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CW Withholds Press Screeners for "90210" -- Earth Continues to Rotate on Axis
August 19, 2008  | By David Bianculli

In the latest development to keep TV critics from seeing and evaluating advance screeners of this fall's new series, the CW network has announced that it won't be sending out preview copies of its new 90210 revival.

I suppose I could scream foul. Instead, I'm shouting "Thanks!"


Here's what a CW press release said yesterday about its new incarnation of the 1990s Fox cult hit:

"The CW and our studio partner CBS Paramount Network Television have made the strategic marketing decision not to screen '90210' for any media in advance of its premiere. We're not hiding anything... simply keeping a lid on '90210' until 9.02, riding the curiosity and anticipation into premiere night, and letting all our constituents see it at the same time."

Oh. Okay. As long as you're not hiding anything.

If the CW feels compelled to say in advance that it's not hiding anything, that should raise any suspicions that weren't raised already. It's like Richard Nixon offering the unprompted observation, "I am not a crook."

Historically, the only TV shows that haven't been previewed for critics are a) programs cobbled together at the very last minute, b) tacky reality series that the network expects will get trounced anyway, and c) other really bad shows, using the same defensive reasoning.

That doesn't mean bad shows don't arrive for preview anyway. See last season's Viva Laughlin on CBS. Or don't, since it lasted only two episodes.

And usually, by this time of year, critics have been supplied with a fairly full roster of fall pilots -- certainly enough to assess and handicap the fall slate, and anoint some newcomers as the best new shows of the season.

Not this year. Using the strike-crippled season as an excuse, most of the broadcast networks have obliterated the status quo and intentionally kept TV critics out of the preview-episode loop. CBS has provided pilots of its new shows, but is the only network to have done so.


Fox screened its most anticipated fall show, J.J. Abrams' Fringe, for critics in July, but has yet to provide preview copies. ABC has sent virtually nothing, and NBC's new shows, to this point, are familiar only because of the promos shown during the Olympics. Based on them, Kath & Kim looks like it might be funny... but who knows? At this point, not any TV critics.

And now there's CW, withholding its most buzzworthy new show in hopes of -- how did they put it? -- "riding the curiosity and anticipation into premiere night."

If that's the way the lowest-rated network wants to play, I say sure, let's play. TV critics should take CW at its word, and help the network sink to the level it deserves. And not just for 90210, which has the next-generation curiosity factor, but for the entire CW slate. Remember what curiosity did to the cat.

Review Privileged, the other new CW scripted series? No, thanks. I'll save that hour of my life, and let that show ride its own wave of curiosity and anticipation into premiere night. Same for the new reality series Stylista. Yeah, there's loads of anticipation there.


Of course, with a website called TV WORTH WATCHING, I can afford to be cavalier, and selective. But you know what? I was looking forward to checking out 90210. The show's executive producers were saying some of the right things, and they've made at least two very smart hires. (No, not the veterans coming back.) One is Tristan Wilds, who played Michael Lee on The Wire. The other is AnnaLynne McCord (shown here), who played Eden the cold-blooded vixen on Nip/Tuck. They can act. It's a start.

But I haven't seen the new 90210, and won't, until it airs -- so I can't assess whether those two actors are used well, or whether this revival is any good. But the CW executives have seen it. And their actions, I'm guessing, speak a lot louder than my words would have.

So keep 'em not coming, you visionary folks at the broadcast networks.

You'll show me! Even when you don't...



Chris Hutton said:

This is the best headline EVER!!! (Thanks. I appreciate it... but I still think the New York Post classic about a decapitation murder in a strip club is the all-time winner: HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS BAR -- David B.)

Comment posted on August 19, 2008 12:53 PM

maggie said:

Lack of previews for the critics is just the networks trying to protect their ratings. Look what happened last year when CBS sent out the first three episodes of Jericho season 2 to critics weeks before the actual airdates: The episodes immediately were posted to the various torrent sites, everyone downloaded and watched the episodes, and many fewer people tuned in to the actual broadcasts. Great for the fans, terrible for TV. If the WB wants a strong showing in the ratings right out of the gate for "90210" they have to make sure no one can see it elsewhere earlier. (I suspect, though, it's less about leakage to the web -- that stuff will get out there anyway, just from people working on the show in Hollywood -- than concern about negative reviews. -- David B.)

Comment posted on August 20, 2008 10:24 AM

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