Arrow, the progenitor of the Arrowverse, is coming to an end. The Arrowverse itself, however, is stronger than ever. Not only has Batwoman recently begun airing, but the CW also has new Arrowverse shows like Superman and Lois and Green Arrow and the Canaries coming down the pipeline. As exciting as this might be for DC Comics fans, it might not be the best course of action for the network. While the Arrowverse has been an undeniable success for the CW, relying too heavily on these shows for programming run's the risk of the network losing its own identity. This isn't helped by many of its non-Arrowverse hits coming to an end. Here's a look at the various ways that Arrowverse dependency could come back to bite the CW.
Outside of the Arrowverse shows, the CW is known mainly as a network with young-adult-oriented programming. This was shown namely in its previous niche of vampire and occult-based series'. Examples of this included The Vampire Diaries and its related spinoffs, as well as the venerable Supernatural, the latter of which is finally coming to an end after fifteen seasons. This in particular signals the end of an era for the CW, as Supernatural was one of its most defining shows. Other, more off-kilter and quirky titles that the network aired in recent years include Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Jane the Virgin, and iZombie. The latter was itself based on a comic book from DC/Vertigo, but one that was unrelated to the DC Universe. These shows have now all ended, as has the short-lived Valor. Even The 100, an adaptation of a young adult novel series, is soon to begin its final season.
To be fair, there are some successes with new shows at the network. Roswell, New Mexico, and to a slightly lesser extent, All-American, have been fair-to-decent successes in ratings, with the latter recently reaching new rating heights. That's to say nothing of the breakout hit of Riverdale, which bleeds both a quirky aesthetic and general sense of being tailor-made for the CW. There is still an issue with even these, however. Roswell is an adaptation, the second of the Roswell High novels, and thus, essentially a reboot/remake of the popular Roswell series from the late '90s/early 200s. Riverdale is an adaptation (granted, a very loose one) of the iconic Archie Comics, while the upcoming Walker series is a remake of the well-known Walker Texas Ranger. There's also the remake of the 1980s soap opera Dynasty that airs on the channel, and the upcoming reboot of the 1980s film The Lost Boys as a TV show for the CW. There's also the reboot of the popular show Charmed that airs on the CW. It would seem that the network's only hope outside of superheroes is to adapt/remake other existing properties. The network certainly doesn't seem to be trying to branch out of this mold, and even adaptations such as Riverdale are phased through a sort of filter to blend into its aesthetic. It definitely seems like the network is relying less on creative ideas, but, if its goldmine begins to crumble, will it have to rethink its current path?
Superhero TV Fatigue
Though it's been a highly speculated bubble for films, the possibility of superhero media fatigue is definitely possible on television. This is especially true on a network that hosts so many of them in one spot. Counting the soon to end Arrow, and not counting the upcoming DC shows, the CW currently airs a total of six DC superhero TV shows, many of which are at over four seasons long. If the universe continues to add shows beyond the two that are already planned, viewers may simply dip, no longer interested in following the Arrowverse. While it could be argued that this hasn't happened to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (yet), there's a much bigger commitment to watching numerous TV shows, as opposed to a series of movies that are at most around two hours long.
There are also the DC superhero shows that air on the DC Universe streaming app. These shows, namely Swamp Thing and Doom Patrol, have tones and writing that attract a much different audience than the young adults typically watching the CW shows. The writing, direction, special effects, and general quality have generally been seen as vastly superior in the DC Universe productions, as well. Plus, there will be cosmic DC superhero shows for Green Lantern and Adam Strange airing on HBO Max. Given the studio behind them, these shows will likely have the budget and quality matching, if not far surpassing, the DC Universe shows, and utterly eclipsing the comparatively pedestrian CW affairs. The budget issue is already obvious, as the CW stretches its budget for these DC shows thread-thin, with the result being effects for characters like Supergirl, Gorilla Grodd, and King Shark that are only deemed passable because of their being on a niche TV network. With that being the case, why would viewers continue watching the Arrowverse for their DC TV fix, when they could instead watch more highly rated shows with the production values of actual movies? With competitor Marvel having Disney money now backing its TV shows, it only makes sense that people would have more interest in the DC shows that match in quality. Thus, the Arrowverse foundation that the CW has begun to build itself on could quickly crumble.
It definitely seems like a gamble for the network to seemingly hedge its bets on the superhero bandwagon, especially if it detracts from its brand's overall identity. Said identity is already becoming dependent on adapting other works, and it seems that the CW is simply being brushed aside among the growing wave of prestige television. Granted, it could be argued that such fare simply isn't the CW's style, but outside of superheroes, what is the CW's style?
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