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An exec goes down with The CW's Sunday ship

The CW's Sunday-night lineup has been so disastrous, for so long, that the network in effect subleased the night to an outside company this fall. Media Rights Capital, which also produces some shows for Cwlogo HBO and Lifetime, programmed and produced the entire slate of Sunday-night CW shows that debuted this month. Result: an even bigger mess than before. The lineup averaged just 692,000 viewers last weekend, and one show -- Easy Money -- had such a tiny audience that it showed up as zero in the Nielsen ratings. Predictably, somebody's head had to be lopped off, and Media Right's Capital's president Keith Samples has won (or lost) the lottery; color him gone.

The sad thing about this is that one of the shows Samples' company produced is really pretty good, one of the two or three best dramas of the new season. Easy Money is an inventive and intriguing tale of a loanshark storefront and its down-at-the-heels customers that should resonate with viewers as the real American economy comes down around their heads.

But to The CW's post-Barbie audience, Easy Money probably seems like like an import from Mars, and I don't mean Veronica. This is the network of 90210, Gossip Girl, Supernatural, Smallville and One Tree Hill. I ordinarily roll my eyes when broadcast networks talking about branding -- I don't think viewers tune in Lost because it's on ABC, but because it's Lost. But The CW is a definite exception. It's targeted with laser intensity on women age 13 to 34. I'm not sure anybody else even knows it exists. There was just no way for Easy Money to succeed in that environment.

The uncomfortable mix of programming strategies at The CW looks even worst because the network's teeny-bopper shows are really starting to take off this fall. Gossip Girl, which last season had lots of buzz and very view viewers, has finally started pulling them in. 90210 is a hit, at least by The CW's standards, and One Tree Hill is collecting the best ratings of its six-year run. By the end of the season, I don't think it will be just Samples who's been fired, but his entire company.

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