The CW Looks to Broaden its Audience Base

by Marc Berman  |  05.18.2017

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” explained CW president Mark Pedowitz as he defended his decision to pick-up Black Lightning, another DC Comic book-themed drama for 2017-18, in a conference call prior to the net’s upfront presentation in New York City. “The genre will last as long as people want to keep watching it. It’s lasted my whole lifetime. But I do believe our programming is a mixture next season.”

The CW will introduce four new dramas in 2017-18: Military themed Valor and the reboot of Dynasty this fall; and Life Sentence and aforementioned Black Lightning at an undisclosed time in midseason. Valor is scheduled in the Monday 9 p.m. hour out of Supergirl. And Dynasty will air in its former time period on ABC, Wednesday at 9 p.m., out of relocated Riverdale.

Overall, four nights will feature changes on the CW this fall. Arrow moves to Thursday at 9 p.m. out of veteran Supernatural, which enters its 13th season, and will air an animated Scooby-Doo episode this season. Low-rated one-hour comedies Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Jane the Virgin, which bring an aura of critical acclaim to the network, will populate Friday. Only Tuesday will not be impacted with The Flash continuing to lead into D.C.’s Legends of Tomorrow.

Returning in midseason are dramas The 100, iZombie and The Originals.

The Spin

“The CW has transformed over the past few years from a linear network into a true multi-platform success. Whether it’s on broadcast, video-on-demand, over-the-top, digital, or mobile, we are reaching those viewers everywhere they are, with opportunities for our advertisers across every platform,” said Mark Pedowitz. “Next season, we have four new scripted series, continuing our mission of adding more original programming to schedule all year long. And we will never have more than four DC dramas on the air at the same time.”

The Reality

For a network with only five nights – and 10 hours – of programming real estate, four new scripted dramas is indeed impressive. And the arrivals of Valor, Dynasty and Life Sentence are potential steps to deviate away from the superhero norm. Consider Black Lighting a cushion for the audience accustomed to this type of storytelling on The CW. But traditional Nielsen ratings continue to underwhelm. The descriptor of a true multi-platform success is a bit bold considering each outlet at present is making the exact same claim. And while Dynasty, in particular, does look ambitious, so did the revivals of 90210 and Melrose Place before it. Does anyone really remember those reboots? 

What follows is the fall 2017 primetime line-up for The CW with new shows in caps, followed by the new program descriptions: 


8:00 p.m. Supergirl

9:00 p.m. VALOR


8:00 p.m. The Flash

9:00 p.m. D.C. Legends of Tomorrow


8:00 p.m. Riverdale (new day and time)

9:00 p.m. DYNASTY


8:00 p.m. Supernatural

9:00 p.m.  Arrow (new day and time)


8:00 p.m. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (new time)

9:00 p.m. Jane the Virgin (new night)

New Program Descriptions


Black Lightning (midseason)

Based on the D.C. characters, Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) is a man wrestling with a secret. 

As the father of two daughters and principal of a charter high school that also serves as a safe haven for young people in a New Orleans neighborhood overrun by gang violence, he is a hero to his community.

Nine years ago, Pierce was a hero of a different sort. Gifted with the superhuman power to harness and control electricity, he used those powers to keep his hometown streets safe as the masked vigilante Black Lightning. However, after too many nights with his life on the line, and seeing the effects of the damage and loss that his alter ego was inflicting on his family, he left his superhero days behind and settled into being a principal and a dad. Choosing to help his city without using his superpowers, he watched his daughters Anissa (Nafessa Williams) and Jennifer (China Anne McClain) grow into strong young women, even though his marriage to their mother, Lynn (Christine Adams), suffered.

Almost a decade later, Pierce’s crime-fighting days are long behind him…or so he thought. But with crime and corruption spreading like wildfire, and those he cares about in the crosshairs of the menacing local gang The One Hundred, Black Lightning returns — to save not only his family, but also his community.  

Life Sentence (midseason)

Life Sentence follows Stella (Pretty Little Liars’ Lucy Hale), a girl who has spent the last eight years living like she was dying (because she was). Just like the “manic pixie dream girl” heroines in her favorite sappy cancer movies, Stella traveled the world, faced her darkest fears and found true love on a whirlwind trip to Paris.

But when Stella finds out that her cancer has been cured, she is suddenly forced to face the long-term consequences of the “live in the moment” decisions she made, including marrying a total stranger. And if that’s not enough, she also finds out that her “perfect family” isn’t so perfect after all. Turns out, because she was dying, everyone in her life hid their problems from her. But, now that she’s well, all bets are off.;

Stella is shocked to learn that her parents, Peter (Dylan Walsh) and Ida (Gillian Vigman), have fallen out of love, partly because Peter spent their retirement money on helping Stella make the most of her final days, and partly because Ida has fallen in love with her best friend (Stella’s godmother), Poppy.

Also, it turns out Stella may be responsible for the fact that her sister, Elizabeth (Brooke Lyons), gave up her own dreams to take care of Stella and start a family with her husband Diego (Carlos Pena Vega), just to give her parents something positive to focus on. Then there’s Stella’s often overlooked brother, Aiden (Jayson Blair), who’s pushing 30 and still lives above the garage, sells Adderall to soccer moms and uses Stella’s cancer to guilt them into sleeping with him. And, of course, there’s her husband Wes (Elliot Knight), a handsome Londoner who she agreed to spend the rest of her life with, thinking that would only be six to eight months, tops. Now that their forever just got a whole lot longer than they were expecting, Wes begins to worry that he can’t continue to pretend to be her perfect husband for the rest of his life. 

With a real future suddenly in front of her, Stella’s cinematic life snaps into reality, and instead of living like she’s dying, she will have to learn to live like she’s living, and help her family and friends do the same.  


Fallon Carrington (Elizabeth Gillies) is charismatic, cunning, and poised to become the new COO of her father’s global energy empire – or so she thinks. When her father, Blake Carrington, (Grant Show) summons Fallon and her brother, Steven, (James Mackay) home to the family compound in Atlanta, Fallon is horrified to learn that the reunion isn’t to announce her promotion – but rather to make the acquaintance of their stepmother-to-be, Cristal (Nathalie Kelley). 

Cristal is stunning – and almost as young as Fallon, as Fallon is quick to point out – but she isn’t just some flimsy gold-digger to be scared off. Cristal is driven, principled, a savvy publicity maven at Carrington Atlantic, and she truly loves Blake. However, the wealth and privilege of the Carringtons’ world proves challenging to her, as she clashes with the staff, including Blake’s butler Anders (Alan Dale), as well as Fallon, who all make it very clear Cristal doesn’t belong.

Family dynasties flow through blood, and Fallon would sooner draw blood than call Cristal “Mom.” Fallon asks Culhane (Robert Christopher Riley), the family’s chauffeur – and Fallon’s secret lover – to help expose Cristal for the fraud Fallon thinks she is. But when that backfires, and Blake chooses Cristal over his own daughter, Fallon sidles up to Blake’s biggest rival, Jeff Colby (Sam Adegoke), mixing business and pleasure to seek her revenge and leaving a jealous Culhane to watch from the sidelines. While the Carringtons’ rocky relationships prove the theory that family sticks together no matter what, Cristal is reminded of exactly that when her nephew, Sammy Jo (Rafael de la Fuente), arrives with a suitcase full of secrets from Cristal’s past.


An elite unit of U.S. Army helicopter pilots called the Shadow Raiders are sent on a top-secret mission to Somalia, a mission that goes terribly awry. Only two members of the team return safely: Warrant Officer Nora Madani (Christina Ochoa), one of the unit’s first female helicopter pilots, and her commanding officer, Captain Leland Gallo (Matt Barr), while the whereabouts of their comrade Jimmy Kam (W. Tre Davis)are unknown.

Now back in the U.S., Madani and Gallo are the only ones who know the truth about what really went wrong in Somalia. Nora’s boyfriend, First Lieutenant Ian Porter (Charlie Barnett), suspects she’s not telling him the full story, and Jess Kam (Corbin Reid), Jimmy’s wife and Nora’s friend, is frustrated and furious at being kept in the dark. Meanwhile Thea, (Melissa Roxburgh) the enigmatic CIA officer charged with investigating the failed mission, has her own suspicions about what occurred.

With Nora still recovering from a gunshot wound suffered during the mission, the commander of the Shadow Raiders, Col. Robert Haskins (Nigel Thatch), grounds her from flying. But when it’s discovered that Jimmy is alive and being held captive by a group of ruthless terrorists, Nora is determined to join Gallo back in the cockpit to rescue their friend. As preparation and training intensify, Nora and Gallo grow closer, and soon find themselves torn between duty, honor and desire as they wonder who they can trust, and whether the secrets they’re hiding will help save Jimm or put them all in terrible danger.

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