Somehow, when none of us were looking, The CW became the preeminent geek network. I know. I’m as surprised as anyone, but maybe we shouldn’t be. The CW was created when both networks that aired Buffy the Vampire Slayer merged, after all. But still, how did this happen?
The CW launched in 2006 with shows like Gilmore Girls, America’s Next Top Model, Seventh Heaven, and One Tree Hill. Geekish programming had a small foothold on Thursday with Smallville and Supernatural, but the rest was tween girl bait (except for Friday Night Smackdown, aimed at… whoever watches pro wresting). One of their only two new shows was Hidden Palms, a wannabe The O.C. And they continued that way for awhile, making glossy teen soaps like Gossip Girl and 90210.
Contrast that with their current lineup, which includes Star-Crossed, The Tomorrow People, The Originals, Beauty and the Beast, Arrow, The 100, Supernatural, and Vampire Diaries. Every single one of those shows is either science fiction or horror-fantasy. Even Reign, a completely ahistorical romp through Mary, Queen of Scots’ french years, has a subplot about a blood cult that worships some sort of vampirish creature in the woods. The only old CW holdouts I can find on the schedule are America’s Next Top Model (which has to be a cash cow given its syndication deals), the Gilmore-esque Hart of Dixie, and Who’s Line Is It Anyway? That schedule is an unrivaled geek paradise. Not even Syfy can compete.
Some of the new shows are glossy teen soaps like the old shows, but it’s way more fun to watch a lot of pretty teen angst when half of them are aliens who crash-landed on our planet seven years ago. Or have psionic powers because they are hyper-evolved as well as hot. Most of the writers at GeekTyrant watch (and love) Arrow, which is a much better comic book series than Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and we’re definitely curious about the upcoming Flash. Our writer Mick has been banging the drum for The Tomorrow People pretty loudly, and I’m about to make the case that you should be watching The 100.
Here’s the premise: About 100 years after a nuclear war made the Earth uninhabitable, what remains of humanity is living on a spaceship called the Ark, orbiting the planet until it is safe to return. The Ark and its resources are tightly governed by a small executive council. For adults, every crime is a capital offense, and juvenile offenders are held prisoner until their 18th birthday. But the Ark’s life support systems aren’t working, and they are running out of oxygen generations earlier than planned, so they send the juvenile prisoners, all 100 of them, down to the surface to see if things have cooled off enough to return.
The show splits its time between fighting amongst the adult council up in space, where the more extreme officials want to start population reduction, and teenagers running riot on earth, with conflict between Clarke, who is very The Girl Who Owned a City (If you get that reference I will kiss you on the lips at Comic-Con. Ok, not really.), and Bellamy, who is a very, very bad person. Three episodes in, Bellamy seems to have the upper hand, because teenagers are dumbasses. There are also radiation super-charged mutant species to fight off, and maybe some humans who missed the bus to the Ark.
The action on the ground is a little bit Lost-ish, but without the mystical elements that guarantee an unsatisfying conclusion. The explanation for the weirdo creatures is built into the premise. And a bunch of attractive, hormonal teens who have already been proven to make bad decisions are always going to get themselves into enough scrapes to keep things interesting. Plus, the evil, population culling Vice-Chancellor is played by the amazing Henry Ian Cusick, who, luckily, isn’t a mustache-twirling villain. All of the conflict on the Ark comes from very principled people following the logic of their ideals, which is a lot more interesting than outright narcissism-driven malevolence.
It is a very fun show, and it is on TV tonight. So after you watch Arrow (you are watching Arrow, right?), keep the TV on to see if The 100 is your bag. If post-apocalyptic survival shows aren't your thing, I can also make the case for Star-Crossed. Or Reign (although that's a so-bad-it's-good kind of thing). S.E. Hinton is all over twitter making the case for Supernatural. There's a little something for every kind of geek on The CW, which is weird and surprising and also kind of amazing.
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