September 18, 2006

The WB Bids Adieu

Sunday September 17, 2006 marked the final day of programming for The WB network, which has been airing since 1995. The network, along with UPN were created in the mid-1990s as a reaction the success of the up and coming Fox network. Well, the reaction is over for both The WB and UPN. UPN ceased its regular programming at the start of September, with little more than a hiccup, its shows just disappeared in favor of the new MyNetwork (known as My 9 in my area, since it airs on channel 9).

The WB has built up to have a rather classy close to its programming. In honor of some of its most popular and landmark shows, their final five hours of programming were dedicated to the premiere episodes of four of its past shows. In between the shows they aired old show promos and station identification logos.

The evening started early, at 5pm, following football. The first show to air was the premiere of Felicity, originally airing in 1998. I never watched the show when it was on, but I remember a lot of people talking about it. I enjoyed the premiere, and I can understand why so many people got hooked on it. Keri Russell had a very charismatic small screen presence, and the attraction to her and her character was quickly apparent. If I had started watching it, back in the day, I probably would have watched it on a regular basis. The premise is a good one, and the writing was good. This was the big break that would help JJ Abrams begin his ascent to Hollywood stardom, moving on the Alias and Lost, recently making his big screen debut with Mission: Impossible III.

The evening moved onto Angel, from 1999. This is a show that I picked up on with season 2, the same time I started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So, I never got to see this when it originally aired, of course,I have since seen it on DVD, but this was my first viewing on broadcast television. It was a show that was cut down before its prime, and strikes me as an instantly entertaining show. This premiere brought together characters we had come to know on Buffy, along with some new entrants to the mythology. Watching this made me long for the days when I looked forward to new episodes each week. The show was created by Joss Whedon, another man who has been making a splash in Hollywood, and whose star will hopefully continue to grow. It starred David Boreanaz, who has gone on to star on Fox's Bones which recently began its second season.

Next up was Joss Whedon's first television creation, and one of the greatest genre shows ever, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, from 1997. The show starred Sarah Michelle Gellar, in a new take on the character that was originated by Kristy Swanson in the 1992 film. This was a two hour premiere that saw Buffy moving to a new town, which happened to be a focal point for vampire activity, meeting some new friends and beginning a battle with the Master, looking to return to the surface with his minions. Again, I didn't watch this show from the start, but as soon as I did, a couple of years in, I was instantly hooked. So, much like Angel, this was the first time I have seen this on broadcast television. It was fun reliving this premiere and just how enjoyable the series was as a whole. Many of the actors have gone on to be featured in other projects, so this could be credited as launching a few careers. It was also created by Joss Whedon, who also wrote the original film, although he was not very happy with how that had turned out. Fortunately he was given the opportunity to rectify that with this excellent series, which ran for seven years.

The evening came to a close with the seminal coming of age series, which began its run in 1998, Dawson's Creek. Tonight marked the first episode I have ever seen of it, and it will probably be my last. If I watched in 1998, I may have liked it, but watching it now I just could not get into it, an I found the characters to be somewhat annoying. The one thing I did like about it were the movie references, being a big movie guy myself, I got a kick out of it. This marked the final show that The WB will ever air. The series was created by Kevin Williamson, who was also behind the 1990s horror revival film Scream, along with Wes Craven.

As their broadcast time came to a close, they aired a montage of familiar faces from their shows of the years ending with Michigan J. Frog, doffing his top hat as the words "Thank You" appeared on the screen. This final appearance of the frog comes one year after the network claimed the toon mascot to be dead and buried.

The WB affiliate in my area was WPIX 11, which followed the fadeout of the frog with a montage of their Channel 11 logos through the years, beginning with their original logo from the 1960s, and everything from there leading up to the new CW11 logo as the moved into the first official CW broadcast of the News at 10.

It was a classy way to close shop. They paid a tribute to some of the shows that brought the network to prominence in its early days, showing they did not forget who they owed for much of the success that they had.

As for the future, The WB has merged with UPN to become The CW. They have taken the best of the two networks to hopefully create a better overall lineup as the move into their debut season. They have added a few promising shows to the lineup to help fill out the week's worth of programming. I look forward to the future, as there are a few shows that I have liked that survived the merger, so be sure to take a look at my preview of the new CW season.

Let me close this by saying goodbye to the WB and their years of programming that have entertained me and millions of others. I salute you in your classy sign off. You may not have been my favorite network, but you have some shows that will stand the test of time.


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