It's been a rough couple of years for the CW. While execs tout victories in certain small and obscure demos, the fact remains that the network regularly gets outdrawn by more than one basic cable network. Despite that, there was a sense of optimism as the network unveiled its 2008-2009 schedule yesterday.

Like with ABC, there were few surprises on the CW schedule. Most of the established shows will be returning, and those that were canceled will not be missed (with the exception of dear departed "Aliens in America"). Even "Reaper," which has been on the bubble for nearly the entire 2007-08 television season, earned a reprieve. It will return midseason for a truncated 13 episode sophomore year.

Return to West Beverly High

What about new shows? The most notable of the new series, "90210," has been buzzed about for weeks, and thus its inclusion on the schedule was a foregone conclusion. It will be joined in the fall by two other announced new shows, as well as four that are yet to be announced.

Although there is much stability, there will be a slight change to the topography of the CW weekly schedule come the fall. Sunday nights, home last season to dreadful low-rated fare like "Online Nation" and "CW Now" is being placed squarely in the somewhat capable hands of Media Rights Capital, a production company/deep pocketed funder which also has a movie deal with the Warner Bros. film division. MRC will be handling the entire Sunday night lineup, and that is where those four mysterious, yet to be announced series will take up residence. All that is known at this time is that there will be two comedies and two dramas. Whatever they are, they will most definitely be an upgrade on the night. How could they not be?

What about the rest of the week?

Fall Lineup

Monday nights will be home to returning favorites "Gossip Girl" and "One Tree Hill" (which, popularity aside still has no right to have been renewed over "Veronica Mars" a year ago). "Gossip Girl" was one of the more notable debuts from last season, and should likely continue to enjoy success in season two. It makes a killing in the teenage demo, which CW execs like to point out at every possible opportunity, but its overall audience is still CW-sized small.

The much anticipated "Beverly Hills, 90210" spinoff, aptly titled "90210," will be one of the two new series that will compose the CW's Tuesday night schedule. With a built in fanbase, recognizable faces and unimaginable buzz, the series seems destined to become a surefire hit. The folks at the CW certainly hope so, because with several of their signature series' growing older, they need one. It will be followed at 9 by "Surviving the Filthy Rich," another series tailor made for the CW's target demo of young women. It will chronicle the adventures of a Yale-educated struggling journalist as she takes a job as a live-in tutor for a pair of spoiled girls in the luxurious Palm Beach locale. Perfect match for "90210."

Wednesday nights will once again be home to staple "America's Next Top Model." The popular reality/competition will be joined by yet another unscripted offering from Tyra Banks, "Stylista." "Stylista" will be another reality/competition show, only it will focus on the world of fashion design. The CW has officially become required viewing for all students enrolled in New York City's Parsons School of Design.

The sci-fi extravaganza will return intact on Thursday nights with "Smallville" and "Supernatural" holding onto their respective timeslots. It is one of the most popular nights of programing for the struggling netlet, so why break it up?

Outside of Sunday nights, the biggest change to the CW schedule will occur on Fridays. Long time resident "Friday Night Smackdown" is moving to cable, and thus two full hours of programing will be opened up on the night. So which lucky shows get the Friday night kiss of death this year? That would be "Everybody Hates Chris" and "The Game." Both low-rated sitcoms are lucky to be back, but they will undoubtedly have an uphill battle for survival come the fall. Friday nights are especially brutal for sitcoms.

The Narrowcast Network

The CW seems to be showing an increasing desire to abandon the broad-based audience that a broadcast network is supposed to attract, instead choosing to cater to a very niche demographic, which they have done well. That is a tactic normally employed by a fringe cable channel, not a broadcast big dog. This season looks to continue that trend, although it is unlikely that they will be able to compete with the Big Four anytime soon. Wasn't that the whole point of the UPN/WB merge after all?

"90210" should breathe new life into Tuesday nights, and returning "hits" on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday will help the netlet tread water for the 2008-2009 season. But if they really want to grow, they need to take risks. They need to expand their base. They just aren't doing that.

Overall Rating: C+

What do you think of the CW 2008-2009 schedule? Excited for "90210?" Comment!

Related Stories:
-CBS Announces New 2008-09 Primetime Schedule
-CW Announces Schedule for 2009-09 Season
-ABC Stresses Stability, Not Ingenuity, With 2008-09 Schedule
-NBC Takes A Chance With 2009-09 Schedule, Year-Round Programming

Story by Derek Krebs
Starpulse contributing writer