Upfronts: The CW declares itself ‘the cool place to be’
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Maggie Q, the star of the new CW series “Nikita,” had a slightly dazed smile when she came out on stage Thursday at the network’s upfront presentation at Madison Square Garden.
“I don’t think any of you understand how good-looking it is backstage,” said the action star of films such as “Live Free or Die Hard” and “Mission: Impossible III.” “It’s really intimidating. I had to push the A cups up a little bit.”
She was one of a dozen twentysomething actors the CW trotted out Thursday to underscore its role as the purveyor of sleek, sexy programming for the young set. To drive home the point, singer Katy Perry -- whose hit song “California Gurls” is going to be the network’s summer marketing anthem -- opened the show in a rainbow-striped sequin mini splashed with silhouettes of palm trees.
“The CW is the cool place to be,” declared Dawn Ostroff, the network’s president of entertainment.
The network is entering its fifth season with a dose of confidence after the success of “The Vampire Diaries,” a new drama that it launched this year on Thursdays at 8 p.m. that became its most-watched show. With a stable of solid returning series, executives opted to add just two new programs in the fall: “Nikita,” a remake of 1990s action-thriller “La Femme Nikita”, and “Hellcats,” a college cheerleading drama with Ashley Tisdale (“High School Musical”) and Aly Michalka (“Bandslam”).
In “Nikita,” Maggie Q performs her own stunts as a rogue assassin out to exact revenge on the clandestine government agency that trained her to be a killer. Ostroff told reporters after the presentation that the network had long been in the market for an action-adventure series starring an empowered female character. “This year, we wound up with a script we were so excited about,” she said. “It’s hard to get a script that you feel proud of, that’s smart and really credible and doesn’t feel like it’s sort of going off in a goofy way.”
Though most of the CW’s shows are set in cosmopolitan urban centers or picturesque small towns, “Hellcats” takes place in Memphis, allowing the network to add the South to its palette of locales, Ostroff noted. The series stars Michalka as an ambitious pre-law student who is forced to join the cheerleading squad to pay for college after she loses her scholarship.
For the first time, the CW will air original shows every weekday night, shuffling its current lineup to launch the newcomers behind the network’s proven hits. Monday nights will feature the pairing of “90210” and “Gossip Girl,” which kicks off its new season in Paris, where Chuck Bass shows up with a new girlfriend and a new identity. “Can you say, ‘Parlez-vous gossip?’” quipped Ostroff. “Oui!”
“One Tree Hill” will move to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays, where it will be followed by “Life Unexpected,” which drew plaudits from critics and a loyal following after it debuted midseason this year. “America’s Next Top Model” will open Wednesday nights with higher stakes than ever before: a chance at the cover of Italian Vogue. The reality competition will be followed by “Hellcats.”
On Thursdays, “The Vampire Diaries” will be used to launch “Nikita.” Lastly, the duo of “Smallville” -- in its final season -- and “Supernatural” will anchor Friday nights.
The CW also picked up two new reality shows. “Plain Jane,” which premieres in July, features British fashion expert Louise Roe as a coach who helps transform awkward women who lack the confidence to admit their feelings to a crush.
Midseason, the network plans to air “Shedding for the Wedding,” in which 10 overweight engaged couples compete to lose the most weight before the big day. Ostroff said the network planned to pick up a few other new series for midseason, as well.
-- Matea Gold (Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mateagold.)
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