The CW isn’t just the newest of the major American broadcast networks– it also might be one of the strangest. The CW began as a merger between The WB and UPN.
At its beginning, The CW was dismissed as the home for disposable, cheesy and often terrible nighttime soap operas. Yet since the network’s creation in 2006, that impression has slowly changed.
The CW is still responsible for employing some of the most ridiculously good-look people on TV. There’s also a focus, across every series, on romance. Still somewhere between 2006 and present day, The CW turned into one of the most consistent, enjoyable and critically acclaimed networks on TV.
A lot of that is due to The CW embracing superheroes and genre TV to an insane degree, because everyone loves nerds. Yet there’s a lot more on the network than the Arrowverse.
It took a long time for the The CW to arrive at is current quality control but somehow it’s a fact. The CW is the home for some of the best reviewed TV.
So with that in mind, it’s worth to look at the history of most of the CW’s shows and where they’re ranked, critically. It provides a picture of the network’s development, as well as what works for The CW and what doesn’t. This isn’t a personal ranking of every CW show, merely how they stack up, taking in all critical reviews.
With that said, here is Every CW Show Ranked (According To Rotten Tomatoes).
25. 20% – Beauty and the Beast
It’s fitting that Beauty and the Beast tops (or bottoms) this list. This is because Beauty and the Beast really tried to hit on both eras of The CW without success. On one hand, this reboot series is an attempt to be a supernatural action-adventure show.
On the other, it’s a melodramatic and paint-by-numbers romance. Beauty and the Beast attempted to be both and ended up being neither, earning it a pitiful 20% on the Tomatometer.
The show lasted an impressive four seasons so it was making someone, somewhere a decent amount of money. Yet towards the end of its run, Beauty and the Beast was just being used as a run-off series, wherever The CW could manage.
24. 24% – Valor
As of this writing, the fate of Valor is a little up in the air. The military drama with a “feminist twist” struggled in the ratings during its freshmen season. Maybe worst of all though, the show gained no critical favor. A RT rating of 24% is just embarrassing.
Valor clearly has grand aspirations. Through its main character, Nora Madani a female Air Force pilot, Valor wants to shine a light on what it means to be a woman in male-dominated world.
However, that’s quickly overshadowed by numerous tropes and poorly drawn characters. Nora is a stereotypical “strong female character” lacking in everything but “witty” retorts and eye-rolling.
23. 43% – 90210
When it premiered in 2008, the reboot of 90210 seemed like a no-brainer for The CW. Beverley Hills: 90210 is considered one of the most iconic “teen” soaps. There was everything to suggest a reboot would fit in perfectly for The CW. Yet the new 90210 failed to really grab a hold of anyone.
The show puttered along for five seasons and even spawned its own reboot spin-off of (a very short-lived) Melrose Rose. Still the new generation of 90210 was not nearly as successful or entertaining as the show that inspired it.
As critics point out, the remake just lacked the spark and excitement of its predecessor. All the pieces were present, there just wasn’t the trashy connective tissue. This earned it a disappointed but deserved 43% rating with Rotten Tomatoes.
22. 45% – The Tomorrow People
Greg Berlanti is the golden boy of The CW. Berlanti is the producer behind The CW’s superhero boom as he serves as executive producer for all Arrowverse series.
Berlanti is also behind a few other series on The CW, like Riverdale. Everything he’s touched has usually ended up being a success– critically and commercially. The Tomorrow People is the one very notable example.
The Tomorrow People premiered in 2013. This is right about the time that the Arrowverse was heating up and The CW was diving into the superhero game. As such, The Tomorrow People was a superhero show completely disconnected from the world of DC. (Though it was a remake of a British series.)
The Tomorrow People had all the trappings of other Berlanti hero material. Damningly, it didn’t have the central charisma. The Tomorrow People characters had powers but no personality. Its one season got a deservedly rotten rating of 45%.
21. 53% – Dynasty
Like 90210 before it, Dynasty has very specific goals. It aims to be a modern update of a soapy classic. It just can’t quite reach those ridiculous heights.
The central issue of Dynasty, for critics, is that just seems like it belongs to a too far gone era. This is both in terms of the CW and TV in general. There’s room for a nighttime soap, just not one like Dynasty.
The characters are awful people and even worse to each other. Dynasty is about undeservedly rich people trying to get that much disgustingly wealthy. This is no different from the early ’80s original, it’s no longer clever.
The CW’s Dynasty is a pale imitation of that original. There’s an overwhelming sense that everything has been done before and done better. So while Dynasty is occasionally enjoyable, it’s 53% rating is more than justified.
20. 53% – Containment
The year 2016’s Containment came from EP, Julie Plec, the woman behind The Vampire Diaries franchise. Yet in tone and subject matter, Containment couldn’t have been more different. While The Vampire Diaries and its spin-off The Originals are shameless fun, Containment wasn’t… at all.
The series, which became a “limited event” shortly before its premiere, was a disaster movie drug out for way more hours than it needed. Containment was full of the same gorgeous people of typical CW fare. They just all happened to be dying or brooding.
Containment took a well-trodden genre, on TV and movies, and did nothing to reinvent the wheel. Scores of Rotten Tomatoes aren’t a direct grading of the product in question, rather a percentage of what critics enjoyed something in an overall group.
19. 56% – The Originals
The Originals isn’t too different from its parent show The Vampire Diaries. It’s full of the same bloody gore, overwrought romance, and ridiculous twists. It’s not deep but it’s fun, in a popcorn TV sort of way. Most critics evidently don’t agree.
The consensus of reviews for The Originals is that it’s too overwhelming. The show relies too heavily on the mythology and world set up in The Vampire Diaries. The Originals doesn’t quite stand on his own, which a great spin-off should be able to do.
This certainly is true. There’s no reason to watch The Originals without being invested in The Vampire Diaries first. The Originals is also far from high-brow drama. Yet as an example of supernatural ridiculousness, The Originals does fit into a very specific (and enjoyable) niche.
18. 67% – One Tree Hill
One Tree Hill didn’t originate on The CW. The series first premiered on The WB before continuing onto The CW. Still, One Tree Hill must be pointed out because it was a defining show for The CW in its early days.
One Tree Hill as an original soap can be considered the trademark of The CW, especially in its early years. The show was sleek, glossy, and full various of romantic tropes. It was typical series of teens (who looked like they were in their mid-30s) behaving badly.
Despite all its stereotypes, it worked. The critics obviously agreed too. With a 67% Tomatometer, it’s the first show on this list that can be considered certifiably fresh.
17. 75% – Frequency
The fact that Frequency rates so high on the Tomatometer is a bit of a surprise. The series, based on the movie of the same name, ran for one season between 2016 to 2017. It’s one of the more forgettable sci-fi shows in recent memory– on The CW or TV in general.
However, the one thing that can be said of Frequency is it took the right approach for a remake. The series really delved into the premise of the movie, which sees an (adult) child communicate with the deceased father over a magical time-traveling radio.
By the end of its only season, Frequency took its series lead through a ambitiously wild ride and that’s what critics responded too. The dense plot of Frequency is the reason behind show’s 75% rating.
16. 77% – Gossip Girl
Gossip Girl has one of the more hated series finales of all time. The reveal of the eponymous “girl” is something that fans debated and raged about long after the show wrapped up. Regardless of that ending, Gossip Girl inspired passion, from fans and critics.
One Tree Hill started the ball rolling in turning The CW into the sexy soap network. Gossip Girl solidified it. The show knew exactly what it was and, like the best of the genre, it had fun with being as trashy as possible. Gossip Girl was over-the-top and glossy but also self-aware.
Gossip Girl struck the delicate balance of being inappropriate and enticing. This occasionally meant it went too far. The heat over the series finale is one of several controversies.
15. 78% – Legends of Tomorrow
Legends of Tomorrow can have an impression as the stepchild of the Arrowverse, which is not entirely off-base. The first season was inconsistent, the second was fantastic and the current third is somewhere in between. All of this does average out to an impressive but not magnificent 78% rating on Rotten Tomatoes’ scale.
Legends of Tomorrow is, for certain, one of the weirdest shows on The CW. It can also be the most entertaining. Legends is adventure comedy through and through. There’s no limit to what type of stories the core heroes can tell and that’s both a blessing and a curse.
Legends of Tomorrow walks on the razor’s edge of being frustratingly ridiculous and a tremendous amount of fun. The show is an acquired taste, so it’s a bit of surprise it connects with so many critics. However, when Legends is on-point it’s incredible.
14. 85% – The Vampire Diaries
The Vampire Diaries marries the two halves of The CW. It’s part cliched romantically-tinged melodrama and part insane supernatural fest with enough twists and turns to make anyone nauseous.
It’s not a perfect series and an 85% overall rating for Rotten Tomatoes might be just a bit too high. Yet for all its flaws, The Vampire Diaries was exactly what it needed and wanted to be as a series.
The show even went through losing its leading lady and managed to continue (and may even improve) for a few seasons afterwards.
Like most CW shows, The Vampire Diaries is pretty easy to dismiss from the outside looking in. The series has an impression of being obnoxious and self-serious. The Rotten Tomatoes score proves that there’s more to the series than pretty vampires and love triangles.
13. 87% – Riverdale
The success and enjoyment level of Riverdale is nearly impossible to fathom. There’s so many reasons why Riverdale should be god-awful. It’s a dark reimagining of about the most wholesome comic book series of all time, Archie.
There really is nothing more CW than a sexy Archie Andrews. Despite all the jokes that can be made at Riverdale’s expense it works and that’s mostly because the series knows it’s ridiculous.
Riverdale’s ambitions are not to be hard-hitting. It’s about reveling in the ridiculousness. Riverdale is a show where a drug name Jingle Jangle can be taken seriously and be feared. It’s also a series where the concept of a maple syrup blood feud makes perfect sense. This is what critics and fans love.
12. 88% – The 100
Though the cast and premise of The 100 might look like the standard CW fare, the reality is much different. The 100 is a post-apocalyptic that begins with a group of sexy teens being sent to Earth from space to see if the planet is survivable after about a century away. From there, the show quickly expands into truly insane territory.
The 100 is only a show that could exist on the weird beast that is The CW. It fits into so many genres and manages to do all of them surprisingly well. There’s the usual romantic cliches and absurd science-fiction mumbo jumbo. Yet at the same time there’s dilemmas and real emotions worthy of an Emmy awarding winning series.
11. 90% – Smallville
Smallville isn’t apart of the Arrowverse but it has a lot to do with that franchise’s existence. The CW and its current supehero slate owe a lot to Clark Kent’s (very long) origin story.
Smallville is a product of its time and it doesn’t hold up too well. The fact that has an 90% Tomatometer is almost shocking. As mentioned, though, The CW would likely look different without Smallville.
The series didn’t begin on the network, being a holdover from The WB. Yet most of Smallville’s 10 season run was on The CW and it kept the network afloat with its ratings.
It’s for this reason that after Smallville ended plans started circulating for a spin-off or continuation. Eventually this led to the creation of Arrow, a standalone series which launched its own universe. Even without that behind-the-scenes background, Smallville proved that superheroes could work on TV.
10. 90% – No Tomorrow
There’s countless beloved series that are sources of great anguish because they were cancelled after only one season. According to Rotten Tomatoes, The CW’s No Tomorrow should join their number.
It’s unclear if No Tomorrow would have be so beloved if it continued because the show had a very specific premise. Yet its first and only season obviously connected with critics.
No Tomorrow was a breezy romantic comedy with a subtle (and possibly destructive) premise. Main character Evie meets the guy of her dreams, the scruffy Xavier. However, Evie quickly learns that Xavier believes the world will end in just one year. This launches a whirlwind romance where Xavier tries to teach Evie to live each day as if it’s her last.
9. 92% – Supernatural
Supernatural has been with The CW since the very beginning. As long as The CW has existed, so has Supernatural. The show had one season on The WB before moving to The CW and ever since then it’s been a juggernaut.
At 13 seasons and counting, Supernatural is well on its way to becoming one of the most long-running live-action shows of all time. According to Rotten Tomatoes, it’s also among the best that the network has to offer.
Supernatural has been through a lot of changes in its long run. It began with a very focused and intricate story but after season 5, the show began to morph into one of a procedural. Supernatural’s enjoyable but it’s far different beast than what it once began.
8. 93% – Supergirl
Supergirl backed up into The CW and the Arrowverse. The adventures of the Girl of Steel began on CBS, with no initial plans for it to be connected to the world of Arrow and The Flash. Yet on CBS, Supergirl struggled to find an audience but its reviews were so strong that no one really wanted to let it die.
The series, which has an impressive 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, moved from CBS to The CW. The shift has been for the best. The show is perfectly at home in the Arrowverse being a beacon of family-friendly and optimistic superhero entertainment.
Supergirl is a little more politically minded than other shows in the Arrowverse. Yet it’s all wrapped up in a bright and shiny package. The goal of Supergirl seems to just make viewers feel good and in that, it succeeds.
7. 94% – Veronica Mars
It may be considered a bit of a cheat to designate Veronica Mars as a CW series. Only one season of the show, arguably its weakest, aired on the network.
The other two seasons of Veronica Mars’ three-year run were on UPN and those probably explain its 94% overall rating. Even if The CW isn’t the main home of Veronica Mars, it’s an important part of the network’s history.
Veronica Mars is the definition of a cult hit. It was extremely low-rated but incredibly beloved by fans and critics. This is a type of series that The CW has learned to specialize in because the network has been home to several underappreciated but excellent TV series since the end of Veronica Mars.
6. 94% – Arrow
The series might give The CW’s superhero universe its name. However, the quality of Arrow is something that’s hotly debated by fans of the Arrowverse. Arrow is either celebrated or reviled depending on the fan. With some sections of fandom believing that the Arrowverse exists in spite of Arrow, not because of it.
Critics, however, are in the agreement. The consensus on Rotten Tomatoes is that Arrow is a good time. It’s not a flawless series, but the good of Oliver Queen’s adventures far outweigh the bad.
Arrow is a show of high highs and low lows. It does have the most focused point of view in the Arrowverse and some of the strongest performances. Yet when the series goes off the rails, like in seasons 3 and 4, it’s way off. However, the critics are right, there’s more to love than hate about Arrow.
5. 95% – The Flash
Arrow took awhile to get going. It’s spin-off, The Flash, used the basis Arrow created and was able to getting off to a nearly flawless start. With pun very much intended, The Flash hit the ground running and it’s no surprise that critics were delighted.
The combined opinion of the critics of Rotten Tomatoes is that The Flash is among the best of comic book television. It’s not always the deepest or most complex but it’s chock-full of heart, humor and hijinks. The Flash’s overall quality earns it an incredible 95%. Knowing how good the show can be, it’s hard to argue.
Like Arrow, The Flash isn’t perfect. It also has a quite dreadful season 3 but the overall feeling of The Flash, which is what Rotten Tomatoes really measures, is one of good-natured fun. The Flash exists to offer high-speed thrills and chills which it does very well.
4. 97% – iZombie
iZombie comes from the same producer of Veronica Mars, Rob Thomas, and it manages to be a clever and hilarious deconstruction of the detective and zombie genres. iZombie is the unsung hero of The CW, just being slotted into the schedule wherever the network can manage to find a spot. The quality, however, has never dipped.
iZombie takes its name from a comic series but it’s very much its own story. Rob Thomas and crew have a very clear vision with iZombie and they’ve seemingly been given free range to go after it. Since no one is really watching iZombie, the show can reinvent itself as many times as it wants. iZombie is exciting and unexpected.
3. 98% – Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Obviously, The CW has some serious cred with critics. Few of the critically acclaimed shows have actually won awards For this reason, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend stands out– The CW’s insane musical comedy has been nominated for several Golden Globes and Emmys, even winning a couple.
The show’s title is far from the greatest, but the wacky title belies a surprisingly deep show. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is absurdist to an extreme. The original songs, of which there are many, are ridiculously but deceptively clever.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend can also get surprisingly complex dealing with mental health issues and other real-life concerns in very mature ways.
2. 100% – Black Lightning
Black Lightning is the newest arrival to The CW. However, the show is already making waves. Black Lightning is one of the best reviewed series on Rotten Tomatoes ever, earning a 100% certifiable fresh.
It is easier to hit a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes with TV shows than movies. This is simply because Rotten Tomatoes sample audience of TV crticis is much smaller than the group of movie critics.
Still, the reviews for Black Lightning have been glowing. The critics agree that Black Lightning doesn’t reinvent the superhero genre. (Although not officially apart of the Arrowverse the show shares many similar themes and tones.) Black Lightning is superb at what it does aim to do and that’s a lot.
1. 100% – Jane the Virgin
The far more impressive feat for The CW is that series Jane the Virgin has been on the air for four seasons and it has yet to dip from its perfect percentage. On the review aggregator, every season of Jane the Virgin has received unanimous praise.
The show, which is loosely based on a telenova of a similar name, takes the over-the-top antics of a soap opera and makes them acceptable. The success of Jane the Virgin, according to the critics, is in its self-aware tone. Jane doesn’t shy away from shocking deaths, brutal murders or pregnancy drama but embraces and has fun with them.
There’s a heart to Jane the Virgin that’s unlike anything on TV. The characters grow and learn together making for a very rewarding viewing experience. The series even managed to shed its premise in season 3 and keep up the strong storytelling on course.
What’s your favorite show on The CW? Do you agree with the rankings from Rotten Tomatoes? Sound off in the comments!
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