Post Scriptum: Humbling The WB

As the fall season approaches, The WB, once America’s foremost station for the adolescent nation, will usher in its final days until it merges with demographic buddy UPN.

My relationship with the WB has always been a love-hate venture, as I’m sure many of you old-school frog watchers can share.

As one of the few people who worshipped the netlet’s ability to give life to original teen programming back in the late nineties, I was saddened to watch it turn into an institution that left its nifty programming niche behind for mere facsimiles of hits of the past.

Not everyone will share this point of view; it is arguable that the WB has created shows of unprecedented quality in past years. Gilmore Girls and Everwood definitely stand out in my mind as gems of WB’s recent past, but the network’s inability to sustain said shows by maintaining consistent support for them and their crews (namely, the writers) has all but crippled their existence.

Gilmore is a perfect example. It supposedly exemplifies everything the network stands for, top-rated actors matched with high-quality writing and down to earth stories, plus television’s most enjoyable mom-daughter relationship—yet, the higher-ups couldn’t make a deal strong enough to keep the brain-hubbies of this prized program (The Palladinos) stuck to their claim to fame. Now Gilmore will be back, but without the arm and leg the Pals provided, and the quality of the show is what will be on the cutting block this fall. And lets not even mention the fans.

Don’t be alarmed if you’re having a wicked-dizzy case of deja-vu. I seem to recall an equally critically acclaimed show left in limbo some six years ago. Buffy’s Joss Whedon couldn’t make the WB cough up enough money to host the show for a sixth and seventh season, despite the fact that it was one of the pioneer statement makers for the network, and still remains such until this day. The same occurred with Buffy’s counterpart, Angel, which was also ditched due to ‘high production costs’ despite an outpouring of protest from fans that was matchless in vastness and devotion.

Anyone who was a fan of either show or The WB in the early days can see the remnants of the Whedon-success in the programs that are created today. Where do you think Superman acquired his made-for-TV gloss? Go back a few years to the inception of Froggy and you’ll see. Hell, watch Smallville today and you’ll see some familiar credit lines and faces. Some knockoff shows may have lasted longer than others (i.e. the blasphemous immortality of those Charmed sisters) but it doesn’t mean the initial inspiration wasn’t there, and that the remnants of shows past, used and abused wouldn’t be left behind.

That’s why, when I was informed of the way the network has decided to spend their final days this September, I felt somewhat valued as a fan. All of a sudden, dropping Angel for that One Tree Hill show, or worse keeping Seventh Heaven on its wavering life-support for yet another year, didn’t feel so horrible.

In the days leading up to end of the WB and subsequent creation of the CW, the former will air shows that gave rise to the smart-teen TV era that erupted back in the late nineties. Dawson, Buffy, Angel will come to life again—at least for a few hours, to bring us back to the days when intelligent teen drama was still brimming with the kind of hope and excitement that often accompanies fresh trends. Back when Marissa Cooper was just a weedy under-ten-year-old and Katie Holmes’ crazy-love was all about big-headed Dawson and Tom-less in nature. Way, way back to when the era of Agent Scully and Xena was coming to an end, only to segue that power to a younger, eagerly awaiting generation of female heroes.

Back when the little network that couldn’t, Dubba-dub-dubbed out its quality without mind of money or mainstream. Or tacky slogans, for that matter.

I remember those days well. And for what it’s worth, I’m glad the WB will too.

I can’t say I agree with the notion of the CW, or the decisions my little netlet has made through the years, but I won’t claim I’ll never tune in. I suppose that makes the kind of fan WB wanted once, and still seems to need in light of its again-wobbly identity.

The kind that will continue to Dubba-dub-dub against the odds.