I skimmed. A lot.

Books It wasn’t until the late 1990s that I discovered that Dawson’s Creek and Buffy The Vampire Slayer were broadcast in the same US network. In the UK, Dawson bounced around Channel 4’s schedules and Buffy rested her stake on BBC Two, even I seem to remember clashing for a few episodes. Not once did it occur to me that they might be stable mates even though, despite genre difference, their DNA was quite similar – articulate teenagers dealing with growing pains both metaphorically and emotionally. But once I’d heard about The WB, I realised that such tonal similarities were part of a channel strategy that’s when I backed off and continued watching the shows for the entertainment that they were, trying desperately not to think of implications of the fact that I was actually being marketed to.

Season Finale is the story of the WB and that marking process and how it compared to the channel it would ultimately merge with, the UPN (United Paramount Network). Susanne Daniels, a television executive with the WB for most of its life, and Cynthia Littleton, a longtime television reporter for Variety describe the launch and life of both of these channels, from their faltering first steps within a television landscape that didn’t want them, through their relative successes and failures through to that controversial merger to form the CW.

For people of a certain age, or in other words me, the book is impossible to put down. Two of the chapters are called ‘Welcome To Sunnydale’ and ‘I Don’t Want To Wait’ and we’re being offered a chance to witness the creation of some of our favourite tv shows from the perspective of the executive who played wet nurse to Buffy and Dawson and also the Gilmore Girls and Smallville and a range of shows that didn’t make much of an impression in the UK, the likes of Felicity and 7th Heaven. The casting, the preview screenings, the stressed out financiers, in other words the gossip which I completely missed during the run of the programmes.

How Joss Whedon’s agent played hardball so that he would be given the opportunity to direct the pilot of Buffy; Kevin Williamson was given My So-Called Life scripts to look out so that he could time out were the commercial breaks should go in the hour and finding himself overworked trying to juggle the Creek and Scream 2, was locked in a hotel room until something was finished, even having to ask permission to go to the bathroom; JJ Abrams’s realisation in hindsight that it was Keri Russell’s haircut that doomed Felicity; UPN’s constant struggle to broadcast something worth watching knowing that if it wasn’t for Star Trek: Voyager and wrestling they’d be sunk.

If only the whole book was like this: understandably, given the source, the rest mostly comes across as an extended Variety article with pages upon pages of demographic statistics, ratings numbers and the details of meetings between executives and creatives that are tricky to navigate even with the glossary at the front. In places, it’s clearly been written by insiders for insiders and the effect is much the same as attending a party where everyone knows each other and you’ve no clue what any of the in-jokes actually mean. I skimmed. A lot.

Yet, this is still an impressive piece of work and a must read for anyone with a passing interest in the business of television and any of these shows. I know that these things were only created to fill the gaps between advertising and the reason I look at them so fondly is because they were designed so specifically to be attractive to my demographic. I don’t care. Their business was our entertainment and I was entertained and still am. through the boxsets and comic books and for that they should be congratulated. So what if I suddenly have the urge to buy the complete Dawson's Creek on dvd?

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