The CW is Dead; Long Live The CW
The CW has left most of its original content behind, and its fall schedule will focus more on unscripted and Canadian television.
The Arrowverse—DC’s ambitious connected universe of superhero shows—officially ended on May 24 with the finale of The Flash. The Archieverse, while considerably smaller, is set to end this August with the final season of Riverdale. And the, uh, Supernaturalverse, for lack of a better name, ended prematurely with The Winchesters’ first and only season.
After relying on those three franchises for so long, where is the network supposed to go now? Brace yourselves, because The CW’s fall lineup is going to look a lot different.
The CW’s Fall 2023 primetime lineup
- Mondays: All American, 61st Street
- Tuesdays: Son of a Critch, Run the Burbs, Children Ruin Everything, Everyone Else Burns
- Wednesdays: Sullivan’s Crossing, The Spencer Sisters
- Thursdays: FBoy Island
- Fridays: Penn & Teller: Fool Us, Whose Line is it Anyway
- Saturdays: Masters of Illusion, World’s Funniest Animals
- Sundays: I Am…
The CW is starting the Fall 2023 season with a huge strategy change: it’s keeping only one of its existing original scripted titles. The football drama All American’s sixth season will air Mondays at 8 p.m. ET.
To fill out the rest of the schedule, The CW is leaning hard on unscripted content like Masters of Illusion, Penn & Teller: Fool Us, and a re-casted Whose Line Is It Anyway, as well as the newly acquired reality shows FBoy Island and FGirl Island. The network seems particularly proud of the FBoy Island franchise, and CW’s entertainment president Brad Schwartz calls it “a show that no other network would do,” despite having bought it off of the streaming service formerly known as HBO Max.
The rest of the lineup is filled with scripted content poached from AMC (61st Street) and Canada’s CTV* and CBC (Children Ruin Everything, Run the Burbs, Sullivan’s Crossing, The Spencer Sisters, Son of a Critch). You can also expect the six-part sitcom Everyone Else Burns, which first aired on Channel 4 in the U.K., and the celebrity documentary film series I Am.
If you’re a devotee of Canadian television, you should check in with The CW this fall. If you’re not, though, and you miss The CW’s usual young-adult and genre TV, you can sit this season out. You’ll just have to settle for Riverdale reruns on Netflix.
*no relation to CableTV.com, sorry
The CW’s 2024 lineup
The CW is planning on shifting its content strategy, but reality TV and Canadian transplants are only part of that vision. The company reportedly wants to focus on an older and more serious age group, abandoning the younger audiences it previously courted and ultimately producing original scripted content once again. There’s one catch, though: The content has to be very cheap to produce.
Ongoing original scripted content at The CW
There are still a few legacy CW titles whose fates are currently up in the air. We don’t yet know whether the All American spinoff Homecoming will return in 2024. DC’s Gotham Knights and Superman & Lois haven’t been canceled yet either, likely due to the fact that neither is actually connected to the now-defunct Arrowverse. Superman & Lois, which was created for an older age group than the rest of the DC shows, is likely the safest, but it’s hard to say for sure.
New original scripted content at The CW
At its upfronts event in May 2023, The CW announced a few new original scripted programs that are due to air at some point in 2024. The first is Joan, a period piece starring Sophie Turner about a British jewel thief in the 1980s. There’s also The Swarm, a science fiction show about weird patterns and intelligent life in the Arctic Ocean.
Closing out its trio of new shows is The Librarians: The Next Chapter, a spinoff based off of TNT’s fantasy show The Librarians (whose four completed seasons you can stream on Hulu and Amazon Freevee). This is the only new title that feels like the old CW—TNT’s show always felt similar in tone to CW’s Legends of Tomorrow when it was airing—and it’s the sole piece of evidence that CW might want its existing audience to ignore all of the cancellations and stick around.
New original unscripted content at The CW
Still, expect to see an emphasis on unscripted content, even after the writers’ strikes are over. Patti Stanger: Millionaire Matchmaking, The Force, and The Great American Bakeover are on the way. Going off of the company’s comments, we can assume these titles are cheaper to produce than CW’s usual offerings.
It’s not clear whether The CW plans to continue airing Canadian titles in 2024.
Looking for the hottest entertainment?
Subscribe to our email newsletter to get the latest TV premieres, entertaining takes, and money-saving promotions.
Why is The CW changing its strategy?
There are several factors leading to CW’s desire to produce more unscripted and cheaper scripted content. The most obvious reason is the writers’ strike; very few shows are in production without the work of their writing staff.
Reason 1: The strike’s impact on The CW
The only CW show currently affected by the writers’ strike is All American—which could face delays if the studios don’t come to an agreement in the next couple of months—but the emphasis on unscripted and Canadian content makes the rest of the network’s fall lineup virtually strike-proof.
Reason 2: The CW has a new owner
The CW has been planning this switch-up for a while, beginning with the mass cancellations of 2022. Batwoman, Legends of Tomorrow, Naomi, Legacies, 4400, Roswell, In the Dark, Charmed, and Dynasty all got axed in quick succession, and Riverdale followed soon after. The network has, in the past, had a reputation for renewing shows far past their expiration dates, so this felt like a betrayal to a lot of fans.
You can blame that wave of cancellations and this new strategy change on corporate mischief. The CW used to be a joint venture between CBS and Warner Bros. (hence the letters C and W), with a licensing deal to allow Netflix to stream full seasons a few months after they aired. But Nexstar bought out CBS and Warner Bros. in 2022, and suddenly the network was a lot more hesitant to license so many WB characters.
Reason 3: Just lousy timing
A lot of contracts also expired in 2022, including the leases on filming studios for some of the Arrowverse titles, as well as the rights to stream completed shows on Netflix. These gave The CW an incentive to can legacy titles tied to expensive studios and come up with an entirely new lineup of cheaper shows the network could host on whatever streaming service it wanted, without having to split profits with Netflix.
One thing The CW is doing right, however, is avoiding an unnecessary rebranding. The company reportedly has no plans to pick a new name, unlike its former business parent Warner Bros. Discovery and the newly branded Max. It’s always encouraging when companies learn from their competitors’ mistakes.