The Passing of the Netlets -

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The Passing of the Netlets

By Jason Davis     January 30, 2006

The CW Television Network logo.
Well, it's been an interesting ten years. As I suspect everyone with an interest in TV already knows, the WB and UPN will cease transmission next season to make way for a new hybrid network called CW (taken from CBS, the owner of UPN, and WB). Though I'm saddened that the marketing people didn't decide to call it the WC, thus providing Jay Leno with an easy laugh, I think the new network will be an interesting evolution to observe.

Those of us too young to remember the short-lived Dumont Network, which lasted from 1949 to 1955, have no worthwhile recollections of the death of a broadcast network. The PTEN consortium, a network co-owned by Warner Bros. and the Chris Craft-owned stations that eventually allied with UPN, never really made a mark. Though BABYLON 5 has the distinguished mark of having outlived its own network, PTEN never really had the sense of permanence that the WB and UPN have enjoyed since going online in 1995. Whereas the Fox network sort of snuck up in the late Eighties, the two netlets launched with much ballyhoo and fully formed iconic imagery to establish their branding.

I still have recordings of early episodes of BUFFY with the WB's frog singing out his network's name. Slightly older tapes preserve UPN's geometric logo and three note signature in front of NOWHERE MAN and episodes of STAR TREK: VOYAGER. Though these shows are now preserved on the sacred silver of DVD, I'm kind of glad my diligence in cleaning out the video cupboard missed a few examples of these soon to be extinct network identities. It probably sounds a bit silly, but I think I'll miss them when they're gone.

To say that either network has been consistently strong would be laughable. To say that their youth and vigor allowed them to step out on the edge with programming no one else would touch would be dead right. What other venue would give BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER the time of day? Fox didn't. They passed and it's a damn good thing because by 1997, they would have cancelled the show after "Teacher's Pet." Remember, by 1997, Fox had stopped letting low performers like THE X-FILES mature into their popularity. Speaking of BUFFY, I seem to recall that she found a new home on UPN when the WB failed to make a satisfactory deal with the studio. Who would have thought the two homes of BUFFY (and ROSWELL for that matter) would one day be the same house joined by a connecting corridor?

Well, let's have a look at our broadcast family tree: NBC. CBS. ABC (which, in the days of radio, spun off from NBC). Dumont (RIP, 1955). Paramount (stillbirth, 1977). Fox. PTEN (RIP, 1995), WB and UPN (married, 2006 as CW). I know, I'm weird. Sue me.

STAR TREK: VOYAGER (UPN) Once again trying the plan they'd attempted before in the late seventies, Paramount finally launched a TV network with STAR TREK as its flagship series.

NOWHERE MAN (UPN) One of the best paranoid fantasies to follow in the successful wake of THE X-FILES.

LEGEND (UPN) An SF/Western starring MacGyver and Q from the pen of TREK scribe Michael Piller. Where's my DVD of this one?

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (WB/UPN) The first show that brought the WB to my attention and the first series to suggest a link between the two networks.

DAWSON'S CREEK (WB) Give me a break--I had to make up for my lousy high school experience and Katie Holmes was a worthwhile surrogate for all the girls that laughed when I asked them out. Of course, the less said about Holmes these days, the better...

ROSWELL (WB/UPN) Though I've never been much of a fan, I know several folks who were devoted to this show and I include it on their behalf.

ANGEL (WB) They gave us season five despite the problems they had with season four and for that final scene of the last episode, I'm grateful.

THE GILMORE GIRLS (WB) Quirk like this doesn't grow on trees and the WB is to be congratulated for nurturing this hyper-realistic gem.

ENTERPRISE (UPN) Though few would argue it was the pinnacle of the franchise, the final entry of TREK had its moments.

VERONICA MARS (UPN) UPN's final great triumph which will hopefully find a happy home on CW's schedule as has been suggested by various press releases.

There you have it--a doubtlessly incomplete account of the two networks' accomplishments over a decade. I'm sure I left someone's favorite out. For that I apologize. Now I just get to wonder about the fate of a series the WB had in development for next year... the pilot is in production as we speak, and I have to tell you--I'm really excited about this one, but more on that another time.


SURFACE (8 PM PST, NBC) "Episode 114" This season's penultimate episode.

24 (8 PM PST, Fox) "Day 5: 12:00pm - 1:00pm" The only thing worse than being Jack Bauer is desperately trying to catch up on his exploits after being de-railed by a temporary loss of TV during season 2.


SCRUBS (9 PM PST, NBC) "My Half Acre" The janitor has a band... the Hate JDs?

SUPERNATURAL (9 PM PST, WB) "Route 666" So many smart-ass comments vying for space...

SCRUBS (9 PM PST, NBC) "Her Story II" A conceptual sequel to last season's "Her Story?" Just a shot in the dark...

THE SHIELD (10 PM PST, FX) "Tapa Boca" Fun with Internal Affairs for Vic and company.


LOST (9 PM PST, ABC) "Numbers" (R) My favorite season one story makes a return engagement and I wonder if it's because a succeeding season two episode will concern the titular numbers--no, the programmers probably aren't thinking like that.

VERONICA MARS (9 PM PST, UPN) "Rashard and Wallace Go to White Castle" Well, I know where they cribbed the title from, but I know very little else.

INVASION (10:01 PM PST, ABC) "The Cradle" (R) INVASION's back to its one-minute offset slot.


SMALLVILLE (8 PM PST, WB) "Vengeance" I'm told I missed a hell of a blowout last week for episode 100, so I may be stopping in for the first time this season to have a look around...

MY NAME IS EARL (9:00 PM PST, NBC) "Something to Live For" Heather Graham back on SCRUBS--that would be something to live for.

THE OFFICE (9:30 PM PST, NBC) "Boys and Girls" A seminar for women in the workplace is held--no opportunities for feet in mouths there, I suspect.


GHOST WHISPERER (8 PM PST, CBS) "Dead Man's Ridge" Andrea gets the gift when a former co-worker contacts her.

STARGATE: SG-1 (8 PM PST, Sci Fi Channel) "Ethon" The Prometheus attempts to rescue Jackson from an Ori world.

STARGATE ATLANTIS (9 PM PST, Sci Fi Channel) "The Tower" CRUSADE's resident Technomage, Peter Woodward, pays a visit to ATLANTIS.

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (10 PM PST, Sci Fi Channel) "Scar" A crazed Cylon raider attacks the fleet. Well, that tells us absolutely nothing...


HU$TLE (10 PM PST, AMC) If you're not watching this piece of televisual ecstasy, I pity you.


GREY'S ANATOMY (10 PM PST, ABC) "It's the End of the World (as We Know It)" I'm presently embarking on the second season of this series and enjoying it tremendously.


Showing items 1 - 5 of 5
snallygaster 1/30/2006 9:00:39 AM
The UPN/WB merger certainly came as a surprise to me, although I'm not crazy about the CW name (it'll take a while to not think of it as Country-Western). I'm grateful that both of these networks did give some decent shows time to grow despite the low ratings. You're absolutely right that Buffy never would have lasted on Fox. Buffy would have run as long as Firefly if it had first aired on Fox. And I can only think Firefly would have had a longer run if it had aired on one of the netlets. I do remember when UPN picked up both Buffy and Roswell. At about the same time there was also talk of shifting Wolf Lake from CBS over to UPN (though it never happened). As a result, UPN started to be half-jokingly referred to as the "Used Parts Network." I think one of the WB shows worth noting is Smallville, which has had a successful run and has always been a generally fun way to spend an hour. There's something to be said about this show which, in its fifth season, the WB essentially "put out to pasture" by putting it in the killer Thursday 8:00 timeslot - only to find its ratings improved.
sacrificex 1/30/2006 1:13:22 PM
Nowhere Man. Great show.
akiraakobus 1/30/2006 1:52:09 PM
Well I'm not suprised about the merger, I mean lets face it UPN has been dead for a while now, they just hadn't buried it yet. I mean while it wasn't the most popular Star Trek show, Enterprises cancellation gave very few of UPNs remaining viewers a reason to tune in. Secondly, the only shows the WB I honestly tried to keep up with were Angel and Smallville. Then Angel got cancelled, (I'm glad Boreanaz got a new show however, Bones is pretty good) and I've missed so many episodes of Smallville, that I really haven't tried to get back into it. And I am kinda pissed about the WB cancelling their cartoons in the afternoons, for old ER episodes and The Show About Dating Some Guys Teenage Daughter. (I don't care about the Guys Teenage Daughter) I miss my horribly dubbed Pokemon and the new God Awful Transformer episodes (The real Optimus is spinning in his grave I tell ya...) Those shows are bad but at least they are fun to watch. I also miss Xiaolin Showdown, that show was goofy but fun.
snallygaster 1/30/2006 5:31:37 PM
The WB also just dropped Michigan J. Frog as their mascot, as a precusor to persuing somewhat more mature demographics, much as FOX did when it moved onto the next level. So clearly there were plans at the WB to stay the course when this announcement was made. From what I heard, the merger came as a surprise to a lot of the lower level management at both networks. Surprisingly (to me), UPN was just barely ahead of the WB in overall ratings. I would have guessed the WB was currently the more successful of the two networks, as far as overall ratings went.
mckracken 1/30/2006 10:23:24 PM
CW = Crap Within. (not Country Western) I got a free dvd with one episode of smallville, and it impressed me, it was the origin of Lois Lane's character. this purported "CW" better be chock full of new programs that can compete with ABC's LOST and Desperate Housewives, FOX's Bones and House. My Name is Earl, The Office, and um... When Animals Attack, Greatest Stunts go wrong, Mystery Magician tricks and um... oh nevermind.


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