The CW Announces Fall Season Schedule

by Karl J. Paloucek

Whether The CW is playing it safe in this troubled economy or it’s just basing its new work on its current successes (I’d like to think the latter, though it’s probably a bit of both), for you fans of the young-adult-skewed network, it doesn’t matter. All you need to know is to expect more of the same. In 2009, its cult-of-beauty lineup expands in some VERY familiar directions. Among the new shows announced:

Melrose Place
(Tuesdays, 9pm ET/PT)
Yep, it’s happening. Not only has The CW succeeded in reinventing Beverly Hills, 90210 with its own version, now the network will complete the classic, early ’90s FOX lineup by pairing its 90210 with its reimagined sister show, Melrose Place. Fitting closely in the tradition of other CW series like Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill and, of course, 90210, the series focuses on the lives of “a diverse group of 20-somethings” who have become a tight-knit group while living together in a posh apartment building in the trendy Melrose neighborhood. Among the talent lined up for the show are returning cast members in Laura Leighton, still playing Sydney Andrews — the landlady of the building — and Thomas Calabro as Dr. Michael Mancini, but likely much of the buzz is going to be centered on the casting of Ashlee Simpson Wentz as 18-year-old new tenant Violet Foster, who has a secret connection to scheming landlady Sydney. Wouldn’t it be fun if the show got off to a shaky start and they had to bring in Heather Locklear to boost ratings? (I wonder if that would still work …)

The Beautiful Life (Wednesdays, 9pm ET/PT)
Modeling looks glitzy and glamorous from the outside, but behind the catwalk, the claws come out. That’s more or less the premise of this series, co-executive produced by Ashton Kutcher. Raina Collins (Sara Paxton, Last House on the Left) and Chris Andrews (Benjamin Hollingsworth, The Line) are two teens living in different levels of the industry who are about to have the world of high fashion happen to them in the worst way. Familiar names abound in the series, beginning with a cameo appearance from designer Zac Posen, but the regular cast will feature Mischa Barton (The O.C.) in the role of Raina’s friend Sonja, Elle Macpherson as supermodel Claudia Foster and Corbin Bleu (High School Musical), among others.

The Vampire Diaries (Thursdays, 8pm ET/PT)
Presumably set to perfectly capitalize on the existing “scare me” audience of Supernatural and the whole Twilight phenomenon, The Vampire Diaries follows the lives of 17-year-old Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev, DeGrassi: The Next Generation) and her 15-year-old brother Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen) as they try to cope with life in the wake of their parents’ demise in a horrible car accident. When, in her sadness, Elena is drawn to Stefan, the handsome new guy at school, she’s completely unaware that he’s, well, a vampire, albeit one struggling to live in peaceful coexistence with the rest of humanity. Damon (Ian Somerhalder, Lost), Stefan’s brother, is the other side of the vampire coin, full of brutality and reeking of evil. With these principal players set, it’s just a question of whether or not audiences will bite. (I know, I know …) Longtime fans of The CW and its antecedent, The WB, should find it significant that this series will be executive produced by Kevin Williamson, creator of the series that “made” the network’s reputation way back when, Dawson’s Creek.

Later on in the year, another potentially interesting new series will debut, called Parental Discretion Advised, about the struggles of a 15-year-old foster child, Lux (Britt Robertson, Swingtown) who decides it’s time to put her destiny in her hands and become an emancipated minor, and as a result begins a journey that ends up leading to her biological parents and a potentially very awkward family situation. But more on that when it’s more imminent. For now, here’s the complete prime-time lineup for The CW this fall. All times ET/PT:

8-9pm Gossip Girl
9-10pm One Tree Hill

8-9pm 90210
9-10pm Melrose Place

8-9pm America’s Next Top Model
9-10pm The Beautiful Life

8-9pm The Vampire Diaries
9-10pm Supernatural

8-9pm Smallville (New night, folks!)
9-10pm America’s Next Top Model (Encore showing)