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upfronts 2010

The CW Upfront Analysis: No More Nineties Soap Reboots, But Two Intriguing New Shows

As usual, the CW has the fewest number of new shows on its fall lineup — just two — but darned if both don't seem to be among the more interesting projects revealed yesterday at their upfront, the final presentation of the week. More important, the network seems to have learned a valuable lesson from the spectacular failure of Melrose Place 2.0: Gossip Girl and 90210 do not need to be cloned anymore.

That said, the CW's best-looking newbie, Nikita, is far from an original idea: It's a reworking of La Femme Nikita, which has been done before as both a TV series and a movie. But thanks to the presence of Maggie Q, the clips the CW showed indicate the McG-produced show could be some serious, Alias-style fun. We hope producers decide to add a little more humor, however: Nobody likes a female assassin who can't take a joke. Q's quirky 60-second appearance onstage at the CW's upfront indicates she can handle the funny.

Less compelling, but still intriguing, is Hellcats. It's a cheerleader drama — insert Bring It On comparisons here (everyone else does) — but with a twist. Instead of cheering out of passion for the sport, Aly Michalka's Marti Perkins picks up her pom-poms only after she loses a scholarship. So instead of turning to prostitution to pay her tuition (see Melrose Place), she does the splits. We think it could work.

Both newcomers have been smartly scheduled by the CW, which — in another sign the Great Recession may be easing — has decided to expand to ten hours of original programming per week by ditching its America's Next Top Model repeat. The move means Hellcats can play after Top Model on Tuesdays, while Nikita lands the primo time slot behind The Vampire Diaries on Thursdays.

Overall, the new CW schedule has been modified to allow for unofficial theme nights. You got your city-based soaps on Mondays, weepy soap operas on Tuesdays, competitive girls on Wednesdays, and sci-fi–action hours on both Thursday and Friday.

The CW also gets big points for sticking with struggling Life Unexpected, hopefully giving the show time to find its audience. Sticking Supernatural on Fridays, the night where shows go to die, will no doubt have some fans howling, but it's probably in the long-term interests of the CW that it use Vampire Diaries' big audience to launch new hits.

Will all of this be enough to help the CW shed its image as the weak offspring of the UPN and the WB? Among some die-hard WB fans still longing for the glory years of Buffy and Felicity, probably not. But for the under-30 crowd of today, the CW seems to be finally shaping up to be a viable alternative network.

Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW