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The CW: Stands for Consumers' Wallets

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At Madison Square Garden this morning, the brand-new CW network unveiled it’s slogan, Free to Be… Around half the actors and producers at The WB and UPN are Free to Be this morning, after their shows were canceled in the merge: Free to Be updating their resumes, getting new head shots, organizing their sock drawers.

The CW only announced two new shows, so the big buzz was which old shows would die. Surviving: America’s Next Top Model, Smallville, Supernatural, Gilmore Girls (Mispelled as Girlmore Girls on The CW’s own graphics), Everybody Hates Chris, One Tree Hill, Veronica Mars, Girlfriends, Beauty and the Geek, Smackdown, All of Us. Dead: Everwood, the rest of of The WB and UPN’s comedies, including Reba and Cuts. Dead, Then Weirdly Resurrected: 7th Heaven, which actually already aired a series finale episode. The animated corpse of the family-values drama will enter its 11th season next fall, dragging chains and trailing grave dirt behind it.

Another thing that is not new at The CW is the name, sadly for those who thought the ungainly abbreviation (a combination of CBS and Warner Bros., the corporate parents) was just a placeholder. The CW’s logo, on giant monitors onstage, has at least been upgraded, from the blue-and-white rectangle that looked like the title bar on someone’s Blogspot page to a green-and-white, curvy, seventies-futuristic thingy that looks like an MTV 10 Spot logo from two years ago.

The CW’s one new drama is Runaway, from Darren Star (Sex and the City), about a family that goes on the lam when Dad (Donnie Wahlberg, in standard pained-soulful mode) is falsely accused of murder. The sole comedy is The Game, a spinoff of Girlfriends, about the wives and girlfriends of football players.

The departing UPN sitcoms, like Eve and Cuts, take with them a substantial chunk of network TV’s African American actors and writers, which Chris Rock alluded to on stage: "We want you to buy a lot more ads, because Chris [in Everybody Hates Chris] is now going to be played by a white girl! You’re going to see way more white people than ever before at The CW–sometimes, they’re just going to walk through and wave!" The audience of suits, mainly upscale white folks, who love to be made fun of for being white and privileged (it’s funny because it’s true!) ate it up.

Actually, the most interesting new programming–if not artistically–was something pitched to the advertisers as "Content Wraps." These 30-second "shows within shows" run within commercial breaks and are surrounded by one sponsor’s ads; for instance, a mini dating show in which a couple get makeovers and go on a date, all in interstitial segments over the course of a night. Per the name, Content Wraps promise to deliver commercial-skipping TiVo users like the tasty chicken filling bundled in a spinach tortilla.

What else is new at The CW? The audience, perpetually. Like its two forebears, it stressed its Gen X and Y target audience to advertisers, bolstered with a lot of specious-sounding psychographics about what young people want. For instance: "fame and fortune." Um, yeah — and a TV network is going to provide that how, exactly? It won’t, of course, but it can offer the illusion. The fame part, for instance, is simulated by the new CW website, which will allow fans to upload their own pictures–pretty much like they already can at MySpace.

And the fortune part, as in the rest of the consumer world, can be pantomimed by going into debt. The most creepy–and probably effective–part of the sales pitch was a mini-documentary about the interests of three young people: a 19-year-old student, distressed that her favorite jeans have been discontinued; a 24-year-old geriatric-care-worker, who talks about how his work makes him feel good, and so does his Xbox; and a 32-year-old stay-at-home mom, raiding a Lowe’s home-improvement store with her husband and a long "honey-do" list for him.

Buying a bunch of crap: It will make you Free. Even if the advertisers’ products aren’t.

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