WB shuts off its lights: While CW gears up to take its place


By Ryan Rakowsky

The WB, the “only network directly targeted to America’s young adults,” is closing shop after more than a decade on the air. This fall, Warner Brothers is shutting down its network, as is the CBS-owned UPN. In this age of corporate belt-tightening and profit-maximizing, both parent companies have given up on their fledgling networks, which have been losing money for years. It was big news when the companies announced this January that WB and UPN would be joining forces to create a brand new broadcast network called The CW (C for CBS, W for Warner Brothers).

CW will now be home to each networks’ most successful series. “7th Heaven,” “Gilmore Girls,” “Smallville,” “Supernatural” and “One Tree Hill” will make their way over from The WB. UPN’s “Veronica Mars,” “America’s Next Top Model,” “Everybody Hates Chris,” “All of Us” and “Girlfriends” will also survive the transition.

What we’re left with is a greatest hits network. Well, sort of. The WB, for one, has certainly seen better days. While few people would make the claim that UPN was a great network, WB at one time came pretty darn close.

I’m sorry to say I only started watching The WB in recent years, after discovering reruns of the network’s “Dawson’s Creek” on cable. Some friends of mine had watched the show in high school, and I remember how lame I thought it was at the time. Every Wednesday night, it was appointment viewing for so many of my classmates. And I do mean every Wednesday. Bleh.

When I heard TBS was running every episode leading up to the series finale in May of 2003, I decided to see what all the buzz had been about. What I soon found out is that the series’ intense hype was justified, and that my preconceptions about the show were wrong. “Dawson’s Creek” wasn’t some chick-flick show just for girls, as I had been so sure that it was. Instead, it was a captivating, well-written and rawly emotional show, and one that had at least one unquestionable appeal. “Dawson’s” presented the high school experience we all wish we had. (And for those who doubt the brilliance of the show, especially the skeptical guys, you should watch at least the first season before you knock it.)

In one of its promotional videos, “Dawson’s Creek” was described as “the series that helped define The WB and gave a generation a new voice.” This is, if anything, an understatement. “Dawson’s Creek” is, after all, the show that gave WB its personality, the first show that comes to mind when WB is mentioned. Gaining respect for WB’s defining show led me to finally finding an appreciation for the network itself.

WB apparently had many fine shows over the years, several of which I have seen very little of. Cult-like fan bases existed for critical darlings “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel,” “Felicity,” “Roswell,” and “Gilmore Girls.”

Old WB image campaigns feature the young stars of the network’s signature series huddled together on couches and goofing off for the camera, or looking pensively into the distance on The WB’s backlot, surrounded by light grids and ladders and other production equipment. These videos, backed by nostalgic, cheerful music, lead to a feeling of undeniable hope and possibility.

And it’s that feeling that I will miss most after The WB exits the airwaves. So, goodnight to the WB, and good luck to the CW. The new network has a lot to live up to.


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