September 10, 2008

The CW Pins Its Hopes on Privileged Teens

By Alan Pergament

A year ago, the CW opened the fall season with a new controversial series, "Gossip Girl," about rich high school kids in Manhattan growing up too fast.

Who would have thought a year later, that the CW -- which is carried on WNLO here -- would premiere two teen series that could play on the Disney Channel.

It was a little concerning when "90210," the spin-off of the 1990 Fox hit, "Beverly Hills 90210," premiered a week ago with an early scene suggesting that a star high school athlete was in his car having sex. That scene may have been one of the reasons the CW didn't allow critics to see the show before it premiered.

But as the two hours continued, the TV-14 series calmed down and actually painted a pretty tame PG-13 world where good-looking teens with money and smarts played the kind of childish and experimental games that many teens have been playing for generations.

Best of all, the parents, school principal Harry (Rob Estes) and working mom Debbie Wilson (Lori Loughlin), had some rules that daughter Annie (Shenae Grimes) and adopted black son Dixon (Tristan Wilds), accepted and almost seemed to appreciate.

Harry, who also is the principal of West Beverly Hills, also realized he was in danger of losing his credibility if he punished his children too harshly for something he did in high school.

In "Privileged," Joanna Garcia ("Reba") plays a Yale graduate and writer who is hired by a rich cosmetics mogul, Laurel Limoges (Anne Archer), to tutor her spoiled twin 16-year-old grandchildren, Rose (Lucy Kate Hale) and Sage (Ashley Newbrough).

Laurel initially seemed like an enabler, but by hour's end realized it is in the best interests of her grandchildren for them to get some discipline. The only question is whether it is too late.

The two new scripted series would seem to fit in the CW wheelhouse of seeking women viewers ages 18 through 34 at a time it needs to make a splash. That's also true of its only other new series, a reality show called "Stylista," which doesn't premiere until Oct. 29.

With wrestling gone from the lineup, the CW has moved the comedies "Everybody Hates Chris" and "The Game" to Friday, a low- viewing night that puts both at risk and where it also repeats "America's Top Model."

The CW also has sublet its Sunday time periods to shows produced by Media Rights Capital and plans to air repeats of "90210" on Wednesdays through Oct. 22. In other words, it is only carrying eight hours of its own original programming every week.

That has led to some gossip that The CW might not be long for this world if "Gossip,""90210" and "Privileged" don't quickly strike a chord with viewers. Without further ado, here's a quick review of the two new scripted shows.

"90210," 8 p. m. Tuesday

The Wilsons moved from Kansas back to dad's former home in Beverly Hills to take care of his salty mother, Tabitha (Jessica Walter of "Arrested Development"), a former actress who had a healthy love life she still loves talking about. Dad is now the principal, which gives his good-looking kids added reason to worry about being accepted.

You'll Like It If: You're into nostalgia -- Jennie Garth and Shannen Doherty of the original series play friends -- at the same time you enjoy getting a window into the teenage world of text messages, vicious blogging, cheating, lying and being spoiled rotten. And you enjoy watching some parents who know -- or at least think they know -- how to control their kids.

You'll Hate It If: It isn't terribly original but there wasn't too much to hate. If anything, the tone was sweeter than expected.

Outlook: For what it is, it gets a decent grade. Wilson and Wilds make their characters likable, Estes and Loughlin make their characters strong, Walters provides comic relief and several other secondary characters have the potential to cause the serious trouble that is needed to keep the show interesting. With the help of a strong musical soundtrack, it's off to a better-than-expected start and may strike a chord with teenagers. Review: 3 stars (Out of 4)

"Privileged," 9 p. m. Tuesday

Ivy League graduate Megan Smith (Garcia) tutors smart, spoiled, rich kids and tries to enjoy life and make contacts in Palm Beach, where the sister that hates her still lives. Unfortunately, one of the twins is a schemer who is afraid that Megan will become her sister's new best friend.

You'll Like It If: You enjoy seeing how the rich live, relate to Cinderella and are taken by the adorable Garcia.

You'll Hate It If: You don't feel so privileged to watch still another series about rich kids who behave badly because their guardians didn't give them enough love or direction.

Outlook: After a very slow start establishing the premise, it had some surprising and warm moments that made it much more appealing than expected. Review: 2 1/2 stars.

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Speaking of WNLO, it carried Roger Federer's straight set victory over Andy Murray on Monday for the U. S. Open tennis title after CBS allowed its affiliate, Channel 4, to move it to its sister station and carry the local news instead of the match that was postponed from Sunday due to rain. The decision was made late Monday. Though Channel 4 tried to alert viewers to the move during its news, few viewers seemed to realize or care. The match had very low ratings on WNLO. The move also meant the sports event wasn't carried in HD since WNLO isn't in HD on local cable.

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