”, which was originally titled “Dink’s Song”.
The song’s name was switched to signal a change.
Now that The CW’s time on air is coming to a close, as several of its prominent shows: “Legends of Tomorrow”, “Batwoman”, “Naomi,” “Legacies“, “Charmed”, “Dynasty”, “Roswell New Mexico”, “In the Dark”, and “The 4400” were all given the ax, The CW will most likely have to change again.
(Please note that despite The CW canceling almost a dozen of its shows, “All American“, “Stargirl”, “The Flash”, “Riverdale”, “Superman & Lois”, “Walker”, “Kung Fu”, and “Nancy Drew” are all being renewed.)
However, while it’s likely the channel will only be around for another year or so, Nexstar, one of the nation’s largest station groups, and The CW’s current bidder, will probably have the network transition from scripted programming, to unscripted programming.
Which would make this the second time The CW has had to change directions in its goals for its on air programming.
That’s why today, (or whenever you are reading this), we will be celebrating the legacy of The CW.
- the network’s past as The WB, and UPN
- the network’s success with shows like “Arrow”, and “The Flash”, amongst others
- the network’s failures and allegations
- what the future of The CW holds
- how it’s heading to a bittersweet end
- and finally my personal relationship with the network.
To talk about the origins of The CW, we must first talk about 2 channels.
The WB, and the UPN (United Paramount Network).
First launching on January 11th, 1995 …
The WB was home to hit shows, such as “7th Heaven” (1996-2007), “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1997-2003), and “Smallville” (2001-2010). The channel then operated as a collaboration between Time Warner (through Warner Bros. Entertainment) and Tribune Broadcasting, a subsidiary of Tribune Media.
A week later on January 16th, 1995 …
UPN became a home to shows, such as “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” (1993-1999), “Voyager” (1995-2001), and “Enterprise” (2001-2005). Along with, “Girlfriends” (2000-2008), “Roswell” (1999-2002), “Veronica Mars” (2004-2007), and more.
At first, the UPN channel was a collaboration between Chris-Craft Industries’ United Television, and Viacom.
But in 1999, Viacom bought United Television’s stake in the company, giving ownership of the channel to CBS. So in 2006, Time Warner proposed a new idea to CBS, to “combine channels”.
Thus, on September 18th, 2006 The CW was born.
Starting with a few series from both networks.
7 series from The WB:
- “7th Heaven”
- “Beauty and the Geek”
- “Gilmore Girls”
- “One Tree Hill”
- “Smallville”, and
And 6 from UPN:
- “America’s Next Top Model”
- “Veronica Mars”
- “Everybody Hates Chris”
- “All of Us” and
- “WWE SmackDown!”.
In April of 2011, Mark Pedowitz, a former ‘ABC’ Vice President, replaced Dawn Ostroff as CEO.
Around that time, The CW was still trying to find their footsteps with unscripted shows like “America’s Next Top Model” (2003-2018). So leftovers from the WB/UPN era such as “Supernatural”, and “Smallville” (2001-2010) were pretty much the only shows keeping the network afloat.
Granted, there were successes.
The first few series to take off for the network were: “Gossip Girl” (2007-2012), which follows a group of teenage socialites in New York, “90210” (2008-2013), a reboot of the popular Fox teen drama “Beverly Hills 90210”, and “The Vampire Diaries” (2009-2016), an adaptation of the book series by L.J. Smith about a teenage girl who falls for a vampire.
But, there was still something missing …
Following the end of “Smallville” in 2012, Pedowitz commissioned a new take on the DC Comics character ‘Green Arrow’ from writers Andrew Kresigberg, Marc Guggenheim, and Greg Berlanti, which led to a new series, “Arrow”.
Premiering on October 10th, 2012, “Arrow” followed billionaire Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) as he returns home to Starling City, becoming the superhero Green Arrow.
The pilot episode drew in 4.14 million viewers, making it the most-watched series premiere since “The Vampire Diaries” first premiered 3 years earlier.
By the second episode, the show had become the only new network drama to hold its ratings for ‘adults 18-34’ and ‘adults 35-49’ from its premiere to its second week in the 2012-2013 TV Season.
Combined with well-received reviews from critics, the series was given a full 22-episode season, leading it to get renewed for a second season in February 2013.
Fast-forward to December, and we are introduced to crime scene investigator Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), aka The Flash, within episodes “The Scientist” and “Three Ghosts”, both serving as a backdoor pilot to a potential Flash series.
Up until that point, Warner Bros. Pictures tried for many years to get a Flash movie off the ground, at one point having Berlanti, and Guggenheim, writing a draft (which if you read, bears several similarities to the plot of the first season).
But airing on October 7th, 2014, “The Flash” sped onto TV screens attracting 4.83 million viewers, beating “Arrow”, and becoming the network’s second most-watched series premiere after … you guessed it … “The Vampire Diaries”.
Following this, the series finished the first season becoming the most-watched season in CW history with 5.85 million viewers.
After back-to-back successes with “Arrow”, and “The Flash”, Berlanti became The CW’s top supplier for new tv shows.
Berlanti’s production company “Berlanti Productions” gave the network several hit shows. Including Supergirl (which itself originally aired on CBS before moving to The CW), “Legends of Tomorrow” (2016-2022), “Black Lightning” (2018-2021), and “Batwoman” (2019-2022).
In addition to those, “Berlanti Productions” also supplied the network with non-DC shows such as “Riverdale” (2017-present), its short-lived spin-off “Katy Keene” (2020), “Kung Fu” (2021-present), “The Tomorrow People” (2013-2014), and “All American” (2018-present).
As for shows outside of comic books, there were 2 shows that became prominent.
The first was “Jane the Virgin” (2014-2019), a loose adaptation of a telenovela, starring Gina Rodriguez as the titular character, who accidentally gets pregnant via artificial insemination by her gynecologist.
The series was praised by critics for Rodriguez’s performances and its writing, making it the first CW show to be nominated (and win) a Golden Globe.
The second was “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (2015-2019), which was created, written, and directed by Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna.
In “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”, Bloom stars as Rebecca Bunch, a lawyer who moves from New York City to California, to pursue her ex-boyfriend from Summer camp. The show, despite receiving low ratings, was widely acclaimed, and received numerous Emmy awards, making it the first CW show to be nominated (and win) an Emmy since 2008.
Between winning awards and having a successful superhero universe (the likes of which even rivaled the Marvel Cinematic Universe at times), The CW was on a roll. Pedowitz even gave WB and CBS a nice revenue stream, as Pedowitz made a deal with Netflix, in which the streamer would gain exclusive rights to each show after its initial run on the network.
This allowed the studio to make a profit off of the shows. While also allowing shows like “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” to be given renewal, despite low ratings. Because of this, The CW was on top of the world.
But, while things looked great, internally things were about to get ugly.
SCANDAL, SCANDAL, SCANDAL!
From its treatment of Black and non-white characters, despite its promise of diversity within its programming, to the working conditions for its actors and other crew members, The CW has always been engaged in some sort of controversy or scandal.
With the 2 biggest scandals that plagued the network involving Pedowitz’s golden goose – the Arrowverse.
On November 10th, 2017, many outlets including Deadline and Variety reported that Kreisberg, a co-creator on “Arrow”, “Supergirl”, “The Flash”, and “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow”, had been accused of sexual harassment and inappropriate physical contact by multiple men and women who had worked with, or under him, for the last 15 years.
Some of the allegations accused Kreisberg of:
- frequently touching people without their permission
- asking for massages from uncomfortable female staff members
- kissing women without asking
- citing a constant stream of sexualized comments about women’s appearances, their clothes, and their perceived desirability
- creating a toxic work environment
- perusing relationships with staffers
Amongst other documented allegations of abuse and misconduct.
Following the reports, Warner Bros. TV Group launched an investigation into the allegations, resulting in Kreisberg being fired by the studio on the 29th of November.
In a series of IG stories, released on October 20th, 2021, actress Ruby Rose accused showrunner Caroline Dries, star Dougray Scott, and former Warner Bros. TV Chairman Peter Roth of multiple allegations.
Rose (who had to step down from the role of Kate Kane aka Batwoman in May of 2020) stated that the CW set had become a toxic work environment, paving a way for more inappropriate behavior to take place.
Shortly after, Warner Bros and CBS decided not to renew the CW’s deal with Netflix. Mostly due to WarnerMedia and ViacomCBS deciding to create their own streaming service with HBO Max and Paramount+.
However, this would be the beginning of things to come.
The Wall Street Journal revealed in early 2022 that WarnerMedia and ViacomCBS are in the midst of selling The CW to Nexstar Media Group, the network’s largest affiliate group following its acquisition of Tribune Media.
But, wait? Why would they want to sell The CW?
Especially after giving the network a boost with HBO Max?
Well … The CW hasn’t been making money.
Because WarnerMedia and CBS ended its deal with Netflix, the revenue stream almost instantly dried up. This forced The CW to cancel several of its shows (as mentioned above) including “Naomi”, and “The 4400”. Shows that despite their low ratings would have been able to thrive thanks in part to the Netflix deal.
When it comes to The CW, I have an interesting relationship with the network.
My first introduction to the network was when I watched “Everybody Hates Chris”. Every week, my folks and I would sit down at 8:00pm and watch the newest episode, bonding me closer to my parents, as this blossomed into a family tradition.
The CW also introduced me to the wider world of DC Comics, starting with Berlanti’s “Arrow”. Which led to the Arrowverse introducing me to characters, like ‘Reverse Flash’.
And of course, there’s the diversity.
Starting in 2010/2011-ish, there was a noticeable push to include more LGBTQ characters within its shows. The CW also created new programming for those respective audiences, with the prominent example being apart of the Arrowverse. Characters like Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) from “Legends”, Dreamer (Nicole Maines) from “Supergirl”, Kate Kane (Ruby Rose) from “Batwoman”, and Thunder (Nafessa Williams) from “Black Lightning” all exist and thrive as three-dimensional characters.
This led to GLADD (the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) in 2019 reporting that out of all of the major networks on TV, The CW led the pack in LGBTQ+ representation. Citing “Black Lightning”, “Supergirl”, “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow”, and “Batwoman” as prime examples, proving The CW is in fact committed to showing diversity.
Now, that’s not to say the diversity on The CW was the absolute best.
Or even great, for that manner.
Characters like Bonnie Bennett (Kat Graham) from “The Vampire Diaries” and Iris West-Allen (Candice Patton) from “The Flash” are examples where diversity falls flat. Both characters are placed into an unnecessary hole where their writing just wasn’t as on par with their white co-stars. On top of poor writing, because Iris West’s comics counterpart was white, fanboys were racist and misogynistic to the actors online.
But, while the network and the writers, could have better handled those characters, seeing characters like Sara and Thunder with their own stories, loves, losses, and thrive in spite of their sexual orientation was inspirational to me and many others.
We Bid You “Fare Thee Well”
So today, we are gathered here to say farewell to a network known as The CW. A channel that was the result of a merger between two networks and their parent companies. It started off rocky at first, but soon found its groove by embracing genre and diverse storytelling. Giving us everything from musicals, to Superheroes. It may not have been perfect with its storytelling, or have had the most massive budgets, or production value, but it was comfort food to many who needed it. And despite the scandals that plagued the productions, and its horrible business practices, there was always still a consistent quality to its shows.
With that in mind, I want to say thank you to:
- The cast and crew members (writers, directors, producers, etc.) of every show on this network. You gave a voice to these characters.
- To Mark Pedowitz, who committed to give risky projects a chance to succeed, despite their quality.
- And to the viewers and fans who supported and gave every show a chance. Even when they weren’t as great, or had subpar writing.
Where the network goes from here is unknown. Maybe it survives to next year, who knows? But nonetheless, and dare I quote the network’s tagline: The CW dared to defy the odds.
One of these days, it won’t be long
You’ll call my name and I’ll be gone
Fare thee well, oh honey, fare thee well
Fare thee well.
-Rob Benedict, “Supernatural” (11×20 – Don’t Call Me Shurley)