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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
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
(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. MONDAY, JANUARY 30SURFACE
(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. Must...watch...DVDs...TUESDAY, JANUARY 31SCRUBS
(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.WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 1LOST
(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.THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 2SMALLVILLE
(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. FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 3GHOST 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
(10 PM PST, Sci Fi Channel) "Scar" A crazed Cylon raider attacks the fleet. Well, that tells us absolutely nothing...SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 4HU$TLE
(10 PM PST, AMC) If you're not watching this piece of televisual ecstasy, I pity you. SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 5GREY'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.