The last few weeks of the television season are an especially tense time for fans of bubble shows, as every data point becomes that much more important and each step toward upfronts week brings on the realization that something you love may be on the precipice of not existing anymore. Said march to the second week in May, when each of the five major networks will unveil their schedules for next season, can be invigorating due to talk of new product and new scheduling possibilities for old favorites, but it also causes the most ardent of bubble supporters to jump on the defensive for the sake of their shows, particularly those they feel didn’t receive a proper chance to grow an audience.
One such show is The CW’s fantasy romance Star-Crossed, which stars Matt Lanter (90210) and Aimee Teegarden (Friday Night Lights) as an alien boy and human girl who find their way back to one another after an encounter a decade prior. Unfortunately, human-alien conditions in their community are so poor that the two are forced to keep their distance from one another due to safety reasons, with extremist groups on both sides making even the slightest bit of positive human-alien interaction cause for concern. Debuting February 17th against the Olympics, the show has not been strong in L+SD ratings, averaging about a 0.35 in the 18-49 demo and just over a million total viewers, but while those numbers don’t exactly scream renewal, the network does have several viable reasons to re-up the tale of forbidden love and interspecies social politics.
1. Growth Potential
Despite Star-Crossed‘s low numbers and insignificant DVR gains, the show has not been rejected by its audience; barring the series premiere ratings, the show has stayed within a 30,000 viewer range and within the same tenth in raw 18-49 numbers, so those who have sampled the show have stuck around, meaning that the problem isn’t the show itself. It’s that Star-Crossed premiered against the Olympics on an immensely crowded Monday that has seen its competition include the final episodes of How I Met Your Mother, Switched at Birth, Dancing with the Stars, The Voice, and VH1’s increasingly powerful Monday night lineup. In addition, the show has had two repeat lead-outs in its first eight episodes, been paired with the lowest-rated drama on the network for multiple episodes, and didn’t receive the marketing muscle or the TLC that other freshman CW dramas have been privy to in 2013-2014.
For a show to have all that thrown at it and still be putting up numbers similar to those likely-to-be-renewed Hart of Dixie did in the fall, a time of year where more people are watching television than in the spring, shows that Star-Crossed is a victim of its scheduling rather than a show put in an advantageous situation that didn’t perform. While the show could likely stand to skew a little older, seeing as how its Women 18-34 demo numbers put it near the bottom of the pack on the network, it does have a pulse and leaving it to die on the vine, particularly since it has recognizable faces for the network’s core audience and serves as a solid cross-section between the network’s recent shift to genre fare and its recent past with female-focused dramas, doesn’t make sense for The CW. Especially when you take into account the fact that of the dramas The CW has renewed for next season, four of them have been from Warner Brothers Television with CBS Television Studios only having one series on the 2014-2015 slate in Reign.
Television is as much politics as it is advertising dollars and creative flourishes, so The CW is going to have to either pick up multiple pilots from CBS (The network’s most buzz-y pilots, The Flash, Supernatural: Bloodlines, and iZombie, are all from Warner Brothers.) or renew currently airing series produced by that particular studio in order to appease both sides of itself. Why not earn some clout with CBS Studios by giving Star-Crossed a chance to get sampled and reach a wider audience, considering it’s the only freshman drama that never aired with one of the network’s heavy hitters? Why not see whether the audience engagement the show has demonstrated thus far means that the show was indeed harmed by airing on a notably troublesome night for the network? Why not give a show that’s been keeping the lights on Monday nights, a show that debuted with the world against it, a chance to prove itself with a second season?
Okay, let’s say that The CW decides that Star-Crossed has demonstrated enough of a pulse to earn a renewal and that its online numbers and general stability show that there is an audience out there. How exactly do they find that audience and get them to begin watching live?
There would be two options for a second Star-Crossed season, though neither of which is an entirely positive situation. On one hand, The CW will be in need of Friday programming come next season, assuming word of The Carrie Diaries‘ demise is indeed correct and that Hart of Dixie receives less than 22 episodes, the latter a possibility considering the southern dramedy’s underwhelming performance on Fridays. To keep from having to schedule repeats for an extended amount of time, The CW will need at least two series to fill in on Fridays – the first taking the place of America’s Next Top Model come November and bleeding into February, with the second taking over for Hart of Dixie and likely being paired with the next round of episodes of Whose Line Is It Anyway?. Even if the network decides to use one of those spots for, say, Jane the Virgin, the most comedic-leaning of their pilots this season, there would be a healthy helping of dead air if they don’t find something else to fill the gap. With non-Top Model reality programming being a non-starter, Carrie Diaries likely being done, Hart of Dixie likely in for a limited fourth season, The Tomorrow People having lost 2/3 of its audience since the beginning of the season, and The 100 possibly being held for midseason, Star-Crossed would be the most viable candidate to fill the other slot.
Granted, The CW could use part of its 2014-2015 schedule to further explore comedy through international acquisitions or repurposed digital series, especially with the success of Whose Line, but that still feels like something that’s at least one season away from being feasible, since the network needs to see how comedy can handle itself in the summer.
Speaking of summer, that’s the other place where Star-Crossed could feasibly be scheduled if it does return for a second season and the one that might be most advantageous to both the show and the network. CW President Mark Pedowitz has noted that the network wants to get into scripted programming in the summer and while they’re airing the final episodes of Beauty and the Beast’s second season come June and have assorted comedies they’ll be attempting to breakout, there’s still no original drama slated to begin its season in the summer. With the network using pre-owned properties and cheap international acquisitions to bolster its comedy slate, it only makes sense to use a drama with a season under its belt to test the waters for summer drama. Seeing as how Star-Crossed is one of the cheaper CW dramas, and the network has built its summer presence in each of Pedowitz’s seasons, it would have a better chance of sustaining itself during the summer than flashier shows, particularly if the network focuses its marketing on relaunching the show and appealing to beyond the show’s core fan base.
By utilizing summer, The CW would give Star-Crossed room to grow and the attention that it’s yet to received, while the addition of Star-Crossed would further solidify the message that The CW is serious about the summer. The more original programming the network brings to their summer lineup, the more eyes that’ll be exposed to fall drama advertising and the easier it’ll be for The CW to hit the ground running come October.
The marketing of Star-Crossed focused quite heavily on the romance between Lanter’s character and Teegarden’s character, making the series look like it dripped with romantic angst and that every other member of the cast would simply be orbiting their central relationship, only existing in service of or as an obstacle for their union. However, while the show does feature love triangles and romantic pining, seeing as how it’s telling the story of high school-aged kids, there’s more to Star-Crossed than meets the eye and said marketing focus might have cut the show off at the knees. Which is all the most frustrating since The CW has not been the network of Pretty White Kids with Problems for several seasons, instead becoming increasingly genre-focused with both its development and scheduling; Star-Crossed isn’t exactly hard science fiction, but its romantic trappings are merely an aspect of its identity, as the show is something of a loose allegory of race relations in America with touches of terrorism thrown in for good measure. It’s a show that, while not reaching as far or as deeply as other shows on the network, knows exactly who it is and what it wants to do, so to see an intelligent twist on what a “typical” CW drama looks like reduced to “look at this two beautiful people” was more than a little disappointing.
But mainly, Star-Crossed has potential seeping out of its ears and arguably has the most creative ground to gain out of any other drama on the network. There are so many places the show can go and so much to be mined from the conflicts between the Atrians (the show’s alien race) and the humans, especially if the show is willing to embrace the more serious side of itself and really use the history of world minority relations to its advantage. This is a show whose shaky (yet impressively chemistry-filled) central romance is dealing with decidedly adult issues rather than the plot demands of an anxious writers’ room or some preconceived notion of how long a couple in a teen drama can stay together without things getting boring; this is a show whose central premise has evolved into a morality tale showing the variations in social worldviews between those of different generations, the younger characters decidedly more accepting of the Atrians than the adults; this is a show that, if granted a second season and actually given a chance to succeed, could become a highly distinctive piece of the network’s drama slate, an ambitious look at discrimination and the paranoia that can build within a small town if left unchecked.
Star-Crossed may not be the highest rated drama on The CW or the most buzzed about, but it’s resiliently managed to survive being hamstrung every step of the way, from premiering against the Sochi Olympics to tackling a historically tough night for the network without much in the way of help to having the wrong impression of what it’s capable of doing being presented in its marketing. With The CW still in making baby steps toward becoming a stronger network, Star-Crossed could serve as a valuable tool, either in keeping Fridays afloat while the network focuses on rebuilding Mondays or shifting to the summer to increase the network’s scripted presence and earn itself a lion’s share of the marketing muscle. Either way, the show doesn’t deserve to be tossed out before given a chance at airing with one of The CW’s heavy hitters, something that would be a waste of a deceptively deep premise, a talented and enthusiastic young cast, and a world in need of much more exploring than 13 episodes can provide.
EDIT (Sunday, May 19th): On May 8th, Star-Crossed was cancelled by The CW. However, if you want to sign a petition regarding a second season, click here. To purchase a t-shirt in support of the show, click here.