2011-12 season in review: The CW botches ‘The Secret Circle,’ ‘Ringer’

It was the worst of times.

For our final installment of the 2011-12 season in review (be sure to look at the bottom of the article for our other editions in this series), we turn to a network that really hit a downward spiral in the ratings this year — The CW. Despite having two shows in “The Vampire Diaries” and “Gossip Girl” that are incredibly popular with young people, the ratings as a whole plummeted throughout much of the season. By the spring, you had shows pulling in 0.4 ratings in the 18-49 demographic that were actually kept around for the fall.

So can the network really turn it around? More than any other article we have written about this past season, this one should reflect the desperate state that The CW is in. However, it should also be known that moving forward, there is still plenty of hope here that things could turn around.

What worked – Hey, “The Vampire Diaries” still draws more than a 1.0 and 2 million viewers! As sad as it sounds, this one show is really the network’s primary selling point now. It’s kept a good chunk of its audience, and even with a few missteps in season 3 (including some plots that really went nowhere) it’s still primed to do well moving forward.

The one other highlight the network has is “Supernatural,” a little show that strangely enough became their #2 show this season — despite airing on Friday nights against two similar shows in “Fringe” and “Grimm.” It may have the most loyal fanbase on TV, and they will likely follow it anywhere.

What didn’t – Where do we start here? First things first, the network completely botched their marketing for this past season. They invested most of their time in “Ringer,” a show that felt tonally out of place with what they were doing elsewhere (in particular after the young “90210”), and it ended up being their worst flop of the year when it came to expectations and the name recognition of Sarah Michelle Gellar. It was originally conceived as a CBS pilot, and it never really belonged here.

To make matters a bit worse, there was also too much of an assumption that “The Secret Circle” would do well following “The Vampire Diaries” simply because they both have Kevin Williamson’s name attached to it and it contains supernatural beings. The CW canceled the “Circle” despite it being its #3 show, with the main reason being it losing a good percentage of its “TVD” lead-in. Had it been promoted as a show that can stand on its own, it may have fared better — but it never really had that opportunity and unless you watch some other shows on the network, you probably never knew that it was even on.

It’s almost ironic that out of its new shows, the one that earned a renewal was the one (in “Hart of Dixie“) with the smallest amount of promotion. Unfortunately, even it was stuck in the 0.5-0.6 range for most of the spring, and out of the returning shows only the sinking “Gossip Girl,” the dying “America’s Next Top Model,” and the “lucky to be on Fridays” “Nikita” fared worse.

The future – We’ve bashed The CW pretty hard in this, so we’ll turn things around slightly here by saying that there is still a major glimmer of hope here for the network moving forward. It still has a few solid performers, and some of the new shows coming in have some ambition. On paper, both the superhero adaptation “Arrow” and the “Sex and the City” prequel “The Carrie Diaries” have the potential to be some pretty big-time hits by network standards, and it’s going to likely come down to seeing if they can draw people to the network who spend most of their time elsewhere. While we’re not big on another medical drama in “Emily Owens M.D.” or a re-made “Beauty and the Beast,” the midseason entry “Cult” (starring Matt Davis of “TVD”) looks promising in attracting the same sort of young male audience that could love “Arrow.”

As rough as the road has been for The CW lately, they are at least trying — and unlike NBC, their fall schedule at least makes some sense. They need to take some risks, appeal to new demographics, and ultimately live up to their tagline as TV that is worth talking about. Of course, this does mean getting rid of “Top Model” eventually — but that is a different story for a different day.

What do you think about The CW’s 2011-12 season? Be sure to now visit our entries on CBS, Fox, ABC, and NBC.

Photo: The CW

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