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'The WC' Was Probably Too Accurate

Somewhere in Manhattan, you can press your ear to the cornerstone of a skyscraper and hear a faint but distinct whirring sound. Don't be alarmed -- it's just the body of Michigan J. Frog, spinning in his tiny shoebox grave.

Startling fans of mostly substandard television, Warner Bros.' WB network and CBS' UPN announced today that they would cease operations this coming fall, merging into a new and vaguely alarming-sounding entity known as The CW. As the occupants of the two bottom rungs of the increasingly rickety ladder of broadcast television, the networks' semi-unholy union seems like a concession to the reality that, even in a 500-channel universe, there's just not room for two cut-rate TV stations on the dial.

OK, I'm being unnecessarily mean here. (Mostly because, well, it's fun.) Over the past few years, both networks have managed to haul themselves partly out of a collective morass of bad shows and worse programming decisions. UPN remains the worst of the lot, given that roughly half its lineup involves people who make their living in their underwear, but it's managed to unearth and nurture a few gems like Everybody Hates Chris and That Ridiculously Good Teen Detective Show I'm Not Supposed to Mention. The WB, despite cancelling Angel for the brain-dead likes of Supernatural and Related, at least has Gilmore Girls, and Everwood and Smallville are both sorta good-ish now and then.

Ultimately, I think the combined CW will be good news for shows like these, if only because it'll leave less room for the sort of godawful tripe currently used to pad out the schedule around them. It sounds like the best shows from the WB and UPN (and, unfortunately, WWE Smackdown!) will be migrating to the new network. UPN's Dawn Ostroff, who deserves kudos for supporting Chris and Veronica Mars, will be in charge of the new network, and makes vague noises in the press release about seeking more quality programming for the combined channel. (The release also gives the distinct impression that a certain tiny blonde detective will be getting a third season, which can only be a good thing.)

Of course, it's also too easy to imagine things going the other way, leaving The CW the network equivalent of late-stage Jeff Goldblum from The Fly. I'm seeing sitcoms in which wacky down-home single mothers from Arkansas start up nail salons in the ghetto; a primetime soap opera about forbidden romance between the son of a pro wrestler and the daughter of a supermodel; and Star Trek: Starfleet Academy. ("You can understand a dilithium warp matrix, Dad -- but you'll never understand me!")

Then again, if The CW does ultimately implode amidst its own awfulness, it's still a boon for the TV-watching public: Instead of ignoring two lousy networks, we only have to ignore one. Even Michigan J. Frog would likely find that something worth singing about.


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