NY Times article on WB trends

I found this in the NY Times. This is a very long article so I am only including the sections relevant to Roswell. To read the article in its entirety click the link above.

December 12, 1999

Running a Network Like a `30s Film Studio
by Margy Rochlin

But what if this season isn’t about the waning of a trend but about the entrenching of a network that runs itself as if it were a self-contained television theme park? Over at WB, a trio of freshman shows are doing well: “Popular,” “Roswell” and “Angel,” the last an offshoot of WB’s flagship, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Of course, none of the new shows have gone above No. 107 in the ratings, but by WB standards they’re hits.

Each of the three has growing buzz and critical support. Each is harmonious in tone with the returning WB standard-bearers: “Dawson’s Creek,” “Felicity,” “Charmed” and “Buffy.” Each is set in the present day in one of three WB preferred locations: high school, college or flunky-job-early-stage adulthood. Each lets an ensemble of three to six characters wrestle with rotating stock problems: best friend betrayals, crushes from afar, blossoming romantic feelings, dwindling romantic feelings, whether or not to go all the way and parents who just can’t seem to grasp the genuine breadth and gravity of their kids’ mini-tempests. (There is a pic taken from Roswell with Jason, Katherine, and Brendan)

(In the case of “Roswell” and “Angel,” these predicaments can be presented as both real and metaphorical. The former is about three stranded-on-earth extraterrestrial teenagers, while the latter involves an introspective vampire who hopes to offset 200-plus years of neck-biting barbarity by working as a do-gooder for hire in Los Angeles.)

Complementing these traits is the contract player quality of the various casts. The network achieved this by hiring from what Lewis Goldstein, the other co-president of marketing, calls the WB “stable of stars.” By this, Goldstein means young, but perhaps inexperienced, actors who’ve turned in a memorable guest performance or been the third or fourth lead on another WB series, who are then shuttled from show to show and, occasionally, if ready, promoted out of the chorus.

It’s an idea modeled after film studios in the 1930s, “where you’d see Frank Morgan in
‘The Wizard of Oz’ and in the next movie he’d be a Park Avenue sophisticate,” said Bibb.

“Right now, I think everybody is saying, ‘I want to make sense of what I’m watching,”‘ he
added. “I find a great comfort in the History Channel. When I turn it on, I know I’m probably going to see something about Nazi Germany or the Pyramids, but at least I know what I’m going to get.”

For WB’s comfort recipe, remove scratchy footage of Der Fuhrer and substitute a love
triangle, say, or brooding close-ups of an actor whom viewers have seen before. The
whole “stable of stars” concept still has a corny ring, but it ensures a consistent,
all-important familiarity, which is perhaps WB’s shrewdest maneuver.

For example, WB didn’t have to introduce its target 12-to-34 female demographic to Jason Behr as Max, the sensitive-guy alien lead on “Roswell”; they’d already met him as a preening Don Juan last season on “Dawson’s Creek.” Before Sara Rue made the
transformation into the acceptance-hungry Carmen on “Popular,” she was a wheelchair-bound bully on “Zoe, Duncan, Jack and Jane.”

(I’m going to skip part of the article here.)

“This year our flow is exceptionally strong,” Kellner agreed. In fact, a recent poll revealed that of the 20 television shows most popular with teen-age girls, 10 are on WB.

Not that WB is blunderproof. Devoting most of its meager promotion budget to “Roswell,” the network ignored this season’s real breakway hit, “Popular,” which teenagers are now watching more than “Friends.” Sitcom success still eludes them. And though WB boasts about being the network that gives imperfect shows time to fix themselves, its patch job on its hourlong drama “Hyperion Bay” was adding to the cast Carmen Electra?

Then he offered a final WB bylaw: “Never fight the audience. You’ll lose every time.”