Sarah Michelle Gellar’s return to series TV, which was to have been on CBS – the country’s most watched television network– will instead take place on CW – the network whose odds of survival was a subject of debate at industry get-togethers this season.
Instead of becoming a Hollywood hero for younging up the oldest skewing commercial broadcast network, she’s going to a network where she’s practically a senior citizen, at age 34. On the bright side, snagging Gellar’s comeback vehicle is a real coup for CW, where she is sure to be treated very well, which has its advantages.
“I couldn’t be more excited,” Gellar told advertisers during CW’s presentation of its primetime plans for next season, which includes her new drama series, “Ringer.” She then used “excited” about three more times, in case there was any question about her degree of excitement.
Meanwhile, “Gossip Girl,” on Mondays will welcome a new neighbor to the south; “Hart of Dixie” has been picked up, from the “Gossip Girl” team of Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage. It stars Rachel Bilson (“The O.C.”) and it’s a medical drama and she plays a doctor. An actual doctor -- not a doctor of thinkology, or something. Seriously.
More accurately, Bilson plays a sophisticated New Yorker, who winds practicing medicine in a small Southern town when the guy she didn’t know was her father dies and leaves her his country-doctor practice, which has his country-doctor partner hopping mad. And the other chicks in town wear hoop skirts and are stuck up.
In “Ringer,” Gellar plays Bette Davis.
Actually, she’s just playing Bette Davis roles, because “Ringer” is a ringer for the great 1940’s Davis melodrama, “A Stolen Life.”
The story goes like this: There are these identical twin sisters. One has really not got her act together. The other has it all going on: vivacious, married to the hottie, lots of money, whirlwind of social activity, etc. One day the twins go out on a boat. The Together Sister goes overboard – tragic. Not Together Sister decides to pose as Together Sister, thinking it will solve all her problems. Only, turns out, Together Sister was actually a Total Mess, which makes things very complicated for Not Together Sister.
“Ringer” is a perfect fit for CW, the network’s outgoing programming chief Dawn Ostroff told advertisers. Snagging the high-profile series developed for CBS is “one of the advantages of having two big corporate parents.” (CBS is a partner in the co-venture that is CW). Vertical integration – it’s the best!
The first all-star edition of “America’s Next Top Model” will be paired on Wednesday with a new realty series called “H8R,” in which celebrities will be brought face-to-face with nobodies who love to hate them. And, if the clip shown to advertisers is any indication, the h8r will nearly instantly capitulate and become a super-fan.
Mario Lopez is hosting. In the pilot, they define “celebrity” as Snooki and Kim Kardashian. They have not yet lined up other celebrities, Ostroff said. Won’t it be fun to see whom they get to participate?
Thursdays, CW’s highest rated series, “Vampire Diaries” is teaming with a new drama from Kevin Williamson about a coven of powerful witches, called “The Secret Circle.” Like “Vampire Diaries,” “Secret Circles” is based on a book series and, in one of those incredible TV-industry coincidences, both were written by the same person – Lisa Jane Smith!
The Secret Circle story cheat sheet: Happy teenage girl, mom dies tragically, warm and loving grandma, cute small town, discovers she’s a witch and completes the town’s popular Secret Circle of Hot Teenage Witches, blah, blah, blah.
”Are the children practicing?” one concerned witch parent asks another witch parent in the clip shown to advertisers -- instantly becoming one of the best TV lines ever.
This season’s freshman chick-action drama “Nikita” survives – RIP “Hellcats” -- as the lead-in to “Supernatural” on Fridays.
The swan song of “One Tree Hill” will be held until January, so that the final batch of episodes can be run consecutively and without reruns.
Also on the bench: a new reality series in which a former modeling agency guru overhauls struggling tiny modeling agencies. It’s called “Remodeled.” It will be used to bridge the period between cycles of “Top Model.”
CBS programming topper Nina Tassler actually blabbed the CW pick-up of Gellar’s show on Wednesday, during CBS’s upfront breakfast with reporters. Tassler bragged that a whopping five of the seven drama series pilots she had developed for next season had been picked up.
One enterprising reporter at the breakfast, who can actually count, noticed she unveiled just four new dramas for her 2011-12 TV season schedule. Tassler explained that the fifth, “Ringer” had been picked up by CW, which apparently counts.
“We thought it was a unique concept and we were really excited about Sarah Michelle Gellar,” Tassler explained to reporters and TV critics. “ Like I said – we had no more time periods.”
And, of course, “Ringer” is a serialized drama. CBS doesn’t really do serialized drama. CW, on the other hand, does practically nothing but.
Tassler, like Ostroff the next day, noted Gellar’s huge fan base.
“When we bought the script, the e-mails started coming in: ‘Pick it up!’,” Tassler enthused about the show she’d turned down.
“I’m like, ‘We just bought [the script]!’ From Idaho – everywhere! She’s got a very loyal fan base, and, god bless them, they’re going to be sitting and waiting for that show to show up on The CW.”
THE CW’s 2011-2012 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE
8:00-9:00 PM GOSSIP GIRL (New Time)
9:00-10:00 PM HART OF DIXIE (New Series)
8:00-9:00 PM 90210 (New Night)
9:00-10:00 PM RINGER (New Series)
8:00-9:00 PM H8R (New Series)
9:00-10:00 PM AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL
8:00-9:00 PM THE VAMPIRE DIARIES
9:00-10:00 PM THE SECRET CIRCLE (New Series)
8:00-9:00 PM NIKITA (New Night)
9:00-10:00 PM SUPERNATURAL
More from upfront week: