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Monday, April 22

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Airbags

Almost everyone in the entertainment business was blindsided by the announcement that netlets The WB and UPN are merging to form one new network, The CW, beginning in fall 2006. Both The WB and UPN targeted the prized 1834 demographic since their inceptions, and both have been losing money; according to one report, over 11 years, The WB lost $700 million and UPN lost $1 billion. Neither is a ratings giant but they have managed to produce some good shows.

First, let's look at the name. The CW? The abbreviation doesn't stand for Country/Western, or Conventional Wisdom, but Columbia Warners. Les Moonves made the preemptive "The WC" jokes, but still. Even WBUPN (phonetically pronounced "whuhbuppin") would be an improvement.

Second, most of the WB higher-ups will be either replaced or demoted to make room for Dawn Ostroff, currently president of UPN. Ostroff's new title is President of Entertainment, and the main concern for many is which shows she will choose to champion. Will she be loyal to the "urban" sensibilities of the sixth network, or will she try to capture ratings by sticking with the tried-and-true WB Pretty White Kids with Problems formula? It will undoubtedly be a combination, but will it be a healthy balance?

Third, will there be room for any new series? Both networks had several new pilots in development, including Smallville spin-off Aquaman. What will become of those yet-unseen shows?

Before the announcement, The WB had high praise for its veteran series Gilmore Girls and Smallville. The network was firmly behind freshman series Supernatural, hoping it could stay on The WB "for many, many years." Studio execs okayed a third installment of Beauty and the Geek, this time switching the roles: handsome but vapid himbos would be paired with socially awkward women. On the UPN side of the coin, juggernaut America's Next Top Model was approved for "cycles" seven and eight, even though Cycle 6 doesn't air until next month.

Now, however, all bets are off. The press release specifically mentions America's Next Top Model, Beauty and the Geek, Everybody Hates Chris, Gilmore Girls, Girlfriends, Reba, WWE's Smackdown!, Smallville, Supernatural and Veronica Mars. However, not a single show from either network has been officially approved for the fall season. Until May, when all network schedules are unveiled at Up Fronts, we'll have to settle for speculation.

My predictions: UPN faves American's Next Top Model and Everybody Hates Chris are shoo-ins. Veronica Mars has a rabid cult base, and television critics Michael Ausiello of TV Guide and Kristin Veitch of E!Online are loyal (and vocal) supporters. The WB picks are a bit trickier. Before the merger, I would have said that Smallville and Gilmore Girls were golden. Smallville has held its own on a tough night (Thursdays), and ratings are actually up from Season 4. Gilmore Girls remains a darling of the critics and its die-hard fans. But both shows have passed the syndication mark of 100 episodes, and Girls show runners Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino may leave the series after this season. If The CW decides to clean house and start from scratch, these two shows could be put out to pasture. I only want them to renew Supernatural.

In closing, I offer some possible crossovers for the fall season.

Gilmore Girlfriends: Hilarity ensues when Lorelei and Rory invite Joan, Maya, Lynn and Toni to Friday night dinner at Richard and Emily's and Emily mistakes the urban foursome for the help. Oh no she di'int!

One on One Tree Hill: Breana's boyfriend, Arnaz, visits his cousin in Tree Hill. He ends up getting roped into a wicked game of HORSE with Lucas and Nathan, and Brooke is determined to seduce this young stranger.

Everwood Hates Chris: The Rock family relocates to the small Colorado town. Rochelle works for Nina at her restaurant, Bright baby-sits for Tonya, and Chris shocks everyone by dating Delia. Andy tries to be progressive about it and fails miserably.

Veronica Charmed: The high school Nancy Drew goes undercover to investigate why the Halliwell sisters can vanquish demons but are apparently unable to see their own reflections; what other reason could there be for that heinous wardrobe?

America's Next Top Supernatural: Sam and Dean Winchester work the runway in New York — Fierce! — as Tyra Banks and Janice Dickinson drive a '67 Impala across the country, scaring the bejeebus out of ghosts. (OK, I admit I would actually watch this one.)

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About the Author(s)

As a child, Dee Stiffler was only allowed to watch one hour of television a day. She usually chose Sesame Street. Today, she overcompensates by knowing far too much about the WB's lineup as well as pop culture in general. Email her at pop@gapersblock.com.

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