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Fall Season Sorting into Winners and, er, Not-Winners

Full season pick-up for 'Arrow' latest good news for sci-fi this season

By

Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen

Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen in Arrow.

Jack Rowand/The CW
Updated October 29, 2012

While Revolution's future looked iffy coming into the 2012 fall season, everyone who previewed Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim's pilot for Arrow was pretty confident it would be a hit.

And so The CW's pick-up of a full season for the archery-driven superhero drama was, as opposed to the pick-up for the emerging hit NBC postapocalypse drama, almost a foregone conclusion.

A Gold Star for Arrow

Arrow's pick-up, adding the "back nine" to give the series a full season of 22 episodes, has solid numbers behind it. The premiere drew 4.1 million viewers, huge for The CW. In fact it the network's most watched telecast of any show in three years, and its most-watched premiere since the bow of The Vampire Diaries. Almost as important, Arrow held onto its audience in the age 18-34 and 18-49 demographics into its second week.

Stephen Amell's tweeted response was jubilant. "Best way to start a Monday? Getting picked up for your back nine episodes. Thwick!"

Meanwhile, the network is crediting its system of staggered premieres, that spread out its debut episodes across October and interspersed among the other, larger networks' program launches.

"Our strategy of rolling out our new fall schedule later in the year really paid off for The CW on several levels, especially with Arrow," crowed CW President Mark Pedowitz in a statement. (Yes, you can crow in a statement.) "I'm proud of the quality of Arrow and I'm happy we'll be able to share more of it with viewers."

A Few Troubled Futures

So far, this season has has polarized into shows with solid performance and those that are already being talked about in hushed tones and with shaking heads. The five freshmen series form a microcosm of the whole: while Arrow and Revolution have been clapped on the back by their networks, the remaining new genre series are getting less enthusiasm from their networks.

The wacky sci-fi sitcom premise of the season, ABC's The Neighbors, had three more scripts ordered a couple weeks ago, and more recently two more underperforming sci-fi/fantasy dramas, Beauty and the Beast at The CW and ABC's 666 Park Avenue, got similarly tepid orders for three and two new scripts respectively.

In the past, tiny orders for new scripts have not been a good sign. And in fact TV By the Numbers, which last year declared certain doom for A Gifted Man months before CBS had the stones to pull the plug, has already marked 666 Park (and Last Resort, which also got two more scripts ordered) as "certain to be canceled" by the time the end of the season rolls around in May.

Solid Futures for Returning Sci-Fi/Fantasy

On the other side of the equation, the web site's number-crunching algorithm had reckoned most of the rest of the season's genre series -- Once Upon a Time, Revolution, Arrow, The Vampire Diaries, Supernatural, and Grimm -- as shoo-ins for renewal, Revolution and Arrow being the only newbies so clearly on track numbers-wise. The top take-away from assessments like this is that established sci-fi/fantasy series seem to know what they're doing this year.

The other two newcomers, Beauty and the Beast and The Neighbors, are still up for grabs.

At least Fringe, now in its proverbial fifth-and-final, doesn't have to worry; even if it gets lousy ratings this season Fringe will go down in history as a cult classic.

Plumbing the Deep DC Well

What's in Arrow's future? One of the weirdnesses of the series's CW superhero predecessor, Smallville, was that efforts to draw on the vast universe of DC characters often necessitated introducing a teen version and, as a consequence, a twisted or entirely new version of the character's origin story.

No such precept is required on Arrow, and so Berlanti and Gugenheim are a bit more free to interact with DC heroes and other characters from the comic books without having to conjure underage versions of them. Reports have the producers suggesting that future episodes will feature at least 10 DC Comics characters that will appear on the series.

The roster so far includes: Felicity Smoak-Raymond (Emily Bett Rickards) as the manager of a computer software company who takes up the fight to keep Starling City clean; Walter Steele (Colin Salmon) as the new CEO of Queen Industries; Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell) as a villainous archer and member of the deadly League of Assassins; China White (Kelly Hu) as the leader of a large drug cartel that supplied the bulk of heroin to the Pacific Rim; Constantine Drakon (Darren Shahlavi), a Greek assassin and one of the most feared martial artists in the DC Universe; Floyd Lawton (Deadshot), an assassin, who had one of his eyes gouged out by Green Lantern; Black Canary, as world-class martial artist Dinah Lance (Katie Cassidy) who assumes the costume and identity of her mother, the original Black Canary; The Huntress, a vigilante who secretly sabotages her father's crime family; Deathstroke (Jeffrey C. Robinson), genetically augmented by the government to be the perfect soldier; Speedy, the ward and sidekick of Green Arrow, is now Oliver Queen's sister Thea Queen (Willa Holland), who takes up the bow later in the series.

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