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Underrated CW adds British series to lineup

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Judging by my email, not too many readers pay much attention to what's going on with The CW. I even had a reader a couple of weeks ago who asked what The CW was.

The much smaller fifth broadcast network is partly to blame for the problem -- if it even sees it as a problem. The CW seems perfectly content to target a niche audience and let the Big 4 networks battle it out for major ratings.

Here's some background.

The "CW" is an odd name, but it comes from the first letters of its parent corporations, CBS and Warner Bros. The CW was formed in 2006 when its two mini-network predecessors, UPN and The WB, folded after 11 seasons of money-losing frustration.

The CW's early programming consisted mostly of the best of leftover UPN and WB shows and was aimed at younger audiences, especially women.

Shows surviving from The WB included Gilmore Girls, One Tree Hill, Reba, Smallville and Supernatural. UPN contributed, among others, America's Next Top Model, Veronica Mars, Everybody Hates Chris and WWE SmackDown.

Later series, such as Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries had new appeal and solidified The CW base as it tried to expand beyond young women.

Since 2012, The CW has seen even more success with its action series such as Arrow, The Flash and DC's Legends of Tomorrow, as well as its critically acclaimed comedies Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

Last season, Supergirl moved over from big sister network CBS, and freshman Riverdale managed to earn a sophomore season despite mixed ratings.

That brings us up to date and the debut of a CW action-adventure summer series imported from the Brits. It's the best of both worlds -- action and British accents.

Hooten & the Lady debuts at 8 p.m. today and follows the "high-octane" adventures of two globetrotting treasure hunters who venture forth to recover priceless artifacts.

I love it when network publicists describe a show as "high octane." Who even knows what that means anymore?

Ulysses Hooten is a macho, fast-talking American adventurer played by Michael Landes (CSI, Love Soup), and "the lady" is straitlaced, aristocratic British Museum curator Lady Alexandra Lindo-Parker, portrayed by Ophelia Lovibond (Elementary).

Added bonus: The always delightful Jane Seymour has a recurring role as Alex's mum, Lady Lindo-Parker, whose sole purpose in life evidently is to try to organize Alex's wedding to her fiance Edward (Jonathan Bailey).

Want to feel old? Seymour, a former Bond girl (Live and Let Die, 1973) and star of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, is 66 now. Trivia: Seymour's birth name was Joyce Penelope Wilhelmina Frankenberg. She changed her name to that of Henry VIII's third wife because it was not unusual back in the day to take a more marketable stage name. (Examples: Cary Grant's real name was Archibald Alec Leach; John Wayne's was the decidedly less manly Marion Robert Morrison.)

Hooten and Alex will have eight episodes to delight us. Their far-ranging adventures take us from Siberia and South America to the Himalayas and Rome.

Tonight's opening episode finds Alex traveling to the Amazon in search of the legendary lost camp of Victorian explorer Percy Fawcett (1867-1925?) who disappeared. One thing leads to another, she's joined by Hooten, and the duo stumble upon El Dorado, mythical city of gold.

One additional thing -- Hooten and Alex are polar opposites and don't really get along. That always makes for good TV.

Does all this sound like fun, light summer entertainment? If so, give Hooten & the Lady a try.

Programming note: As is its habit, The CW will debut its fall lineup after the dust settles from the other networks. This year it will be the week of Oct. 9.

High on the list of anticipated shows is the new military/conspiracy/soap opera drama Valor at 8 p.m. Oct. 9. It stars Matt Barr (Hellcats) and Christina Ochoa (Animal Kingdom).

Penn & Teller: Fool Us, 7 p.m. today, The CW. The magic competition's fourth season kicks off featuring magicians Richard Turner, Young & Strange, Kayla Drescher and Mike Super. Alyson Hannigan returns as host.

Willie encore. In case you missed it last year, AETN is repeating Willie Nelson: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song at 9 p.m. Friday. It is an hour and a half well worth your time.

Nelson was honored for his long career, which spans six decades and more than 200 albums. The impressive list of performers includes Rosanne Cash, Neil Young, Paul Simon, Raul Malo, Edie Brickell and Alison Krauss.

The TV Column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Email:

mstorey@arkansasonline.com

Weekend on 07/13/2017

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