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Upfront Scorecard: CW Sends in the Clones

Netlet's Development Sticks to Familiar Formula; Think 'Reign 90210'

If you adhere to the notion variety is the spice of life (as opposed to just a terrific place to run “For your consideration” ads), the CW is definitely not the network for you. That’s because its development — unveiled at Thursday’s “Is this week finally over?” upfront presentation — all appeared to adhere to a familiar formula, placing teenage protagonists (played by 20-somethings) in exotic serialized settings.

In that context, even the shows that ostensibly stretch the network’s parameters — like “Reign,” a medieval drama about Mary, Queen of Scots — manage to look as much like spinoffs and “90210” clones as “The Originals,” a direct brand extension of “The Vampire Diaries.”

So while the shows are polished and the cutdowns slick — perhaps the most interesting being “The 100,” a midseason “The Lord of the Flies”-like construct that dispatches teens from a space station down to re-inhabit a nuclear-ravaged Earth — there’s a sort-of numbing sameness to a CW presentation. And for all the talk about its “young viewers,” the programming template (as the demos bear out) feels just as much aimed at 40-year-olds with a taste for escapism and a strong Internet connection. Or maybe that’s just the “Beauty and the Beast” fans who pleaded with me to give the show a second chance. (Since I’ll have to sample the midseason show “Star Crossed” — about a budding romance between a teenage girl and a dreamy space alien — put me down for “Already donated” on the pledge drive.)

On its face, the lineup makes a lot of sense, with “Beauty” joining the almost-equally laughable “Hart of Dixie” on Mondays, “The Originals” leading into “Supernatural” on Tuesdays, and “Arrow” being joined by a show about youths who represent “the next step in human evolution,” “The Tomorrow People,” on Wednesdays. CW’s appetite for hot young stars has so exhausted the talent pool that the latter stars Robbie Amell, the cousin of “Arrow’s” Stephen Amell — further robbing Canada of its natural resources.

“Reign,” meanwhile, joins “Vampire Diaries,” while “The Carrie Diaries” — a tepid “Sex and the City” prequel — promises to introduce the Samantha character as it shifts to Fridays. (Incidentally, whoever thought it was a good idea to have the actress who stars in “Reign,” Adelaide Kane, wear a tiara onstage should be thrown into the Tower of London.)

Give CW credit, perhaps, for having a strategy and pursuing it, but if it really wants to be perceived as hip and edgy, at some point the network’s going to have to develop and schedule a show that doesn’t create the impression of having been plucked directly from the rib of something already on its lineup.

Now there’s an assignment for tomorrow, people.

Grade: B-

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