Sadly, no. Despite being presented with the tantalizing prospect of naming a television station after a toilet, the planned combination of the WB and CBS' UPN network will, instead, invert the initials and go by the moniker "The CW." Which is a truly craptacular name. It brings to mind "the Country & Western network" or, just simply, "The CoW." Though since one-half of the partnership did spend the better part of a decade trying to get viewers to refer to it as "The Frog," I guess the latter option might be right up their alley.
The combination apparently surprised some, but it is clearly a long-overdue move...so long-overdue that it probably comes about five years too late. The WB's once-extensive stable of youth-oriented cult favorites (Buffy, Dawson's, Felicity) is now mostly depleted, and what few franchises they have left with even a modicum of success (Gilmores, Smalville, Charmed) are all either on their very last legs, or getting darned close to it. UPN, meanwhile, was built on Star Trek and wrestling, with the former franchise having petered out quickly in its last incarnation, and the latter seemingly headed into another downward trough in its multi-decadal cycle of popularity.
Nonetheless, merging what have long-been two "half-networks" into one whole does hold substantial advantages. The most notable of these is that, by converting affiliates in the many markets that currently only have one or the other, and by picking and choosing the best flagships in each market where they currently compete, the CW will finally be positioned to have something like 95% market penetration. Finally granted that scale, and with a combined line-up that could be every bit as respectable in terms of quality as Fox or, these days, NBC, there just might be a chance for this to catch fire.
Taking a gander at the properties the CW will be inheriting, here's how I'd configure the line-up, were I in Dawn Ostroff's shoes:
8 p.m. - Smallville
9 p.m. - Veronica Mars
This one seems to me like a no-brainer pairing. The first is the most commercially successful property the new station will own, despite its position in that crowded Thursday night competition. The second is the most artistically successful property, but it has yet to find its audience. And both appeal to much the same demographic. So you put them together, and hope Clark fans discover Ronnie. And since Veronica Mars tilts a bit more female in audience, it also makes decent counter-program during the half of the year when it would be up against Monday Night Football. Can't be any worse than going up against Lost week after week.
8 p.m. - Gilmore Girls
9 p.m. - One Tree Hill
Keep the Lorelais where they are. After Smallville, it's the second-most successful WB franchise, so there's no need to muck with it. But OTH does certainly seem a more appropriate pairing than its current partner, Supernatural. But this is probably the last season for both the denizens of Stars Hollow, Conn. and Tree Hill, N.C., so the new network is going to have to milk them for all they can.
8 p.m. Supernatural
9 p.m. Beauty and the Geek
Perhaps an odd pairing, but it serves a purpose. Supernatural can draw some Lost fans who currently have to sit through weak lead-ins. Beauty and the Geek, meanwhile, is great, dumb fun, and perfect counter-programming for those viewers who don't find ponderous shaggy dog stories to be their cup of tea.
8 p.m. - Everybody Hates Chris
8:30 p.m. - Reba
9 p.m. - Everwood
Yes, I know what you're thinking. How the hell can those three shows be matched together? Well, my observation is that it's been years since Thursday nights have had a strong block of family-friendly faire. While CBS continues to ride the Survivor/CSI juggernaut, and NBC hopes the adult humor of My Name Is Earl and The Office leads them back to the promised land, why not steal a page from the late Brandon Tartikoff -- the man who invented "must see TV" -- and put together a slate of culturally diverse shows that kids and their parents wouldn't be embarrassed to watch together? Two decades ago, it was the Huxtables, followed by the Keatons. Today, it can be the Rocks, followed by the Harts -- the two most successful sitcoms ever produced by UPN and the WB, respectively -- followed by the most traditional family-oriented drama left in the WB stable, now that the Camden clan will (thankfully) be going off to the REAL 7th Heaven.
8 p.m. - WWE Smackdown!
7 p.m. - Love Inc.
7:30 p.m. - One on One
8 p.m. - Girlfriends
8:30 pm. - All of Us
9 p.m. - America's Top Model
It would be unprecedented, but I think it makes total sense. On the night when all the other networks are looking to cater to middle-aged, upper middle class white women, take advantage of UPN's slate of "urban" programming by concentrating just the best and most commercial successful into one big three hour block designed to appeal to young black women.
Getting the shitcan: All of Us, Blue Collar TV, Charmed, Cuts, Eve, Half & Half, Living With Fran, Related, South Beach, Twins, What I Like About You. No great losses there.
Now, of course, this assumes no NEW programming, which obviously isn't very likely. If Ostroff wants to break some ground here, she might want to finally abandon the old protectionist saw that dictates that British shows can only be imported by PBS, or else must be remade for American audiences. If Americans can accept Hugh Grant and Kate Beckinsale at the movies, then why wouldn't they accept Ricky Gervais and Sarah Alexander in their homes? Similarly, if Friends and Buffy the Vampire Slayer can play on that side of the pond, then why couldn't Peep Show or Marion & Geoff do well on this side?
Or, if she wants to be even bolder, she might take notice of the fact the number one rated network last summer wasn't ABC or CBS. It was Univision, a station that still routinely beats both UPN and the WB. HBO experimented this past year with an import of the Argentinian drama Epitafios. Might this be the time for a Spanish-language show on regular American network T.V.? When you're sitting in a distant fifth place, it might not hurt to try.
Addendum: The Chicago Tribune's Maureen Ryan offers her own version of the ideal CW hybrid line-up here.