In the upcoming weeks, as part of our book club discussions about Season Finale: The Unexpected Rise and Fall of The WB and UPN, I will unveil the best 30 shows in the combined history of WB and UPN.
This list excludes shows that originated from other networks, such as Grounded for Life or Sister, Sister.
If you missed our previous rankings, you can catch up on entries 30-25 and 24-16. Today, we’re delving into the top 10, starting with shows ranked 15-8.
15. Supernatural (WB, 2005–2006): It’s worth noting that this show would have secured a higher position on the list if I had considered the seasons that aired on The CW.
However, for the purposes of this ranking, only the initial season of Supernatural is taken into account. Nonetheless, that inaugural season remains remarkably compelling.
If you haven’t revisited the pilot episode recently, I recommend doing so, as Eric Kripke and David Nutter skillfully establish the show’s world in an economically effective manner.
At the time, Supernatural seemed like the type of series that could have anchored The WB’s schedule as they ventured into a new era.
It boasted strong performances from its attractive male leads, blended genres seamlessly, employed intertextuality, and offered more. Unfortunately, as history shows, that didn’t come to pass.
14. Everybody Hates Chris (UPN, 2005–2006): Similar to Supernatural, this single-camera comedy might have earned a slightly higher spot on the list if we had considered its entire run.
While Chris never reached the soaring heights of some of the outstanding and trendy comedies of its time, it consistently delivered entertainment, and more importantly, it carried meaningful messages.
13. 7th Heaven (WB, 1996–2006): The longevity of this show is truly remarkable. Even though it holds the record for the highest-rated single night in WB history, I never perceived 7th Heaven as culturally influential as some of its counterparts.
Nevertheless, it did launch the careers of Jessica Biel and Barry Watson (alright, let’s call them “stars”), successfully blending its more conservative themes with the network’s youthful ideology.
12. Girlfriends (UPN, 2000–2006): It’s worth acknowledging and admiring Girlfriends for its ability to rise above the inundation of formulaic sitcoms featuring Black individuals during a period when UPN was scrutinized for its demographic targeting.
What’s even more commendable is that the show remained consistently funny and more popular than you might recall.
While I didn’t follow Girlfriends regularly during the early 2000s, I did catch several episodes (or portions of them).
I consistently found the characters to be well-developed, thanks to the efforts of both the writers and performers.
Considering both critical acclaim and ratings, it’s safe to say that Girlfriends was likely UPN’s most successful sitcom, wouldn’t you agree?
11. Star Trek: Voyager (UPN, 1995–2001): I must confess that I’m not particularly well-versed in the world of Trek, but it’s evident that Voyager played a crucial role in stabilizing the early days of UPN.
While it had its share of flaws and accomplishments, it made a concerted effort to ensure the longevity and vitality of the Star Trek franchise on the small screen.
10. Roswell (WB, 1999–2001, UPN, 2001–2002): My pick for the most underrated show in the history of both of these networks and in recent television memory.
Roswell was a damn good show with a strong creative team (Jason Katims! Ron Moore!) and a cast that hasn’t necessarily gone on to do big things but worked really well together.
Though it lost the thread at times (see: all of season three, but whatevs), Roswell nicely balanced its mythology with familiar high school dramatics, creating a template that Smallville basically aped just a few years later (not that Roswell CREATED that template, because obviously it borrowed from Buffy among others).
This is another show with a strong pilot. The WB did an excellent job on that front over the years.
9. Everwood (WB, 2002-2006): I know a handful of folks who will take umbrage with my “Roswell is underrated” rhetoric because they feel strongly that Everwood is actually the WB show that got/gets the short shift.
Those people aren’t necessarily wrong. Everwood was a very good show that wasn’t as puritanical as 7th Heaven but never dipped its toe into the consistently or scandalous waters that Dawson’s Creek or One Tree Hill floated in.
Falling in the middle of that just-now-constructed continuum isn’t a bad place to be, though, as Everwood’s character focus overcame any odd narrative choices.
It was also one of the few WB shows of this era that produced quality stories for the adult characters, something that so many “teen dramas” fail to accomplish or even attempt. I liked that I could watch it with my mom. That’s relevant.
8. Smallville (WB, 2001–2006): I’ll admit, I’m a devoted fan of Smallville, but I still believe that it often doesn’t receive the recognition it deserves (I mentioned this during our book club discussion).
Consider this: it boasted the highest-rated series premiere in WB history! During its initial seasons, the ratings were consistently impressive, particularly for The WB network.
Remarkably, it rebounded substantially in its final season on the network despite relocating to a more challenging time slot and entering the infamous “college years” phase.
Let’s not overlook that it even graced the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. And speaking of the show’s quality, those early seasons were undeniably strong.
Seasons two and three epitomized the show’s original concept at its finest, while seasons four and five seamlessly transitioned into more mature themes. It’s a testament to its enduring appeal. Respect indeed.