SUPERNATURAL, SMALLVILLE—VICTIMS OF CW’S BAIT and SWITCH?

Fans of the CW’s Smallville and Supernatural were disappointed to learn that their nearly two-month wait to see new episodes of their favorite shows has been extended for another...

Fans of the CW’s Smallville and Supernatural were disappointed to learn that their nearly two-month wait to see new episodes of their favorite shows has been extended for another week.

Okay, not so much “disappointed” as “nearly driven to complete homicidal insanity.”

And, really, why shouldn’t they be?

The CW announced this change in scheduling one day earlier, and to make matters worse, the change was made in order to replay the same shows that aired on Thursday. Confused yet?

Apparently, the network’s entertainment president Dawn Ostroff was concerned The Vampire Diaries and Nikita wouldn’t fare well against network television’s behemoth American Idol, so in anticipation of a massive ratings dip, they hastily pulled the plug on Supernatural and Smallville in an effort to give their favorite shows another showing.

Only, the massive ratings dip didn’t happen. And, that may now be the least of the CW’s worries. The fanbase of Supernatural and Smallville may be small when compared to shows on larger networks, but they have pretty much been the bread and butter of this tiny network. How else to account for 10 seasons of Smallville? Or for Supernatural‘s ratings increases at a time when most shows are struggling to hang on to even their most loyal fans? Recently, Supernatural fans beat out Bones, Castle, Chuck, How I Met Your Mother and Smallville to win the first ever TV Guide Cover Poll, the trophy for which was December 13’s TV Guide cover.

The lack of notice of the schedule change—not even long enough for DVRs to register that they were not recording Friday night’s usual line-up—reeks of the ol’ bait and switch scam. And here’s the thing about scams: people don’t like to be tricked. Potential new viewers for Supernatural who were drawn to the little-show-that-could by the magazine cover win and recent critical acclaim will more than likely not be back next week, believing no network this poorly run could possibly have anything worth watching. This means that the Thursday night network darlings may scavenge some viewers (or not), but all the advertising leading up to tonight’s Smallville and Supernatural episodes will be for nothing. Once momentum is lost, it is all but impossible to get it back. The fact that the CW website has pulled the trailers for the upcoming episodes of these shows has only fed conspiracy theories about the shows’ untimely demise.

All this makes fans of these shows very angry. And you wouldn’t like them when they’re angry. And thanks to this little thing we like to call the Internet, those angry fans have a handy way to quickly organize and protest.

This is where the bad news for the CW (and its fearless leader Ms. Ostroff) comes in: Remember those legions of fans who have kept one show going for a decade and who out-voted better viewed, better funded and better advertised shows on larger networks for the magazine cover? They’re still out there. They’re mad. And they’re doing something about it.

There are already calls to boycott anything and everything on the CW that isn’t Smallville or Supernatural. Fans of both shows have already reported calling CW headquarters to angrily vent and demand retribution. Hostile emails have been sent. And that’s just in the first 24 hours.

Ms. Ostroff has yet to learn what better con artists already know—scams don’t work in the long run. The backlash always outweighs the temporary gain (that’s why con artists need to be on the move), which makes this a very curious decision if made by a president intending to keep her job.

One final question: If Ms. Ostroff was so sure of the CW’s Thursday night line-up’s demise in the face of American Idol, what did she plan to do in the coming weeks when they would be up against the same insurmountable odds? Run The Vampire Diaries and Nikita EVERY Thursday and Friday?

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